Sonic explorer Thomas Rex Beverly captures inspiring soundscapes with Sennheiser.
In the midst of a challenging global pandemic, field recordist Thomas Rex Beverly finds solace in his work and says that nature is flourishing as human populations temporarily retreat. Last February, he ventured out to Washington state’s Eastern Cascades – a remote region surrounded by rugged mountains and lush forests.
With clients including Oscar and Emmy-winning sound editors, Beverly’s field recording work begins with experiencing the outdoors – and taking the time to listen. Beverly, whose sound libraries have been used extensively in the world of film and television – including on high-profile programs such as “Star Trek: Picard” and “Frozen II” – had originally intended to pursue a career writing orchestral, choral and ensemble works. He became enamored with field recording after reading “The Great Animal Orchestra” by Bernie Krause, a book which delves into natural soundscapes – or “the music of the wild” – while expressing the need for conservation and preservation.
Venturing into a vast expanse of wilderness requires focus: “On this trip to the Cascades, I was looking for lots of quiet winter ambiences and wind sounds. Because if a sound designer wants wind sounds, they don’t want sounds with birds and insects in them – they just want wind,” Beverly explains. “So you’ve got to record wind sounds in the winter. It can be quite challenging to get out in the middle of nowhere where there is no noise pollution while also establishing a home base to charge batteries and stay warm.”
For his trip to the Cascades, some of the sounds he was looking to fill in his sound library included coniferous wind in forests that had recently burned by wildfire. “The pitch of the wind varies depending on the length of the foliage,” he explains. “For instance, if you get a forest of really short needled coniferous trees – like spruce or Douglas fir – it will have a higher pitch than a ponderosa pine, which has 6” needles and emanates a much deeper, soothing wind. Meanwhile, a deciduous wind, like the aspen, will have a bit more of a hiss to it.”
“The Sennheiser mics were recommended by a lot of field recordists, since they have a reputation of doing really well in high humidity and extreme temperature environments,” Beverly states. “When I have to leave a mic out in the woods for two weeks, it’s really important for me to have microphones that have the ability to handle temperature fluctuations and high humidity.”
Beverly’s current set-up is a double mid-side configuration consisting of two Sennheiser MKH 8040s and an MKH 30, running into a Sound Devices MixPre-3 II or MixPre 6. “My rig has developed over the years,” he continues. “I started with a mid-side rig with an MKH 50 and MKH 30. Then I got two MKH 8040s and I started recording in surround using the double midside configuration because I love the flexibility. I can record spot effects for sound design or surround ambiences all in one blimp.” With a nimble and effective three-mic setup, Beverly has the ultimate flexibility – not to mention, a lighter carry when embarking on an adventure deep into the wild. “In general, I am always trying to record more sounds with one set of mics, versus bringing all kinds of mics and recording different perspectives.”
All his live monitoring in the field has been on Sennheiser HD 280 PRO headphones. “I have a few pairs of these, and they are great because they have quite a bit of natural isolation and they are super durable. Plus they just sound great.”