10 Tips For Higher Quality Remote Recordings
A must-read for all Zoom, SquadCast, riverside.fm, Zencastr, and Iris users.
Well over half of all the podcast episodes we receive to edit are remote recordings. The quality of these recordings are more often a miss than a hit. This is why I created 10 tips to help podcasters greatly enhance the quality of their remote recordings.
1) Privacy is a Priority
There are 2 main factors that need to be considered before hitting that record button. The quality of the source (the person being recorded and the equipment being used by said person) and the condition of the recording environment (the room you record in). All audio editors and engineers learn early on that a quality recording starts at the source. If the source quality is the main priority, then a private noise-free room or recording environment is a close second.
Imagine someone put a microphone in front of you right now and started interviewing you about your life. Pause. Take in your current surroundings. Maybe you're at home, or the office, or maybe a coffee shop. Now close your eyes and listen to your surroundings. Maybe you hear the buzz of fluorescent lights or the hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen. Maybe you hear someone talking or cars driving by. All the sounds that you're hearing will be picked up by your microphone. Microphones, especially condenser mics, are extremely sensitive. Don't rely on post production editing to fix recording problems. Editors can perform miracles, but there are certain things that can't be fixed.
Both you and your guest should make it a priority to record in a private and noise-free environment when possible. Not only is privacy important for sound quality, it also plays a large role in the comfortability and focusability of your guest. Minimizing as many potential distractions as possible will allow for a relaxed and engaging interview.
2) Always Use Headphones
Is there an echo in here? That's what you'll be saying when you playback the interview you just recorded without headphones. There's a good chance that your voice will be captured in your guest's recording if they're not using headphones. Your voice will be slightly delayed in their recording, which gives you that unwanted echo effect when you combine the tracks together.
And yes, cheap earbuds are better than no headphones at all. Making headphones a prerequisite for your future interviews is a great way to avoid any echo problems in the future. Your editor will thank you.
3) Avoid the Built-in Microphone
Built-in microphones, like those on your laptop or cell phone, are designed more for functionality than quality. Microphones have become extremely affordable and easy to use. I often get asked about USB microphones. I always hesitate to suggest purchasing a USB mic for multiple reasons that I won't get into in this article, but I completely understand the need for an affordable and user friendly option. The quality of USB microphones has gone up and even I can't deny their ease of use.
I found one USB mic in particular that balances quality and affordability:
If you're looking to upgrade to a higher quality recording setup, I'd be happy to provide equipment recommendations for you that would work well with your podcast style, the current equipment you own, and your recording environment. Jump over to the contact page and fill out the form to get started.
4) Keep the Microphone Close
Now that you've invested into a nice microphone for your podcast, make sure to keep it close to your mouth! Avoid moving around too much while you're speaking to keep the volume level and sound of your voice consistent.
I'll be writing a separate article about microphones and recording techniques so be on the lookout for those. Subscribe to receive an email notification when I post a new article!
5) Mic Check!
I always suggest performing a brief test recording with your guest before beginning the interview. Capture 10 seconds of yourself and your guest speaking at a normal to loud volume. Playback this test recording and listen to the quality. Can you hear both yourself and your guest at a fairly equal level? Do you hear any distortion, echoes, or strange noises in the recording? If not, great! Then go ahead and start the interview. If you do hear any problems, you'll be relieved to find them now with time to remedy any issues and not after the interview is finished.
6) Say No To Bluetooth
I'm a big fan of bluetooth headphones. I own a few different pairs. Super convenient and fairly reliable. But I would never use them for important interviews. The portability, built-in microphones and noise cancellation features make them seem like a go-to tool for recording podcasts, but here are a few reasons why they should be avoided:
Latency Have you ever watched the news when there's someone being interviewed outside of the studio? A question will come from the studio, there's a few seconds of silence and then the other person answers. That's latency. This occurs with bluetooth devices as well. Not as drastic of course, but there's latency nonetheless.
Poor Sound Quality In order to reduce latency and bluetooth transfer speeds, the sound quality is drastically reduced. Mainly in the microphone, but in the headphones as well.
Audio Dropouts Not only will you need to worry about a potential WiFi dropout, now you need to be concerned if whether or not the bluetooth connection is stable. Hopefully they are fully charged too!
Agressive Noise Cancellation Noise cancellation algorithms have improved in recent years, but they're still not ideal for recording purposes.
7) Turn Off Your Camera
If you're hosting an interview via Zoom or any other similar service, I highly suggest turning off your camera view. I'm not saying to fully turn off your camera so your guest can't see you, but to simply turn off or hide the view of yourself. This will prevent or reduce any self-conscious thoughts you may be experiencing when you see yourself. Turning off your camera will also keep your attention focused on your guest and the interview. No more quick glances to make sure you're not slouching or making weird faces.
8) Turn Down Your Screen Brightness
This tip is for anyone who's experiencing an issue with their laptop fan turning on in the middle of recording. This is a big pain if you're also stuck using the computer's built-in microphone. A quick way to remedy this issue is turning down the brightness of your screen and turning off any keyboard backlight.
9) Close Unnecessary Computer Programs
To piggy-back off the reasoning for the last tip; closing any unnecessary computer programs while recording will also reduce the potential for your computer fan coming on. Less noise is always better.
10) WiFi is Not Your Friend
Even the fastest connections can suffer from occasional dropouts. Closing all WiFi draining programs like web browsers with YouTube or Netflix open will save the full bandwidth of your internet connection for recording your interview.
Bonus tip here: If your guest is tech savvy, ask them to record the interview on their end as well. That way in case there's a brief dropout during the interview because of a WiFi issue, there will be a backup file recorded on your guest's computer that they can send you. Then you or your editor can align the audio files and salvage what was lost.
Nothing beats in-person interviews, especially if it's with someone you're really excited to meet. Remote interviews are often more convenient, easier to schedule, and are far more reliable than they used to be a few years ago. We know that remote interviews are here to stay so knowing how to capture a high-quality sound is important.
If you learned something new or found an idea particularly helpful, please like and share this post. Let me know in the comments below if there are any techniques you use to increase the quality of your remote recordings.
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- Sterling Skye