This is a topic I’ve covered before but it continually comes up in discussion so here we go again.
In the past twelve months I’ve recorded in, at least 13 different locations as we’ve been on the move. This has been instructive. I have an instinctive knowledge of what will and won’t work with my voice, the Zoom H2n and my production workflow. There have been times when it has not gone well and days when uploading to my host has been challenging but, on the whole, it has been a great learning experience.
What are the key things we are attempting to achieve with our recording space?
Clear, clean audio files.
And we do this for a few reasons, the main one being: our listeners.
Setting up your indoor space is a fairly simple matter, if you keep some principles in mind.
- No hard surfaces.
- Face out of not into corners.
- Use a directional mic if you can.
- Test, test, test!
Number 1 can be tricky given the nature of walls, ceilings and floors. I like to face into heavy curtains as these absorb rather than reflect sound. Me ideal setup will involve a shower curtail rail and winter weight curtains that can be drawn around in a closed circle of about 12 foot, or 3 metre circle. This takes up little room, is sound baffled and relatively inexpensive.
Until then I sit in a corner, face outward and use a directional mic. By now, you’ll all be aware of my passion for my Zoom H2n digital recorder. It has the ability to record on both sides of the machine. Four track recording, a thing called spatial recording and so on are all available but I use a setting with one side of the mics working, the side facing me, obviously, and this means any echo that may come back generally won’t be picked up.
This could be achieved with a shotgun mic.
Once you think you’ve set your space as you would like it, test! This sounds self evident but is a step usually missed. So please, test.
For outdoor recording a whole series of other problems raise their head. The aim though is to produce: Clear, clean audio files. It just takes a few more decisions. For outdoor recording, your mic becomes even more important. A mobile setup requires a more robust mic and there are options.
Of course the Zoom H2n will do the job wonderfully as it was designed a field tool for reporters. Another option I carry is the Rode videomic me which is a tiny, robust shotgun mic which attaches to the earphone jack on a phone. I simply point it towards me when I’m speaking, asking questions and so on and then point it directly towards my interviewee or whatever sound source I’m attempting to capture.
The quality is amazing and it could serve as a primary, or even only mic if you wanted to. It comes with an enormous dead cat to block out all that pesky wind noise and it works magnificently.
And this is the main issue with outdoor recording: extraneous sound. Other people, motor vehicles and the every present wind. Once you’ve solved the wind problem you’re 80% to where you need to be. The other sounds can add colour, be used as a separate track to soundscape your piece and so on but wind is just painful.
- Clear, clean audio files.
- Avoid reflective surfaces
- Use a dead cat outdoors
- Test, test, test.