the kdmcinfo weblog

Reduce Ambient Noise When Recording in Home Studios


Screenshot of the mini studio put together by Corey Takahashi in a hotel roomWith recording devices becoming more accessible and affordable by the day, it's easier for a journalist to be a one-stop shop of video, audio and multimedia storytelling. But despite the flexibility that these devices afford — allowing a reporter to, say, produce a broadcast-quality audio segment from the comfort of their living room — they can also pose a host of challenges that you wouldn't necessarily encounter in a professional studio setting.

It's something that Bill Lascher (Jul '11) realized this week.

As a way to keep practicing the skills he acquired during our multimedia training and reconnect to a transportation beat he's long loved, Lascher wrote Wednesday to all the former fellows, he has begun reporting a series about every transit line in Portland, Oregon called "Along for the Ride." He's currently trying to produce the third piece as an audio story, but realized he has a big problem with ambient noise.

"As I'm trying to work on a narration I'm discovering just how noisy my home-office is. I'm curious what tips people have about cutting down on ambient noise without spending a lot of money," he wrote. "Are there things I can do at home, with common household materials to dampen sound, or just set up of equipment that might help me?"

Right now, because of budget constraints ("hello, understatement," he wrote), Lascher is using a Zoom H1 as his primary recording device.

Within minutes of posting his question, a handful of our former fellows chimed in with advice.

Michael McCarthy (Mar '10) had this to say: "When I used to do radio, I just used blankets draped here and there, including the table top to deaden the sound. Kinda mess, but it worked."

Tom Murphy (Mar '11) agreed with McCarthy, suggesting that Lascher should build a blanket "tent," complete with walls, ceiling and a floor.

In fact, Corey Takahashi (May '09; Mar '10) gave a presentation earlier this year at one of our workshops explaining how to do just that. He even has a short slideshow on Vimeo showing he uses a comforter, a shoe rack and a few other things to MacGyver himself a mini studio in hotel rooms.

We have links to some audio resources online on our site, as well as can suggest things like trying to record in closets, depending on their size (and how big of a hoarder you might be). What suggestions do you have?

As Lascher wrote, "As a scrappy freelancer, I'm always eager to learn low-cost alternatives (or, you know, paths to fame, fortune and untold riches as an independent journalist) for multimedia production and other reporting tools."