How to Record a Podcast Remotely

How to record a podcast remotely

Podcasts have never been more popular. That goes for creators as well as viewers. Making podcasts can be a hugely enjoyable way to:

  • Talk about your favorite subjects
  • Develop your speaking and broadcasting skills
  • Explore new areas and listen to new ideas without the ‘feedback’ of social media
  • Build and strengthen friendships and professional relationships
  • Just goof about and have fun!

Some people prefer to cast alone. However, most of us find creating podcasts more rewarding with either a regular co-host or a guest. Whether you’re conducting podcast interviews or simply chatting, involving other parties can bring new life – and viewers – to your podcast.

More Voices, More Viewers

Viewers are often drawn to podcasts with guests or multiple hosts. Co-hosting often means that there’s something for everyone, but listeners also enjoy the social aspect:

  • An upbeat conversation can help listeners to feel ‘involved’, especially in humorous podcasts
  • Many listeners enjoy a diverse range of views in a podcast
  • ‘Crossover’ podcasts, where you co-host with a fellow caster, are exciting to mutual listeners
  • Some viewers listen to podcasts to help them sleep. A dubious compliment unless that’s your goal, but the rhythm of conversation can help with this

Every caster knows that the viewers are the lifeblood of the podcast. Using co-casters or conducting interviews can help to introduce new listeners and build a sense of community around your channel.

So what if you want to interview someone who can’t be with you in person? In this guide, we’ll consider the best options and practices for recording a podcast remotely.

How Do You Record a Podcast Remotely?

Traditionally, co-hosting would be done in a shared space such as a studio. Here you have access to the same recording equipment and there’s less room for technical difficulties. In-person casting can also help to ease the flow of conversation and allow you to read each other more effectively.

Intimate conversation is good conversation

However, there are several reasons why casters are increasingly recording podcasts remotely today. These include:

  • Working with guests in a different time zone
  • Social distancing
  • Cost of travel if working with remote guests
  • Improvements in remote podcast equipment

Many of us are more familiar than ever with tools like Skype and Zoom. However, recording a podcast is very different from video conferencing.

Reasons to Not Use One Glitchy Zoom Call for Your Remote Podcast

A podcast needs several things to succeed:

  • High-Quality Audio: your podcast simply won’t get off the ground if it’s crackly or badly compressed. Same if there’s a large amount of lag in a remote interview. People will forgive a little lag, but remember that if you can’t record neat audio, other casters can.
  • Flowing Conversation: likewise, if the internet connection is poor on one end, you’re going to be stumbling and interrupting your co-host. The natural flow of conversation is so important to viewers, as it helps to hold interest and keep the focus on what you’re saying.
  • The Right People: you never want to find yourself in this situation. You’ve got a wonderful guest lined up, but their recording setup just isn’t up to the job. The other options are to find another guest you haven’t planned for, or go without a guest at all. Communicating with your remote co-casters in advance is vital to make sure the quality is good.
As long as you don't patronize your guests, clear instructions are a good idea

We’ll cover how platforms such as Zoom can be used for podcasts later. It can still be a useful tool, so don’t write it off completely as a way to record.

How Can You Record a Podcast from Two Locations?

Your main considerations when you’re remote recording from two locations should be all about the quality of your guest’s audio and video setup.

When you can’t be there to help out in person, you can give the best advice in the world but fixing technical issues in a phone call isn’t easy. Your guest needs good recording software from the start, and also needs to know how to use it.

More than likely you already have good audio quality and podcast recording software on your end. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re on the same wavelength.

1) Ship your Guest a Microphone

Microphones aren’t too expensive. Still, asking someone to acquire high-quality hardware for remote interviews is a bit much if they don’t do this regularly. You can ship them a good microphone with clear instructions, and they can return the same way afterward.

2) Headphones are Mandatory

Make sure your guest wears headphones. If they don’t have them already and it’s in-budget, shipping your guest a pair of good headphones with a high-quality mic can help with remote interviews. Otherwise, their laptop mic will pick up your voice from the speakers and you’ll have a horrible echo.

Not optional

3) Record Audio Locally

We’ll get more into how this option works later, as it’s slightly more technical. However, if you can’t guarantee good sound quality during the phone call, you could have your co-host record their audio locally and then edit it together in post-production.

4) Speed-Check Their Location

It sounds obvious. It sounds so obvious. Your guest should be recording in a place where their Wi-Fi is very strong. If the router isn’t in their bedroom and they appear to be in bed, it may be time for a gentle reminder!

5) Soundcheck Their Location

Equally, ensuring that a guest in a location that doesn’t have echo or background noise is vital for podcasters. Echo feedback can play havoc with your audio quality and makes it hard to record.

6) Speed-check Their Location

Slightly less obvious but still important, if you’re using video to record it should be in a well-lit place. The best way to recreate the intimacy of an in-person podcast is with responsive visuals: this way you can read the other’s reactions and achieve the best results.

7) Please Switch Off Your Cellphone

If your guest isn’t using their cellphone as part of the remote recording process, ask them to switch it off or put it on silent. If it vibrates on the same surface as their laptop, it will compromise the audio. It’s also generally good manners to avoid being distracted by your phone during recordings.

No-go

Can You Record from Several Locations?

If you’re planning a party podcast episode, you can use these techniques for multiple guests. However, several factors you should consider include:

  • Cost. You can’t be shipping microphones and headsets to multiple parties, especially if you record more than a couple of podcasts per month.
  • More routers, greater risk. The more participants you have in a live recording, the greater the chance that someone will have a lagging connection. Maybe their router is just having a bad day, but that’s about to become a bad day for all of you. If one person’s audio and visual settings are out of sync, it can throw off the entire show.
  • Interruptions. Even minute lag can lead to guests assuming that nobody else is answering a question. They then helpfully ‘fill in’ – only to discover that everyone’s had the same moment of lag. This can get chaotic.
Too many... cooks? Cats? Casters? You get the idea

Group podcasts can be a lot of fun, but there’s always a higher risk of things getting messy. That said, most of the advice we can offer for recording a podcast from 2 locations also applies to larger groups.

Can You Record a Podcast Outside?

If you were very determined, you could probably manage to record a podcast outside. We’re not saying you should, because it presents several complications:

  • Poor internet connection. Wi-Fi outside is rarely better than indoors. This is because routers tend to be kept indoors, and walls get in the way of a strong signal. Although we would like to give a shout-out to that one Greek landlord we stayed with who kept his Wi-Fi router in an olive tree. Perhaps he made outdoor podcasts.
  • Background noise: there’s a lot of noise outside. Birds, bees, cars, people, and perhaps most significantly wind. The wind messes with your audio quality. You can use a pop filter or get high-end microphones that minimize background noise; they use these on news channels. However, unless you’re recording a visual clip… why are you outside if you don’t want background noise?
  • Breathing: if you’re walking outside, then you will naturally breathe more heavily than when sat at your laptop. This can be a distracting and unwanted sound for viewers.

There’s nothing to stop you from recording audio or video outside. You may have a very cool reason to want to do it – perhaps even recording some sounds of nature.

Relaxing, beautiful... and noisy

If you need to record a segment like this, we’d recommend recording it as a separate audio file and fixing consistency in post-production. Especially with remote podcast recording, it’s a tricky one to do well without your indoor recording setup.

How Can I Remotely Record a Podcast for Free?

Very easily – as long as you’re not concerned about audio and video quality. You could do a voice call on Google Hangouts or just record a video conferencing session on Zoom or Skype.

However, we’re assuming that like most podcasters, you’d like to record your audio as cleanly as possible and create a polished end-product. This isn’t something you can do for free. You need to invest in equipment and software, and you need to invest time and energy.

The good news is that it’s not very expensive or difficult. Here are your main considerations in terms of costs:

  • Hardware. This includes microphones, headphones, laptops, and possibly double-enders for being able to record local audio. Not just for you, but your guests: if you want to record an interview, you can’t have clear questions and blurry answers.
  • Software. Some good editing software can dramatically improve the quality of your audio track. It may take a little time to get to grips with, but it’s well worth it.
  • Interview guests. This depends on your platform, your guests, your purpose, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Still, you may want to recompense your guests for their time.
Work according to your budget

Choosing your software depends on how many podcast episodes you want to put out per month, amongst other things like if it a video podcast or just an audio recording. If you’re looking to produce a large number of podcasts, you’re naturally going to want to invest more so you can cut down on editing time.

What Is the Best Tool for Remote Recording?

You’ve probably guessed it by now, but spoiler alert: the best tool to record a remote podcast is usually not Skype or Zoom.

These have been revolutionary additions to online communication, but this has more to do with convenience than quality. The best remote podcasts either use different platforms or additional equipment to create smooth audio tracks and flowing audio.

Below we’ll look at a few methods you can use for remote recording, and discuss their pros and cons.

Double-Ended Remote Recording

Before we cover platforms, let’s talk about hardware. Specifically about double-ended recording, because it’s so useful for podcasters.

A back-up is not a bad idea with dodgy connections

A double-ender is used to record audio locally during the online phone call. This audio can then be uploaded, stitched together, and edited in post-production. It usually requires a separate recording device and microphone.

Advantages of a Double-Ender for Remote Recording

Advantages include:

  • Offline recording: if the call cuts out for a minute and nobody noticed, that minute hasn’t been lost. A double-ender can save you from losing the best moment of your show.
  • Clean sound: as long as your guest is wearing headphones, the local recording will only include their words, with clean sound quality.
  • Easy to use: it’s generally just a matter of pressing ‘start’ and ‘stop’ recording, and then you can upload the audio file via USB. Most guests will be fine with this!

Spend Money on Shipping or Time on Troubleshooting

Say your podcast has to do with a niche interest. Say it’s related to what you majored in, and you know that your old professor would be a great guest for an interview. And say your old professor can just about manage to pop on some headphones for a Skype call, but… struggles with technology.

In this tragic case, your best option is to record audio separately from the call itself. You can ship this device to your guests before interviews, provided you trust them to return it promptly. It means you can use free services such as Google Hangouts without compromising on audio quality.

Of course, the audio recordings have to be merged afterward, but this isn’t too tricky. Using double-ended recordings can be a good idea whatever platform you use, as it lets you record your podcast with a sense of security that the recordings are backed up.

Skype

Moving onto platforms – while Skype offers both audio and video, it’s not great for remote recording as it compresses audio. The quality of the video recording depends a lot on the technology you’re both using. Perhaps you’re not recording video at all.

Even if you’re not recording video, having smooth audio and video while you’re communicating is essential as a podcast host. Yes, you can record it all on a double-ender. There’s still going to be stop-starts and confusion between host and guest when the low-quality audio and video break up.

As we mentioned, we have nothing against Skype: it’s been a great tool for what it was designed for. It’s just that it wasn’t designed for podcasting.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Widely used
  • Can record video and audio

Cons:

  • Compresses audio
  • Erratic
  • Can cause interruptions and confusion
  • Requires a double-ender for effective use

Zoom

Next, let’s take a look at Zoom. The beloved/loathed conductor of our online workspaces today, Zoom suffers from a number of the same issues as Skype. The killer is that Zoom also compresses audio, which means that it’s never going to offer the sound quality you need.

There is a clever way around this. It’s a very low-key version of the double-ender and is very user-friendly.

Your guests can use the voice recorder on their phone while on the Zoom call. Again, they must be wearing headphones, but many phones (especially iPhones) have excellent microphones built-in.

Especially if you’re conducting an interview where your guest gives longer answers, this technique can be a very useful option.

Pros:

  • Possibly more widely-used than Skype
  • Free
  • Video and audio

Cons:

  • Poor-quality compressed audio
  • Video is halting
  • Requires additional investment in hardware and editing software

Zencastr

Now let’s take a look at a platform that is built closer to our purpose. Zencastr is a popular choice for remote recording as its audio quality tends to be superior to Skype or Zoom. It also has professional tools, so you can edit your recordings without needing to install additional software.

With studio-quality audio, there’s no need for double-ended recording (although it can still be a useful back-up). Zencastr is a call recorder that offers opportunities for podcasters to learn about video editing on the job.

It’s not free, but it’s not too expensive for what it does. It also means you won’t need to be shipping recording equipment around.

Pros:

  • Professional editing tools
  • A separate track for each guest
  • Reasonably priced
  • Studio-quality recordings

Cons:

  • Some users report missing files
  • Reported ‘audio drift’ (audio files don’t match up)

All in all, we consider Zencastr a good way to record high-quality audio without paying through the nose.

Cleanfeed

If you don’t need video when you’re recording, you might want to try Cleanfeed. While there’s a small amount of compression, this platform still provides some of the best audio quality around. It’s used by big players like the BBC, which is a solid recommendation.

One of the ways Cleanfeed beats the competition is making sure that you won’t lose anything if there are technical problems at your guest’s end. The moments after an interview has just hit its peak and then the WiFi goes down are agonizing. Not a concern with Cleanfeed.

It’s a great option if you don’t need video and an example of how an approachable set-up can take you a long way.

Pros:

  • Good back-up
  • High-quality audio
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • No video
  • Not free

Conclusion: Recording Podcasts Remotely

Remote recording is simple enough: the key is communication before the recording starts. Make sure that your co-hosts are prepared. Pick a platform option that works for you. Consider the ways that you can use this advice to improve your sound. And as always, happy casting!

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