Remote podcast recording has become somewhat standard in the podcasting industry since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic. Prior to early 2020, most people didn’t know what Zoom was and many podcasters believed that the only true method of podcast recording was in-person.
However, perceptions have since changed and the tools available for such purposes have adapted to suit the demand. Therefore, I would like to highlight the 3 most popular methods of remote recording and briefly discuss some positive and negative aspects of each.
The easiest and most popular method for remote recording is to just host/record your conversation on Zoom. There are some key advantages to doing this:
- Easy to use
- Almost everyone is familiar with it
- Automatically enabled echo cancellation and noise suppression
- Supports Virtual Backgrounds
However, there are a few reasons why you might want to avoid recording your conversations on Zoom:
- Internet Connection
You are at the mercy of your internet connection and that of your guest. We’ve all heard the glitches and dropouts that can happen when one or both guests have an unreliable internet connection. With Zoom, what you hear is what you get and every glitch that you hear in the conversation will come through in the recording. This is not the case when you use the other methods discussed in this article. More on that later…
- Echo Cancellation and Noise Suppression
Zoom does a very good job of cancelling out echos (feedback that happens when one or more party is not wearing headphones) and suppressing noise (unwanted outside sounds from fans, dogs barking, etc). However, it does this in a very heavy-handed way that significantly degrades the recording quality. Constant noises such as fans or AC units are better left to the denoising process in post-production, where they can be removed subtly without affecting too much of the voice tone. These settings can be turned off, but you have to know where to find them.
- Quality Limitations
If you are looking to record high quality audio or video, Zoom is not your option. Video recording size on a Free plan maxes out at 720p (not great!) and audio is recorded in low quality mp3 format. To make matters worse, your video will be downgraded to the worst quality of all the cameras in the conversation. So, if you have 2 participants with nice webcams recording at 1080p and one participant with a 480p camera from the year 2000, all the cameras will be outputted to 480p in the final recording. Not ideal!
Zoom Recording (with local backup)
The next best option would be to use Zoom for your conversation, but record a local backup using your phone or computer’s voice memo app. If you have a usb microphone, you can record into the voice memo app on your computer (Voice Memos on macOS or Voice Recorder on Windows). If you don’t have a USB mic, you can use the default app on your phone (Voice Memos on iOS or Voice Recorder on Android). If using your phone, try to prop the phone up on a stack of books or purchase a desktop phone mount so you can get the microphone on the phone within 12 inches of your mouth. This will give a clearer recording (less room noise) and cut down on the noise that get’s picked up from your computer’s fan.
The benefits of taking this extra step are:
- No glitches or speeding up/stretching of audio
- Good quality recordings are not dependent on internet connection
- No audio degradation from noise suppression
Please keep in mind that there are 2 very important requirements to making this method work:
- You must be using headphones on your Zoom conversation. If not, you will need to spend a lot of time editing out the other person’s voice out of your recording and vice versa.
- You need to record your Zoom conversation. You will use this recording to line up the “local backup” recordings before editing.
Some drawbacks to this method are:
- Lower recording quality
While this will typically give you a better recording than Zoom, it is still recording audio in mp3 format, which is lower quality than the WAV format that online recording platforms use.
- More complicated setup
Simply put, you have to set up more devices. This may not be a challenge for some people, but you may find that some of your more “technically challenged” guests struggle with setting up extra devices for recording. Also, some guests may not have headphones, which will render this process unusable.
- No noise suppression
This is a benefit if you or your podcast editor have access to post-production audio denoising software. However, if you don’t your recordings will sound noisier than they do on Zoom. Keep in mind that smartphones use condenser microphones, which pick up all the sounds and noises in your room!
- Not and option for video
This process will only benefit your audio recordings and cannot be used to increase the audio quality of your Zoom video recordings. Zoom likes to stretch and squish the audio a bit to compensate for internet lags, so the audio from these real-time recordings will not line up to the videos recorded on Zoom.
- More complicated file management and editing process
Your guests will need to send their voice recording to you (I suggest WeTransfer for this) and that recording will need to be lined up to your recording, using the Zoom recording as a guide. This isn’t a big deal for an experienced audio editor, but it adds another step and may seem overwhelming to a new podcaster who is just learning the process.
Remote Recording Platforms
These platforms are the gold standard of remote podcast recording. When you use them, you will have a conversation using a platform that looks and feels much like Zoom, but allows you much greater control over the recording process and delivers professional quality audio and video files.
Instead of succumbing to the mercy of a bad internet connection, a remote recording platform will record files locally on each participant’s computer and upload them to the platform in real-time. Once finished uploading, these high quality files are synced perfectly and optimized for editing.
Audio is recorded as high quality lossless WAV files and video can be recorded at quality up to 4k (if your webcam supports it).
As with all of the methods, though, there are some drawbacks to this:
These platforms are free to try out, but if you want to use them long-term or for a regularly-occurring show, you will need to pay for them, which adds a bit to the overall cost of running your podcast.
- Browser Limitations
Many of these platforms will only work on a desktop/laptop computer and most require you to use the Google Chrome browser. There are exceptions (Riverside has iOS and Android apps), but this can create issues for guests that try to log in using tablets or computers with other browsers (Firefox, Safari, etc). This is something you should to communicate to your guests before they hop on the call!
- Storage/Permissions Limitations
Because these platforms rely on local storage, all participants should have at least 1GB of free space on their computer for the recording to go smoothly. If you run out of space during the conversation, it could compromise the recording or create an error that causes you to lose the recording entirely! I have also run into issues where guests are using a laptop that was provided by a corporate employer and they did not have permission to enable the mic and camera through their browser, so that is something to keep in mind and watch out for.
- No Virtual Backgrounds
If you or your guest relies on the use of a virtual background, this may be an issue for you. At the time of writing, none of the major remote recording platforms support virtual backgrounds.
- Files need to upload
Keep in mind that the files need to upload to the server before you or your guest can close your browser window. With a good internet connection, this should happen almost immediately after the recording is stopped, but with a bad connection, it could take up to a half hour for a video recording. If someone accidentally closes their window early, each platform has a link you can send them to finish the upload, but this should always be done within 24 hours, otherwise you run the risk of losing those files.
I have tried the 3 most popular platforms (Riverside.fm, Squadcast.fm and Zencastr) and while none of them are perfect, I can tell you that in my experience, the most reliable platform with the best feature set is Riverside.
If you would like to try it out and don’t mind supporting Podfather Creative, please sign up using our affiliate link!
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