Milan Italy: It’s freezing cold, it’s 4am in the morning, and I am standing by the side of the Alfa Romeo test track in Milan, watching the camouflaged Ferrari F149 being rolled over the truck. This is the first time the Ferrari California has been seen outside of the factory in Marenello. It’s classic Ferrari silver, one of only two prototypes, and I am about to position microphones in the engine bay, on the rear bumper and inside. I have no idea how fast the car is going to travel, nor do I know how the wind will aerodynamically shape around the rear and over the microphones or what impact this may have on the recordings. In short, I could be here all night setting up, listening back, moving the microphones to find the optimum position. So I have to move quickly as no one even knows about the new car let alone has seen it, and it must remain top secret until the public launch.
I get the 8 microphones in optimal positions, ready the 8 channel multitrack recorder and get in the car. I clamber into the low slung seating, it’s cramped, lots of test dials, computer equipment. I have to hold an 8 channel recorder that’s like a huge brick with tentacles coming out of it and also a test laptop for Michele, our driver. I have headphones on, binaural microphones at the ready. In short, my brain is maxed, no more processing power available, so I tune into the sound and focus on the track ahead. The car starts, the engine growls with that distinctive timbre as we pull away from the pitstop, where my colleagues, test engineers and our Ferrari chaperone all wait and watch.
We pull out and we turn onto the oval test track, we are off! I’m busy hurrying the sound levels as best as I can, this car has a huge dynamic range, which means one moment it’s quiet, the next it’s a roaring beast. This is tricky. I want to capture the sound from quiet to loud, but have the wind traversing over the car hitting the microphones. We start to pick up speed, I look at Michele and nervously give him the thumbs up, we accelerate, we are now traveling at 100MPH [160 KPH]. I see my thumb going up again, and we pick it up a notch .. after 10 mins at 130 MPH [210 KPH] I start to become accustomed to the speeds and I see my thumb going up again and again. We reach 193 MPH [310 KPH] Top speed. As we sprint round the track the recording is being captured in full fidelity at the highest sound resolution. The experience of recording at such speeds is quite something else, so many sounds all being captured at any one time. We then take the car round various other tracks, from bending road to bumpy road, and afterwards we make straight pass-bys, the car approaches and zips past with the effect of a bullet. The recording session winds down and I focus the remaining time on capturing the car detail of doors, engine starts etc. Later when we listen to the recordings, we know we have something special to work with.
So back at base in London, I take the hours of recordings and compile a playlist of what we need to achieve. The main purpose is to highlight the “feeling” of the Ferrari California and its distinct roar, and also to create micro stories, each one from a different perspective, walking towards the car, getting into the car, and driving the car.
We take the stories and design them in Hollywood fashion, adding bass, augmenting the “whooshes” recorded as the car passed by with bullet ricochets, adding additional sounds to add weight to action – why? Because we are selling the emotion and the experience and this is a critical element in what we do.