TV Futures

Gemma Frith

Author: Gemma Frith

Published: 13 May 2016

by Gemma Frith Issue 113 - May 2016

I used to hate audio. Every time we recorded audio on a location shoot, something seemed to go wrong. It was a nightmare. And because I didn\'t understand it, I avoided it and would do anything to not be responsible for recording sound. However, eventually it got to a point where I hated how much I hated audio more than I hated audio itself! It became frustrating that I couldn\'t get it right, and I didn\'t want to have to avoid it anymore; I wanted to become a master of audio. That may have been slightly ambitious, but still, I was going to try.

In the first year of my course BSc Television and Broadcasting at the University of Portsmouth, I personally only recorded audio twice, both of which were on location filming on screen interviews. As I had no prior experience with audio recording before starting this course, there was a lot I didn\'t know how to do and my lack of experience made things a lot more difficult and meant that, when something went wrong or the audio didn\'t turn out as expected, I didn\'t know why. I therefore came to the conclusion that more experience recording audio could be the solution; practise makes perfect.

As I entered the second year of my course,
I started a radio unit where we had to create a podcast in small groups. This was the perfect opportunity for me to start tackling my dislike of audio. We decided to focus our podcast on the refugee crisis and organised two days where we would be recording audio out on location. The first day was at a protest taking place in Portsmouth\'s Guildhall Square and the second was an interview with a very busy man from the Red Cross. Both of these were one-offs, opportunities that wouldn\'t arise again, so there was no room for error. Anticipating these dates was quite nerve racking. What if our audio peaked? What if it was too quiet? What if it\'s too windy? All of these questions only made us prepare more and I ensured I knew the Zoom H2 microphone inside out. I wanted everything to run smoothly. Much to my surprise, recording at the protest was relatively stress free. When there\'s no camera to worry about, or lighting problems to address, sound recording is a lot easier than I had anticipated. After the protest, we listened back to the audio and we were pleasantly surprised!

For a windy day, there was virtually no wind noise and only some minor peaking during some interviews;
a lot of progress from my audio recording in the first year. This gave us a massive confidence boost for our interview which, luckily, went equally as smoothly. My eyes had been opened to the world of sound and how much quicker and easier recording an audio interview is compared to setting up an interview to be filmed on camera. If only all shoots could be this stress free.

This newly found passion for audio resulted in me meeting with my local MP for a one on one audio interview. I recorded it in my own time and the content wasn\'t for any of my course units; I genuinely just enjoyed recording audio interviews and wanted to do more.
I also have a lot of experience presenting to camera, so I enjoyed adapting these skills and putting them into practise with audio and improving my presenting voice. This interview impressed my MP so much that she invited me to shadow her at Westminster to record some more audio there. I was thrilled. Looking ahead to my final year project in the third year of my course, I knew this opportunity could prove incredibly useful if I wanted to produce a radio documentary. After a lot of thought and planning, I decided to go ahead with the Westminster visit and incorporate this opportunity into my final year project where I would be producing and presenting a radio documentary investigating young people
and politics.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Westminster and I learnt so, so much while I was there. However, there were only a few, select areas of the Houses of Parliament that I was allowed to record audio in. This made it difficult to get enough content for my documentary. In addition, getting interviews was incredibly difficult. Everyone was very happy to talk to me and answer my questions, but as soon as I asked if I could record our conversation, they refused and the discussion came to an abrupt halt. It was very difficult. I was in a situation where I had significantly developed my skills in recording audio, but now there was nothing for me to record! To ensure the day didn\'t go to waste, I recorded wild tracks of each room I passed through which I will be able to use in the edit to create a good soundscape. I also took pages and pages of notes, detailing every minute of my day, so that I could transform these notes into a voiceover script at a later date and tell the story of my visit and everything I learnt. In order to prevent a repeat of this in the future, I recently sought advice from Margaret Emsley, Head of News for ITV in Yorkshire, on how to improve my technique and make interviewees feel more comfortable in giving me a recorded statement.

She said that often,
it has very little to do with a journalist\'s skills,
it is simply the nature of the job to hear a lot of "no\'s\"; it\'s the ability to search elsewhere for the same story and remaining persistent that will make a good journalist. To move forward with this documentary, I\'m organising meetings with MPs on days that are convenient to them and pre warning them that I am intending to record audio in the hope that I can get more content that way than I did visiting Westminster.

Back at university, we were working on producing two live TV shows to be broadcast on our student run television channel, CCI TV. For both of these shows, I had volunteered to be the sound mixer as part of my mission to master the art of audio. For our second show in the University\'s brand new White Swan TV Studio, I spent a lot of time talking to studio technician Matt Saxey who was more than willing to talk me through the basic physics of sound. By understanding more about sound waves and particularly the frequencies of the human voice, I was able to manipulate the sound I was recording using the mixing desk
to create the best quality output.

Now, as I approach the end of my second year on this course, my attitude towards sound has completely changed from the previous year. My lack of understanding and fear of error used to fuel my dislike of audio, but now, with a broader knowledge of sound and more experience, I love working with audio and it has become a newly found passion of mine. I joined this course looking to go into television, and now I\'m also equally as interested in entering the world of radio. I have successfully turned something I avoided into something I love.

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