Industry experts shared their best tips for recording remotely.
When COVID first began, podcasters everywhere were scrambling to figure out how to record their shows remotely.
And even once the pandemic ends, it seems that remote recording will be here to stay.
In a panel at Podcast Movement 2021, Relationary Co-founder Clark Buckner sat down with a group of editors and producers who shared their best advice for capturing great audio and making guests feel comfortable while recording remote podcast sessions.
Overcoming technology hurdles
If you’re an editor who is used to focusing all your energy on getting the best audio quality, the switch to remote recording may require a shift in mindset, explained producer and engineer Anthony Luciani.
“You’re at the mercy of the client,” he shared. “It hurts my audio engineering heart, but you have to make it as easy on the client as possible, which does come with some sacrifice, and having to learn to let your pride go as an audio person.”
Claire Bidigare-Curtis, executive producer and sound designer at Soundrop Studios, added that it’s important to make sure the host can focus on doing a great interview rather than feeling overwhelmed by technology issues.
“It’s a balance of making sure that you get audio, because as engineers that’s what we want,” she explained. “But it’s also very important to have the client be happy as well.”
To help keep the process as simple as possible, Daylily Media Founder Grace Fuisz shared the three essentials she focuses on in every recording session.
First, make sure the guests and hosts are wearing earbuds. Second, record in multitrack, which is easier now than ever as platforms like Zoom have added this feature. Finally, Fuisz recommends having one person — whether it’s a producer or the session engineer — sit in on the recording and listen for background noise and interruptions, so they can let the host know when to re-state a point or start over with a question.
Luciani also stressed the importance of recording multiple backups, especially if you’re using a platform that doesn’t do so automatically.
The importance of preparation
While an engineer can fix certain issues during or after a recording, the best way to ensure an interview goes smoothly is by preparing before it starts.
AJ Meyers, producer and project manager at Made by Meyers, stressed the importance of making hosts feel comfortable and prepared before they go into the session. Simple steps like sending a one-sheet with information about the interview and doing test calls to make sure the technology is set up correctly will help minimize the stress of everyone involved when it’s time to hit record.
“You can fix a lot in post, but you can’t fix a frustrated voice in post. You can’t take out the anger or the frustration or the awkwardness you’ll get on a remote recording,” he explained. “A lot of what we do, especially in an interview style show, relies on the chemistry between the host and your guest to have a good interview. Those are things that you can’t fix later on. So getting it right from the start will save you hours of stress and headaches and constant emails about things that you just can’t fix.”
Bidigare-Curtis also recommended spending as much time as possible getting to know the platform you’ll be working with. For example, some platforms don’t work on mobile, and others work best in certain browsers. Knowing these things ahead of time can help you prepare your guests and troubleshoot quickly if something is not working correctly.
Fostering connection in a virtual recording
Especially when recording remotely, it’s extremely important to make sure that guests feel comfortable and able to connect.
Meyers recommends finding a platform that uses video, or even just running a separate Zoom call during the recording so that guests and hosts can see each other while conversing.
“It really can be underestimated how much the connection matters. Especially in an interview-style show, they’re reading people’s facial cues,” he explained. “You want it to feel like they know each other and they’re communicating. Investigate platforms that allow that.”
Buckner also shared some of the strategies he uses to make guests feel comfortable when he hosts a show. Those tips include:
- Start to open up the conversation before jumping into the formal interview.
- While checking sound levels, get the guest talking and feeling more comfortable.
- Record your intro after the fact so the conversation feels more natural.
- Don’t make the guest or host feel rushed.
- Let the guest know that everything can be edited and they can feel free to pause and restate anything that doesn’t sound right the first time.
And though remote recording often feels extra challenging or frustrating, the panelists encouraged people to view it instead as an opportunity to connect with guests you may not have the chance to interview otherwise.
“Remote recording is not going away,” Meyers argued. “Radio shows were always having people call in and recording and doing interviews. This is not something new, the technology is just getting better.”