Recording remote podcast interviews

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(Last Updated On: April 16, 2020)

Introduction

With the recent events calling for self isolation, the number of available podcasts increased even further, requiring every podcaster to improve their game. A great way to do this is to start recording remote interviews for your podcast.

In this article I will share the experiences and tests I have done while recording and processing some of the upcoming interviews. This is both for my podcast ‘Where Music Meets Technology‘ and for a few clients.

Approach

There are a few possible approaches. And of course this is assuming your interviewee cannot be in the same room as you right now.

The first one is to ask your guest(s) to record their audio at their end as well. Use claps as a cue to mark the recording on both ends and then mix the audio from both ends.

This works well if your guest is audio savvy and is willing to do so. The advantage is of course that the recording is not subject to call quality, internet latency and other glitches. Many podcasts with hosts who are not in the same location use this technique.

If this is not the case then you will have to resort to recording the entire call from your end. A few options then appear: you can record the meeting in some of the remote calling tools like Zoom. For others, this may be a paid feature or a third-party app.

The professional approach, which makes you independent from the calling tool you are going to use – which you cannot always control – is to record both ends in your DAW. This is my preferred approach if the recording on both ends is not possible.

The challenge is routing the audio coming from the other end (so the audio from the caller, the person being interviewed) to your daw.

While you could use third-party audio routing software, you won’t need this if you have an RME Babyface Pro, a Universal Audio Apollo Twin, or another audio interface that allows a loopback of the audio.

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Recording

With the Universal Audio Apollo used for testing, there are two options:

  • Route your microphone to the DAW directly, and then route MONitor from the Apollo to another track in the DAW.
    • With is approach, one track will contain the audio from your end, and the other will generally contain both.
    • The monitor is ‘what is being played on your computer’.
    • It’s great for having a full recording of both voices together, but the disadvantage is that the processing employed on both ends during the mixing and mastering process.
    • For example you might have to add additional plugins to improve the voice coming from the other end, as it will sound like, well, it’s coming from a telephone.
  • Route your microphone to the DAW directly, and the route the System audio to a virtual channel in the Apollo, and record that on another track.
    • With this approach, one track will contain the audio from your end, and the other will contain the audio from the other end. This depends on how your system configuration.
    • In my case, the microphone audio from my end can be heard via direct monitoring, but is not routed to the System virtual channel.
    • It’s great if you think you will need to apply different processes to each end. You won’t have to separate them out later and they are already positioned properly in the timeline.
    • On the other hand you will not have a recording of what the call ‘sounds like’ as a whole.

Of course you need to trigger recording on both tracks during the call from this to work. And there is nothing preventing you from doing all of the above at the same time, and then picking what is the best option later…

Testing

With the approach above for recording remote podcast interviews, I’ve tested most of the popular conference calling tools. Here are a few comments about each one of them:

  • Zoom – no issues, audio can be tested even when not in a meeting.
  • GoTo Meeting – you need an account at least in trial mode to be able to test. Otherwise you need someone to invite you for a test meeting.
  • Skype – by far the easiest to test as it not only plays test audio back, but also has a test call feature where you can record yourself and then listen back through the app.
  • Facetime – no audio testing feature, so I basically called someone to test.
  • BlueJeans – easy to test the audio during the settings stage
  • Google Meet – same, easy to test the audio during the settings stage
  • Webex – same, easy to test the audio during the settings stage

I’m not going to get into the rabbit hole – at least not yet – of discussing the audio quality of each one of them. There are a lot of variables involved in the process. But in the end they are all exposed to the conditions of the connection between you and the other end.

I have a bias towards Google Meet as it is included with the Gsuite or a Google Account, so a lot of people already have an account. But this has more to do with how pervasive and easy to use it is rather than call quality.

In the end the other party needs to be onboard and they might have a tool of their preference and you need to download and adapt to that.

Since virtually all of them have an audio testing feature of some sort, you can play with it in your DAW before the call, and make adjustments where needed.

Processing

In addition to all the podcast processing and production that happens after the recording, the quality of the audio recorded through the calling service – assuming you don’t have a clean recording they did on other end – is subject to different plugins to reduce its telephone like characteristics.

My go-to plugins for that task are the Zynaptiq UNVEIL, which makes it sound a bit more dry, and the Izotope RX De-click, which is adjusted to capture random clicks on the audio.

Recording Remote Podcast Interviews
Skype Audio

Conclusion

Recording remote podcast interviews is another chapter in the art of making podcasts.

Of course this applies to any other situations where you need to contact someone remote and record both ends of the call. Interviewing for a book you’re writing is an example.

If you need further assistance from me on this, please use the contact information on the home page or on the footer.

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