A common viewpoint when conducting tape syncs is that you should focus on the sound quality of the interview, not the content. This is completely true. Leave the content to the person that hired you and make sure you are laser-focused on how to record the perfect tape sync.
Below are 8 things you should do to make sure your tape sync is perfect.
1. Chat with the person that hired you for the tape sync
- Who are you going to be recording and is there anything you should know about them?
- What file format do they want the recording? (Wav is standard, but there are several types, so make sure you confirm which it is).
- Where is the interview (outside or inside?). This makes a difference for sound quality.
- When do you start rolling?
- How much are they paying? Most radio shows pay around $100-$150 for standard tape syncs.
2. Double check your equipment
- Ensure you have a good quality external microphone and a recorder.
- Don’t use the built-in mic on your recorder. It doesn’t sound as good.
- Use a foam windscreen on your mic if you record inside.
- Use a fluffy mic (think Don King hair) if you are recording outside.
- Clear out the memory card in your recorder.
- Make sure you have extra batteries.
- Pack headphones.
- Double check all your equipment to make sure it works.
3. Scout out the recording environment
- Get there 15 minutes early to get set up and find the quietest place to record.
- Make sure you avoid areas where you can hear sounds like an air conditioner or heater, traffic noise, barking dog, ticking clock.
- If there is background noise, see if you can fix it (eg. unplug refrigerator).
4. Check your levels
- Have your interviewee speak into the mic so you can get an idea of how loudly they speak. “What did you have for breakfast?” is a good question to ask.
- Ideally you have their levels around -12 (give or take 6db).
5. Get close and personal
- Your mic should be about 4-5 inches away from your interviewees mouth. You should also place it slightly off center so that the “p” pops aren’t captured.
- Get in a comfortable position. If you are holding a mic, you’ll need to find a way to rest your arm like a table or a chair.
- If you need to shuffle around to get comfortable, try to do it during the interview questions so you don’t disrupt your interviewees responses.
6. Dealing with background noise
- If you hear background noise, you’ll need to interrupt and likely repeat whatever questions were affected.
- Let the interview know before you start that you’ll likely have to interrupt and redo questions for background noise.
7. Record room tone
- To help with the editing process (whoever needs to do it), before you start or before you finish you should record the room you’re in, without anyone speaking for about a minute.
- This article explains the importance of recording room tone: Why room tone is essential for removing background noise from your audio recordings
8. Don’t mess with the file; just send it
- It might be tempting to fix a recording where you know there are issues (levels or “p” pops), but don’t do it.
- Making small edits makes it harder for the producer to sync the interview. It’s better to just let them know where you know there may be issues.
That’s it. If you follow these 8 points, you’ll be well on your way to record a perfect tape sync. Remember it’s always great if you can get the file to the producer on the same day it’s recorded. There are many ways to transfer files. Good luck!