Recording interviews

A good interview starts with good preparation. Research your subject and plan a few key questions. Arrange a time that suits you both, so you don't have to rush. If you're meeting in public, find a quiet spot without a lot of background noise. Before the interview begins, double check all your equipment is working, batteries are charged and so on. Test the recording levels (asking your interviewee what they had for breakfast is a classic) and monitor them throughout the interview. When you're not asking questions, try to be quiet! This is really hard for a lot of us, because we're used to making encouraging noises ("Oh!" "Yeah." "Hm.") - but that can really distract a listener. Instead, smile and nod a lot.

In terms of content, ask open-ended questions (i.e. ones that can't be answered with a simple yes or no). Ask for examples. Get your interviewee to expand on their answers - don't assume that listeners will know what they mean ("Could you explain that in more detail?"). Conversely, keep on track and don't let the interview go on for too long or it will be a nightmare to edit.

Always make sure to wrap up the interview by thanking the person. Oh, and as a matter of etiquette, if you've met at a cafe and can afford to do so, offer to pay for their coffee!

And remember, like they say of the pirate code, these are more what you'd call guidelines, than actual rules.

We've put together a few ideas for interview questions - let us know if you have others!


Field recordings

Field recording is about capturing the sounds of a particular place at a particular time. There is really only one thing that everyone agrees on and that is that wind makes it more difficult! Here are a few things to think about, though . . . Start by listening - open your ears, really engage with the aural aspects of what is going on around you, think about how sound describes and creates a place and an atmosphere. Think about your focus and record accordingly - do you want your piece to be a general audio picture of a place or do you want to capture specific elements (the trickle of water, a bee buzzing between flowers, the distant growl of machinery, the ticking of a pedestrian crossing, birdcalls). Take your time - record for a minimum of one minute, and ideally around three minutes.

You can fall down a time consuming and very expensive hole trying to get a perfect set-up, so it's worth noting that the best microphone is the one you have with you at the time and the best field recording is one that's actually been made.

Here's a set of field recording tips we've collated for you, to help you on your way. Sally forth, what ho!


Editing software

The kind of software you use to edit your piece will depend on what you want to do. Some pieces will just need a bit of tweaking in post-production - a fade in or out, a few cuts, a quick fiddle with the EQ or balance to get it right. Others will need to layer multiple tracks - to add narration to a field recording, harmonies to a song, sound effects and foley to a short play or story. There's plenty of audio editing software around for you to try, but a few questions you might want to keep in mind when researching different programmes are are: how much does it cost (are there free/basic/trial/full/pro versions), does it allow for multiple tracks (as noted above), can you record directly into it (rather than recording separately and importing the track), does it have an online/mobile/Mac/PC/Linux version (depending on what you're using), how do effects work (are they 'destructive', i.e. change the file itself, or do they work in real time, i.e. easy to tweak and/or remove), what kinds of files does it work with (as input and output).

We have a few suggestions, but please do some research yourself to find what suits you best.

If you own a Mac, you will probably have a copy of GarageBand, which will allow you to do most things. Audacity is a very popular open-source programme that allows multi-tracking. Oceanaudio is a single (albeit stereo) track editor that's been quite successful for podcasters wanting simple interview editing ability. You can get a free 60 day trial of Reaper, a very good DAW (digital audio workstation) that will give you full control of almost any aspect of your production if you put the time in to learn about it. Some of you may have access to professional audio editing software through a local library, community centre or social enterprise, your place of education or your work - it's worth asking.


Ideas for pieces

What would you like to hear about? Can you make something like that yourself - or do you know someone who could? When you're out and about, keep an ear out for interesting stories or sounds that capture your attention. How do they inform how you relate to place, space, people, nature - and could you explore that in an audio piece? What did you think of when you first heard of Queer Out Here? A positive or negative experience you've had, something that's stayed with you a long time, a fundamental aspect of your outdoor activities? Or did you think something like, "Being bisexual has had absolutely no impact at all on my experience of windsurfing!" - in which case, it would be interesting to hear your take on that. What do you want to say and who do you want to say it to? Do you feel more comfortable writing a piece and reading it out, recording an informal conversation with a friend, approaching it head on or coming at it from a more oblique angle?

Hopefully these questions will help you to start planning your contribution.

If you're still not sure where to start, check out our 5 ideas for audio pieces - handy!