Games publisher Codemasters turned to a variety of Shure microphones to help capture the sounds of over 50 classic racing vehicles for track racer GRID 2, launched earlier this summer.
On GRID 2 every sound you hear after the vehicle selection is derived from recordings made using that actual car, from the slam of the doors, the sound of the ignition, and the roar of the exhaust to the many possible permutations of the alteration in the engine noise when you change gear, accelerate, decelerate, brake or stop. Even the tyre squeals are specific to each vehicle.
On beginning the recording sessions for GRID 2, Christopher Jojo, a former Studio Recording Engineer and now the Senior Sound Designer on Codemasters’ Racing Audio team, as well as their Principal Car Recordist, wanted the team to take a new, more detailed approach to audio capture, as he explained. "In the past, the Racing Audio team relied upon only three microphone models. I felt that we had no real diversity in terms of choice in directivity, dynamic range, character/frequency response and sensitivity. In approaching GRID 2, I wanted to hone in on specific areas of the car’s engine, transmission and exhaust by introducing a set of more directional mics, and capturing specific attributes, such as the mid-range bite and rasp, the low-end chunk, and the transient detonations of an exhaust note or the resonant growl of an air-box at induction. To this end, I became interested in percussion and guitar mics. Cars are very musical in nature; motor-sports engines and exhausts are rich in harmonics and percussive transients, and the overrun pops and detonations aren’t too far removed from the wallop of a snare hit or the punch of a kick-drum beater. The search ultimately led me to Shure."
Jojo was interested in testing the Shure Beta 181S and the 98A, but was unable to find any for hire, as both were quite new models at the time. "I got in touch with Paul Crognale at Shure Distribution UK, who couldn’t have been more helpful and enthusiastic in assisting us; not only did I get the two Betas, but I was introduced to Pro Audio Group Manager Tuomo Tolonen, who gave us a host of other mics to demo that he thought we might find useful."
Recording the sound of racing car exhausts and turbos exhausts requires mics capable of withstanding very high SPLs and heat levels. Fortunately, Shure's microphones were equal to the task. "Racing cars are obviously very loud," commented Tolonen, "but the sound pressure levels aren’t all that different to what our microphones have to cope with in live music applications. The toms and the kick drum in a typical rock drum kit produce pretty fearsome transient levels, and of course our live mics have to be able to handle being used at close range on guitar amp stacks, which can also get fairly loud! Our mics are designed to be able to take this kind of punishment."
After some experimentation, the best results were obtained from the Beta 181S instrument mic, the Beta 98A tom mic, the SM11 lavalier (which was used by NASA in space) and the VP89 shotgun mic for more distant capture of cars passing from the side of the track. Once each car was miked up – a process which took up to three hours for each vehicle by the time all of the required mics had been mounted and swathed in appropriate wind and thermal protection, a carefully pre-planned set of manoeuvres was executed from a cue sheet, and the audible results were recorded to a hard disk recorder mounted in each vehicle, the Sound Devices 788. “We got through an awful lot of scorched Rycote fur and Pyrocil heat wrapping on this project,” admitted Tolonen, “but I'm pleased to say we didn't lose a single mic."
The Codemasters Racing Team were delighted with the results. “I’ve always been a fan of Shure products since my studio engineering days; the build and sound quality of their mics is superb and the price point is exceptional,” exclaimed Jojo. “The mics Shure loaned to us really added something to the dynamics of the recordings, and Codemasters bought a number of units to cover the remaining sessions on GRID 2 and beyond."