by Candace Howze
The most common podcast format is an interview-style show, and chances are if you’re reading this, you host a podcast with regular guests. Interview shows are fun to listen to for a variety of reasons: the audience is frequently introduced to new perspectives, both you and the audience learn from an exciting range of people, and you don’t have to work quite as hard to create content when you have an active, interesting and engaging subject.
In a perfect world, your podcast would work a lot like Good Morning America or The Breakfast Club. That means you’d have a nice studio set up and all of your guests would drive, bus, or fly in to speak with you. But let’s get real here. It’s a bit difficult for that to happen when your interviewee lives 2,000 miles away and you’re recording on an iPhone in your closet.
So how do you record both sides of the conversation and make sure that it sounds good?
Here are some of the best remote podcast interview tools and tips to help you produce a podcast remotely in a way that’ll have all your subscribers thinking you and your guests are in the same room.
Remote Recording Software
As a podcaster, you likely already have your own personal audio setup with professional mics and editing software. However, to record a podcast you need both your audio and the guest’s audio to be reasonably clear–the latter of which you have little control over at first glance.
If it were two experienced podcasters/audio gurus, they could call or Skype each other, record themselves separately on their own equipment and sync it in post-production. However, odds are that you won’t be interviewing too many people with this ability; in fact, you might have quite a few guests who aren’t that tech-savvy at all.
There are probably some popular recording methods that may have initially crossed your mind, but those methods do not necessarily produce the best-sounding audio. You could record via Skype, download a call recording app on your phone, or use video conferencing services like Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Free Conference Call. The problem with these is that the audio quality will likely be subpar, and that’s certainly not what you’re going for as a podcaster. Of course the character and content of your show will draw listeners in, but improving the audio quality can enhance the listening experience and the perception of your brand.
This means you’ll need a high-quality medium for everyone involved to record audio. Here is a list of tools you can use for HD remote audio recording.
The Basic subscription is $7.99 per month or $79.99 per year, which will get you excellent MP3 tracks at 22 kHz frequency. However, the catch is that the track is recorded in mono rather than stereo, so both audio files will be delivered as one merged file. This could be problematic for those moments when you’d like to edit tracks separately, like when you and your guests talk at the same time, or if you happen to cough on your end while they’re telling a great story. Details like those are almost impossible to edit around in a mono track, even for an experienced producer.
The Premium version is $18.99 per month or $189.99 per year, and this is really the only version you want to use. You’ll receive studio-quality sound in your choice of MP4, OGG or FLAC files, and you can download them in stereo (split tracks) so you can edit the tracks separately. Premium also offers frequencies of 22, 44 and 48 kHz.
Until recently Ringr was just for two callers, but conference calling is now available for Premium members. You can take advantage of a 30-day trial when you create your account.
How does it work?
Recording works by scheduling a call and inviting the attendee, who can join via the mobile app or online browser. You’ll both log on at the assigned time and enter the virtual sound room. Your calls and recording time are unlimited on both accounts.
Zencastr (Free or Subscription-based)
Zencastr is a cost-effective option and a great alternative for when you need to record more than two people, like for a panel discussion. You just create a link to join the recording session and once everyone logs on, you’ll begin recording. There are three levels of membership.
The Basic level is free and allows you to invite up to two different guests and record up to two hours a month in high-quality MP3 format. After you finish recording, you will download each person’s audio separately.
The Professional level is $20 per month ($18/mo. with an annual plan) and grants you unlimited recording and unlimited guests. You also have the option of downloading high-quality MP3 or WAV files and you receive 10 hours of post-production.
Coming soon is the Network level, which will allow users to benefit from the Professional level with the added ability to manage multiple shows, aggregate analytics and match with advertisers. It will be $250 per month ($225/mo. with an annual plan).
Cleanfeed (Free or Subscription-based)
Cleanfeed is another online audio recorder that produces high-quality tracks. Users will send invitation links to their guests and can connect as many people as they wish, making it a great option for anyone who needs to talk to more than one person at a time.
The Free version doesn’t restrict your number of users, recording time, or recording formats. You can choose mono or stereo before you record.
The Pro version will allow you to control volume, bit rates, channel mixing, and audio repair. This provides more audio mixing control within the application, which may or may not be important if your main concern is to just record professional audio. The Pro version is $22 a month for non-commercial use (defined as anything that grosses up to $2,000 per year) and $34 per month for commercial use.
When it comes to recording remotely, there are a few key things you must do to capture brilliant audio, regardless of the software you choose:
- Always use headphones. Since each speaker will listen through the Internet, you don’t want echo and double playback coming through the audio, so always put headphones or earphones in. They don’t have to be fancy; the earphones you usually use with your phone will do.
- Never sound worse than your guest. Your guest may not have access to audio equipment, and that’s okay. With the right coaching, a guest could simply use their computer audio or even phone to obtain great sound. One thing you must do, however, is to make sure you sound good. Think about a radio host when a guest calls in. It makes sense to listeners that guests may sound somewhat shaky or slightly far away, because we know they’re not in a studio, but it can be pretty weird and uncomfortable when the host is the one with the sketchy sound.
- Ensure that your guest is in a quiet room. You want your guest to have minimal distractions and absolutely no machines running (A/C, washing machine, lawnmower, etc.). Ask them to watch for creaking chairs or other things that might make noise unexpectedly during the recording.
- Be friendly! This may not sound like an audio tip but it actually is. When you’re recording remotely, you don’t have the luxury of meeting your guest in person and chatting up beforehand. Logging onto a website and talking to a complete stranger can be a bit intimidating, so always take a few minutes to chat with your guest and make them feel comfortable. Sharing something funny, awkward, or intimate about your day really helps to break down the formalities and make your guest feel at ease, which will create a better tone of voice and more honest discussions.
- Have a backup plan. Technology can be flighty, and sometimes you or your guest may have technical difficulties. Always be ready with a backup, and especially since most of these tools have a free account, be ready to provide your guest with an alternative link to record in case one of them is down or doesn’t seem compatible with your guest’s device.
Wishing you best efforts in putting these remote podcast interview tools and tips into action to make your podcast the best it can be!
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Candace Howze is a North Carolina-based writer and multimedia artist with a passion for photography, literature, and film. She was named a 2017 Emerging Artist by the Durham Arts Council and has published in The Huffington Post, MTV, CRWN Magazine, Glass Poetry Press and more. She also runs the blog Scribing Fingers. In her spare time, you can find her listening to music, baking or losing time in Target.