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What should a field recording kit consist of?

“What are the main considerations in selecting field recording equipment,” [1] 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 [2].

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.