Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday's Writing on Writing...

Check back here every Wednesday for a few thoughts on the craft. Here are today's:

The Right Equipment for the Job

As your writing career blossoms, you may find yourself lusting after every gadget that promises to make your work easier. It’ll take trial and error, but eventually you’ll learn what is essential and what is more whistle than bell.

Here are hints on the equipment you might want to acquire before recording an interview:

I’ve written more than 20 as-told-to autobiographies, and I’ve learned the hard way to make sure my recording device uses AC power, that I have the adaptor with me, and that I also bring an extension cord.

Do not count on the recorder’s built-in microphone. It picks up too much ambient noise and often not enough of the subject’s voice. And, too often, you have to choose where to point it (toward the subject, of course), which means your question may be inaudible later, to you or a transcriptionist.

Instead, use lapel microphones. Your subject will be less intimidated by the recorder if you clip the mike onto their shirt or blouse collar where they will soon forget about it. Put the recorder where you can monitor it but where they don’t have to see it.

I say microphones, plural, because even if the recorder has only one mike jack (most do), you should invest in a Y-clip, a very inexpensive do-dad with a male connector on one end to go into the mike jack and two female connectors on the other, into which you insert two lapel mikes. One is for you, and one is for the subject, and unless you talk over each other, each will be heard distinctly on the recording.

This makes for high fidelity and an easily transcribable record. You’ll be glad you recorded it that way, and if you can afford a transcriptionist, he or she will be happy with you too.

A tiny MP3 recorder, running on house current and employing two lapel mikes can provide near broadcast quality sound.

The final inexpensive and well-worth-the-effort little piece of equipment you’ll want is a simple earphone. Many people don’t know this (I didn’t at first), but you can plug the earphone into the recorder and listen while you’re recording. You’ll know whether the volume is right, whether static is interfering, whether other noises are crowding, and best of all, if your recorder is not running for any reason. Put the earphone in the ear farthest from your subject, and you will be able to hear him or her in stereo, live and through the earphone.

There are all kinds of other secrets to improve the interview itself, from partial note taking to eye contact, and from being informal to making it more like a conversation.

I’ll deal with those and others on a later Wednesday Writing on Writing, but for now, the above should point you to the right equipment for the job.


Cliff Graham said...

Very helpful, thanks Jerry.

Christian Mommy Writer said...

Thanks for the tips! I didn't know about the earphone suggestion.

Logannn said...

Very nice,(: