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FIELD RECORDING MISTAKES
HOW TO AVOID IT

We all make mistakes and I am no exception. In this blog post, I’ll share with you the mistakes I made, what I learned, and how you can prevent these mishaps from happening. Because of my mistakes, I’ve missed great recording opportunities, ruined sound, lost or damaged expensive equipment.

I will split this blog into 3 different parts
– Preparation
-Recording In The Field
– Post-production editing

Before we start, you can follow us on Instagram for more daily field recordings, quick tutorials, reels, and stories that we don’t share on Free To Use Sounds.

PREPARATION

prepare for field recording

Not having a checklist or a designated area for all of your gear.

This sounds like a no-brainer to some of you, and I’ve met people who are super organized, label everything, and have cases for the smallest of items.

I have to admit that I am not the most organized person (just being honest!) I went out several times, drove hours in the car or motorcycle, spent a decent amount of time walking to a recording location only to find out later that I forgot to put the batteries in the recorder. I forgot the XLR cables, the SD card, headphones, and the recorder itself only because I thought I had the missing items with me without double-checking them.

How can I prevent this from happening if a mental checklist doesn’t work for me?

Know what you want to record that day or night and only bring those devices. This minimizes the chance of equipment being left behind. Have a physical checklist while the equipment is being organized and put in the bag.

equipment and what to buy

I’ve been getting more emails and messages recently from people interested in field recording wondering which microphones or recorders are best for nature sounds, birds, oceans, or ASMR recordings.

These questions are very broad and time consuming to answer and I recommend anyone who gets to this point to learn the basics about the different polar patterns of the microphones. This is important in finding the right microphone and using it for your recordings. If you don’t do that, you may be buying the wrong microphones.  Besides learning about polar pattern, learn about the different recording techniques as well.

field recording what to buy

For field recording, you need more than just a microphone. You will also need a windshield, cables, microphone stand, sd cards etc. If I’m interested in a microphone or microphone set, I make sure a windshield is available.

Most microphone manufacturers don’t offer professional wind protection. A foam is standard and here’s what I do.

I visit the Rycote or Cinela website and look for windshields for that particular microphone that I am interested in. Sometimes you can find different wind protection on Amazon, B & H, or Thomann as well.

If I find an option for the microphone of my choice, I know that something good is available. That brings me to my next point.

DIY Or DO IT YOURSELF

Be careful when it comes to DIY windshields and accessories. I speak from experience. I’ve tried cutting corners in the past and thought making wind protection out of a fabric store would be a good idea.

In the end, it cost more money, time, and I wasted resources than buying the high-quality version designed specifically for the microphone or recorder in the first place.

dyi with field recording

This goes hand in hand with other accessories. If you have a great recorder and high-quality microphones, please don’t buy cheap XLR cables or cheap SD cards.

Speaking of SD cards. Before purchasing a recorder, be sure to check the specifications on the company’s website. If you want to use a fast 64 GB SD card for longer recordings, make sure that your recorder can read such cards. Cheaper field recording devices only accept 32GB cards sometimes. Make sure you always check this.

In The Field Recording Mistakes

Now let’s talk about the mistakes during field recording. We packed our bags, nothing forgotten, and are on our way.

We drove to the desired location for hours, set up our gear, and press the record button. Card full! Oh no, and then you realize that you don’t have a second card with you and the card that is inside the recorder hasn’t been backed up. The day is over and you can go home straight away.

How can you prevent that? Take a second card with you, back up your recordings each time you come home and format the card.

Also, make sure you choose the correct recording format. The Zoom H8 has the podcast function and records in 48 kHz / 24 bit. If you have your settings for field recording at 96kHz / 24 bit but accidentally select the podcast and then return to field recording, the recording will be of lower quality. In the video Zoom H8 VS H6, I mention this problem.

clothing

A noisy jacket or zippers can ruin your audio. If you have jackets, pants or bags that create noise, try to stay away from the recording or don’t move at all. If it’s windy you can’t avoid it and If I use an omnidirectional microphone, for example, you end up recording rustle and clicking noise too.

How can you avoid clothing sounds in your recordings?

I see more and more videos on YouTube of people walking in city streets or in nature and recording these sounds with video. These videos are called Sound Walks and a shoutout to Kyler from Nomadic Ambience. He travels the world, films, and records such ambience for people.

Make sure you are using clothing that creates less noise and tape down any zippers that you have. Just go to a quiet area and listen carefully and locate the noise and fix it.

fabric noise field recording

Know what you can and can't record

If you intend to sell your recordings, or if you are thinking of uploading them to a monetized streaming platform, make sure you are not recording any copyrighted music. If you’re in a town and a passing car is playing music, make a note of it and cut it out later.

Stop recording when you hear bass sounds in the distance and find a new recording location. That happened to me very often in Vietnam. I could hear the bass from karaoke bars from miles away, so I had to delete so many good recordings because of that. If you hear a cell phone ringtone, make sure you delete this from the recording too.

Never record conversations where you can clearly understand the people who are speaking to each other.

The same applies to musicians, street artists, or musical performances. Talk to people, make it clear to them who you are, what you intend to do with these recordings and, if they let you, keep talking about contracts and rights.

Distractions

field recording mistakes

I can be easily distracted when recording noises in cities or elsewhere. Now it doesn’t happen because of social distancing anymore but people came up to me and asked in a friendly way what am I doing?

I ended up having a conversation about traveling the world and recording sounds, but at the same time, I could hear great ambience in the distance or right in front of me, which is missed because of that conversation.

How can you prevent that?

Well, you might find a place with fewer options where people can spot you. Like an empty corridor, small side streets for example. You could tell people right at the beginning that you are busy recording sounds. But always with a smile. You don’t want to look suspicious.

I’ve seen other field recorders and filmmakers draw their attention with signs like recording in process, do not disturb.

Due to a conversation, I left a bag behind and lost two pairs of omnidirectional microphones, a contact microphone, a hydrophone, and the LOM Priezor. It was an expensive conversation and some of you who have known me since 2018 know it. It happened in Cyprus.

EDITING AND POST PRODUCTION

Editing field recordings

When I look back at 2017 and how I named my files its kind of embarrasing and I have to find and rename all those files because I didn’t know anything about metadata. This will take weeks or months.

We made a video about writing metadata. If you don’t want to waste days and weeks in the future, I highly recommend learning more about metadata.

It’s a great and free resource, and I use it because it has helped me find a direction.

This piece of mind gives me more pleasure when editing the audio files and knowing that recording sounds in the field are only the beginning of what lies ahead of you after you get home.

Always make a vocal slate before or at the end of your recordings. If you don’t do that and weeks later you’re listening back you have no idea where you did the recording. Of course, that only applies to the people who record almost every day. Photos or quick videos help too.

Software

If you are a beginner and now you feel like that you want to record sounds, write metadata the right way, but you don’t know what software to use?

Glad you asked because now is the time to learn a DAW. Pick a DAW and stick with it, but also think about what you want to do with your field recordings.

Would you like to create sound libraries or experiment more with sound design or making music?

There are so many options out there and I can’t make this decision for you.

Do your research and look for the best DAWs for audio processing. For editing metadata, I recommend learning more about Soundminer or Soundly. For sound design, look for the best free plugins for sound design.

Before we get to the bottom of the blog and you might be a reader who first heard of field recording and you are more interested now, I suggest that you watch our video on how to become a field recordist.

I am sharing many other helpful tips and insights about this wonderful and unique craft that the mainstream does not know exist.

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