by Andrew Emge
Find out how these recordists rode through the desert to capture the beefiest custom motorcycle sounds for our latest library, Vintage Harleys.
What started as a casual idea to spice up a podcast grew into a full fledged sound effects library — Vintage Harleys. Our latest release features growly, pristine, well-isolated motorcycle recordings from vintage custom Harley Davidson bikes.
Sound designer Randy Torres (Tenet, Dunkirk) partnered up with photographer and motorcycle enthusiast Todd Blubaugh to record three exquisite custom Harley Davidson motorcycles from 1936, 1950, and 1976. They worked with recordist Eric Potter (Ford v Ferrari, Interstellar) who has recorded for award-wining sound artists including Mark Mangini & Richard King. The team spent one of the hottest days of the year recording multiple angles of the engines revving, idling, as well as their exhausts and tires, and even specialized skids, pass bys, and accelerations.
We caught up with Randy and Todd to learn the story behind the creation of this amazing vintage motorcycle sound effects library. Read our conversation below!
What was your experience recording the sounds for this library?
Randy Torres: For the recording session, with both mine and Todd's schedules being pretty busy, the only time we could figure out a day to record was unfortunately one of the hottest days of the year. Other than it being around 100 degrees, we had very light wind and perfect conditions for recording. I had my good friend Eric Potter come out and help us mic up the bikes, and Todd did the riding.
Todd Blubaugh: It was HOT! But I spent two days before getting the bikes tuned up so everything kicked over and ran really easy – plus we had very little wind. A motorbike always looks so perfect to me unobstructed in a desert landscape, but this project made me realize the same is true with sound.
What were your goals in the recording process?
RT: Most other motorcycle sound effect libraries available are specific to modern bikes or stock bikes. We wanted to offer a library of vintage bikes with their own character and style.
TB: I shoot a lot of media with vintage bikes and have yet to find a sound package that works with my footage. Randy and I have worked together for years and always have this same problem – so we just decided to make it ourselves. We didn’t want to compromise, so we made this package thinking there have to be other editors who need American V-twin sounds as well.
"Most other motorcycle sound effect libraries available are specific to modern bikes or stock bikes. We wanted to offer a library of vintage bikes with their own character and style."
What inspired you to create this sound library?
RT: Todd created, edits and directs his own podcast called The Blue Todd Cast which involves a lot of different American custom choppers. I suggested to him that I could help him record one of his bikes to use in his podcast. Once we talked more in depth about it, we figured it would be a great idea to record a few different bikes that we had access too and offer it as a library.
"All the bikes we recorded have a timeless sound. This is hard to get with modern motorcycles… none of them really sound like a classic bike."
What will sound artists find most useful about these sounds?
RT: The motorcycles we recorded are one of a kind – the library features a variety of three very different vintage custom American choppers. Most American motorcycles have a distinct sound, but these particular bikes are one-off customs that all have their own character. We tried to do as many maneuvers as we could with a great set of onboard multichannel recordings. Some people will just enjoy the recordings for what they are, but they will also be useful in film, commercials and podcasts.
TB: All the bikes we recorded have a timeless sound. This is hard to get with modern motorcycles… none of them really sound like a classic bike. I think this library will be good for any artist trying to evoke imagery associated with motorbikes.
What tools were used to record this library?
RT: All exterior recordings were done with a Neumann RSM 191 as well as a Scheops CCM4 & CCM8 mid-side array for different perspectives. The onboard recordings were done with DPA4060 lavalier microphones with a 4 channel multichannel setup. Everything was recorded at 96K with a Sound Devices 788.
TB: That's a little bit out of my lane, but at one point Randy and Eric had 6 mics attached the the bike at once while I rode around the desert… Not a bad day at the office.
Eric Potter is a sound recordist currently based in Los Angels, California. His sound effects can be heard in films such as Inception, The Dark Knight, and Die Hard with a Vengeance.
Follow Eric here: IMDb | Website
Explore additional road collections from Pro Sound Effects: