Audio tips

Zoom mike instructionsL

To record:

Push red record button once to get a sound reading and twice to record. Blinking red light will turn to solid red when you are recording. Push red button one more time to stop recording.

To play back:

Insert headphones and push play button under red record button. Push again to stop.

To upload files:

1. Turn unit on and connect to computer via USB cable.

2. Push menu button on Zoom and use left adouble arrow to toggle to USB

3. Push red center button and you’ll see STORAGE

4. Push red center button again and wait for files to come up on your computer screen.

Here are some audio editing tips from NPR’s Tom Wilmer:

Audio Philosophy—

My philosophy of audio recording and production is predicated on the premise of maximizing the auditory experience. The only thing you have going for you with radio is “sound”.

Keep your ears fine-tuned and your eyes closed.

It does not make sense to tape a studio interview about Bora Bora as a destination. Why shut out the sounds of the world when talking about the world. Worst case scenario for me: If a travel expert is coming through the area and I have the opportunity to interview them about their insights into Helsinki, Paris or wherever, I will take them downtown and we’ll tape the interview seated at an outside diner, rather than booking a studio and cutting out the only vestiges of the sounds of the world.

  1. You cannot “see” with radio. But if you maximize the auditory experience, the shared sounds will stimulate a brilliant range of visual images in the mind of the listener.
  2. Television is actually a lazy medium. It sees for you and provides the visual experience. Therefore your mind does not have to engage and go to work crafting an imagined scene or faces.
  3. Radio requires active mental participation. The listeners mind is busy painting pictures and gathering relative images from your own past experiences.

It’s Not About You. You are the host, the facilitator, and the cat herder. Listeners tune in to learn from your guest. They are not really interested in your own expertise on the subject. I try not to do too much advance research about my guest or his subject of interest.

I believe that by coming in to the conversation as someone who knows little about the subject, and yet with a great curiosity creates camaraderie with the listening audience—we are learning and discovering together. I will ask questions similar to what the audience is curious to learn, as I know little more, or less, about the subject than they do. I find myself being off put by a host who rattles on about their own insights in to the guest’s area of expertise. More than once I have found myself yelling at the radio…”Shut up and let your guest speak—it’s not about you.”

It is your job to keep the flow going and to add an auditory counterbalance: It is often tough to listen to one voice non-stop for fifteen minutes, or more, no matter how engaging, without a periodic mental break. One option is to break the interview, or subject’s presentation, at a logical transition point in the discussion. Pot up some actuality under-bed and script a voice-over lead in/entrée to the upcoming sub theme of the interview.

Capturing Actuality/Ambient Bed:

Basic Rule: Always try and capture more actuality/ambient bed sounds than you think you might need. Also known as “Sound Bed, Natural Sound (Natsot), Sound Bite, Sound-on-tape (SOT), etc.

Who knows, you might wish to use the ambient bed throughout the entire segment. This is invaluable when conditions require you to record your interview in a hard-surface environment. Capturing ample actuality provides you with more to select from—street sounds, fire truck or motorcycle roaring by might provide the ideal sound bite. You can never capture too much actuality…also if you turn off your recorder too soon, you’ll likely miss the optimum audio-moment.

“NPR Moment”

  1. Keep your ears peeled for specific sounds that might serve as an auditory metaphor for your story line. Sounds can be used as a punchy/attention grabbing entrée: e.g. Church bells chiming, ferry boat horn-blast, airplane fly-by, monkey chatter, etc.
  2. You can use the audio sound bite as the first sound you here in your show. Pot down the sound and then bring in your scripted introduction as the entrée fades away or continues to play softly underneath.
  3. Actuality tracks allow you to capture the “sense of being on location” with the benefit of subsequently scripting your voice-over track and laying it down after fine-tuning and researching your final script.

 Backing in to your subject: Can’t find, or don’t have that pithy “NPR Moment” sound bite?

  1. Search for the most attention grabbing statement made by the subject of your interview. Cut and paste the statement/comment and position it as the “lead”, the very first thing the listener hears.

This will, ideally, pique listeners’ attention, and stimulates a curiosity to stay tuned to find out more. Then transition with a music lead-in, or immediately introduce your guest and subject via a scripted voice-over. Then segue back into the taped interview (I often use music as a second bridge between the scripted voice-over and the main body of content.

Finland Lapland piece starts with pilot talking on radio to ground control…. “Baffin Radio..Baffin Radio…..”

  1. Alternately, if the stars are aligned at time of the field recording, the process is simplified and you will be able to use your field-recorded intro and just run with it. Sometimes, you will be in the midst of an environment that provides a ready made ambient bed…For example, Texas, Blue Bell Ice Cream factory interview– machinery whirring… Begin the segment with machinery sound bite and then introduce the plant manager and just roll on with the interview.
  1. Ideally, I prefer the luxury of crafting a scripted voice-over subsequent to the field interview. But, I always try to do my best to capture the intro on-the-fly in the field…that way you’re covered, especially if time constraints do not allow the luxury of crafting a subsequent scripted voice-over.

MUSIC—Music can serve as an ideal vehicle to set the tone and tenor of your show, especially if there’s a specific genre or musical selection that symbolizes and is representative of the subject.

  1. For example, when I produce shows that focus on WWII subjects, Glen Miller tunes deftly set the stage for the subject. Reggae or salsa for Caribbean and Central American subjects, Mexican/Latin American cuts for a Salinas field worker show, etc.
  1. Use music sparingly—do not allow the music to dominate. You might start with a punch, but do not run the music as an under bed with a volume setting that might distract from the content. I often let the music run for a minute or so and then fade to zero. Although sometimes it works to let t run through the interview. Doing this can also be beneficial if you need to mask the tinny ambiance from an interview conducted in an office, etc.
  1.  In the midst of the interview, I might pot the music under bed up to full volume to create a musical segue, bridge transition or break during the interview.  Alternately, mid-stream when transitioning to a new aspect of the show, you might find an ideal “sound-bite” that re-captures and refreshes the listener’s attention—and additionally sometimes serves as an attention-grabbing intro to transition.
  1. Musical interludes also serve as a mental cleanser… it gives the listener a momentary break from the potential monotony of conversation.

Outro–Sign off, Wrap: If you have a concise sound moment or comment from your subject that recapitulates or encapsulates the gist of the story…this is often a great way to end the segment. For example, after interviewing Jake Copass, a working cowboy and character actor in Hollywood Westerns, I ended the segment with Jake walking away mumbling to himself while I followed closely on his heels with the mike held close to his clinking and chiming spurs.

Over modulation vs. under modulation:

Better to under modulate than over. You can always pot up the sound in the studio to increase DBs

If you over modulate sound you will wind up with distortion that is nearly impossible to mitigate or eliminate. Even if you decrease DBs in production, the distortion will remain.
Different field recorders often have distinctive characteristics and sensitivity levels: Gathering a balanced recording level is predicated on:

Monitor with headphones.

  1. Experimentation (gaining familiarity with your recorder and mike.
  2. Before beginning your interview, it is very important to have your subject do a “TEST—-ONE—TWO—THREE” while checking the VU meter or LED lights on your field recorder. Most recorders have a max volume indicator… always try to stay below the red line.

Mike position:

Finding the optimum distance from subject requires practice.

a. Shot Gun Mike, Studio Mike, full radius mikes. Select a mike that’s suited for your field conditions.

b. For example, if you want to minimize surrounding environmental sounds than you would want to use a shot gun mike, whereas is you also want to capture the sense of the surroundings, such as capturing musicians, street sounds, etc., then you will want to find a mike with a wide radius.

c. Sony Mike I sometimes use has a switch–one position for shotgun and another for 180-degree radius stereo sound capture ($69 to $79).

d. Many recorders have a 20DB switch—this function is great when recording loud machinery, motors, aircraft taking off and landing, large crowds, massive audience clapping and live musical venue recording.

Plosives & Sibilance

Plosives: Popping “P” sounds: to mitigate, keep mike to side of mouth rather than directly in front of mouth.
Sibilance: “S” sounds: generally requires voice training to mitigate. In case of people with gap between front teeth, it is sometimes nearly impossible to eliminate.



Audio Editing
How to upload sound and edit

Tips for writing in and out of sound bites and editing raw sound into their pieces

Talk don’t Read:

Don’t just “read” the script — Imagine that you are talking with a friend as you recite the script. ALSO, whenever possible, do three to six practice runs before final cut.
Radio Voice?  You might never win an award for following my advise, but, you don’t need a radio voice to make good radio and make your listeners feel welcome and welcomed in to the conversation. I always try to say, Please join US as WE talk with….rather than please join ME as I talk with……

Since I started my show in 1989, my philosophy has remained steadfast with regard to “voice”.

My premise is to maintain a casual, conversational style…nothing changes in my style of talking or asking questions when the recording starts.

General Hagee, Two Star General I asked. When he responded, No Tom Four Stars!

I replied, you did GOOD dude!

While recording an Fleet Week interview with a Fishermans wharf visitors official, jets were flying low overhead throughout the interview….last thing I said, after thanking him was, “by the way, can you turn the jets down?”

Force a smile as you read your script. This is a tried and true technique that somehow helps you sound more natural.

Cut out the SING-SONG

Many people speak naturally with a singsong voice. It works much better in life than it does on the radio. Unless you are already a flegmo, try to intentionally to speak in a monotone as you read your script. For most people, this technique will serve to cut out the super high and low swings. The end result will create a voice that still has life to it, but comes across as refined and moderated.

SEARCH FOR IDEAL CANDIDATE who is familiar with subject, and an acceptable delivery voice. When possible, be prepared with aback-up second choice for the interview…just in case.

Tom Wilmer


YouTube Site:

NPR affiliate KCBX Audiolog Podcast Site:




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