Top 10 reporting tips
Using a microphone
Using recording equipment
Recording vox pops
Writing for radio
Working with a large group
Script-writing tips and real examples
Much of the following information has been supplied by BBC Training and Development. Their website contains a variety of free online tutorials to develop technical and editorial skills.
Training information and free online BBC courses
No one wants to listen to a presenter just droning on so here is radio producer Ros Smith’s advice on how to bring your script to life with sounds.
1. The most important thing is to make your script clear. What is the story? Tell it as clearly as you can. If you get stuck trying to think of the words, just imagine what you would say to your best mate to explain the story.
2. Be yourself, use your own words and your own language.
In the playground
Sound of the sea
3. Record your item in interesting places – you will be amazed what a difference background noise (or atmos) can make. For example if you’re at the seaside make sure you can hear the seagulls and the waves behind you. Listen to these background sounds from the BBC sound effect library.
Make sure you can still hear the person speaking clearly over any background noise. When no one is talking spend a minute or so collecting some extra recording of the background sounds (even if it’s silence!) as it can help with editing.
Also, make sure you have permission to record and that you are you are recording somewhere safe. No hanging off cliffs!
4. Keep the clips you are using short.
5. Try to get lots of different voices in your piece. You don’t just want one person with a boring voice droning on and on. Ideally aim for a balance of male and female voices, different accents and different ages of people.
6. Use vox pops – this means asking people in the street for their quick opinion on an issue. If you think of a good question, people often come up with lots interesting and often funny answers – it can really liven up a piece.
Make sure you go with an adult when you collect any vox pops and remember if you ask anyone under 18 you will need their parent’s signed permission.
Read the Recording vox pops section below for more information.
7. Once you’ve mastered the basics, think about how you can experiment. Instead of starting with an introduction by your presenter it might be more interesting to start with some vox pops or some unusual noises.
If your feature is about sweets maybe you could start with the sound of someone opening some sweets and eating them.
Can you get everyone to introduce themselves rather than the presenter doing it? Do you even need to be in the piece? Would it be more interesting if you weren’t in it at all?
8. Use music. This can be tricky because you have to be careful with copyright. But you could write and record some music yourself.
9. Use sound effects. It’s amazing what a difference a few sounds effects can make. Door slamming, dogs barking or even a well chosen raspberry – be inventive, listeners like to laugh!
You can make and record them yourself, or have a look at the 60 Second Shakespeare website to find out where to get sound effects on the internet. Use the link in the top right corner of this page.
Remember, it’s up to your teacher to make sure it is okay to use sounds from the internet on your school website.
10. Finally, think carefully about how are you going to finish your piece. Perhaps you could leave the listener with a question or something to think about, or maybe a sneak preview of the next programme, known as a teaser.
Don’t forget, it’s the last thing they will hear, so make it memorable.
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USING A MICROPHONE
Hold the microphone firmly in the middle
Rest your arm on a chair or table if you are recording a lengthy interview
Speak directly into the microphone while holding it 10 to 15 cm away from your mouth
Point the microphone directly at the person you are interviewing to capture their answers
Point the microphone at yourself while you are asking questions
Swap the microphone between your hands if your arms start to get tired
Wrap the microphone lead around the hand which is holding the microphone to keep it steady.
Grip the microphone too hard or your hand will go numb and may start shaking
Allow rings or bracelets to knock against the microphone or lead
Wave the microphone around or let it knock against anything
Fiddle with the microphone lead or let it sway as this interfere with the quality of your recording.
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USING RECORDING EQUIPMENT
Check that your recording machine works properly before taking it out.
Wear headphones while you are recording so you can hear immediately if there is a problem.
Check that your interview has been recorded before parting from your guest.
Make a note of your track numbers and what is on them. Knowing where your material is will save time when it comes to editing.
Label all your tapes, soundcards or minidisks.
Most machines have automatic recording levels. However, it is a good idea to keep an eye on them to make sure that they are not too low or too high. Moving the microphone a little bit nearer or further away from your guest can make a difference.
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RECORDING VOX POPS
A vox-pop is collection of opinions on a particular subject. They are not interviews, but usually one question answered by several people. Vox pops help illustrate what people think about an issue such as the government, or the latest film release. They often involve stopping and asking a selection of people in one place. This could be a street or a school corridor. Vox-pop comes from the Latin for “voice of the people”. Listen out for them on radio and TV news.
Think about where you are going to record your vox pop. Some background noise, such as traffic or a playground, will sound good but make sure it is not too loud. The background should be constant. A plane increases in volume as it passes overhead and then decreases again. This is the kind of noise to avoid.
Record a range of voices if you can. A vox pop will sound more interesting if it includes a mix of male, female, high and low voices, different ages and accents. If your vox pop concerns a controversial subject, it’s good to get opinions from people on all sides of the argument.
Choose your topic carefully. It needs to be something about which people will have a definite opinion. For example, it is no good asking a group of middle-aged people what they think of the latest band.
Choose your question carefully. It should be simple and easily understood. Remember to ask everyone the same question so that when you edit them together, WITHOUT your question in between the answers, they will make sense. Ask an open question, beginning with what, who, where, when, why or how, so you don’t end up with a series of “Yes” or “No” responses.
Aim to interview at least 10 people.
Keep the answers short. A couple of sentences from each person is about the right length.
Keep your voice out of it. Normally the reporter’s voice does not appear in a vox pop, except perhaps asking the question at the beginning, but the rest of the vox pop is made up of people’s answers. If you talk too much, editing could be difficult.
When you are conducting a vox-pop, keep your machine in RECORD/ PAUSE mode. Record yourself asking the question at the beginning of the first interview. Put the machine in PAUSE mode whenever you ask the question again, switching to RECORD mode to capture the answers. That way, you won’t have to edit the question lots of times.
Don’t be afraid to ask for more details.
Do not give up. Sometimes people will be too busy, or too shy, to answer. Expect a few refusals before someone agrees to take part in your vox pop.
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