Episode 11 : Choosing and Creating the Best Recording Location

by Ian

in Audio, Audio/Video Recorders, Podcast

Setting the Location for a Great Audio Recording

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Noise, noise, noise!

The number one bane of my existence in recording audio is finding environments that are suitably relaxing and quiet.  Pleasant environments like cafés are inevitable noisy with coffee grinders and espresso machines, crashing plates and ruckus conversations.  Often with music and background bustle of a community.  Quiet outside environments like parks suddenly have passing traffic, construction sites and overhead aircraft.  Interior home environments have fridges, air-conditioning units and family noise.  Computers have hard discs automatically starting and hard walls.

The perfect location is in a recording booth double insulated from the noise of the outside world with padded walls to deaden the sound creating a controlled rich sounding audio.  All well and good but that is not the real world that we live in and we have to make do with what we have.  Our homes and community environments.

Never as Quiet as It Looks

The great thing about recording at home or somewhere familiar is the immediately relaxed attitude that it creates.  It’s not far to the tea makings and the photo albums are on the shelf just over there.  The challenge is in managing the audio or physical distractions that can interfere with the recording .  Some of them are:

  • Background sound – Construction, appliances, aircraft, traffic, people, weather
  • Furnishings – Tables drumming, squeaking chairs
  • Clothing – Attaching microphone,
  • Fiddling – Pens, glasses, plates, tools
  • Breeze – Background noise, blowing onto microphone
  • Wildlife and animals – annoying pets
  • Other people – background chatter
  • Appliances – phones, fans, air-conditioning, equipment, radio etc

Closed headphone allow you to hear the reality of how the microphone will pick up the sound. Our ears and brains are very good at filtering out the extraneous sounds so that we can concentrate on a conversation but a microphone doesn’t do that and when we listen to a recording we hear everything.  Monitoring the recording will enable you to hear something when it appears as a background sound that you couldn’t tell if you’re just listening without headphones.

By creating a space that is as quiet as possible you can concentrate on what is necessary to make it more comfortable and relaxed during the conversation to help the stories flow in the way that all great conversation happen.  If you’re constantly being disturbed by discomfort, events, noise or other people the conversation will have to be constantly restarted with the natural slight awkwardness that comes with restarting.  Remember the best conversations you have ever had, have been the ones where despite discomfort you don’t dare leave for fear of missing something.  That’s the feeling we are attempting to create for the listener so having the comfort on our side of the microphone will help to create that intensity of the conversation because there are no distractions from the storytelling.

Make sure you have:

  • Comfort – Seating, table, lounge, temperature, etc
  • Refreshments – Drinks, food, snacks
  • Choose a room with curtains and furnishings for sound deadening

Additionally actions you can take to improve situations:

  • Close windows and doors
  • Turn off all noisy appliances
  • Hang temporary drapes or blankets to deaden the sound
  • Remind family members not to disturb you

Just a note to not overdo this.  We are wanting to achieve as natural an environment as possible while maintaining quality sound recording.  Most of our recordings will have some noise from the life around us and that often enhances rather than distracts.  We want the audio to be good quality but we don’t want it sterile.  It’s about balancing all these points

Action:

  • Where are you going to record.
  • Listen(really listen!) to the sounds of your environment, ideally through headphones
  • Can you relocate to another location for better sound quality recordings

Let me know how things are developing for you by contacting me via one of the systems on the contact page at the top of the site, better still let everyone know by placing a comment in the comment box below.

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