Growing up, my friends had posters of their favorite boy bands pinned to their bedroom walls: Backstreet Boys,*NSYNC, O-Town. Me? I had an autographed picture of Mike and the Mad Dog from WFAN Sports Radio and another of Ira Glass, the creator of This American Life.
A weekly public radio show with millions of listeners, This American Life shares compelling stories with people at the center of them — what they call "little movies for radio."
Part of me always knew that I would dabble in the world of radio and podcasting, but as I dive deeper into it, I'm surprised by how little you need to create interesting content.
While COVID-19 has forced many people out of work and others out of their traditional office settings — myself included — we have discovered new ways of performing our daily tasks. Even Ira has taken unique measures to record new episodes of This American Life from his New York City apartment.
The most seasoned audio pros need to improvise when it comes to producing high-quality projects from the comfort of their own homes. Whether you've been at this for years, or you're entirely new to podcasting, we're here to help. Today, we're sharing tips and tricks to help guide your remote recording.
Choose Your Recording Equipment
Choosing the right equipment for at-home recording can be daunting, but there are simple ways to record a podcast with the tools you already have on your computer and mobile phone.
When it comes to recording software, there are several options available. Using Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or your voice memo app are all great ways to record audio with in-studio quality. Here are two other options that some of the best hosts in the business have tested and approved.
Zencastr is an excellent option for remote recording and is especially considerate of interviewees who may not be technically savvy enough to record, save, and transmit files on their own.
Zencastr runs in a web browser and records audio directly into each user's computer, eliminating the need for interviewees to download and install an app. All they need to do is click a link and voilà.
The service also has an automatic post-production feature built-in, which equalizes and mixes audio to enhance quality.
Similar to Zencastr, Ringr records both ends of the internet-based call. Where it differs is that Ringr is not only available on desktop computers, but runs on iPhones and Androids as well.
This is the app's defining feature, as it doesn't limit where you or your guest records. It does, however, require that your interviewee download and install an app.
At the start of the pandemic, purchases for recording gear surged tremendously. Sweetwater, the largest online retailer of pro audio equipment in the United States, saw a 253% increase in the sale of USB microphones alone.
There are now more options than ever for dynamic podcast mics that won't break the bank. Two of our favorite options, which are less sensitive and pick up less room noise than most others, are the Blue Yeti and the Rode NT-USB-Mini.
A standard in podcasting as far as USB microphones go, the Blue Yeti is versatile, readily available in most consumer electronic stores, and easy to use. It's USB capability allows it to plug right into your computer, perfect for remote recording.
It also features four modes: Stereo, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, and Bidirectional. Cardioid mode is best-suited for podcasts, where a host is directly in front of the microphone.
One of the most economical options for a podcast mic, the Rode NT-USB-Mini is a compact, studio-quality USB microphone designed for recording directly to a computer or tablet.
It features a studio-grade headphone amplifier and built-in pop filter to help you monitor your audio during recording.
Headphones are a must when it comes to remote recording. Both you and your guests should use them to prevent feedback and to ensure your sound quality is uninterrupted. Something as simple as a pair of earbuds with a built-in mic will do the trick, but if you're looking to invest in a dedicated pair, these are two options we recommend:
These headphones are not only relatively inexpensive, but they last through regular usage. They contour comfortably around the ears for excellent sound isolation in loud environments.
The Sony MDR7506 headphones are ideal for at-home recording. They provide a clean and crisp sound, are comfortable for longer periods of wear, and are reasonably affordable.
Find a Quiet Place to Record
Remember the days of building forts in your bedroom? It's now socially acceptable for adults to revisit this pastime for the sake of podcasting. When it comes to podcasting from home, chances are you don't have a soundproof room with wedge foam and acoustic panels. (If you do, let's be friends.)
What you probably have, though, is a closet, pillows, and blankets. Your guests probably have these things, too. Soft items help to reduce reverberations and enhance audio quality. Whatever you can do to minimize the hard surfaces in your space — from which sound waves can bounce off of — the better.
Closets full of clothes, blankets, and pillows also keep environmental noise at bay. But before you record, do a safety check and ask your guests to do the same — make sure your air-conditioners, fans, and dishwashers are all turned off to eliminate their distracting hums.
Prepare Your Remote Guests
There are several ways to prepare your interview guests to ensure that their audio quality is clear and smooth. Before recording the episode, send them an email with some guidelines. While you can't expect them to hunker down in their closet, you can suggest they take some of the aforementioned steps to improve the sound of their recording. For example:
Dear [GUEST NAME],
I'm so excited to have you on this week's episode of [PODCAST NAME]! I know our listeners will appreciate your insights on [TOPIC].
Before we chat tomorrow, I wanted to offer a few tips to ensure we have a seamless recording experience.
Please make sure you have a reliable internet connection on the day of our interview. I've found it best when guests turn all other devices on airplane mode to secure bandwidth and avoid connectivity issues.
Seeing that we cannot conduct in-studio interviews at this time, setting up in a quiet room away from any loud noises (street sounds, air conditioners, fans, etc.) will provide the best sound. A room with carpeting will help to soften any harsh tones or echoes.
If you have a USB mic, I recommend this for recording. If not — don't worry. Any corded headphones with a built-in mic will work just fine.
If you have any questions or concerns before we record, please don't hesitate to reach out.
I look forward to speaking with you.
Even after preparing your guests via email and at the top of your interview, you should always test their sound before jumping into the recording. Make this as casual and lighthearted as possible. Ask them what they had for breakfast. While they’re gushing over their frittata with fresh veggies from the farmer's market, check their levels.
Take a look at the audio monitor. If the sound waves are in the green, you're good to go. Don't fret too much if they peak into the yellow territory at points. If they hit red regularly, however, this is a clear indication that the audio is turned up too high and should be adjusted immediately to avoid any sound distortion.
Are you looking for more help to make your remote podcasting dreams a reality? We create, produce, and promote podcasts for B2B companies looking to leverage audio storytelling. Let’s chat!
Samantha brings a broad range of experience writing for small businesses, nonprofits, news outlets, and radio programs to the Beacon Digital content team. Prior to joining Beacon, Samantha worked as a marketing associate for a Hudson Valley-based designer lighting company, writing content for their blog, social channels, and print and digital advertisements. Over the last several years Samantha has been a contributing writer and editor for creative magazines and radio programs. Samantha earned her BA in Sociology and English (Creative Writing) from SUNY New Paltz. She also studied at Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, where she developed skills in audio storytelling.