Can you hear me now?

This week in J2150, we focused on producing quality audio. Never before have I used an sort of microphone or recording device that wasn’t my iPhone, so this was interesting. We are using Zoom recorders with an XLR cord and a microphone.

To start off, we learned why sound is important. Poor video can be tolerated, but poor sound cannot. This made me think of whenever I watch Netflix. Sometimes, the internet speed is not at its best (mizzou wireless ugh), so the image can get pixelated and not as clear. The second the sound does not match the person’s lips though, I’m out. Netflix watching is over. I feel like this a common feeling. So, when we produce sound, we must strive for excellent sound quality. Next, sound lets you to operate in something that cannot really be duplicated. Sound can be described for hours, but you never really know what it sounds like until you hear it for yourself. Last, sound allows you to tell a deeper story, especially with the use of ambient and natural sounds.

That being said there are three different types of sounds, natural (or nat), ambient, and voice-over. Natural sounds are sounds that are produced in their normal, naturally occurring habitat. They are often used to set a scene and are placed under the voices in the piece to provide context and to push the story forward. For example, birds chirping is a natural sound. Ambient sound is all non-natural sounds that occur in the locale you are recording. These sounds are used to create a sense of place in the story and provide emphasis. These sounds are very effective because it again it is much more powerful to hear a sound than to be told about a sound. Voice-over is the voice of the narrator or the people being interviewed in a piece. The voices are the main focus of the story. Take note, stories with only voiceovers are very boring. Make sure to collect as much natural and ambient sound as possible.

We also discussed types of sound stories you can do. Straight news stories usually have quicker deadline times and are often what you hear if there is breaking news. Storytelling, on the other hand, is more of a feature story. These types of sound stories are more likely to contain natural and ambient sound. That being said hard hitting news stories can have them too, its less common.

To wrap up our class, writing and interviewing was covered, since the two topics are so closely related. It is important to use active verbs as much as possible in you writing, as well as being succinct. You should write conversationally in the sense that it should be understand, but it must be written professionally. Moving to interviews, make sure your interviews are descriptive and engaged in the interviewee. Remember to not say “uh-huh” or give vocal feedback because your microphone will pick it up! Lastly, its okay to ask questions you already know the answer to. It’s more interesting to have your source say something instead of you as the narrator. Keeping the reader in mind should always be an important part of everything you do. You want them to say “Wow, I’m glad I saw that.” Or heard it or read it.

I will spare you the more technical parts of recording sound, like the ideal range to record is between -12 and -6 dB and you want to hold the microphone no less than 6 inches away from the side of a person’s mouth. All in all, I’m excited to venture into the world of sound. I will leave you with a few questions you want to ask while interviewing and creating a sound story.

  • What type of story is this?
  • What tone should I use?
  • Am I on deadline or can I be more creative?
  • Why does my listener care?
  • What’s my endgame?
  • Who do I need to interview?
  • Where will I be interviewing?
  • What information do I need to get to the reader? How can I use sounds to do this?
  • What kind of sounds illustrate the story? How can I get them?

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