I’ve been asked a couple of times lately what I recommend for recording quick interviews, the sort of smash and grab of journalism that doesn’t allow time for the full set up of more elaborate recording gear.
This used to be a real problem for print journalists before digital flash based recorders came along. The sound quality of micro-cassettes was just this side of understandable. Any kind of noisy background would overwhelm them.
Radio journalists simply had no choice but use their larger and more capable systems and that meant that they never got a chance to record most of the on-the-fly situations, particularly in short lived scrums.
It is a lot easier today because digital recorders are so small, simple, and downright good that they can be in your pocket all the time.
When I am doing contract broadcast journalism, especially in radio but also on a television news assignment I always use a digital recorder as a backup and often as a primary device.
At present I use an Olympus WS-321M for broadcast quality interview recordings with and without an external mic.
I really like the Olympus brand but I’m sure that others are as good. If I were buying a new one today I think I would go for this more advanced model.
If you use one without plugging in an external microphone you should set your recorder to the DICT setting in the Mike Sens Menu section. If your recorder doesn’t have that then there may be a Mike Sensitivity setting for LOW which could work.
Put the device within six inches of your guest’s mouth, and slightly to one side so the closeness doesn’t bother them.
Don’t try to record your questions by pulling the recorder back to you. In a noisy environment it’s hard to get that right, just go for the answers.
The quality of digital recorders is now so good that with a little care you can get broadcast quality news voice material without using an external microphone.
For an external microphone, see if you can pick up a used Shure or Electro-Voice 635a
You will also need what’s known as an XLR to mini (1/8”) cable to connect the microphone and recorder. You can certainly buy microphones that plug directly into the recorders but almost always they’re horrid things. Go for quality with sound, always.
Music equipment stores and electronic supply stores should be able to fix you up with the adapters and cable in whatever length you need.
If you can’t find something like the 635 (they’ve been made for decades) then try something that has a directional pick-up pattern.
Whatever you do, spend a little money. Don’t buy anything with a plastic case unless you can be assured that the case will not transmit hand noise, and then after the assurance do your own test.
With whatever mic there will be a position and angle between you and the guest that will allow proper recording of the guest and you without the need for that amateurish waving the microphone back and forth nonsense which besides looking stupid adds movement noise.
If you do need to move the mic to properly record yourself just pivot the mic back to you by no more than 30 degrees without moving the position of your hand.