Written and recorded by Ian Smith
Digital technology has been a help for many types of creative work, including field recording — but it also brings new challenges, as the computer technology involved intrudes more and more into your workflow. An audio recorder is a computer, with its own operating system and user interface; and though we might try to ignore that fact, sooner or later we will be faced with menus asking about compression modes, bit depths, and so on.
This series of videos is going to try to de-mystify the technical aspects of field recording, so that non-technical people can get past the nuts and bolts to concentrate on what matters — the art and craft of field recording.
To kick the series off, this episode is going to be a very basic, quick-start beginners guide to field recording; just going over all the basic concepts very lightly. Future episodes will go into specific topics in more detail:
In this series of videos, I’m going to try to give you a nuts-and-bolts introduction to field recording. I’m going to start here with an introduction to the concepts of field recording, and the motivation for this course:
Modern audio recording is all about computer-based technologies; which might a problem for people coming from a creative background. So in this section I’m going to give you a quick overview of these kinds of technologies, specifically the kinds of computer tech that are intruding more and more into field recording.
Of course the microphone is the business end of your system, so it’s worth understanding how they work. But with audio recording covering an amazing array of different activities, mics have evolved to be pretty diverse. Let’s try and break it down:
To get going in field recording, you’re going to need some gear. This doesn’t need to be insanely expensive; the difference in quality between mid-price and top-of-the-line gear is steadily shrinking as technology improvements spread downwards.
The choice of equipment out there is bewildering, but this episode will at least get you off the ground by showing you the types of kit you might consider for field recording. Gourski – Foley Beats, an example of making complex compositions with field recording:
If you’re setting up a field recording kit, there’s one thing you really need to be aware of, and that’s the different technologies used to connect mics to recorders.
The “consumer” and “pro” systems commonly used unfortunately aren’t compatible; and the choice between them isn’t straightforward. This episode tries to explain the issues:
So I’ve talked a lot about equipment, technology, and all that stuff. Here I’m going to talk about how to actually get out and get Field Recording, with some general tips on preparation and technique:
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Media obsolescence is a problem we’ve probably all heard about from time to time, often with scare stories about how all the media we’re creating today are going to become unusable. The good news is that as far as the future is concerned, the problem of data obsolescence is now largely solved — maybe not completely, but the tools are there, and if we know how to use them, we really don’t need to be worried about this:
Once you’ve made a recording, and got it on to your PC, you can do some post-production to make it sound better. This isn’t essential, but even for very simple recordings, a little editing can make it work a lot better. So in this episode, I’m going to give you an intro to some basic things you can do, quite easily, to make your recordings more listenable.
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• Jamie Hardt shares tips and thoughts on field recording and immersive audio – from 20+ years in sound
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• Recording the Sounds of Disappearing Glaciers
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• Recording Adventures – deep in the Swedish wilderness
• Capturing Atmospheric Nature Sounds in Scotland
• The sonic state of the world – with legendary soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause
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