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The assignment

I had been on an assignment for a few days. The Hungarian National Theatre of Szeged (my main job) had a guest performance in Romania, Satu Mare.

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Unfortunately our schedule was extremely tight so I had no chance to go out to a mini field trip and record ambiences and other things, I was fascinated by the old theatre’s acoustics.

The building is 120 years old and it is almost untouched. Only minor renovations happened just to keep the building usable. It means that the technical capabilities are very low, frankly surprisingly low. However this also means that the original acoustic is preserved. This is one of the most spectacular sounding theatre hall I’ve ever heard.

It’s a small place with 365 seats with two floors and some boxes. The boxes are all made from wood and plaster. It’s really a classical style hall designed and built for natural voices. It’s really amazing that if you stand at the back of the stage and have a conversation with someone, it is completely intelligible at the back row of the hall. What is even most amazing is that very loud sounds are still sounds balanced. As if the building had some equalising and auto-balancing feature.

Because of this, the whole performance is very intimate and as we had lots of sound effects, I had to re-balance everything in order to have a nice, believable sonic picture. It was mandatory to test everything as we have atmos and special effects throughout the acts.

The sound system was not particularly good, but somehow the hall made it sound nice. It’s remarkable how a 120 years old building reacts to a little PA system. It’s extremely rare to hear this kind of magic even in modern theatres. Sonically it seemed to be a perfect match whether you play music, or sfx, or prose.

Fortunately the performance was a drama by Henrik Ibsen, so we had a pistol. It’s a cheap modified italian alarm gun which is loud as hell (which gun isn’t…). During the rehearsal the propman shot some test rounds which really caught my attention. Even the loud pistol shot has a very nice, balanced sound. Loud, but with nice impact and the hall really made it sound like a serious gun.

As usual, I had my trusty Sony PCM D50 with me, so during the actual performance I recorded the shots. I was 15 meters (49ft) away from the gun.

With a little processing you can make them sound as a really great gun shot, or use them as an impulse response. Of course I’ve tried to do that, and the result is better than I expected.

Quick tip: before you start to eq the shots, try different saturation plugins instead. You’ll be surprised.

To make an ir from this recording, cut out one shot and bounce it to a discrete .wav file. Make a new folder, name it as you like, copy the .wav file into the newly created folder. Launch Pro Tools and insert one instant of e.g. Tl Space onto a channel. In Tl Space go to EditImport other IR folder and import the .wav file, that’s it. You are ready to use your brand new ir.

As usual, the sounds are free, the only thing I ask in return is to tell even more people where you’ve found them. Enjoy!