I tend to be more than a bit invested in my production projects. When I’m not specifically seated in front of my computer working on the audio, my mind is busy trying to figure out how the pieces fit together and how I can make this latest project different from all of my previous work. A fresh approach each time helps to keep everyone interested; myself and the listener.
That explains why I found myself lying in bed at 5:20am busily figuring out (in my head) how to craft the narrative for the “A Bear in War” production. I have lots of great audio and very little of it is “soundbitey”. I’m glad for that since I don’t want to produce a news story. However, it means that some of my guests’ longer answers may not hold a listener’s attention. It’s my job to keep the listener engaged and, more specifically, keep them wanting that next piece of information. For this project, I’m thinking of using the narrative is to summarize the longer parts of the story in a concise yet visually descriptive way. The narrative will thread the different voices together. My body woke me up at 5:20am so my brain could start figuring stuff out. Thanks!
In the process, I’ve decided that some ambient recording I had collected and planned to throw away may have a purpose after all. I’ll have to listen to it, again. I think I ditched it because there was a nearby conversation that landed in the distant foreground of the recording – just enough to be distracting.
BACKFILLING SOME INFORMATION
At 5:45am, it occurred to me that I had left some details out of part 1. In particular, the equipment that I used to record the book launch event.
For the first time, I used two digital audio recorders in tandem.
Earlier in the week, I arranged with the audio-guy through the event planner to be able to connect a digital recorder to the mixing board. The agreement was to take a stereo feed from the RCA output of the mixing console using a cable I have that converts that to the input for my Edirol R1 (still my workhorse; still one of the best analog-to-digital audio converters in its class; no longer manufactured). When I arrived, we discovered the console doesn’t have an RCA output. It’s a good thing I brought some extra cables with me. I ended up using one of my microphone cables to take a mono signal from the mixer. Fortunately, I travel with two of these mic cables and I was able to use the other cable with my second digital recorder. With the signal from the mixing board, I was able to get a high-quality recording of the presenters.
I used my Zoom H2 digital recorder in two different ways. I used the internal microphones to record some ambient sound, in stereo, as people arrived and seated themselves. Before the event started, I connected my R0de NTG-2 shotgun mic to my Zoom H2 and used it to record the event and interviews. A shotgun mic is a long, narrow, directional microphone that has ‘telescopic properties’. That is, it picks up an audio signal in a very narrow range in the direction in which it’s pointing. During the event, I aimed it at the sound system speakers. Here’s an often overlooked fact… if you’re far away from the person speaking at a large gathering and that person is amplified through a speaker system, aim your mic at the equipment-speaker, not the person-speaker. You’ll get a better signal.
Once the event was over, I packed my H2 away and connected my shotgun mic to my R1 for the interviews. The shotgun mic is fantastic for interviews in a large and busy room. Because the mic is directional, it cuts out a lot of the background noise and really puts the voice its pointing at in the foreground. And, because it’s a powerful microphone, I’m able to hold it at waist level and simply pivot my hand to point at the mouth of the person speaking. There are several advantages to this approach. First, it gets the microphone away from people’s faces and lines-of-sight helping them to quickly forget that they’re being recorded. Second, it eliminates plosives; those bursting pops of air that hit microphones and can ruin a listener’s experience.
I’m particularly trusting of myself and my equipment when I record. While other journalists were running around with headsets on their heads to monitor their recordings, I went ‘commando’ so that the people I’m speaking with relax and remember that we’re just two people having a conversation. Many people get nervous when they’re being recorded, others feel compelled to be articulate (whether they can be or not). I want to record real people so I try to create an environment that allows them to be real people.
I haven’t figured out my approach with this program yet, though I did write a first draft of my opening narration. I haven’t listened any of the audio since I went to bed last night. Sometimes you need that space from the recordings. When you return you may find something you hadn’t noticed before. In fact, it’s important to keep an open mind about your production. It’s not uncommon to discover well into your work that you’ve told the wrong story and then have to rip it apart and start over, again. Don’t worry. You’re in good company. I’ve heard that Dire Straits abandoned the first several weeks of work on Brothers in Arms and started over with a fresh approach. It ended up being their most successful album.