Composers will sometimes come up with a tune in the middle of the park or on a rumbling train. Unable to grab a pen and paper, far from a recording device… simply humming the melody until you create a memory file sometimes isn’t the best recall system.

The same can be true for screenwriters. Stumbling onto a great idea for a character or scene can slip into our consciousness and then disappear like waking from a dream. It’s important to be able to jot things down, preserve ideas and have a file for converting these precious things into reality.

You can keep a notepad handy, but this isn’t for everyone. Another idea is to buy a digital voice recorder. This can be useful for interviewing people for research before you get into your next screenplay. It can be extremely useful when you need to record a thought on-the-go! Scribbling notes on a pad can work for some but it just seems a whole lot easier to turn your thoughts into words.

The other great thing with having a voice recorder is that you can keep records of these thoughts for later use. Pairing this technology with speech recognition software can take you another step forward. Making a voice recording, you can upload the audio file to your computer and have it automatically transcribed using speech recognition software (see own Screenwriting Tools #1 article).

This makes note-taking useful as a way of recording thoughts and ideas but you could ostensibly dictate your entire screenplay if you find pacing around your office the way you work best. You need to keep the microphone in a consistent position and find a quiet-ish work environment for the best results, but it works like a charm and will save you hours not having to transcribe your memos by hand.

The software may not work well for interviews with two or more voices accurately enough to make it worthwhile, but there’s nothing stopping you from slowing down playback, listening in one ear and repeating everything you hear.

When you consider a digital voice recorder, bear in mind that if you own one – your smartphone already has the capabilities. Find an app that records in the right format and “hey presto!”. Cellphones also have the added capability of being able to transfer data more easily, meaning you can email yourself the audio or upload to a cloud drive for processing later.

For those who prefer to keep business and pleasure separate, you can still go a long way by purchasing a handheld digital recorder. These products are often designed purely for transcription and recording purposes, which makes them more specialised than relying on a cellphone. If you rely on someone else to process your dictation you’ll probably prefer handing over a dedicated device, many of which have wi-fi capabilities.

You don’t need to break the bank. Most digital recorders will do the job. Just make sure they have a high quality recording mode, are able to transfer recordings to a computer and if you can – go for one that has DNS or Dragon transcription mode. Pairing the device with Dragon speech recognition software will make life much easier but even having a recorded copy of important meetings and voice notes is a big plus for those who want to be able to capture ideas whenever, wherever.

Screenwriting Tools: #3 Digital Voice Recorder
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