Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

Audio Clip Example

Listen to this audio recording (podcast) about the 2009 demonstrations.

Notice how the recording starts with the ambient sound of protests in the background while the presenter explains the problem. The recording continues with an interview with a rights activist. If you listen closely you can hear that the interview was done in a quiet place. Notice how the presenter then compares the demonstrations in Iran to Tiananmen. This is a way to place the demonstrations in a similar context that the audience will recognize.

If your target audience listens to the radio, consider developing audio recordings or clips instead of or in addition to video recordings. In deciding whether to record using video or audio, consider the type of information you are collecting. Is it fit for an audio project? Are there sounds that evoke the situation you are trying to convey? For example, people chanting at a protest or a parent giving a heartfelt description of her son’s court case may work well as audio (as opposed to video) recordings.

Here are a few tips for recording quality audio clips:

  • Use an external microphone if possible and move closer to the source when needed.
  • Choose a quiet place to record interviews. Ideal places include small interior spaces with curtains and few windows. Avoid places where traffic and other urban sounds might disrupt your recording. To avoid sound waves, do not stand near walls or glass when recording audio clips.
  • When interviewing someone, place the microphone at a diagonal angle near the person’s mouth. To avoid popping noises, do not place the recorder directly in front of their mouths.
  • Always check the recording device several times to make sure your settings have not changed.
  • Record ambient sound to use later when editing. You want to make sure people hear what you hear. Close your eyes…what do you think about when you hear what you have recorded?

Note: Spend most of your time preparing (checking your recording devices, batteries, the temperature in the room, etc.) Once you are recording, it might be too late to make changes!