A Technical Note
First, there are some technical concepts that we’ll cover quickly for those new to the world of podcasting. Whether you decide to record audio or video podcasts, there are specific features that will help you understand which recording method is more suitable for you.
Local recording – when you record locally, the recording will take place on your computer instead of over the internet. Local recordings will avoid disruptions caused by a bad internet connection and will ensure good-quality audio and video, regardless of your internet connection.
Separate tracks – suppose that during the remote interview, one of your guests coughs or there is a distracting noise coming from one of your guests’ sides. Having separate tracks will enable you to edit such noises and prevent them from affecting the whole conversation. By having each of your guests be recorded in different tracks, you’ll be able to silence any unwanted parts from a specific guest’s side without having to delete any content from the other tracks.
Compressed files – Some recording software will compress the audio or video files into a smaller file size when exporting it. The compression of your recording will result in quality loss, making the podcasts sound overall less professional.
Progressive uploading – with this feature, everyone’s track in the session will upload at the same time the recording is taking place. By having every member’s audio and video uploaded progressively in the background, you’ll make sure nothing gets lost if one of the members disconnects from the session before the end. Progressive uploading also makes the final upload time much shorter since the files are being uploaded during the recording.
In order to achieve the best quality for your podcast, you’ll want to choose a method that records local, separate tracks for every guest and delivers uncompressed audio and video files. This will create the illusion that you and your guests are all in the same room. Now, onto it– you also need good equipment.
Disclaimer: This guide is intended to help you upgrade your podcast set-up should you wish to improve the audio and video quality of your work. Don’t feel like you can’t start creating podcasts if you don’t have all these gadgets!
Choosing a quiet room
Your first step is to choose an adequate room to record. Wherever you record your podcast, try to find a quiet space with minimal background noise (turn off fans and other noisy devices).
Curtains, blankets, and carpets will help you minimize echoes during your recording. If you want to record a video podcast, be mindful of the lighting in the room.
Choosing your mic
You can always record your voice on your phone, but if you want to level up, you’ll need a proper mic.
A USB mic that plugs directly into the computer will do the job if you are recording from home. However, if you’re looking for more professional audio, an XLR mic with an audio interface will deliver a stronger sound quality.
Do note that XLR mics come with a connector that needs to be plugged into an audio interface, not directly into a laptop like the USB mic. Below are some of our recommendations:
- Starter option (USB): Fifine K669 USB Mic (~€40)
- Intermediate option (USB): Rode NT-USB Mini (~€99)
- Professional option (XLR): Electro Voice RE320 (~€260)
Related article: Choosing a Podcast Microphone
The position of your mic can make a substantial difference in the quality of the final audio. As a rule of thumb, you should have the microphone axis pointed at your mouth at approximately 10cm of distance. Additionally, incorporating a pop filter and a reflection filter to your mic will help get rid of hard plosive sounds (“p’s” and “b’s”) and echoes.
Choosing your headphones
To further isolate voices and minimize overlapping sounds, it can be helpful if both you and your guest wear headphones while recording instead of earbuds with built-in mics.
Without headphones, your guest’s microphone might pick up your voice from the speakers when asking questions. Headphones will give you more control over the sound and will make the post-production process much easier. Some options to consider are the following:
- Starter option: Audio Technica ATH-M30x (~€60)
- Intermediate option: Sennheiser HD280 Pro (~€90)
- Professional option: Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro (~€150)
Related article: The 10 Best Podcast Headphones [2021 Guide]
Choosing appropriate lighting and angles
If you are planning on recording video podcasts, lighting plays a crucial role. If the chosen room doesn’t have proper lighting, consider adding a webcam ring light and some extra LED lights (such as these kits from Neewer or Viltrox).
Regarding the light positioning, avoid placing lights directly above or behind you. Play with the lighting sources until you find the most flattering angles for your face – the three-point lighting technique can help you with that.
In most laptops, the built-in camera will create a slightly distorted, upward-leaning angle. Placing a webcam on your monitor will fix this problem while allowing for a broader view of the room.
Also, a good-quality external webcam will better process the lighting and increase the resolution of your video. Do note that cheaper webcams are very dependent on the room’s lighting to deliver a high-resolution image. Below you can find some recommendations for webcams:
- Starter option: Logitech C270 (~€40)
- Intermediate option: Logitech C930e (~€70)
- Professional option: Razer Kiyo Streaming Webcam (~€180)
Podcast Recording Software: Which one is Right for You?
Deciding which recording software to use heavily depends on the podcast format you choose. Perhaps you only want to focus on audio podcasts. Or maybe you want to record video podcasts. How about live streaming? The required software and processes will differ depending on which features you consider most relevant for your podcast.
- Audio podcasts will make it easy for your listeners to follow your show anytime, anywhere.
- Video podcasts will allow you to engage more your audience in the show and communicate visual objects and other relevant information during the sessions.
- Livestream podcasts, on the other hand, will allow you to interact in real-time with your audience and build a stronger presence on social media.
There are several platforms to consider when choosing a recording software. Let’s dive into each of these platforms:
Double-ender. A double-ender is a type of recording where each person records their audio locally on their computer or to an external device. After the interview, your guest sends you their audio file, and you can later stitch together the two ends of the conversation in the post-production process.
At this stage, you will need a more comprehensive recording software: Audacity, GarageBand, or Adobe Auditions all feature some of the tools you need to successfully produce a double-ender.
A double-ender prevents audio compression and avoids connectivity issues affecting your interview. However, the method requires your guests to record their own side of the conversation.
Be aware, this brings increased risks: guests may not know how to record themselves, their recording may fail, or (oh no) they may forget to press the record button.
Related article: Double-Ender Recording for Podcast Interviews with Remote Guests
Riverside.fm. The Riverside platform has some outstanding features that pose an important advantage over platforms such as Zoom and Skype. Riverside.fm records locally and works with separate audio and video tracks for every guest. This allows all recordings to be synchronized, making the post-production process even easier. The local recording files are RAW (i.e. uncompressed), therefore ensuring a higher quality file.
The platform also offers the option to live stream the remote recording on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch, allowing podcasters to increase their reach and build a stronger presence on social media. Although live streaming will require you to have a stable internet connection, Riverside.fm will also make a simultaneous local recording so you can distribute the session whenever you want.
Cleanfeed. Simple to use and good enough to start, this free browser application will allow you to record audio from multiple people simultaneously. For remote recordings, you need to create an account and send invitations to your guests. Guests will receive an email with a link to join the session. Be aware though, Cleanfeed is not a type of double-ender since the entire recording happens live. Depending on your needs and workflow, this can be a pro or a con.
Zoom. Easy to use and convenient, this platform has become one of the most popular tools among podcasters during these past months. The advantage of Zoom is that your guest is not required to have an account or download any software. Zoom will also record locally. The downside of Zoom is that it won’t separate tracks for each participant and the files will be compressed, which will downgrade the quality of the recordings. **Although Zoom supports live streaming, this feature it's not optimized for the platform.
Read a full comparison of Zoom and Riverside.fm.
Skype. Likewise, Skype is a popular tool due to its ease of use. Guests are required to have an account, but recording the call is free and has no time limit. Unfortunately, Skype is not the most reliable option when it comes to delivering a stable video call. The connection may drop, the audio can be fuzzy, and the video tends to blur. Similar to Zoom, the recording files will be compressed, therefore downgrading the quality of the podcast. For the sake of delivering high quality to your listeners, we would recommend avoiding Skype when possible.
Read a full comparison of Skype and Riverside.fm.
Although these platforms illustrate the options available in the market, there are other recording platforms out there. This article makes a good comparison of each.
No matter what you choose, remember the golden rule: the best quality in terms of recording software is achieved through (1) local recording, (2) separate tracks, and (3) uncompressed files.