Sep 27

Basic Recording Tips

When recording someone, or yourself, there are a few tips that will make your experience go that much smoother.

Smartphone. Yes, they have come a long way baby. Most smartphones now have very strong recording capabilities. Whatever app you prefer make sure it gives you some flexibility -- quality of recording and file format. If possible, choose the highest quality and .wav format so you are saving the most material. The tricky part, always, is how you get the recording into your laptop or desktop for further editing. So do check out and test various apps. (For iPhone users, iTalk is fine and we love Voice Record Pro ($6.99) which has enormous flexibility for recording quality and formats as well as sending, sharing and integrating with other apps.)

Practice. Get familiar with your device. Learn where all of the buttons and functions are. Practice recording. How loudly does what you are recording need to speak? How close do you physically need to be? 

Test. 
Before the interview or event starts to see what kind of background noises you are picking up. (Also, if you have an external mic that works on your phone, use it. You'll get better sound.)

Placement. You need to think about the placement of your device. You will generally get a better quality recording if your device is placed on a flat, unmoving surface. Wood or glass is better than fabric. HOWEVER, make sure the person speaking is not on the same surface, ie a table; all of the times they emphasize their point by tapping on the table will come through on the recording. (YWP often takes a piece of foam rubber -- packing from a box -- and rests the recorder on that. Make sure the device is close to the person who is speaking, but not so close that they are breathing into it (a sound that decreases the quality of your audio). Generally, a good "baseline placement" is at a 45 degree angle from the mouth and slightly below the mouth so the "Ts" and "Ps" of speech don't create pops on the recording.. Plus, make sure nothing, like a finger, is obstructing the microphone. 

Surroundings. You don't want the audio to decrease in quality because of the sound of a fan, or cars in the background. Before you record, survey your surroundings. Will this spot make for a clean recording? HINT: If you are stuck with some ambient sound you can't get rid of, start your recording early, when it's fairly quiet, so as to define that ambient sound; you can then remove just that sound in the editing process. (A free program called Audacity is GREAT for this.)

Ticks. If you are conducting a lengthy interview, it's a long process to go through your audio recording to find those golden bits of information. A way to help you find the information you want when you are sorting through your file is to make ticks. A tick is a sharp sound you make when you are recording, like a snap or a tap. This sudden audio pip will become an identifiable spike in your track when you look at the file, so you will know to look at that spot in the recording. Make sure the sound you make isn't distracting to the person you are interviewing and make sure you've chosen a lull. 

[Creative Commons License: Mathias Miranda, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mathiasmiranda/]