Classroom 224, Episode 6 “Field Recording”

Welcome to the sixth episode of Classroom 224. My name is Butler Cain, and I’m your host and producer.

Audio production is as popular as it has ever been. A recent study shows audience numbers for terrestrial radio are strong, and online radio and podcast listenership is growing. Did you know that radio is the world’s most widely-used medium?

You can have a successful career in audio production. So in today’s episode of Classroom 224, I’m going to share some recording tips for students who would like to start producing audio content.

Specifically, I’m focusing on field recording. This is when you are not in a studio. Instead, you’re somewhere else and you need to record an interview or some sound from your environment.

Whether you’re using a professional recorder or a smartphone, I have four tips to help you ensure your audio quality is good. These are pretty basic, but they’re solid building blocks for your production.

Number 1 – Always wear headphones. Any kind is better than nothing, but I prefer headphones that cover my entire ear. To ensure quality audio, you need to hear what is actually being recorded. Don’t rely exclusively on the volume unit meter (that’s the VU meter). Without headphones, your ears will not detect a buzz in your cable or a faulty microphone connection. One of the most frustrating experiences is reviewing audio only to discover a recording anomaly has made all of it useless.

Number 2 – Pay close attention to your surroundings. Loud noises in the environment can ruin your recording. An air conditioning unit or busy traffic can overpower your interviews, and it’s annoying for your listeners. Keep in mind that you’re going to have to edit that audio later. If the background noise is inconsistent, like automobiles when they pass by, your edit points in the final production will be glaringly obvious.

Number 3 – Record more sound than you think you need. It’s no fun when your final production needs 22 seconds’ worth of a specific piece of audio but you only recorded 18. When you’re in the field, pick your spot and record it for a minute or two. Maybe you won’t need that much, but you’ll be glad to have it, just in case.

Number 4 – Get close to the action. Audio is best when the microphone is as close to the source as possible. Remember, your goal is to record audio that sounds good and is easily understandable. Common sense is important here, so don’t do anything crazy or illegal. But don’t be afraid to do your job. Get in there and get to work.

Bonus Advice – Don’t give your microphone to anyone, ever. If you do, you give up control.

Share your go-to field recording technique on this episode’s page at ButlerCain – dot – com.

On the next episode, I’ll talk about getting work experience. This is crucial for students who are hoping to get a job in mass communication after graduation. It’ll make you a better student, too.

The music you hear on this podcast was produced by Kipp Cain and is used with his permission.

You’ve been listening to Classroom 224, I’m Butler Cain. Be well.

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