A Russian Arm, a horse and jockey

06th September 2015

Capturing the sound for The Original Horsepower

I am a sound recordist. When Dave from Equine Productions rang me up and told me about this project, I was working on something entirely different, a big studio show and the challenge immediately interested me.

I have never done anything like this before, I have recorded cars going at speed but not horses. Once I understood the vision for the project, I then had to go away and think about how we could do this.

The problem is that this is a tracking shot with the car moving in sequence with the horse, so the only way to keep up with them both is to be with them, but then you have the problem of the sound coming from the car which is not ideal.

Of course the other problem is that the horse is travelling between 30 and 40 miles per hour, which brings problems with wind noise. So the challenge was how do you mount microphones on the horse to get a good clean sound and avoid wind noise.

The plan became to capture the sound separately. On the day we arrived at Eve Johnson Houghton's yard early in order to capture the sound on another horse, a horse just for sound. We had the morning to get the horse mic'd and gallop. I hadn't even thought about the fact that we would only have one go at capturing the sound.

Eve very kindly let us split the scheduled long gallop of 7 furlongs into two - of 3 and 4 furlongs, so at least we would get a practice run. After the first run, i could hear that it was going to work.

We placed a mic on the girth where it meets the martingale, so it it was directly underneath it. Perfect for getting the sound of a full out gallop. We also had one on the bridle to capture the sound of the horse's breathing.

Because you are limited in the transmitter power you are allowed in the UK, so we also mounted a mic on the helmet and the ankle of the rider. I also had duplicate receivers for those mics - a real belt and braces approach.

We got to the gallops to discover a combine harvester in the field next door. Eve took off down the gallops, running to ask him to turn off his engine for a couple of minutes. She managed to get him to turn off while we recorded our horse galloping.

It was a team effort on the day but special mention to Eve, for not only letting us split the work, but also chasing down the driver of the combine harvester.

I did a rough mix on the day and then handed it over to Equine Productions as I was due on my next job; a big corporate shoot, completely a world away from from being in the heart of the English Countryside.