This is the last of a three-part blog series called Podcasting From Home – The New Normal. It follows on from part one, which is all about getting you sounding great; and part two, which is all about getting your guests to sound great.
If you’ve followed the first two blogs, then congratulations – because by now, you should sound great, and your guest should also sound great too. Now if only there was a way of capturing all of this?
Step forward the third instalment of our series – a run through of the options to actually record your podcast remotely, the benefits and considerations of each. And even though I’m an optimistic old soul, I also run through a few Plan B options should things not be working as they should.
As troublesome as lockdown was for everyone, one company that profited handsomely from our new normal was Zoom. The video conferencing company grew by 169% in the first quarter of 2020. And more powerfully perhaps, inviting someone ‘to Zoom’ is becoming as familiar as term as ‘hoovering’ the carpet.
I mean, who Skypes these days?!
Anyway, Zoom is very much a solid option for anyone looking to record podcasts remotely. Firstly, a lot of people are now familiar with Zoom, so are not phased by the technology. Secondly, you’re able to see your guest and they can see you.
Seeing your guests faces can be crucial, as if you know that you’re asking an uncomfortable question, or your guest is giving you an answer that you think might have a bit more to it than they’re letting on, you can read all of this from their visual cues (expressions etc). Whilst nothing is ever as good as being in the room, being able to see someone’s face when you’re having that conversation with them is probably the next best thing.
If you’re just taking baby steps, then Zoom is not a bad place to start, particularly if you know that that interview is only going to be 20 – 25 minutes long, because then you can do it all for free. You also get an audio recording as well as the video recording. The premium version (£11.99 a month at the time of writing) doesn’t have a time limit and also allows you to record each participant’s audio separately – a blessing if one of your guests is in a noisier environment than the others.
Is the audio quality like being in a radio studio? No but it’s a pretty high standard for a remote record but what you lose in audio quality you may well gain in terms of ease of use and familiarity.
If you do want to take a step up in audio quality, here are some options:
This browser based audio recorder is one we used to record our lockdown podcast series for Welsh Water. For one to one interviews it’s completely free – and if this is all you do, it might be all you need. You simply generate a URL, send your guest a link, and they are able to click on that link on their phone or their laptop. And that’s it: a high-quality recording captured with relative ease. If you want to record more than two people at a time, then it does get pricey (between £15 and £25 depending on whether you are a business or an individual or charity) and to be honest, there are better and sturdier options…
The first of these “better” options is Zencastr. Like Cleanfeed, the free version normally allows you to record one to one interviews, although since lockdown, restrictions have been lifted and you can record as many people as you like and for as long as you like for free. However, what really gives Zencastr the edge over Cleanfeed and Zoom is that the audio is recorded at either end of the call. So if you are interviewing a guest, the guest audio records on their laptop and then is uploaded to your Dropbox or Google Drive when the recording is finished. It means any glitches on your connection shouldn’t make its way onto the recording.
Upgrading to Zencastr £20 a month package will record all ends of the conversation in high quality WAV form. So, if you and your guests are on good mics and have managed your recording environment, you can achieve incredibly good sound via Zencastr.
Finally, SquadCast is like Zencastr in the way it records audio at either end of the conversation. However, with SquadCast, you also have the ability to see your guest via their laptop or computer camera. It doesn’t record the video but again, it allows you the ability to see your guest and read their body language to help improve the interview.
At the moment, there is no free version of SquadCast, though it does offer a seven-day trial and the basic package (2 hours of recording time a month) starts at $9 a month.
Between these four options (Zoom, Cleanfeed, SquadCast and Zencastr) you should be able to find a solution that fits around your budget and what you want to achieve. There is always Skype of course, but it does tend to be glitchy and a bit unreliable. The one redeeming feature is that if you are speaking to a guest who has no video conferencing skills whatsoever then by using Skype, you can record them via a phone call. Yes, an old fashioned phone call. Remember those!
As these last few months have taught us all, no remote meeting or – in this case – remote recording session, is without its glitches. Therefore, whether it’s a broadband issue, a computer RAM issue, or any number of other problems, it helps to have a backup plan. And here’s our favourite…
The easiest way to generate a backup of your interview is to simultaneously record your interview into your phone – and ask your guest to do the same. So, if you’ve already got a guest on Zoom, say – you can do that interview face to face and have that audio set to record. But at the same time, you can ask your guest(s) to record their audio at their end using the native voice recorder app they have on their smartphone. All they have to do is press record and place the phone to their ear as if they were making a call.
Once the interview is over, simply ask your interviewee to press stop, press share, and they can email it or WhatsApp to you to edit. Simples!