Walking Sounds

The other morning I was LISTENING to the ABC program, “Insiders”. Though it’s ostensibly a TV program, they also broadcast it on ABC NewsRadio, and sometimes I listen there, in preference. The only segment which doesn’t work that well as audio is the cartoon segment! But for the most part, it works as audio, even if you sometimes miss the facial expressions (which, in the world of politics, can be an important issue).

The thing I really noticed was the background noise in the segments with Niki Savva. In these days of working from anywhere, she was obviously at home, as you could hear the sounds of birds (mostly magpies and kookaburras) in the background. You probably wouldn’t have noticed it on TV, but it was evident on the radio where the reliance on audio to convey the story/location etc is heightened.

I first became really waware of the difference between sound on radio and TV about twenty years ago. There was a segment on ABC TV immediately before the nightly news called “Snapshot”. Essentially it was a “what’s on” feature, promoting exhibitions, events etc around NSW, and was hosted by ABC Radio presenters. I was the presenter for a while, and I was often called on to go to various venues around Sydney for filming. 

I remember there was one occasion with an especially difficult script (lots of difficult pronunciations) which I struggled with. After multiple takes I finally got it word perfect. I was pleased, and then the sound operator said, “Sorry you’ll have to do that again, a truck went past”. 

“In radio, we love the sound of a truck going past, as it brings the place to life”, I told him, If you’re doing a radio recording a truck going past can cause problems too, but it’s generally much easier to work around than in television, where the primary medium and expertise is in the vision, not the sound.

Ever since then, I’ve been much more consciously aware of the difference between radio and TV “sound”. “Radio sound” is much more intimate, meaning you’re less likely to hear background sound, aside from those moments of colour. The presenter is more likely to be speaking directly into the microphone, and there is a “fuller” sound to the voice when you listen. “TV sound” is more likely to be more “atmospheric”, with less emphasis on the single voice. People who work in audio can probably identify it instantly, whereas it’s probably less obvious to everyone else. But if you listen to ABC NewsRadio on Sunday mornings, you might notice what I’m saying. I’m not convinced I’ve explained this well enough, but it’s something, because of my job that I can just “hear” even if I haven’t articulated it clearly.

This brings me to a more general observation about the importance of sound in my life, and right now in particular.

The sounds in Lismore are quite different to the sounds back home in Surry Hills. While you might like to generalise about the sounds of a country town and those of inner city Sydney, they’re not as you might expect. Here in Lismore I’m located more closely to a major road than I am back in Sydney, and thus the sounds of traffic are louder and more consistent. Back in Sydney, I live opposite a park, and the bird sounds are louder and more consistent there, than they are in Lismore. Here, I can more readily experience “nature sounds” than I can in Sydney, often being only a few minutes walk away. In both locations, it can sometimes be SILENT.


The sounds of afternoon walks near the Ballina Street Bridge
The sounds of afternoon walks to The Duck Pond

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