Recording on location

There is no set way to record an interview away from the studio. Each place has its own challenges and opportunities. Sometimes you have to go out; if the interviewee can’t come to you, if the story is at a location – a court, a fire, a press conference. Sometimes you choose to go out; there is good atmos or background sound to be gathered.

Here are some situations and pitfalls to be avoided.

Music in the background. Music in the background itself is not the problem, unless it is so loud you cant hear the interviewee. The problem comes with the editing. Normally you try to edit so listeners don’t notice. But when you begin to cut the music in the background jumps around. Airport lounges, supermarkets, music shops, sound leaking in from another room, street musicians. All and more are potential editing problems. Also beware loud ticking clocks, chimes, traffic, passing airplanes.

Wind noise. Personally I don’t have a problem with wind noise – others do. If you are standing atop a cliff, it can add to the general sound of that you are doing. But on an ordinary city street? No. In a field in the middle of a summer’s day when a slight breeze rattles your mic? No and no again.

Background noise is a radio reporter’s friend. It adds an extra dimension to the report. It adds colour and provides sound examples.

Wildtrack. Before you begin your recording, sit and record 10 seconds of the general background. When you have finished the recording record some more. Tell your interviewee this is what you are doing. It will help your final edit. If you can either before or after your interviewee arrives or leaves, record minutes and minutes and if at all even more minutes. You might be able to use all if that as a background to your final piece Monitor what you record for wind noise.

Don’t confuse your backgrounds.. Don’t lie to your listener. Don’t record the interview in a car and claim you are standing on the bank of a great lake.

Remember, these 4 places sound different; a normal radio studio, a normal room, a car interrior, outside.

And don’t be a hero. Don’t record in a dangerous place. And don’t bring an interviewee to a dangerous place. Clearly, you don’t want to put your interviewee or yourself in danger. That’s not the story you set out to tell.

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