Enter the name for this tabbed section: I want to work with stories
The process of making a story in sound...

....have an idea - original, from a website/newspaper, from a friend/stranger (better) etc.... Cathy FitzGerald has written a handy guide to actually having an idea.

Make a shopping list of what you will need in your programme. Cast your interviewees. Record them and any accompanying sounds (illustrate or counterpoint (better)) using a portable recorder. Load onto a computer and then using editing software cut out the boring bits. Be brutal.

Assemble into programme. Mix.

The 22 Rules to Perfect Storytelling, According to Pixar. This is for fiction which is the same as for fact.

Good US Link to how to get started:

Useful tips here from
Joe Richman
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Inexpensive recorders that are good
Portable Recorders

My top machines for all around versatility and price:

Olympus LS12 I am now using this bijou recorder. Better mikes than the Zoom H4N, very small. £130. So small you can pretend it is a mobile phone. Excellent file naming. Starts very quickly. Batteries last for about- 50 hours. 32gb card gives you 50 hours of CD quality recording. You can use powered microphones such as the AKG C1000 or Rode NT4 with minijack lead. One downside is you cannot use condensor mikes or certain clip mikes which require phantom power for which you need a Zoom H4n. Lowish handling noise (watch for rattling headphone cable). Be also careful in cars etc. as when you travel over even moderate bumps the microphones distort horribly.

Zoom H2N has very good surround capability and costs about £120. Good for recording loud atmospheres - jungles, seabirds on cliffs etc. I would be confident of making a broadcast quality programme with this machine. The internal mikes are not good enough for recording classical music or quiet birds. The M/S recording allows for much greater control of stereo picture in post-production. For manipulating m/s stereo brainworx make this handy free plug-in.

But the Olympus above has far better microphones for stereo recording.

Better quality but more expensive and has xlr input:

Zoom H4N - £200
Good internal microphones and professional XLR inputs for using external microphones. You can record in 4 tracks with internal and external microphones. Pretty easy to use. Do not buy the older H4 model. It is the cheapest decent 4 track recorder (allbeit with it's own internal mikes). Batteries only last a few hours, in phantom power only 90 minutes or so.

fethead - for about £100 a pair
These XLR pre amps plug into your zoom and up the quality by reducing hiss in quiet recordings. I haven’t used them myself but hear good things about them. Examples

Budget Choice:

Zoom H1 £80
Microphones sound cheap and nasty.

Zoom H2 £120 avoid - much better to buy H2N now.
External microphones can be used but they sound really hissy.

Fostex FR - 2LE £500
Very easy to use, but no internal microphones and heavy. Experienced radio producers who used the old DAT machines like this.

Edirol R44 £640
A 4 track recorder ideal for tricky live situations - eg dramas and quiz shows, also classical music.
A very good piece of professional kit. It has internal microphones but it's really for use with external ones. The next step up would be a Sound Devices 702 which are about £1800.

I would be totally happy recording a doc. using the Olympus LS12 and mono mike AKG C1000. For a drama I would add the Rode NT4 stereo microphone.

http://www.wingfieldaudio.com -
is an excellent site where you can hear samples recorded on different machines.

Enter the name for this tabbed section: Microphones

For most situations I use the internal microphones on the Olympus or Zoom H4N/H2N

You are better to work in stereo as it sounds so much better on headphones.

I do use mono in noisy places on single voices to drop into stereo soundscapes. Also to record presenter’s links.

- I use an AKG C1000S £130
which is tough, has low handling noise and can be used in hypercardioid 'spotlight' mode which means it only picks up sound directly in front of it. This is useful in noisy surroundings. It sounds a little bit 'toppy' which can be useful for getting voices to cut through. Heavy but always dependable.

An alternative that is highly recommended is the
Beyerdynamic MCE58 - £190
it probably sounds better, make sure you get this exact model with internal battery. Larger than the AKG and no hypercardioid setting.

Stereo - I use the Rode NT4 £300
which has really excellent transparent sound but has a lot of handling noise and is affected by wind. Really good for recording music or dramas indoors if it is on a stand or boom. Has it's own power and minijack lead so can be plugged into Olympus.

Sennheiser mke 44p - much less handling noise than the Rode. but....£600

Studio (known as condenser) - The ADK A6 has a super clean slightly toppy (in a good way) sound. £150. Great for spoken word and recording on the road. I prefer the Neumann U87 but it is very expensive at about £2000. These use XLR and require power from the recorder known as phantom power.

Clip Mikes (or lavalier)

I personally do not like the sound of clip mikes but can be useful for people who are frightened of microphones or difficult to reach people, ie officials behind huge desks. They all need SLR inputs.

Superlux WO-518XLR - £34 each - surprisingly good and near broadcast quality

I use
Sony ECM 44 - £150

DPA 4060 - £260 - meant to be much better

Enter the name for this tabbed section: Headphones
Beyerdynamic DT250 £120 - comfortable blot out most external noise

Sennheiser HD 212 pro £40 - real bargain

Sennheiser HD 25 SP £125 - completely blot out external noise but uncomfortable for long sessions. Very accurate sound

Superlux HD 681 £30 complete bargain, plasticky but surprisingly good sound. Can be improved dramatically when mixing by using Sonar plug in.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Budget Video
Sound for Budget DSLR (video)

Whatever you use make sure you can plug it into your DSLR if at all possible to keep your audio synched. Check your levels. If taking signal out from your headphone socket on your recorder you need to keep the levels low. Get a cable splitter to monitor the headphones. That is important!

Rode VideoMic Pro £120 - very good quality mono shotgun, compact.

Rode NTG3 - this is a great sounding shotgun mike - warmer than NT1 or NTG 2 An excellent site is Philip Bloom where you can hear examples. Not as rugged as Sennheiser.

Tascam DR 60D Mkii - £190 this gives you XLR inputs and is a really professional machine. A no brainer for anyone semi serious.

ZOOM F8 - £800 very positive review for this in SoundonSound. Next step up for sound recordists with 8 tracks/timecode etc.etc. Not sure how rugged this is in long term but it is about 15% the price of as Sounddevices.

Mikes you plug into iPhones for non sync sound - for recording people at a distance without the hassle and expense of wireless mikes.

Rode i-XY stereo - impressive sound - not sure how it would drain batteries over a day shooting but would get you out of a hole.

Rode Smart Lav - £50 I hear good things about this clip mike you can plug into an iphone. Much cheaper than getting wireless microphones.

Enter the name for this tabbed section: Windshields
Wind Shields
You will need these if you do any recording at all outdoors. If you are having difficulties try putting microphone very close to ground where there is less wind.

Rycote are the original - they are expensive but top notch. You can ring them and they are really helpful. They make smaller shields for specific mikes and machines - eg Rode Nt4 and Zoom H4n and 2 - but these smaller shields are not suitable for even moderate gusts.

Rode also make windshields which I haven't used but am sure are good.

Rick at
WolfwindShields.co.uk is very reliable and helpful - and cheap! Does not completely block very heavy winds though.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Computery things

This is a big topic. If you like macs consider getting a mac mini which is much cheaper than others and is plenty powerful enough for radio work. You can run 2 big screens off it and is very small and quiet. If you have the money get a fusion drive which is way faster. If you need a laptop consider the macbook air.

PC's - I don't know anything about them.
Editing Software

If you are working with collaborators try to be on the same system if at all possible.

Audacity or Ardour. Audacity is fairly good.
Garageband comes with Apple for free or is very cheap. More for music than editing though.

Reaper - £40 I don’t know much about it. It has unlimited tracks and is positioning itself as a serious competitor to Pro Tools. Probably good.

Hindenberg is cheap and absolutely simple. Bit basic for myself. Very good for schools and news.

I use
Pro Tools - it is the industry standard (outside the BBC which uses Sadie). Avoid Pro Tools Express or First.

Pro tools Pref.s and Database Helper - if you are an experienced Pro tools user this is a handy free utility for trashing prefs etc.

Useful site - again US

Accurate mixing on headphones:
This plug in is amazing -
Getting Audio off your computer from websites etc. (using Macs)

By far the easiest option is to buy
Wiretap Studio for about £45. Sadly it only works on Macs running 10.7 and later.

There is a free option for macs which is more fiddly using Soundflower which re-routes audio. Here is a
tutorial on how to do it

Finally, you can always plug an audio lead into your computer headphone socket and then plug the other end into a portable recorder or interface box.
Other Useful software for those who use Apple Mac.s

Renamer: the Zooms rather annoyingly name tracks STE-01...02 etc. This £14 programme make renaming them a breeze. But only do so once you have transferred them to your computer...do not rename them with this on the Zoom.

Time machine: Back up software that comes with newish Apples. Easy to use and essential to do. free

File Synchronization: really good way of making sure you have backed up files without unnecessary duplicates. cheap

Carbon Cloner: with this you can clone your hard drive onto a portable drive. Then if your computer is stolen/broken/off for repairs you can get up and running instantly by cloning onto another computer or even running it off the hard drive.

wetransfer: for emailing big files. Links only last 2 weeks or so

Drop box: free 2gb - great way to synchronise folders across your different macs - eg desktop and laptop. Also you can use the public box to get big files to other people and sync with them. I subscribe to get 1TB

File Salvage: great software and human support in last resort in lost everything panics.

Corrupt Wavs. Sometimes the file is corrupted and all you can hear is hiss. Use WavFixer. Or try opening in Audacity or VLC (both free) and recording output.

External Hard Drives
You do need to back up your audio somewhere else. Best to use dropbox or similar.

I have had bad luck with La Cie drives. My second Rugged Drive has just packed up. If a firewire drive fails to mount and there seems to be no way of getting the data off it, and it is beyond its warranty, you may want to dismantle the enclosure and take out the internal drive and see if you can attach it to a new usb enclosure (they are cheap). You may need someone with technical know how to do this. This is how I got data of a La Cie drive that smelt of a burnt TV set. Otherwise the cost of recovery can be very high.

Enter the name for this tabbed section: Sound Effect Sources
Sound Effect Sources

Foley - these are effects you make yourself. They nearly always sound better than anything you buy. Record them at the same distance they are meant to be in the finished programme. Outside effects should be recorded outside if at all possible.

Soundogs - you can buy individual effects here. They have incredible depth to their collection. eg footsteps in snow. They also have the full BBC libraries including the Natural History Library.

Thanks to Jon Calver for help in compiling this page.