Remote podcasting is becoming increasingly common and can be a great way to overcome certain obstacles faced as a podcaster in today’s world. With the increase of podcasting as a medium for interviewing and the collaboration of similar (and not so similar) minds, for recording interviews in particular this is a must-have technique for podcasters to have in their arsenal.
Of course, interviewing isn’t the only reason you might want to record a podcast remotely – perhaps your fellow podcast host is located elsewhere or, for an increasing myriad of reasons you’re unable to meet up in person.
Luckily this is now easier than ever to achieve, and in this article, I’m going to explain the best ways in which you can do just that.
Table of Contents
Why Podcast Remotely?
At one point in my own podcasting journey, I only wanted to record episodes when my guest was there in the room with me, and although that can be great for developing a rapport with somebody and making them feel at ease, it also comes with its own pitfalls and problems. Time limits, outside noise, failing equipment among many other various things can mean that an in-person interview cannot always be the perfect setup for a podcast.
With remote podcasting, you can eliminate at least some of the issues, and fundamentally, you don’t need to either wait for your guest or podcast host to be in town or potentially spend a bunch of money getting to them. There is nothing more disheartening than when you get somewhere only to find out that everything has run late, and you only have 10 minutes rather than 30.
Remote Podcasting allows you to be considerably more flexible with time, and if you’re interviewing somebody you can work around their schedule. In my experience, this often means you can catch people at their best as they’re doing it when it is convenient for them. Often, other podcast hiccups will be overlooked if you have a really interesting, funny, or inspiring guest, and that is surely the goal, right?
This option also lets you record a podcast with people located all over the globe, assuming they have an internet connection. No more running for trains or shouting over the next table in a bar to be heard.
Aims of a Successful Remote Podcast
When recording a remote podcast, the best scenario is to have 2 (assuming there are only 2 people) separate files; one for each person’s side of the conversation, that are both recorded using an appropriate (in an ideal scenario, the same) microphone.
Once you have these files you can sync them up and mix them in your chosen DAW. If you both have quality equipment, it can, in theory, sound no different or even better than recording in person, and the listener will be none the wiser. If you have recordings of different qualities, it can sound jarring to the listener (though it should be noted that mixing can do wonders). You want to make them a similar as possible, so it sounds like the natural back and forth of a regular conversation.
Pitfalls of Podcasting from Two Separate Locations
One of the major pitfalls of doing a podcast remotely is the quality of the recording. Unlike you and your co-host, where you can arrange to have the same, or similar equipment, it is unlikely that’ll be the case with a guest. You’ll most likely have a range of different ways your various interviewees will be getting their voice to you. This could be through low-quality mics or even in-built computer or phone mics as not everybody will have a small home studio to use.
Programs like Zoom and Skype, despite having improved leaps and bounds in recent years, can also cause issues. Often, if you and your guest speak at the same time the audio cuts out, and although they have a record function (which is great as a backup) you could easily be missing out on important parts of the conversation which can really affect the natural ebb and flow of a great discussion.
And of course, internet connection problems. This is something that, irritatingly, can be hard to foresee. Sometimes the stars just don’t align and for whatever reason the internet just isn’t up to scratch, causing sync issues, poor sound, and video quality, and well, that’s just not what you’re after when you want to create an entertaining podcast.
There is an array of different ways you can record a podcast remotely. Here, I’m going to run you through three options you have.
How it’s Done
Option 1 (recommended) – The Double Ender
This is when both parties, whether host and guest or host and co-host, record their side independently, using Zoom (or Skype/Facetime, etc) only as a means to chat and see each other. If done correctly, this is the best way to get a great sounding remote podcast.
Ideally, you want both parties to be recording using the same mic and interface, into a DAW. Then one person takes both sides and edits and mixes them as one podcast. I find even if one person has a lesser quality mic, this is still significantly preferable to just using Zoom’s record feature and you’ll get a clearer and much nicer sound for the listener.
Tips and Tricks:
- Syncing Each Side – When you’re independently recording, to make it easier when mixing, creating a marker as a starting point will make your life considerably easier. You can do this a few ways, either counting in and hitting record at the same time or clapping, basically something you do together which will help you line up the recordings later down the line. I tend to also record using ZOOM’s record function and put that as a separate channel in my project, purely to help me line up the tracks, I then mix it out once I’m done editing.
- The Built-In Record Feature – Most video calling programs have their own recording function and although this won’t give you the best sound quality, as a back-up it’ll be good enough. When you’re not in control of the whole recording aspect you have to expect that mistakes will be made at some point. Better to have a recording of the whole interview than none at all, right?
- Editing and Mixing – If you are recording remotely with your co-host make sure that only one person is mixing and editing. Perhaps set up a shared dropbox folder so that this person has access to the files straight away. If both parties independently mix their recordings, they won’t match and it could make the podcast sound disjointed, so figure out which person is best at it and stick with that for consistency.
Option 2 – Using a Portable Recorder
This option involves using a portable recorder that has 2 input channels (a good example would be the Zoom H4n). With this method, you interview through Zoom or Skype and take a line out from the computer into the left channel of your recorder (you’ll need either a mini-jack to jack cable or a converter – both very cheap and easy to find) and your mic directly into the right channel. You then plug in your headphones and monitor it through the recorder itself.
The downside to this option is that the host’s mic quality will be much better than the guest’s, as you’re taking their sound from the video chat app. If they have a good microphone however this will obviously go some way towards helping the quality of their sound.
The upside is that you don’t have to sync up both sides later down the line as you’re doing this in real-time. Much easier when it comes to mixing and editing.
Option 3 – Mix Minus
This option is sort of a version of option 2 with an extra step; Using a USB mixer to achieve mix-minus.
Although ‘mix minus’ sounds confusing it is in fact very simple, and for podcasters it can be an incredibly handy tool for getting the best sound quality and results when having guests on your show remotely.
To explain what ‘mix minus’ is, let’s assume you are hosting a podcast with one remote guest. To get the best sound quality you’ll each have a microphone and headphones, and what you hear in your headphones is your mix. Usually, this will be everything ie both voices. Mix minus is when you take out your guest’s voice from their headphone mix.
This is important for a few reasons. A guest having their own voice in their headphones is mostly unnecessary (unless they’re in a very loud place, in which case you probably don’t want them recording anyway!) and due to a multitude of reasons, like internet connection or feedback loops, it can mean that their voice will be delayed when hearing it in their headphones. This can be incredibly distracting and can easily disrupt the flow of an interview and be a pain when mixing and editing your podcast later on.
To achieve ‘mix-minus’ you need to have a USB mixer that has an Aux Send (also sometimes known as an FX Send). You have your mic plugged into channel 1 of your mixer and your guest’s voice comes from a line out of your computer into channel 2.
You use the ‘Aux/FX’ send function on your mixer to send a separate mix back to your computer for your guest, using the AUX/FX knobs on your channels to turn down their voice and keep yours in the mix, and then record the whole thing on you portable recorder through the stereo out.
And there you have it! Remote podcasting is becoming more and more important in today’s climate, it can help you get guests you might never have been able to before and help your podcast grow and reach new people. Find the way the works for you and get podcasting!