Digital recording technique

When using a digital recorder for field recordings (in order to capture sounds of the environment, subtle sounds in the distance, and sounds of equal apparent volume but where the source is situated at different distances from the recording device) there are a few considerations which will assure a quality recording.

The input volume should be adjusted to avoid peaking (high volume distortion). When the loudest sounds in the recording environment are present lower the input volume to the highest level which avoids peaking.

The gain, if adjustable, is best left high for field recording situations. For an interview, however, is can be useful to use an automatic gain setting, which renders the different voices at about the same level of volume regardless of their position with respect to the microphone.

Sounds which seem inaudible or subaudible to the « naked » ear can come through quite strongly in the recording. This is due to the extreme sensitivity of the microphones and gain circuitry in such devices.  Proximity of sounds (breathing, rustling of notepaper, moving fingers on the recorder, etc.) can have the effect of amplifying their importance in the overall recording. Be careful to position the recorder where it will not be jostled or touched, try to avoid even light wind since even with the windscreen the sound comes through as a muffled roar.

Some extraneous sounds and undesirable effects can be edited out of a recording, but there is often a logic to the background soundscape which becomes apparent when a « piece » is missing. An example would be the varying pitch of a car’s motor which rises or descends gradually having an abrupt pitch variation due to editing out a part of the original recording.

This is one good reason to record narrative in a sound controlled environment. This recording can easily be overlaid onto another soundtrack since there are no extraneous background noises or humms.

Most recorders offer a choice of recording quality and format: wav or mp3 are common. If the recording is for web diffusion, the mp3 quality is preferable since it utilises less bandwidth. For CD quality use wav or other high quality recording format, allowing more versatility in editing also.

These are just a few ideas and suggestions. All is possible and experimentation is a fine teacher.

Above all, Have fun!


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