What should a field recording kit consist of?

    | September 8, 2008

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    The following suggestions for preparing a field recording kit were adapted from CR (community radio): A user’s guide to the technology, which was prepared by the United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2007. You may wish to use these suggestions in conjunction with “What are the main considerations in selecting field recording equipment,” an adapted text featured in the last issue of FRW). We thank subscriber FRW subscriber Mahesh Acharya for referring us to this resource.The full guide can be found online at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001561/156197e.pdf.

    1. Microphones(s) & accessories: Ideally, the field recording kit should have a couple of microphones, one with a wider pickup that can be used to record a group of people or a sound effect; and one that is highly directional and has a narrow area of pickup, for noisy situations or to isolate particular sounds. However, even a multipurpose rugged microphone will give acceptable results in most conditions.

    The microphone should have a good grip to allow it to be comfortably handheld, and should be accompanied by a foam or fiber windshield that prevents wind from hitting it and causing a rumbling noise. A balanced output is preferable, as it helps obtain clean recordings even in areas with high electromagnetic disturbance.

    2. Recorder unit: The field recorder should be rugged, hard wearing, and easy to use and set up. It should have balanced inputs, for the reason stated above, but also have inputs for a variety of different types of microphones.

    A headphone input to allow you to monitor recordings is vital, as is the ease of changing tapes or disks. The recorder should also run off batteries and have a low power draw. A large and clear screen that displays important parameters – battery life, amount of recording media left, audio level and track number – is a great plus.

    3. Recording media: In case the recorder needs replaceable media (e.g. tapes or disks), bring an adequate supply to cover all recording planned for the day. A good rule of thumb is to estimate the total recording time anticipated, estimate the blank media needed for this time, then add enough to cover yourself if recording takes one-third longer.

    4. Power supply: Most good field recorders come with an a/c mains power adapter, but also run off batteries. This dual supply system allows a longer recording time in the field, since it can be plugged in wherever there is a mains power supply. It’s a good idea to carry at least one totally fresh set of spare batteries for the recorder and the microphone.

    5. Headphones: A good pair of headphones to monitor the recording is important. Some recorder units come with a pair of high quality earphones, but a pair of over-ear headphones with comfortable padded earcups and a long enough lead are preferred. Noise canceling headphones are also of great help, if you can afford them. A good pair of headphones can help spot audio problems while you are in a position to do something about them.

    6. Carrying cases and covers: Field recording equipment should always be carried in its carrying case. If standard cases are unavailable or too expensive, it’s easy to stitch cloth cases with straps. A sturdy bag or hard case for the entire kit is also a good idea, and will keep the equipment safe and the kit organized.