If, you’ve traveled our world wide web recently, you’ve probably run into videos like these. Videos where someone is either whispering in a very soft voice, brushing something, or tapping at some other thing. These videos are now known as a new type of content named for the physical feelings they produce: autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. As with anything, differing viewers derive different feelings from seeing such scenes. What’s interesting is that the popularity of such videos signals that there is some noticeable difference in what these sounds can do to or for those who listen.
ASMR DEMONSTRATION FROM THE MASSAGE ASMR
Debatably, this is what separates Frisson, a strong, emotional reaction, to some kind of personally meaningful music…from something like ASMR, which some say induces some kind of other corporal feeling, based on something else that’s entirely non-musical. In real life, people do get tingles and people do fall asleep to these videos. So that makes this whole something else worth investigating.
ASMR is a fairly recent phenomenon arguably tied to the rise of Youtube and video blogs which allow anyone with a camera to become an ASMRtist and a content creator. As you dive deeper into this world, you start to encounter terms like binaural recording, proximity effect, role playing, triggers, etc. What exactly all of this is and what it is, and how it gets done, is exactly what we’re looking to get answers about. And we’re doing so by posing these same questions to some of the leading voices in this new field of recording. Today, we’re speaking with Dmitri, otherwise known as the Massage ASMR. In part two of our series, we’ll feature an interview with Maria the GentleWhisperer.
zZounds: First off, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us. I was interested in talking to you because you seem to be really interested in the technical side of ASMR recording. Let’s get this out of the way, though: what do you feel ASMR is?
Dmitri: Activating part of the body that is designed to relax you. When your nervous system receives information from touch, seeing, hearing, even imagination? The brain receives this information (triggers). It then releases oxytocin, acetylcholine, GABA, serotonin, endorphins directing into the brain and blood stream.
This creates the perfect recipe to trigger the full effect of the parasympathetic nervous system. Almost like a symphony of neurons hitting the perfect note, as another wave of feelings cascades down the nervous system, down the spine, and to the many parts of the body. Instantly relaxing, clearing cortisol, adrenaline, and soothing the body.
There is another side effect of this symphony. It puts the brain into an alpha start. And, after the person falls asleep, it allows them to access a deeper delta level state during sleep. This is my explanation of the internal working of ASMR, I have yet to put it anywhere. It was going to be part of a new trailer for my channel. This is only my theory.
zZ: I think that’s what’s interesting. There really is little research on the actual ASMR sensation. Do you feel that’s one of the reasons you’re aiming for more professional recordings and production?
Dmitri: No, like anyone that has worked in professional video or audio, there is a base line of equipment you want to use. This is my base line. When the channel grew, so could my hardware.
zZ: Can you share with us your normal recording setup?
Dmitri: Two Rode NTG3 shotgun microphones connected to a Tascam UH-7000. I need a preamp that is clean and doesn’t color or change the sound. Grace or Millennium preamps would be my next upgrade and Zaxcom or Sound Devices portable recorder.
zZ: Can you share the model of video camera you use? What are the challenges you face trying to record binaural audio with your setup?
Dmitri: Canon C100mk2, I don’t really try to record binaural, just in stereo. I’d love a Neumann microphone head, but it’s not designed for a camera to be in the middle of its ears.
zZ: I see that there’s Tascam UH-7000 in your setup and I’m struck by it. If, I remember correctly, that’s a high-fidelity USB audio interface with a really low noise floor. Is that something your setup is aiming for, to capture the softest/lowest in volume sounds, at the highest quality possible? Or do you have something else in mind for it?
Dmitri: Yes, exactly. The difficulty of recording ASMR videos is that I’m trying to record a whisper. It is an audio engineer’s worst nightmare. To get good recording levels, you just can’t do it easily. So, I need as much preamp volume with as little noise as possible. But, I do not want these sounds changed, I want crystal clear pre-amplification. The Tascam was a very good choice, but it’s hit and miss if you get a good one. It has power supply issues and doesn’t provide consistent preamp levels. I’ve had four go through my hands and two are still used for recording. Two good, and two with bad power supplies.
zZ: Is that something you learned by trial and error, or do you have a background in more professional recording?
Dmitri: I have access to a basic, full-sized recording studio with a full band setup and drum kit. I learned from the owner how I should approach recording, in a professional way. I know the many pains of recording…from computers, audio connectors, cables, and patch panels. Trying to find the many problems that can arise in a pro setup. I am not a pro at fixing them, but I am a pro with computer hardware and setting up a recording through them.
zZ: Do you remember your first recording setup, and was it that much different than what you have now? I see your first videos were mostly massage- (in the classical sense) oriented. But somewhere the focus changed of course.
Dmitri: My first recording setup was this: the owner of recording studio suggested a Zoom H4N as the best value sold portable recording device, then I borrowed a pair of Rode NT5 microphones and I went into my walk-in wardrobe and created the first, basic studio recording of ASMR content. This setup was very good, the sound from that walk-in wardrobe was great. Imagine all the material to absorb sound.
DMITRI’S RECORDING RIG
zZ: Since you don’t record in binaural, do you adjust the perspective of the recorded sound (left, right, up, or down) through the mixer or post-production, or do it through software?
Dmitri: No, ASMR isn’t dependent on binaural recordings, you can have crappiest recording and people will still experience ASMR. Binaural microphones are pretty crap once you’ve used professional microphones. Their recording levels are just too low even though they do sound great once you get close and move around them.
No, ASMR isn’t dependent on binaural recordings, you can have crappiest recording and people will still experience ASMR. Binaural microphones are pretty crap once you’ve used professional microphones. Their recording levels are just too low even though they do sound great once you get close and move around them.
I have built stuff like a modified Jecklin Disc and stuck microphones on dummy heads before. I used closed cell foam insulation wrap over the camera to simulate a head, And I separated the microphones to give something as close to binaural recording as I could.
I don’t adjust anything, i just remove stuff like stomach sounds, or swallow sounds. Try sitting in front of a camera for 30 minutes and suppress these sounds…
I choose a shotgun microphone for sound, with good levels at a distance, I can place them in many positions and still get a great proximity effect. The Rode NTs match my voice very well and they’re great for voice over recording. I don’t need to be six inches away to get good volume levels with them.
zZ: How do you do a quality check of your recording? Over headphones or monitors/speakers? It seems like you have to make sure you have a consistent audio point to hit for certain audio recordings.
Dmitri: Pfft. Set recording levels. Press record. I’ve never used headphones to monitor sounds. I just have a common preamp level. If I was behind a camera recording something else, then I would monitor the recording level.
zZ: Back then, did you have a vision of where you were going to take your channel? What made you begin doing this? It takes some investment (monetarily or emotionally) to go from a Zoom H4n to what you have now.
Dmitri: All I wanted to do was record some massage videos as that is what I liked. But I couldn’t find much content for ASMR in one place. At first, I didn’t like to listen to the sound of my own voice. So, I didn’t plan on talking. Then people started to ask for talking. That’s when I invested in the Zoom H4n and borrowed Rode NT5 mics. It started from there. No one at that time really looked at recording this content in a professional way. I was the first to approach it in a professional manner, as I do have a background with part-time broadcast video work. I found some hidden talents along the way. I can create very relaxing content, something I am quite experienced at now.
|Canon C100 MK2||Video Camera|
|Tascam UH-7000||USB Audio Interface|
|Rode NTG3||Shotgun Microphone|
|Zoom H4n||Portable Media Recorder|
|Rode NT5||Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone|
|Rode NT1 KIT||Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone|
zZ: Did you yourself come to ASMR from feeling the same sensations that you induce with others? I know Maria (aka the GentleWhisperer) told me that she came to it from the experience of wanting to trigger sensations others had made on her, but that she couldn’t feel anymore. It seems like there wasn’t content made specifically for ASMR experiencers.
Dmitri: I just want people to feel ASMR, I like to experience that tingling sensation. If I can help other people experience it, then it’s all worth it, as the feeling just feels good.
zZ: Is what you’re doing more analogous to what a therapist or chiropractor would do? Trying to help others feel something even though you’re not exactly feeling the same sensation they do.
Dmitri: I guess I’m like a doctor of ASMR trying to inject you with these sensations. I use movements, touch, and sounds to induce these tingling sensations.
zZ: How much of a role do viewers play in deciding where you go with your channel? I know in the music world there are artists that follow trends or try to reshape certain ones.
Dmitri: I get requests, but their ideas inspire and create the basis for some of my best videos. It is mostly my own ideas and original content. I try to be original and I have my own style that would be hard to replicate. ASMR has no trend, you either trigger it or don’t. But the side effect, even if it doesn’t trigger, is that the content is very relaxing and helps put you to sleep.
zZ: Are certain recordings or videos made to trigger different types of responses?
Dmitri: Not intentionally, but there are different triggers that trigger different types of ASMR. This is not something I understand very well.
zZ: I noticed you’ve gotten into other types of sound therapy, like sound bowls and even in the older recordings, with musical instruments like guitars and drums. Is that something that you’ve found can work in a field that seems dominated by simply talking or tapping?
Dmitri: I want get more into what you might call sound therapy. I can not work with musical instruments but I can work with other objects like tuning forks, bowls, tapping, and other natural sounds. ASMR content has no boundaries, I try to do what ever i think will help people relax or experience ASMR. I also try to include hypnotic and meditative states in my recordings. Everything created or recorded is intuitive, not trained.
ASMR content has no boundaries, I try to do what ever i think will help people relax or experience ASMR. I also try to include hypnotic and meditative states in my recordings. Everything created or recorded, is intuitive, not trained.
zZ: You have a Soundcloud page! Is that part of your attempt to experiment with the ASMR form? Or is that an extension of your current Youtube channel?
Dmitri: Extension. So people can download audio file to listen while away from internet, etc.
zZ: Is the person who goes to the Soundcloud the same person who feels sensations in the Youtube page? I heard from other ASMR artists that they feel without video the effect isn’t quite the same.
Massage ASMR: I think some from Youtube, some from Soundcloud. ASMR works just fine without video, I close my eyes many times while watching an ASMR video to just focus on audio. I even recommend closing eyes to new people trying it out. If you watch it, you judge and think. If you close your eyes, you listen and open up other senses.
zZ: Dmitri, this is my last question. What’s next for you? Has the channel allowed you to forge a certain path ahead?
Dmitri: To keep creating content and try to understand ASMR more.