Tips on recording animals



I have a very exciting gig lined up for next week. I'm going to a farm to record lots of animals and ambiences for an animation. I know a few of you on the forum have recorded animals so I'm hoping I will get some valuable dos and don'ts... The main one I can think of is to get a loooong boompole.

From what I understand, it will mostly be in a controlled environment. So there will be wranglers, cages, enclosures, etc. I have a list of performance for each animal that we need to get.

Here's a list of the animals we're going to attempt to capture:

  • Baboons
  • Leopards
  • Eagles
  • Warthogs
  • Monkeys
  • Jackals
  • Springboks
  • Oxens
  • Crocodiles
  • Dogs (staffie, mongrel, poodle, puppies)

The mics I'm bringing with are:

  • MKH 418s (M/S)
  • MKH 70
  • Schoeps CMC5 pair with MK4 cardioid capsules

Please, any tips from recording setups to getting the right performance will be hugely appreciated! Also, if you know of good articles covering the topic, please let me know.


Andrew Spitz

Posted 2010-07-09T11:01:29.787

Reputation: 6 251

I see warthogs there.. but wow... no Pigs?! The have a pig squeal that I've used for several projects. Of course, I've processed them to kingdom come so that they don't sound alike. But the pig squeal is the most unsettling sound I've ever heard. Unfortunately, this particular fella was invited to record a ritual slaughter. I had interviewed him a while ago through skype but the audio captured cut out during a very informative part of the interview and I realized it too late. He spoke about how he had to separate himself from the experience by focusing on the mixer and how the sample was used – Hubert Campbell – 2010-07-09T15:40:24.163

in some songs played out in clubs in Spain (his homeland).

You're going to have a lot of fun, I'm sure! I'm interested in knowing how your Mid-Side recording goes – Hubert Campbell – 2010-07-09T15:41:12.663

@Malvicus hehe, pigs are awesome for layering and all, but the characters in the animation are warthogs... so definitively need those. – Andrew Spitz – 2010-07-10T10:49:21.337

@Andrew_Spitz well, I didn't actually consider the requirements for your project! ha. Well, then, have fun! – Hubert Campbell – 2010-07-10T15:33:34.517

That is one hell of a farm. – Steve Urban – 2010-07-13T15:30:44.003



If you're recording a bird of prey close-up, don't use a fuzzy windscreen on your microphone. The bird will mistake it for a trainer's lure or a small animal and try to eat it. This is bad for you and worse for the bird.

Joe Griffin

Posted 2010-07-09T11:01:29.787

Reputation: 1 439


I think the Sennheiser MKH70 will provide you with the best results for specifics. The hypercardiod pickup will really help.

I did a similar session at a zoo and one of the main issues we had was the reverberant nature of most animal enclosures. Lots of cement and metal for the sound to bounce around. Even if you're recording outside. Really a problem with most animal recordings I hear in fx libraries too.

Another thing to consider is the time and patience needed for this type of session. We went to record hyenas, and they were making a ton of vocalizations before we entered the enclosure, but the second we did, they became completely quiet. We had to wait quite a bit of time before they went on with their normal behavior (I think), but even then they weren't making the noises we heard before. Microphone position is also important because most animals don't really like having a boom waived in their face (I don't either). So mic them close but don't intimidate, and see if you can boom out of their field of view.

If you're lucky the trainers/handlers will know how to coax sounds out of them. This usually involves food, so make sure you follow them during their feeding schedule.

Not sure how useful your ambiences will be, considering most of these type of places have a lot of other noises going on (water pumps, banging cages etc). But give it a go. Personally I'd rather have a ton of mono, specific recordings to build an ambience out of later.

Oh...and wear boots with plenty of tread...a co-worker of mine slipped in a fruit bat cage and fell in a huge pile of bat guano (no kidding).

Hope this helps.

Justin P

Posted 2010-07-09T11:01:29.787

Reputation: 5 344

I second that on the echo part. Nothing lamer than a charging lion shot out in the open air in some plain of africa with a roaring sound effect that sounds like it's in a bathroom. – Utopia – 2010-07-09T17:02:11.833

Thanks for all these good tips. I asked whether or not the cages where concrete or open and outdoors, and I think i might be lucky that they are outdoors... let's hope. These are private game farms, so animals are usually kept outdoors in a controlled space. The ambiences are unrelated to the animal sounds, I need to get some bush sounds at different time of day. – Andrew Spitz – 2010-07-10T10:51:52.813