Field Recording

Tips & tricks for capturing great sound on location

In the broadest sense, field recording refers to any recording undertaken outside of a studio environment. This could literally be in a field or other outdoor setting, or at a location away from your usual recording space.

Being in your usual space means you’re no doubt comfortable with your recording flow and have your equipment set up in such a way that you don’t need to think too much about it; you turn everything on, hit record, and you’re good to go.

This, of course, goes out the window as soon as you’re out the door.

The image above highlights some key practices for field recording, including;

  • Wind shields for microphones
  • A backup microphone, as the recorder has an inbuilt microphone, covered by the red wind shield, in addition to the handheld microphone
  • Headphones for monitoring levels

On top of these, always remember;

  • Spare batteries — lots of them
  • Memory cards — formatted and with plenty of free space, and/or spares.
  • Pen & paper/device for taking notes

What about when you’re actually out there recording? Here are some key practices that you can save you time, both during the recording and when it comes to editing.

  • Listen to everything before you make you hit record. One of the best tips that Chris Watson — one of the world’s leading sound recordists and who worked with David Attenborough — gave at a talk while I was at university was to only record what’s necessary and to listen closely beforehand. Being prepared will help you know what is necessary to record and what will be superfluous tape leading to more time spent editing.
  • Record a few minutes of environmental sound — just turn everything on and press record. This is intentional and not intended to be in direct contradiction to the previous point. This practice serves two purposes. First, this is great for having a benchmark to compare your final recordings to. Second, if the location is important in the story you’re telling, this location sound can be used as in the final edit.

In case you weren’t getting it, one of the most important things to remember when field recordings is to be prepared, almost to the point of being too prepared. In doing so you’ll save time while recording and editing.