Recording a wheelchair


I'm working a film which has got one of the main characters moving around in a wheel chair (which is not electric) all the time. My plan is to keep it simple and record samples that match the scenes/locations with a single boom.

Any ideas, mic suggestions, techniques? I obviously also want to record cleaner samples and archive them.



Posted 2010-05-07T08:16:45.270

Reputation: 1 029



I would suggest foley for this, it will save you hours of work and you can easily worldise the tracks afterwards. Just pop a friend of a similar weight in the wheelchair used on the set, and use an omnidirectional condenser mic and push the wheelchair in a circle round the mic. That way you can match up all of the actions really easily.


Posted 2010-05-07T08:16:45.270


Thanks Iain. You do have a point. Cutting in the sound might be painful. – ntkeep – 2010-05-07T11:01:06.937


I have recorded an instructional video for disabled people with a Rode Nt4 some time ago.

I suggest you to pre-observe the operation of a wheel chair before recording it. With observation you can decide easily about your recording techniques.

Wheel chairs are not noisy and squeeky unless they are very old or some mechanicals parts are rusty. I recorded the friction of rubber wheels on different kinds of surfaces (wood, stone, etc.) Because when they want to turn left or right they turn on the wheels. Watch paralympic basketball from YouTube and you will see what I mean.

There are also some mechanisms to stabilize the wheel chair when the person wants to stop. This locks the wheels and you might want to record these kinds of "click" sounds where two metal parts gently hit each other.

Selcuk Can Guven

Posted 2010-05-07T08:16:45.270

Reputation: 951

It so happens that there is a scene where the character plays basketball. Will definitely look it up on you tube. – ntkeep – 2010-05-07T10:59:09.560


I once edited Foley in a film which had one of it's main characters in a wheelchair. The Foley artist added, apart from the wheelchair itself, the sound of a bowling ball rolling whenever the character moved...EXCELLENT results. Hope it helps.


Posted 2010-05-07T08:16:45.270

Reputation: 267

Nice idea. We finally just recorded it straight in a room in sync with the film. More than the wheels its the hand movements, some cloth sounds, wheelchair clicks and creaks that made up the sound. Sounded very natural in the end - which is what we were looking for. – ntkeep – 2010-06-06T05:21:03.603


Both Iain's and Selcuk's approaches are valid. I imagine you will end up using a combination of both methods to great effect. If it were me, I would record a couple of different wheelchairs in any important location, such as a lobby, basketball court, etc. Having the real ambience on your tracks will go a long way to selling the authenticity of the performance. Then cover the same moves in foley for added detail.

Treat it much the same as you would record a vehicle set.

Jay Jennings

Posted 2010-05-07T08:16:45.270

Reputation: 15 432

Yeah. We've planned to record a couple of passes in different ambient settings that match the shots and also do a foley pass as suggested. I guess with some help from Altiverb we should be alright. But you can never know till you try. Thanks! – ntkeep – 2010-05-09T07:36:02.553