Searching for Sounds: The 5 Basic Rules of Field Recording

This month is all about the culture of sound exploration on Bonafide. There’s nothing quite like grabbing a mic and getting out there into the wilderness is there? We think found-sounds have a certain romance to them. They’re like recorded memories, live samples of the natural world uniquely owned by the hunter who captures them!  (You get the picture)

 Just ask Paul White. We put him in a boat and sailed out to one of the strangest places in the UK in new series, Field Trips

But meantime, here’s a handy guide for first-timers in the field. Courtesy of Thomas Banks from the mic experts at Shure.

(want to win one of the amazing little mics Paul White used in the film? Details here)

1) Make sure to Monitor

Just because you are hearing a sound doesn’t mean the microphone is picking it up in exactly the same way. We’d always advise having a pair of earphones or headphones to hand so you can monitor (hear!) exactly what the microphone is picking up. If you have pressed the record button, this should be your signal to put your headphones on. Recording without headphones is like driving without looking!

2) Factor in Wind

Even the gentlest breeze can really affect your recording. While monitoring will make you aware of the potential damage wind can have on your recording, it won’t help prevent it. Be sure to use wind jammers / wind shields or shelter to avoid problems.

3) Adjust Gain

Before you start your actual recording it is good practise to make a couple of dummy recordings. This is your opportunity to adjust the gain on the mic and test the results by playing them back to yourself. You want a healthy incoming signal but you want to be well clear of the chance of your audio clipping. A sudden change in your environment could cause clipping and this cannot be removed. You can always boost your recording with compression and limiting in post-production so it is better to record too low than too high.

 GAIN METER

(Red means danger!)

4) Be Organised

It is a good practise to name your files as soon as you’ve recorded them. It wouldn’t hurt to go as far as to also make a note of the settings. By doing these quick bits of housekeeping it will save you lots of time when you get home, and could also help you to learn what settings work best.

5) Be Creative, be Ready and Keep an Open Mind!

You never know when you might stumble across a great sound. So, even on days when you hadn’t planned to record, always be armed with your recording tools (even if this is just your phone). When you do come across something you want to record try recording from more than one place – different perspectives bring out different sonic qualities.

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