The MAEKAN Classroom is a series created by the MAEKAN team to pass on the skills we’ve learned in the past few years. We don’t plan to wait until we have a “masterclass” or spent decades honing our craft to share experience and knowledge that works. We want to help get self-taught creatives started telling and publishing their stories today.
By now, you’ve prepared enough to know what you want and what you can expect going into production, while still leaving some room for spontaneity and pleasant surprises.
This fourth part of the MAEKAN Classroom series on audio stories will cover a few best practices for when you’re recording audio, depending on the type of recording situation you’ll be facing, whether it’s:
The same techniques above apply to conversations. But there are a few extra things to consider depending on how many people are speaking and how many microphones you have:
Turn-Taking: Where the focus of the interview is on one person, a recorded conversation places more emphasis on dynamic between several people. Try to avoid exceedingly long stretches of a single person talking (over one minute) by acknowledging points the person makes as they go or asking related prompts if it seems the person is struggling to find their words or to finish their sentence.
Interruptions: If you’re recording an interview or conversation, try not to interrupt your subject too often. This makes it hard or impossible to remove the sound of your voice if it overlaps theirs, especially if you’re sharing a microphone.
Overall, unscripted conversations work best when everyone including your subjects are at ease, especially if it’s their first time. Re-assure them that they are free to say anything they want, and that any undesirable bits such as off-color jokes or mis-stated information can be cut out after.
Whether you’re recording an interview, conversation and even narration (if the location isn’t a studio), remember to get your one minute or more of ambient sound.
With semi-scripted interviews, help your subject by setting the mic at a height and position that’s comfortable to them and encourage them to keep their mouth relatively in front of the mic so that the captured audio remains even and constant.
Some examples of how you can ask your subject to repeat their statement:
“That was really good, but could you repeat that for me in a complete sentence?”
“Do you mind trying that one more time?”
“Could you include the question in your answer?”
Give your subjects a heads-up that you’ll be doing this before you start the interview, but don’t make them repeat themselves too often during the talk. Your goal should be to catch a good conversation with them on record, not extract pristine audio clips from them.
Scripted Recording: Narration
For scripted narration, you can enhance their vocal delivery by warming up:
You’re going to look silly doing this, so you can either own it, or do this in private or covering your face with your hands.
Finish the warm-up doing a quick massage of your cheeks and jaw joints.
Good to Know: If you keep find yourself getting tongue-tied or breathless, you might need to revise the script and make sure it’s written to be spoken and not read. Doing this will save you time and energy.
Freeform: Field Audio & Foley
When you’re recording audio out in the field,
Like taking a picture, you want to separate the things you want to capture away from the things you don’t. You do this in a photo through your lens choice, your composition, exposure and focus. For sound, you do this through your microphone choice, where you point the microphone, the distance between the mic and sound, and your gain.
To leave a comfortable buffer for your recording, try to keep the levels between -12 and -6. It’s easier to make a recording that’s too quiet louder, but hard to make it quieter when it’s too loud.
Whether it’s a discussion, interview or narration, warm ups are good to have instead of just jumping in. For narration especially, warm ups are key to good delivery.
When recording with other people, guide your subjects but don’t over direct them. You goal should be candid, natural delivery.
When capturing sound in the field, try to anticipate the action or create it.