Interviewing Sam Coley

Last week I met Sam Coley, a BA Degree Leader in Radio at the School of Media at Birmingham City University and a freelance documentary producer. We had a very interesting talk about audio and how we can use it.

Why and when to chose audio over video?
What are the main principles to record audio?
What makes a good audio piece?

All the answers in this interview.

Why Audio?

Choosing how we want to make our projects can be confusing. Audio, video, data, infographics…the choices are almost infinite. So why audio?


I am drawn to radio. I love the imagination it evolves

Sam also says that choosing audio is a matter of facility and resources. And it is true. With video we need a camera, a tripod, a microphone. We need to think about light, space, the rule of thirds and so on. With audio we need to focus on the interviewee and sound.

Sam adds:

I like the speed of it


The Main Principles to Record Audio

When we record audio we need to have in mind that we are going to edit it and build a narrative.

Having a good microphone is a starting point. One of the big mistakes made by students is related to the poor quality of audio, Sam explained.

Having the microphone close to the interviewee, choosing a quiet place with good acoustics and then recording background sound are keys to a good piece. And when we go to the edition room? Sam gives a very important advice: “Label” your tracks.

Play with the structure (…) It does not need to be some linear ABC type of story. Break it up a little bit. Start with the ending and end with the beginning and have fun in between

The importance of planning

Before you go to the scene you have a choice: planning or trusting your instincts. Sam thinks that the answer is a combination of both. It is good to have a plan but if we have new ideas we can improvise and, in the need of it, we can always go back to the initial plan.

What makes a good audio piece?

To know what makes a good audio piece it would be the magical answer to everyone. However, Sam says that there is no equation that determines what makes the most wonderful audio piece.


Nonetheless, there is one word that makes an audio project interesting: Variety.

Play with music, play with sound, fix and play with location. Don’t assume that you have to record everything in the studio to have sound quality.

Sam calls to attention another relevant point when it comes to sound quality:

Sometimes sound quality is not everything. Sometimes is better to have a bit of rawer sound occasionally. Break it a up and give a variety of acoustics.

And finally a good advice that I tried to took on:

Break your interviews and don’t keep them in chunks

Considerations about video

It is clear that Sam is a radio producer and probably he will always be but that doesn’t mean that he thinks that video is never a good choice.


I think it is appropriate to ask: Any final advice?


More about Sam on his website

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