A simple guideline to process your field recording projects

How do you get better field recordings?

When recording outside you are faced with all kind of challenges. Like different kinds of weather, rural sounds, disturbing elements or excessive noise pollution. To get the sounds you desire, you have to take these kinds of elements into account.

So, how do you do that? I like to provide you with a little roadmap that can be of use when you unleash yourself into the fields 🙂

 

Preparation

Step 1:  What is your goal?
The most important question you have to ask yourself is; what do your aim for?
What is your goal? What do you know about the subject(s)? Analyze it to your liking.

Step 2:  How to get the results you want
This is important too. Especially regarding the quality you aim to achieve. If you, for instance, just want to collect some rural sounds, you will get good results with a mid- level setup, like a good handheld recorder. But if you want special (isolated) recordings of animals, weather, water/fire, church bells, gun shots and so on, you need the right rig for that. For this matter you will need a professional field recorder with a quality shotgun microphone to start with.

Step 3:  Where do you go recording
Where do you go to collect your sounds? And, what do you know about the location? Are there specific items or environmental factors you have to be aware of? Think about it.

Step 4:  Weather conditions / Clothing
Plain and simple: check the weather condition before you go out. Wear matching clothes.

Weather check

Step 5;  Gear you need to get the best results
Like I mentioned before, choose your gear wisely. Don’t take stuff you don’t need. It is only unnecessary stuff to carry. Keep it simple if possible.

Step 5:  Perform a thorough gear checkup
Do you collected everything you need? Recorder, mixer, mics, batteries, memory cards, spares, windshields, stands, cables, phantom adapters, check and double check.

Handheld recorder

Gear checkup

Step 6:  Do a small test
Check of everything works properly. You’d be baffled if you don’t.

At the scene

Step 7:  Explore and setup
Take your time to inspect the location and the best spot to setup your gear. Think carefully about your mic placement. When you use a stereo setup, read into the possible mic setup: XY, ORTF, Spaced Pair etc.. Conduct some setup experiments to learn the differences between them.

Stereo mics setup overview

Step 8Do a few test runs
What for the right moment to track the best takes. Beware of ambient sounds, winds, that kind of stuff. [important: less noise pollution = less edit work!)

Step 9:  After you’re done with recording
Teardown your setup nicely and don’t leave anything behind.

Clean your workplace

 

Editing and Mixing

Step 10: Editting and clean your files
Now you have to edit you recorded files to your satisfaction. There a plenty software packages to choose from. I use, among other things, Wavelab, Cubase and Izotope RX (newest versions, but is not necessary) for my field production work. You definitely need some good cleanup tools like the Izotope RX line: this is their budget plugin which is very affordable: https://www.izotope.com/en/products/repair-and-edit/rx-plug-in-pack.html

izotope RX restoration

Recommendation: watch the tutorials on youtube 🙂

Step 11: Mixing your files [simple and basic] Don’t overdo it! Keep it natural, unless otherwise specified. Just start with a little bit of compression, you can use every compressor you like. Be careful, you have know a bit about compression to to use it properly. Here you find information about basic compression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZSJlMbPr-A

After compression add some EQ for coloring. Search for the frequencies where your subject is most prominent and let that part shine 🙂  Here you find some more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7Aalsl8B40

The last step in the chain before before mixdown is to add a limiter to prevent the audio from clipping or distorting. Keep the levels at 0 to -2 Db

The Final Step 12: Mixdown

A mixdown renders your mix to a stereo file (wav, mp3,wma or cda) that can be played on different media players. It depends on the DAW you are using how to create a mixdown.

If you need some help, just contact me!
Frank