Part 2 of our series: Enhancing Client Value during the Pandemic
An ongoing set of posts about providing value to clients without the benefit of interpreting on-location
A scroll down LinkedIn Lane reveals how many conference interpreters, like me, are coming to terms with remote interpreting. Moving on, we turn to a more technical topic…
What equipment and why that equipment?
Over the years, many interpreters and organizations have put out some great content discussing the technical side of audio equipment, along with recommendations for particular types of equipment, like headphones. Perhaps like you, I am not an expert on audio technology and wonder – how can I make sure that any equipment I get does great things for me and my clients. Time to rely on the authoritative knowledge of experts in order to trust that it will do great things.
Following the most authoritative recommendations means spending real capital, because that’s generally the level of gear they recommend. Yet, some also recommend much cheaper options. Initially, my thoughts were that I could invest piecemeal into the good stuff. Like starting off with a super awesome microphone, and then add on as needed. Turns out that once you get outside the realm of USB-connected mics, the ad hoc option doesn’t work. This equipment needs to be bought all together, or not at all.
I needed an outside opinion to help make sense of it all. A friend – a professional classical musician trained in the arts of audio technology, lent himself to the cause. His response – that the setup listed below is overkill for what he sees as my purposes. Yet, he sees the logic behind the system, where the following qualities are necessary.
The setup will do this:
Here’s the setup I asked him about:
An over-the-ears headset is the other part of an audio ecosystem, but the choice of a headset is much more subjective than for the microphone setup. Headsets interact much more intimately with the body than a microphone setup does – so I need a way to make a personal decision, rather than one based solely on technical metrics.
My musician friend lent me a professional headset. I tested these out, alongside my own consumer-level over-ear headphones. So far, the consumer model is more comfortable – it’s lighter and the band around the top of the head doesn’t make me feel like I’m wearing a construction hat. Also, it’s less tiring because I don’t hear my own voice and other external sounds with the sound cancellation feature. So, until I feel comfortable going to a store where I can try on several sets side-by-side, I'll stick with what I've got already.
Here’s the point – the microphone system and the headset are two parts of the same system, yet they require distinct decision-making processes. I felt comfortable buying the microphone system solely based on the recommendations of experts, because the system interacts with me in the same way it would interact with anyone. The headset, however, adds a personal element, because it interacts with my person.
The cost/benefit seem to be worth it. The enhanced quality of sound is obvious to clients. Even the imposing size and placement of the microphone on the side of my video portrait helps those looking at me account for the enhanced sound quality without it becoming an explicit topic of conversation. I also like how this audio/visual influence seems to be affecting those I interact with online to consider upgrading their own systems.
I like to think of interpreting as creating the conditions for communications across barriers. The geographical and technological barriers set up by the pandemic can be seen as just another barrier that needs crossing. Equipment, such as the ecosystem described in this article seems to facilitate this mission. I’m glad I’ve made this investment, and hope this story helps with your decision process.
Next up… How this ecosystem can be set up for personal use, followed by How the setup can be used for co-location of interpreters.