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Digital Sound Recording Tips: To Move Or Not To Move, That Is The Question

written by: albaitis•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/19/2010

Gain essential understanding about playback equipment and body/microphone positioning in order to create compelling digital sound recordings.

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    How the Placement of your Body or Microphone Can Affect Your Recording

    How you position yourself will greatly inform the vantage point of your recording. You can break this dilemma into to two microphone types: fixed-positioned microphones and moving microphones. This will enable you to develop focus from an omniscient point of view (fixed) or have something more subjective (moving.) At times however, this “rule” would change according to what it was you are trying to capture. You must be sensitive to the environments/things you are recording. Are you recording a space that in its nature distills the movement of time, say an echo, a car driving by or a dripping faucet? I would then consider a fixed position. This allows you a detailed “look” with a somewhat clinical detachment. The character is inherent in the subject. The movement of the object creates the narrative, not you.

    Moving through an environment will create a more subjective recording. Focus more on the positioning of the microphones. Think of the ears of a horse or cat. They shift and swivel in order the pick up sonic information where it’s needed. With this technique, you produce the narrative. You control the microphone; you decide what it picks up. Experiment with this idea. Play with the motion of your body: crawl, dance, and spin.

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    Headphones, Television or the Movies?

    A secondary consideration within movement and positioning of you and your equipment would be how you image the final playback form to take. Will this be in a simple, single-channeled situation where the objective needs to come across clearly? Or an omniscient setting, like listening with headphones, where the experience is described as ‘immersive’ and multi-layered? Monophonic recordings (one-channel) lend themselves better to more simple playback situations. On the other hand, binaural or stereo recordings have the capability to capture a 360-degree field detailing the textures of a specific moment, or environment.

    Remember that some of the most simplistic sounds leave the listener open to interpretation. I find real complicated environments too deterministic. Simple noises can in the end, offer more complexity, leaving room for details to develop and evolve. "Pure" noises can be easily layered, worked and built upon in order to form a more accurate description of a mood or situation.

    In the end however, it’s up to you to decide what’s important. The operative words being here: experimentation and quantity. Our ears are incredibly complicated, far more than any microphone. Only through direct knowledge of your equipment, the nature of its “voice” and the movement (or lack thereof) of your body in relation to it, can you begin to understand the dynamics of your recorded sonic environment.

Essential Creative Techniques for Digital Sound Recording

Develop your sensitivities towards your acoustic world, creating compelling digital audio recordings with virtually any type of equipment. Work with the limits of the environment, equipment and the position of your body to enhance your work with post production, video and individual sound projects.
  1. The Basics of Digital Audio Field Recording: Observation, Preparation and Quantity
  2. Digital Sound Recording Tips: To Move Or Not To Move, That Is The Question
  3. How Acoustics Shape Sounds: Recording Techniques for Developing Your Creative Vision