As if facilitating pristine indoor recordings isn’t hard enough, some podcasters seek out harsh audio environments in order to bring adventurous stories to life. We’ve brought together some of the best field recording pros in the business here to share insights they’ve learned on location. Read on to see how they get the job done in the face of wind, water and reverberant warehouses.
Outside Podcast and Outside/In
More than 40 volcanoes in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands form the northern curve of the infamous ring of fire that encircles the Pacific Ocean with hundreds of active peaks. But for audio producers charged with field recording in the region, that’s not even the most terrifying fact about this vast region of fire and ice.
“I don’t know if you are familiar with the Aleutian Islands,” says audio storyteller and podcast producer Stephanie Joyce with a laugh, “but their nickname is, ‘the birthplace of the winds.’”
[Find out more in How Podcasters Fight Windy Extremes to Get Audio]
Overheard at National Geographic
Smuggled dinosaur bones? Scuba diving under a pyramid? Binaural audio recording onsite? It’s all part of the Overheard at National Geographic podcast’s third season. For the show’s production team, gathering field recordings from exotic locations and subjects is just another day at the office.
“I went to a warehouse in Queens [New York] where a paleontologist had dinosaur fossils given to her by Homeland Security because they had been illegally shipped to the United States,” says producer Brian Gutierrez. “Just following her with the recorder and letting her tell her story, I think brings you into the moment more than just being in the studio.”
[Find out more in Field Recording: Producing the ‘Overheard at National Geographic’ Podcast]
Missing in Alaska
The environmental touches that connect listeners to place and setting in Missing in Alaska are the real deal. When producer Seth Nicholas Johnson needed sounds to represent the idea of lowering a search boat into the water, he simply referenced their own collection of curated audio, captured while field recording on location.
“It’s like, ‘Okay, we’re building Alaska, we’re painting a picture of this three-day trip and this search, there’s no need to pretend that just a random soundscape of the ocean that I found online was the Pacific Ocean,’” says Johnson.
[Find out more in Missing In Alaska’s Sound Puts Listeners in the Search]
Wind of Change
Capturing the vibe of a big-budget spy thriller was crucial for Wind of Change, a podcast that asks an intriguing but potentially dangerous question: What if the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency wrote “Wind of Change,” the enormously successfully 1991 power ballad by hard rockers Scorpions, in a bid to bring the Cold War to an end?
While chasing leads and operatives from New York to Russia and Germany, producer Henry Molofsky was tasked with capturing audio in a multitude of environments—a Scorpions stadium concert held in Russia, a boat on the Moskva River in Moscow on a windy night, telephone calls with secret agents, and even random hotel rooms with former CIA spies.
[Find out more in Building the Epic Audio Narrative of ‘Wind of Change’]