In case you didn’t catch our co-founder Steve’s webinar – No Studio, No Problem! we’re bringing it to you in condensed blog form!
In this post, Steve discusses the best ways to record a podcast when, for whatever reason, using a studio isn’t an option.
But, before we kick off – you’ll see some links below to products or other websites. There’s the chance that some of them will pay us a little something when you visit their site, but rest assured, they are only here because we want to chat about them and not because of any mega-bucks deal we have with them.
“Before the pandemic, in-person recordings were the norm, and only about 10% of our podcasts were recorded remotely.”
How to record?
So…let’s start by mentioning, broadly speaking, the three main ways anyone can record a podcast:
- In a studio with all the professional kit, expertise and soundproofing
- Out and about – using anything from professional kit to mobile phones
- Remote recording in a home studio or office
Before the chaos of 2020 (yes Covid, we’re looking at you!), podcasts were increasing steadily in popularity. Weekly listening was at about 18% of UK adults and there were around 1 million podcast series’ on Apple Podcasts. As the world fell in love with podcasting, audiences were demanding more and more professionalism from the medium, and the industry ramped up a gear. At this time, most recording (about 90% here at Bengo) was done in-person. Remote podcasting just wasn’t really a big thing.
Remembering back, we only devoted a couple of small points to it in our 2019 training programme for budding podcasters.
Studios were king
While in-person podcast recording was the norm pre-pandemic, a lot of podcasts (with a bit of money behind them) were being made in a professional studio. This was great, as it meant all the best tools to record a podcast were set up and ready to go: top-notch equipment, soundproofing, engineers on hand…the lot.
However, when the pandemic hit, sealing yourself with people in an airtight booth for a long time became a wee problem.
That’s when the tech stepped in. Initially, a lot of podcasters turned to Zoom and Microsoft Teams to record. Understandably, as it was what we were all using to talk to anyone outside of our own home. Even our grandparents got to grips with it.
The problem for podcasters with Zoom and Teams
So what’s wrong with Zoom and Teams? While they’re fine for 5-minute interviews with bumbling politicians or certain viral parish council meetings (Hello, Jackie Weaver!), they don’t provide the same quality and all-round service as other platforms when recording conversations that span 30 minutes and beyond.
Unless you were a bit of a whizz on the “Settings” tab, you’d like be recording everything into one piece of audio through one broadband connection. That’s not ideal if someone has a bad cough, or the Wi-Fi goes down halfway through an important conversation. To give these platforms their due, that’s because they were designed as work-enhancing software with offices, not podcasts, in mind. And, they can still be useful for podcasters as an emergency option if all other tech is likely to let you down.
So what should you use instead?
Enter… the podcasting recording platforms
Unlike Zoom or Teams, these platforms were created to enable high-quality audio and, and increasingly, video recordings over the internet from any location in the world. The capability of these platforms has really ramped up over the last couple of years: as a comparison, 90% of recordings we make are now remote.
And there are now plenty of them about. Each one has its own niche, pros and cons. Here are just a few we’ve come across to get you started while you find the one that could work for you.
Audio and video: Riverside (our favourite), Iris and Squadcast are set-up to recording high quality audio and video at the same time remotely. Riverside provides webinar capabilities too, which is one of the reasons why we like it.
Audio, video and editing: Soundtrap (owned by Spotify) and Podcastle will help you out with the laborious editing process post-recording. You record, they provide a transcription, you highlight the bits you don’t want, and the system edits it out for you.
Each platform does different things, so it’s essential that you do your homework before pressing record and figure out which one works for you.
The key things you need to be looking out for are:
- Recording guests on separate tracks: If there’s a noise disturbance at one end, this can be cut out and it won’t affect your podcast.
- All audio being recorded at the participants’ end: If one person’s WiFi cuts out mid-conversation, you don’t lose everything and can smooth this out in the editing process.
- Progressive file upload: Some platforms only start uploading audio once you’ve pressed stop. If so, it’s a real pain to ask your guests to stick around while their portion of the audio uploads. Look out for platforms that upload the audio as you’re recording so to reduce delays.
“We’ve road-tested all these systems over the years and in our experience,
Riverside provides the best tools to record a podcast.”
(These were true at the time of publication) As ever, cost is a big factor. Generally speaking, most platforms provide a decent affordable service for free or under £10 a month.
Cleanfeed: free options or £30 a month
Podcastle: free options available
Zencastr: offers free video recording (but there are better platforms providing this)
Soundtrap: most options below a tenner
Riverside: £7.50 a month for audio/video recording, which we consider a steal!
If you’re looking for a broader scope of tools, Podcastle and Zencastr premium services go for about £25 a month…but unless you’re requiring lots of different functions, you won’t really need to shell out for this. It’s worth noting too that there are many training videos available on YouTube for checking out which one suits your needs.
Still unsure? Well, not to blow our own trumpet, but we’ve road-tested all these systems over the years, and we know what’s what. In our experience, Riverside provides the best deal balancing cost and functionality. And we’re not getting paid to say this either, so you know it must be true!
To give you a real-world example, Jess Morgan and Cass Bodington commission us to record, edit and publish their podcast: Business, Babies & Bossing It (do give it a listen, and while you’re at it… check out their awesome case study) so that they can concentrate on the editorial. We use Riverside to record the podcasts.
For one particular podcast recording, we had several people on the recording across 5 locations and 4 different time zones. Jess and Cass (in Wales but about 30 miles apart) were interviewing Gabrielle Stone, an actor based in Los Angeles. We then recorded their interview using a producer in Cyprus at the time and an audio engineer based in Poland.
Logistically, it all sounds like a nightmare. But thanks to the tech, it went seamlessly, so it’s a big relief to know that Riverside is pretty reliable in those kinds of situations.*
*it’s always wise to stick a little caveat here and say that technology is awesome until it isn’t, so it’s always good to have a Plan B 🙂
5 Tips for an awesome remote recording
Obviously, it’s not just about having the right tech to hand.
As useful as these podcast recording platforms are, you’ll also need a decent setup wherever you are before you start recording. Here are 5 tips to get the very best out of your recording.
- Get a good computer. Don’t knock the obvious! Everything you do for your podcast will be going through this baby. That means communications, recording, editing (if you’re not subbing it out… ahem… feel free to chat to us about that) artwork, marketing, and so on. Make sure it’s running well on up-to-date software and doesn’t sound like a faulty air-con on its last legs. If you’re thinking “oops, that sounds like mine,“ consider a serious MOT or upgrade for your own sanity.
- Consider a USB microphone. These make a massive difference to sound quality when recording. They’re easy to plug in, come with a stand and you can get decent ones at very affordable prices – no need to break the bank!
Make sure you get a directional mic, not a condenser: that way, you’ll only pick up sound directly in front of it. We like the Samson Q2U – available on Amazon ranging between £60 to £90.
- Use headphones.
There are two types of people in the world: the ones that take headphones with them everywhere and the ones who’ve never taken them out of the mobile phone box they came in. For podcasting, you need to be the first kind. Headphones are vital so that you can hear what’s going on during recording. Again, no need to shell out: the ones that came free with your smartphone are usually enough to do the job. The one thing we would advise against is using in-built microphones on office headsets. The sound quality just won’t be up to par. If you need pointing in a good direction, try these.
- Prepare your makeshift studio. Now, this one is a hefty enough point to warrant its own subsections…
i. Dull / dampen down any hard surfaces
The best podcast recording spaces are usually small and enclosed with as few hard surfaces as possible. You want to minimise any echo or reverberations from your surroundings. How do you do that at home or in the office? Tablecloths, towels, pillows and even duvets are really handy to cover up hard surfaces – or even to burrow under…if you don’t mind the heat! Check out podcaster Cass Bodington demonstrating… –>
ii. Remove items (people or pets!) that may cause a noise…
Re: kids, pets, spouses; try and podcast when your home /recording environment will be at its quietest. We’ve seen it many times on news channels over the years. Try to avoid becoming an internet star that way!
iii. Plug an ethernet cable into your internet router
It also goes without saying you’ll need a strong Wi-Fi connection too. An ethernet cable is more reliable, so if you’ve got one, use it.
iv. Have a backup plan if the tech fails…
Make a list of all the tech you’re using and what to do if it fails. For example… consider asking every guest to also record into their smartphone’s voice recording app – you never know when you may need it!
5. Prepare your guests. Help your guests sound as professional as possible by checking the recording platform works with them before the day of the recording. It’ll put all minds at ease and lead to a much smoother recording day. It’ll also give you a chance to check out the location your guest will be in and remove any potential recording hazards like ticking clocks or buzzing fridges.
How Team Bengo can help your podcast recording
Obviously, not everyone has the time (or need) to become an overnight podcasting whizz from home. So if you’ve enjoyed reading this but don’t fancy your chances as a self-sufficient sensation, let us help. We offer a range of options depending on your needs.
If you’re a PR company looking to outsource podcast editing, you can send us your audio and we’ll work some magic. Alternately, we’re very happy to pass on knowledge through our podcast training courses. Be it a bit of consultancy, training, recording and editing, or producing the whole thing, we’ve got your back.
We’re always happy to have a chat, so book a discovery call with Steve to see how we can help you.
Wishing you all the very best of luck with your podcasting endeavours!