The Born Freelancer on how to get a great sounding interview – Part 1

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.


Recently I shared my thoughts with you on the most cost-efficient technology available today to record an interview. Whether for broadcast or for reference in the creation of a print piece, it is up to each freelancer to familiarize themselves with the optimal recording techniques available. Over the next few posts I will reveal my favourite tips regarding the mechanics of doing a good quality interview. These posts will deal with methods of attaining a good sound quality recording when conducting a basic interview. Obviously more demanding types of recording will require more elaborate methods (and we will deal with the techniques of recording good interviews in terms of their actual content another time). The tips that follow are presented in no particular order.

First of course, you may ask, why go through extra trouble to record my for-print interviews in the best quality sound possible? Why not just make do with poor sound quality on some cheap recording “pen” or such like? The answer is very simple: dollars and cents. Many times I have conducted interviews for print-only and years later took the same interview and repurposed it and sold it anew for broadcast. I could do this only because I had made sure the original sound quality was sufficient for later possible broadcast use. So why not take a little extra time and bother upfront and exponentially increase your possible sales?



Always try to record in a quiet setting with the microphone as close to your subject as possible. You can always “add in” or layer in the background sounds you want later but if the background is noisy during the recording it may make it difficult to listen to and to edit. Surprisingly (and quite marvelously) the human brain filters out a lot more background noise than we might realize. It can be a quite a shock to play back an interview made on location only to hear unexpected screaming children in the background (didn’t you notice the playground nearby?), intrusive background music on a restaurant’s sound system (you can always ask them to lower it during the interview) or incredibly annoying jackhammers punctuating your comments (ah, more of the joys of modern urban life). Even small things can irritate if they continue to intrude into a recording – the ticking of a clock, the hum of overhead strip lighting, the throb of an air conditioner, etc. So be aware of your surroundings when you record on location.

After the interview is over you should always record a few minutes of the background noises with no one talking in the foreground. This can later be layered in to the edited interview in post-production (if required for radio) and will cover a multitude of edits which otherwise might be too noticeable to be allowed.



When recording on location indoors the general acoustics of a room are also vital to a good sounding interview. If there is too much glass and tile and hard surfaces the sound will bounce around and it may sound like you are in a washroom or locker room. For certain types of more intimate interviews I prefer finding a quiet space with as much “dead” sound as possible, usually an area with lots of curtains and carpeting can be good. Later if I need to add a bit of “liveliness” to the sound it can be tweaked in post-production. I generally find it harder to remove too much than to add a little more.



Whenever recording on location, it is always to your advantage to wear some kind of headphones. As I previously mentioned, all kinds of weird background sounds can creep into your recording. Without wearing some kind of earphone or headphones or “cans” you can never really be sure. It also gives you assurance knowing your subject is speaking clearly and crisply and that you have no apparent technical difficulties. While using headphones I’ve often discovered annoying AC hum coming from overhead strip lighting that I might not otherwise have detected until I had returned home from a location assignment.


Tomorrow – more tips and techniques guaranteed you give you good-sounding recorded interviews every time.

Posted on September 25, 2012 at 8:15 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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