Don’t shy away from background noise

When I first started making radio I was very concerned with background noise.

Everyone said that I should avoid recording in noisy locations at all costs.

The advice always seemed to be, to find the quietest place possible to record the interview, and:

  • Turn off all computers, TV's, stereos and radios (this is a good one, make sure you still do this)
  • Keep away from the fridge or else you’ll get a low hum on your tape
  • Don’t even think about doing interviews in cafes
  • The AC must be switched off

Sound familiar?

I was talking to two reporters last week, and both of them told me something that surprised me. They said:

You’re in the field. You want it to sound like your in the field and not in the studio.

Bingo! 

You don't want studio silence, you want it to feel like it's living and breathing.


Field interviews should sound like field interviews.

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So if there are little toddlers running around, don’t put them in another room for the interview, include them in the piece.

If there's a kettle boiling... Leave it on and keep recording.

Background noise adds atmosphere and mood to your piece...  Plus, it’ll be better than any sound effects that you could edit in later.

Background noise could also be a good starting point for your introduction, you could even make it part of your piece, for example:

SX: Wind blowing, distorting the microphone 

REPORTER: The wind is so strong today that garbage bins are toppled over all along Main Street. It’s perfect weather to test the strength of five different umbrellas. And that's exactly what we're doing today. We want to see which umbrellas turn inside out and which ones don’t…..

The wind for once becomes your friend.

But if you're recording in a noisy spot, make sure you get 30 seconds of background noise (with no talking) to make your life easier later when you start to edit .