September 17, 2012
by dcnichol

RSAudio Opens Its Doors!

RSAudio LogoI have the pleasure of announcing the launch of RSAudio, the brainchild of Richard Simpson in the UK. Richard started his recording project endeavors at about the same time that I was working on my Kickstarter project. We’ve been discussing back and forth since then about techniques that worked, things that didn’t, and Richard even published the results from his survey about how car sound packs are used. It’s really awesome to see that he’s come to completion on this! Richard’s first sound pack release is of a Renault Clio (if I had to guess I’d say it’s a 2007?). It sounds like he’s gone fully comprehensive on this and included foley as well. He’s even got a comical little demo clip to go along with it:

Check out his work and his pack, or follow him on twitter/facebook, but definitely keep an eye out on RSAudio and congratulate him on the new endeavor!

September 4, 2012
by dcnichol

The Great American Shakeup

We all love some form of athletic competition. Whether it’s the recent Olympic games, or the ongoing U.S. Open, or the upcoming NBA and NFL seasons, or whatever it is you’re into, one of the things that all organized athletics have in common, is organization. And like all organized athletics, the more transparent the organization can be, the more the fans and the participants can focus on the enjoyment of the activity. Up until very recently, organization in American sports car racing has been doing well to stay out of the way. It appears, however, that a very large and dramatic change to the system is about to occur. I don’t like talking politics and don’t want to use my website as a hotbed for debate, but I also realize you readers are more focused on the sounds of cars than of race fanaticism so I thought I would help summarize what is going on.
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August 21, 2012
by dcnichol

New job! WOOOOO!

I wanted to wait a bit to announce this since I just finished my ALMS experience post, but I just can’t contain the excitement anymore. I’ve been given an amazing opportunity as a Contract Vehicle Audio Designer with Turn 10 Studios! I start on Sept. 17th and will be moving to the Redmond area in the beginning of the month. So, to everyone who has helped make Track Time Audio an excellent source for vehicle audio, and for encouraging my passion, thank you so much!

Regarding TTA’s future, I am allowed to continue to write and post so long as I adhere to my job non-disclosure agreements. Also, it will be unfortunately more awkward to get interviews from other studios, however my hope is that TTA has become a large enough asset to the sound community that such awkwardness could be avoided.

Since I’ll be moving half way across the country, if anyone could help out in the hunt for housing in the Redmond area, please shoot me an email!

And with that, here are some funny pictures of me in action from Road America, courtesy of Ben.
Don't touch my microphone.

GT Qualifying

PA is louder than the trans am cars :\

August 21, 2012
by dcnichol

Track Time Audio goes to ALMS at Road America!

As many of you may know, I had the privilege of going to Elkhat Lake, WI to the Road America track for the Road Race Showcase last weekend with a pair of my good friends. Over the course of the weekend I heard and recorded lots of great sounds, shot tons of photos, and met plenty of people. I thought it’d be cool to share my experience with you.
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August 15, 2012
by dcnichol

Off to Road America!

It’s been a busy week getting the Kickstarter sound pack distribution finalized, working to get ahead of myself, and interviewing for a possible new adventure. However, it is time for all that to take a back seat while I go to Road America for the ALMS race this weekend with my roommate @TheBenWedge and our good friend @zaisoroni.
We’re going to be camping just outside of the Carousel, so if you’re in the area look for one of us wearing a TTA shirt!
I’m bringing some of my recording equipment in hopes that I can catch some interesting sounds in and around the woods. Good or bad I’ll be sharing some of what I find with you guys.
I’ve also been spoiled by Alex Bellus who has let me borrow his 70-300 4.5-5.6VR lens for the trip. My plan is to do audio for practice/qualifying sessions, and then shoot photos for the race itself.
I’ll probably be with minimal communication until I return Sunday, but if you have access to ESPN3 (either on the web or your xbox) then be sure to catch the race!

August 5, 2012
by dcnichol

The Dyno Sessions Kickstarter Project: Complete!

I just want to share the good news with everyone that the Kickstarter-backed Dyno Sessions recording project has now come to completion.

The process has been a very enlightening one and also a very enjoyable one. I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to pursue this dream and hope there will be many more to come.

Here’s some things I learned while in the process.

1. Always do another take. Even when you think it’s awesome in-the-moment, when you go back and listen you’ll have a bit of “oh, shoot.” Having an extra take allows you to A/B and pick the best. Options are your friend.

2. When the tape is rolling, time seems to go by awfully slow. For example, I meant for my loops to run at least 10 seconds. However, the driver and I in the moment rushed the upper-RPM’s, both from the ever-raising engine temps as well as the pressure from recording. In the future, use a stopwatch or similar to cue up and make sure you get enough time.

3. Also, it’s very, very, VERY difficult to have a car maintain an exact RPM. I did notice quite a bit of fluctuation when editing down to the loops which I struggled to cut out properly. Since this is a very odd dyno-driving technique, it may take a first-time operator a couple stabs to figure it out. For next time I’ll be sure to allow time to properly break into this.

4. Foley sessions inside a car get very warm, VERY quick. Bring water, stay hydrated, stay focused, don’t rush.

5. Leather interiors are squeaky! I tried to silence interior panels with gaff tape as much as possible, but in the end the leather seats themselves would squeak against each other. If you have to choose between leather and cloth for your project, opt for the latter — it’s more friendly, sonically speaking.

6. The sound community as well as the car community at large were both very interested in my project and progress. Being featured on the Forza Community Rides page brought more hits to this website in a week than ever before, simply amazing. The support and interest in car sound is there and I hope to continue learning and improving both myself and our techniques as a sound community to better represent the sounds of cars in all forms of media.

7. Planning and organization will set you free. I spent as much of my time planning and organizing and documenting as I did recording, I think. But when it came time to edit and I needed to know what RPM I was sitting at or which door was being slammed, having the notes and the takesheet to go back to was great! Taking time to experiment with the car let me discover all the things that make noises, which definitely helped as well.

8. There is an old addage I’ve heard from music production that for every second of song there’s an hour of work editing. While this was closer to 1 minute per 1 second of sfx, the end story is that time spent behind the scenes cleaning and cataloging is not to be underestimated.

To everyone who purchased the complete pack, the final filesize came out to 6.7GB all .zip’d together. It is currently still uploading – but watch your mail inbox for an update from kickstarter with the download link. Also, I had promised the community access to a significant chunk of the sound files, which I believe I have finished uploading. To check out the free sounds, visit the soundset page — you can also download the entire pack from my dropbox. All the shirts except one have been shipped, and the DVD’s for those who purchased it are being printed and shipped within the week. It appears they will come out onto a 2-dvd set.

And with that, I would again like to extend a humongous thank-you to everyone who took interest in this project, financially or otherwise. Without your support I couldn’t have made this happen. Thank you.

July 30, 2012
by dcnichol

The Wankel “Rotary” Motor

I think Wankel engines are really fascinating, first off. The whole concept of how they work is perhaps a bit baffling, because they are completely different than a normal piston-based engine. Instead of reciprocating pistons, Wankels use a triangular rotor (or Spinning Dorito as I like to think of it) that moves eccentrically around an elliptical wall — refer to the wiki page for further detail. See below.

As you can see, the engine’s operation is vastly different from a “normal” one, and as we can expect should sound quite different too. The first thing to notice is that for every one revolution of the rotor, there are 3 complete intake/combustion/exhaust cycles happening. However, if you follow the eccentric shaft (“B” in the above photo) you can see that its eccentric motion is 3 revolutions per 1 revolution of the rotor. Therefore when thinking of cylinder fires per output RPM, we are back at a 1 fire per rpm. In a normal one-cylinder 4-stroke engine, by comparison, there is only 1/2 of the cycle per revolution of the crankshaft. So sonically, right away this means we have doubled the root tone of the engine.
The other sonic consideration here is that every revolution is a cylinder fire, meaning the sound output should be even and constant compared to that from a piston engine. It is because of this that rotaries are often described as sounding like 2-stroke engines (like what a weed whacker or some snowmobiles use).
A second thing to consider is that there are far less other moving parts in a Wankel engine. For example, the Wankel has no valves, no valve train, no camshafts and no connecting rods nor pistons. As a result there should be far less “engine noise” by comparison. Here’s a really great example of valvetrain sounds — listen to the whitenoise-y clicking:

A third thing to consider is that rotaries typically allow higher rev ranges than that of all but the highest-end small-displacement piston engines. It is not uncommon for redline to be at 7500 or 8000rpm, with some going all the way to 10,000 and beyond. They’re able to achieve this because the engines have fewer moving parts and fewer inefficiencies as a system.

Typically speaking, rotors can be added together (much like a multiple-cylinder piston engine) to create more power. You can refer to the number of rotors as a 1- 2- 3- or 4-rotor Wankel to be precise. Let’s listen to a few.

Single rotor (these are typically small, used for lawn mowers and etc)

Two-rotor (here we get into car-sized power plants, mostly from Mazda’s RX series)

Three-rotor (Mazda has been racing this in Grand Am and a handful of other GT series for a while now)

Mazda’s engine code for their 3-rotor design is “20b”

(this is from the Belgian Touring Car Series — some beautiful cars in the field there, Seat, Skoda, VW, Volvo, BMW, Audi, Mazda… simply awesome.)

Four-rotor (Mazda R26 or R26b)

And I even found this sample for you of a 6-rotor, the first of its kind I believe.

One thing that all of these videos show is that, especially engines that have been modified, the car sounds like it lopes or surges at idle fairly heavily. I’m researching into why this happens more, but from what I understand it has to do with running lean at low rpm, creating a non-fire on a semiregular interval. Hopefully I can add to this in the near future.