Capturing the music of the jungle
Sound recordist George Vlad travels to the most remote places around earth to record the unobstructed sound of nature. Always by his side, a recording rig with multiple microphones joining him in extreme humidity, heat and cold.
Have you ever heard of Dallol in the north of Ethiopia? Some sources classify it the hottest place on earth year-round. It almost never rains and temperatures never drop below 35°C.
George Vlad from Surrey, United Kingdom, was there to record the sounds of the desert where his thermometer clocked out at 49°C / 120°F. “It was hard to work under those circumstances, my cables were almost melting and became sticky” reports George.The 36 year old specializes in exploring and recording the beauty of our planet’s most remote places.
“It was hard to work under those circumstances, my cables were almost melting and became sticky” reports George. The 36 year old specializes in exploring and recording the beauty of our planet’s most remote places. Clients on all continents rely on George’s self-funded services and sounds from the jungle, just to name an example. Hollywood studios, game development studios and production companies like Netflix license his content. Vlad also shares his travel experiences and selected recordings with his social media community.“I also recorded the Erta Ale volcano nearby Dallol and it was a life-changing experience listening to the lava boiling with the MKH 8060. I was travelling with a bigger group of guides, militia, police and porters. For them it was probably the 100th time at the edge of an active volcano, nothing special at all.
I was asked, why I am recording this stuff? I passed over my HD 26 headphones to one of the locals and he was overwhelmed. Until then, they only knew the reflected sound of the volcano but never heard the direct sound of the caldera. One of them started crying when hearing it for the first time becaused he was so moved by this” explains Vlad.
But heat is not the only limit he reaches when recording. “I was in Romania to record heavy winds in the mountains at night with two MKH 8040s and an MKH 30, but the wind almost disappeared and it quickly became freezing cold at -37°C / -34°F.” Sometimes the batteries of the recorder drain too fast or the knobs freeze. But Vlad never experienced any issue with his Sennheiser microphones “in any outside condition from -37°C to 49°C” he adds.“My favorite rig to record with is four MKH 8020s, placed around a tree. You immediatly get the perspective of the tree listening to the environment in 360 degrees. The low noise floor, high build quality and excellent bass response come in handy when recording in the wilderness. And the 8020s perform execeptionally well in extreme humidity, especially when you look at the competition on the market." Though, a lot of time goes into planning of these exotic trips. His expedition to Gabon took eight months of preparation, one month on location and up to half a year of post production. With that, no task is too challenging for Vlad, such as travelling to the Congo by flying to Gabon and then continuing by car. “And hiring a car in Gabon is more expensive than buying it right away. But as a Westener you are not allowed to drive outside the capital. [...] So far, I am constantly trying to push my comfort zone. But I think it can be way more dangerous in Central London rather than in the Congo rainforest.”
Next plans for George: A big expedition to Antarctica in 2022 which he has been planning since 2019. As well as a trip to Madagascar, Sumatra or Papua New Guinea. “It is rather difficult to find fixers locally, but I will try my best and will probably visit the country that eases its Covid restrictions first.”