At 04:23 PM 1/30/2006, you wrote:
>Someone who is creating audio tapes of interviews that will
>eventually be deposited into our Archives has asked for our
>recommendations on what recording equipment to use.
First of all, the Vermont Folklife Center has an absolutely wonderful
page done by my client and friend, Andy Kolovos at
Take to heart what he says and follow the ruminations in the (long) article.
The questions are:
(1) How do you want to store the data? There are two possible answers, IMHO:
(1a) On the shelf on gold audio CDs (i.e. "Red Book")
(1b) In a managed on-line data store (i.e. NOT a collection of
USB/1394 drives on the shelf)
(2) What media do you wish to use for field acquisition?
The answers to this partially depend on the answer to (1), above.
(2a)If the answer is (1a) Then field-recording to CD-R makes
sense--when the CDs come in you make
duplicates and end up with (at least):
Off-Site preservation copy
(2b) If you are going to ingest to files (1b) in a managed storage
system, then I believe CF (compact flash) based recording is the
proper choice and an hour interview can be dragged to the first
server (from which it automatically replicates under the control of
the system manager) in a very short time. For example, if we're using
80% of a 100Base-T Ethernet connection (i.e. 80 Mb/s) then a stereo,
60-minute program, recorded at 48/16 would take approximately 70
seconds to transfer from the CF card to the server.
While you can cross-pollinate systems, it entails more
post-production work. But if you want to do post production work, and
want something smaller than the current crop of CF recorders, treat a
Mini-Disc like a CF recorder, but the transfer, sadly, is in
real-time only, although perhaps some of the later Mini-Disc machines
will do it faster. It's proprietary. I use it because I have it.
The recommendation for directional microphone for each person is a
good one, but it's obtrusive to set up and requires a small mixer and
someone to pay attention to it.
I started a thread here a couple of weeks ago where I suggested I was
very happy with the Audio Technica AT-822 connected to an older MD
recorder for gathering OH interviews. I have since bought a second
AT-822 to go along with my second MD recorder, so I have full
redundancy in OH interviews...I'm paranoid 'cause my Dad's 90
yesterday and there's still lots I can learn from him...and I see him
What I like about the AT-822 and MD recorder is the compact,
unobtrusive nature of the rig. I can casually set it down on a coffee
table - using the table effectively as a boundary layer. I just have
a foam windscreen on the mic and it doesn't pick up vibration as I do
use the High-Pass filter mode when I switch it on.
This rig will run all day on seven alkaline AA cells: three sets of
two for each MD and one for the mic. In recording, I like to change
the batteries every other 74-minute MD.
I played back the OH interview a week ago for a local historian and
museum curator who was very favorably impressed - she said she felt
as if she were in the room. This only works for reasonably quiet
spaces - but Algorithmix NoiseFree Pro takes a lot of the ambient
room noise out without affecting the voices.
The stereo mic works well in one-on-one situations where it can be
mounted between the interviewer and the interviewee so effectively it
works with one person on each channel. I have done that with greater
room noise exclusion using a pair of Sennheiser MKH 416 T short
shotguns, but it is a much more unwieldy thing to set up as there is
the need for an external mic powering unit or a larger recorder with
built in phantom power (and since my mics are T-power an external
A pair of lavaliere mics would work well in one-on-one as well, but,
again, is more intrusive. Danish Pro Audio or Sennheiser make really good ones.
In summary, I think the way to answer the acquisition format is to
understand the end-to-end workflow, and the way to answer the
microphone placement is to define the interviewing situations, the
sound quality goals, the operator skill level, and the amount of
intrusiveness on the interview before the process becomes frustrating
to the interviewee.