12 Tips for Field Recordists to Keep Busy During Downtime


11 Tips for Field Recordists to Keep Busy Off-Season

Winter in Canada isn’t as frigid as the stereotype would lead you to believe. Just the same field recording sound effects during winter just isn’t practical.

Fumbling around with recording equipment in gloves and boots is a hassle. Field recording often requires prolonged sessions outside. This just isn’t possible when the weather is terrible.

I imagine it’s the same for northern Europe and America. Although those of you in the south don’t have cold to contend with, you can substitute the words downtime, heat wave or rainy season for winter.

Every freelancer knows the cycle of feast and famine: sometimes you’re too busy to bathe, other times there’s nothing going on. This is something I’m currently experiencing in the post-Christmas slow period.

So, what do you do as a field recordist in the off-season? How do you remain creative, active and grow when you can’t get out there and record sound fx?

Here are some ideas.

  1. research – use time between gigs to plan your next field recording session. Research what events, festivals and tournaments are approaching and populate your calendar for when the weather turns around or you finish that gig
  2. soak up creativity – use downtime to experience art or learn. No need just to stay in the world of film sound of course. Spread out and dabble with music, video game audio, books and other areas that will refill your inspirational reservoir. This post has more ideas on how to rekindle your creativity
  3. network – get on Twitter and connect with other field recordists. Join conversations. Start your own. Have lunch every week with different colleagues to catch up with the latest industry news. Engage on forums. In this article I list ways to enhance your sound community. Branch out. Share, teach and learn
  4. clean your library – I review the Airborne Sound library frequently to keep it tight. This includes paring sounds, repackaging sound clips into collections, enhancing Soundminer metadata, sprinkling in more rigorous keywords, and so on
  5. tweak your website – make your language clearer. Freshen images. Clean your keywords and sharpen your SEO. Work on a website is rarely complete. As I mentioned in an earlier post, even small changes to a website can bring vast improvements
  6. sound design – if recording new outdoor sounds isn’t possible at the moment, I dig into my library. I take existing sounds and twist them into new creations
  7. foley/wild sound – recording wild sound in a Foley theatre is something you can do any time, of course. I batch all my interior recording for the winter months. This frees up my time to get outside during spring and fall and capture real world sounds
  8. write – there are a lot of great field recordists blogging these days. Why not join them? If you’re having a particularly inspirational week, write an article a day. You can always bank these posts and trickle them out over time when you are busy running around recording
  9. paperwork and admin – this is definitely something you don’t want to be doing when you have a delivery deadline or when the sun is shining. Get it out of the way
  10. record – I know I mentioned that it’s not feasible to record outside during off-season. However depending where you are it may actually be an opportunity. In Vancouver, the rainy season is pretty much twelve months of the year (well, August is nice). I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t record the definitive rain library before I moved. You can take advantage of the ice and snow, storm season or other seasonal elements and animal sounds
  11. experiment – try new gear, plug ins and editing programs. Tinkering with these things not only is fun and gives you new ideas, it also prepares you for the future. You don’t want to be trying gear for the first time with a deadline looming
  12. take a break – you deserve it

Plan Ahead

Whether it is during dry, blasting August heat, the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest or downtime following a long gig, I find planning ahead helps.

I set aside most jobs I know I can do inside. When the weather is good I hit recording hard.

Looking back at this list makes me realize it’s actually easier to be field recording. During downtime and off-season I find I’m actually busier.

Do you have any sound effects-related ideas during downtime and off-season? Share in the comments below.

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