Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Jamillah Knowles

Jamillah Knowles

Writer, journalist, broadcaster (BBC Outriders)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jamillah Knowles (known online in many places as Jemimah Knight). I'm a writer, journalist and broadcaster on radio. I make the BBC Outriders Radio show and podcast about cool things that are electrical, online or a bit geeky.

What hardware do you use?

I use a PC laptop, currently a Toshiba. With so many services online, I'm not too precious about the laptop I have. So long as it is fairly quick and has a decent amount of storage space for filing audio.

I use an extra screen when I am at home. It's like having extra desk space for papers when I am researching and works as my 'entertainment screen' when I get some downtime to run Netflix or pick through music on iTunes.

I have a wireless mouse, that's probably not very interesting or unusual, but my desk looks like it's been paper-bombed half the time with books, research and notes. Having a wired mouse would be a pain and I doubt there's enough room.

When I'm out and about I record things on a portable recorder, my phone or sometimes my iPod. It depends on what is happening and what I have to hand. I prefer the recorder for professional sound

For recording at my desk, I use a MS headset, or assorted mics from Blue (I have a Snowflake and Mikey for the iPod - they're ace) and on location I record with an H1 Zoom mic which has been all over the world with me. I have an H2 as well as backup, but I've never needed the backup so far. I really like the H1, light, durable and running well on few batteries it serves me for broadcast interviews as well as note taking.

AA batteries might seem retrograde, but I've taken the recorder up mountains and out to the back of beyond and I am much more likely to find replacement batteries in a pinch than a method of USB charging. It's especially important when I am overseas.

I like to listen to audio through Sennheiser cans. I have one set that cost me a small fortune, so I often set them aside for specific work, I hate the idea of losing them while travelling.

I also carry a Nexus 7 to read on when I am travelling. There never seems to be enough time to read and I like having the Kindle app on there for more books that I would normally carry.

And what software?

I edit audio on REAPER at the moment. It has such a lovely interface and it's very easy to use. I used Cool Edit (old skool eh?) for a long time. I like to see audio waves when I am editing and both show me a nice clear visualisation of what I am working on.

I work with speech and voices, so I probably miss a lot of the functionality. But I can mix different file types without having to make them all match first and, well, it's my favourite at the moment after using at least half a dozen different pro and semi pro suites like DART, DCART, Audition, Audacity etc.

I have also started using Transcribe by Wreally. It's a Chrome add-on. For a long time for transcribing recorded events or interviews I wanted a foot control to stop and start the audio. This add-on uses hotkeys to stop and start and it's really easy to pick up. Utterly priceless when you have long tapes to write up.

What would be your dream setup?

I'd love an old style radio studio. They're more like cupboards really. Fabric covered walls - not for banging your head against, but to absorb sound. A lovely suspended mic would be nice too. It's more cosmetic than a real requirement. I love radio and I love the nostalgia for old radio too.

I would especially love to have an old style 'on air' light. I live in a shared flat and my flatmates are really, really nice about the odd times when I need things to be quiet. I can't thank them enough for that patience. A big light might be a good indicator too - though it seems a bit rude in a domestic environment. Maybe something to think about.

If I could have the old furniture with the faster new technology that would be a dream set up. I like the old mixed with the new.

I learned to cut actual tape when I worked at the BBC World Service and yes, I cut my fingers on the tape rather than the razor blades! Sounds silly but it happens a lot when you're not accustomed to tape. You spend some time running the tape through your fingers to get to the right bit you want to listen to and then run that bit of tape over the heads to hear what's on it. When you run the tape through your fingers fast enough, you get a big old paper cut type injury. I was more grossed out about it because tapes in big broadcasting places used to be recycled a lot - who knows what was on the surface of that tape - audio, dust and bacteria. Yuk!

For now, my tiny office is lined with bookshelves that absorb sound fairly well, but there's nothing quite like the extravagance of a proper studio set up to focus and work.