Field Recording Mastering Rules

I believe in preserving nature sounds so I work tirelessly to discover locations where true natural soundscapes can still be heard. Since I work to preserve endangered natural soundscapes, I want the listener to hear the sounds as if they were present themselves.

Natural Soundscape = A pristine soundscape devoid of all human-generated sound. This term is used by both myself, Andy Martin, and others.

  • Rule 1: Field recordings including any human-generated sounds (i.e. planes, cars, and distant generators) must be thrown out. These sounds cannot be removed in Izotope's RX.
  • Rule 2: Excision of human-generated sounds from long recordings and subsequent crossfading is not allowed. If a section is removed, then the sounds must be edited as two shorter clips.
  • Rule 3: Sounds made by the field recordist can be removed such as handling noise, stomach gurgles, clothing sounds, etc. Also, sounds made by minor gear malfunctions may be removed.
  • Rule 4: De-plosive, Spectral Repair, and Dynamic EQ (with a low shelf filter) can be used to reduce low wind energy.
  • Rule 5: Limited use of high and low shelf filters is acceptable to reduce noise floor hiss, but never when sounds are present in those frequencies.
  • Rule 6: Noise reduction is never allowed.
  • Rule 7: RX Ambience Match is never allowed. I do not filter out low frequency noise pollution and then fill in the space with the unnatural sound created by Ambience Match. 
  • Rule 8: Mark recordings as “natural soundscapes”, or list what was removed in the Soundminer “notes” metadata field.

These rules are my humble opinions and are not meant to be universal to all field recordists. I am just striving for clarity in how I master my field recordings.

Libraries Where I Broke the Rules: 

I follow my rules as much as possible, but occasionally I break them. If a human-generated sound was removed from a clip, it is marked in the Soundminer "notes" metadata field. For example, I might break my rules when I can easily remove a distant generator from an otherwise amazing clip of a Roosevelt Elk bugling. That said, if a recording has had a human-generated sound removed, I think it is imperative not to portray it as natural soundscape. For example, the chart below shows how I notate each change in the metadata: