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SDA 010: Chris Watson – Field Recording at Its Finest

field recordist chris watson interview

This week I had the absolute honour of talking with field recordist, musician, and audio ace Chris Watson. For those unfamiliar with Chris, he is considered one of the top field recordists in the world. He’s worked on Frozen Planet, The Life of Birds, Big Cat Diary, Life in the Undergrowth, Nature, Autumnwatch, and many more. If you want a bigger impression of this amazing artists work check out his website at www.chriswatson.net and you’ll get an even better picture. Needless to say, he’s had and is still pursuing a stunning career that many of us only dream of!

Show Notes


  • Talk about Lindisfarne (1:30)
  • The Lindisfarne tidal causeway (3:54)
  • An idea of just how dangerous this causeway is (4:31)
  • Chris grew up in Sheffield, England (6:29)
  • Moved to New Castle upon Tyne to work in television at 29 (6:45)
  • How Chris got into recording (7:03)
  • Chris’s entrance into music (8:03)
  • Composing with Tape Recorders by Terrance Dwyer was a big influence on Chris (8:39) 
  • Inspired by the work of Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry, and Karlheinz Stockhausen  (9:47)
  • Chris’s involvement with Geosonics by Soniccouture (10:47)
  • Chris’s work recording aquatic insects, and getting those perspectives (13:35)
  • We know so little about the ocean (14:50)
  • Chris’s work with Chris Clark at Cornell (15:26)
  • Mary Anne Masterson Recording Gnarwhals (17:14)
  • Chris recorded humpback whales last year as well (18:53)
  • Chris’s goal to record the song of the Blue Whale (19:44)
  • Capturing Coyote Calls in the dead of winter (20:56)
  • The rarity of spaces without ample noise pollution (22:08)
  • Working on series with David Attenborough and being able to visit both the North and South Pole in the same year (23:54)
  • The South Pole (24:36)
  • The North Pole (26:14)
  • Standing at the North Pole with a GPS unit, and what Chris felt (27:32)
  • What it’s like being one of a hand full of people to ever record in the poles (29:29)
  • Recording the North Pole (30:03)
  • The psychological attachment we have to hydrophonic sounds (33:05)
  • Do you ever get so focused on a recording that despite being in danger, you keep recording? The most dangerous animal Chris has ever recorded, and his most dangerous encounter. (35:37)
  • Have you ever had times where you had to sit in a swamp for days on end? (40:22)
  • It’s better to leave a microphone in a location and get away from it (41:19)
  • The work of Bernie Kraus (42:06)
  • The philosophy of field recording (43:08)
  • Chris’s work with video games (44:55)
  • Chris’s feelings toward foley vs. a naturalistic approach (47:32)
  • Chris prefers to work in radio because it tends to be more accurate and the sound quality is better (48:53)
  • Chris’s work in Indie Films (49:09)
  • Chris’s involvement with the film Light Years with Ester May Campbell (49:51)
  • Working with Norwegian director Duane Hopkins on the film Bypass (51:38)
  • Epic close miked insects (52:10)
  • Patrick Mcginley of Framework FM (54:33)
  • Favorite Microphone (55:31)
  • Best Piece of Advice (56:18)
  • A book Chris recommends (58:37)

Mikes mentioned:

Thanks again to everyone for listening. Chris’s work is amazing, and it’s without a doubt, a massive privilege talking with him about his work and career. If you love what you’re hearing, be sure to leave us a review on iTunes, and help spread the word. Shows like the Sound Design Academy Podcast are maintained by the listeners, so shoot me some feedback, request a guest, or share the show like the intellectual knowledge spreader you are. Reach me at michael@sounddesignacademy.com



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