April 15, 2024

The best ways to remote record a podcast interview, ranked

An experienced audio engineer ranks the best ways to remote record a podcast interview, from lowest to highest quality.
April 15, 2024

The best ways to remote record a podcast interview, ranked

An experienced audio engineer ranks the best ways to remote record a podcast interview, from lowest to highest quality.
April 15, 2024
Newt Schottelkotte
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Podcasting is arguably one of the most conducive industries for remote work right now. Whether you live in New York, LA, or Medicine Bow, Wyoming, many of the podcast jobs on the market right now are available from your home computer. 

This extends to not only the people making podcasts, but guests, consultants, and anyone you need to interview. Based in Chicago and need to bring a rancher from Montana on the pod? No problem! 

As someone who has captured the audio of non-local guests via everything from tape syncs to Google Meet calls to in-studio sessions, here’s a library of options for remote audio capture ranked, in my experience, from worst to best.

Phone call

If you're just looking to transcribe audio to text, or there are no other options for recording audio, recording a phone call will do the trick. 

There are apps like Google Voice or TapeACall, but these can often be restricted by phone software, and you may need to poke around in your phone's settings to see if there’s a built-in recording option. 

Either way, you won't be getting the best audio. When you talk on the phone into the device's microphone, what’s mainly getting captured are called presence frequencies. These are the frequencies of your voice typically between 4–6 KHz, and is the range of the human voice our ears are best at picking up. While that’s great for being able to hear and understand someone over the phone, it means that you miss the full spectrum of the human voice (and if your speaker has an especially high or low-pitched voice, they'll be more difficult to understand in general). 

Tinny or garbled audio does not a good podcast episode make, especially if your guest is located in an area with less than stellar cell service. A phone call gets the job done, but if you can afford it production-wise, it's best to see what other methods are available.

Virtual meeting platforms

Virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Google Meet are one step up from a phone call. This method works best if the guest is also recording themselves into a Digital Audio Workspace, or DAW, with a good microphone and a quiet space. I prefer to use call recordings in this situation as a backup, with the remote self-recording being the primary source. Again, if the source's connection is spotty or the video call service doesn't prioritize audio (as many rank video higher on the quality needs list), you won't be getting a great-sounding interview.

Remote recording software (like SquadCast)

For recording video call interviews with a service that does prioritize audio quality, remote recording platforms like SquadCast are a great bet. These platforms capture recordings of each person’s audio and video at the source, negating the effect of connectivity issues on recorded audio. 

SquadCast

In the case of SquadCast, it does this using a feature called Progressive Uploads. This auto-saves the call recording every few seconds as a backup for when the locally recorded call isn't available. It has integrations with Descript and other collaborative file sharing services like Dropbox for multi-person production teams, plus built-in mixing and mastering tools. 

The drawback is, of course, that you can still be working with a guest who is unfamiliar with best recording practices, has a poor recording setup, or is calling in from a loud or disruptive environment. While you can't fully account for user error or extraneous environmental variables, SquadCast is still your best bet for self-directed remote recording.

Tape sync

When I was in college, one of the ways I cut my teeth as an engineer was through doing tape syncs. For the uninitiated, a tape sync is when a production has a guest they can’t record with in-person, but want to get the highest quality audio they can from a person without a recording setup. This can also be used to record an in-person interview between the host and a guest, with a third party doing the recording so that the host can focus on interviewing, or when the interview is a mobile walk-and-talk through a location. 

The production will often put out a call for a tape sync needed (the Public Radio NYC email group is a great one to join for engineers looking to pick up calls, or producers looking to put them out), and an engineer local to the area will bring their recording gear to the guest's location. The engineer will set things up to capture the best quality audio possible, do the occasional bit of education on best recording practices, and either monitor the recording during the call or follow the guest and host throughout the walk-and-talk. Once the interview is finished, the engineer will send the deliverables to the production and invoice for their time.

What makes a great tape sync is twofold: gear and professionalism. Productions will often ask for a list of the engineer's gear when choosing who to hire because they want to ensure that said gear is not only of good quality, but right for the job at hand. I have both a stationary kit containing a mic stand, a pop filter, a small portable preamp, and my AT2020 (which has a flat frequency response, making it a great-sounding mic for a range of voices), as well as a more portable kit with a Zoom H4n recorder and a windscreen.

Professionalism is also key: keep things polite, don't be afraid to ask questions about the space or the production's needs, and be punctual. Many shows with the resources to do tape syncs come from larger production houses with tight schedules who value quality and need their audio recorded and sent promptly.

The variety of options for gathering remote audio can sometimes feel overwhelming with some more obviously preferable than others, but it’s important to remember that each can be the best fit for certain situations. Sometimes your guest can only be reached over the phone; sometimes their connection is spotty and you need a constant backup of the recording; sometimes there’s a line item in the budget for a tape sync and sometimes there isn’t. The strongest tool in your toolbox is to know what your options are, and when each one is the best fit.

Newt Schottelkotte
Newton “Newt” Schottelkotte is an all-around podcasting person and the head of Caldera Studios. Check them out at https://newtschottelkotte.com/
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The best ways to remote record a podcast interview, ranked

Podcasting is arguably one of the most conducive industries for remote work right now. Whether you live in New York, LA, or Medicine Bow, Wyoming, many of the podcast jobs on the market right now are available from your home computer. 

This extends to not only the people making podcasts, but guests, consultants, and anyone you need to interview. Based in Chicago and need to bring a rancher from Montana on the pod? No problem! 

As someone who has captured the audio of non-local guests via everything from tape syncs to Google Meet calls to in-studio sessions, here’s a library of options for remote audio capture ranked, in my experience, from worst to best.

Phone call

If you're just looking to transcribe audio to text, or there are no other options for recording audio, recording a phone call will do the trick. 

There are apps like Google Voice or TapeACall, but these can often be restricted by phone software, and you may need to poke around in your phone's settings to see if there’s a built-in recording option. 

Either way, you won't be getting the best audio. When you talk on the phone into the device's microphone, what’s mainly getting captured are called presence frequencies. These are the frequencies of your voice typically between 4–6 KHz, and is the range of the human voice our ears are best at picking up. While that’s great for being able to hear and understand someone over the phone, it means that you miss the full spectrum of the human voice (and if your speaker has an especially high or low-pitched voice, they'll be more difficult to understand in general). 

Tinny or garbled audio does not a good podcast episode make, especially if your guest is located in an area with less than stellar cell service. A phone call gets the job done, but if you can afford it production-wise, it's best to see what other methods are available.

Virtual meeting platforms

Virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Google Meet are one step up from a phone call. This method works best if the guest is also recording themselves into a Digital Audio Workspace, or DAW, with a good microphone and a quiet space. I prefer to use call recordings in this situation as a backup, with the remote self-recording being the primary source. Again, if the source's connection is spotty or the video call service doesn't prioritize audio (as many rank video higher on the quality needs list), you won't be getting a great-sounding interview.

Remote recording software (like SquadCast)

For recording video call interviews with a service that does prioritize audio quality, remote recording platforms like SquadCast are a great bet. These platforms capture recordings of each person’s audio and video at the source, negating the effect of connectivity issues on recorded audio. 

SquadCast

In the case of SquadCast, it does this using a feature called Progressive Uploads. This auto-saves the call recording every few seconds as a backup for when the locally recorded call isn't available. It has integrations with Descript and other collaborative file sharing services like Dropbox for multi-person production teams, plus built-in mixing and mastering tools. 

The drawback is, of course, that you can still be working with a guest who is unfamiliar with best recording practices, has a poor recording setup, or is calling in from a loud or disruptive environment. While you can't fully account for user error or extraneous environmental variables, SquadCast is still your best bet for self-directed remote recording.

Tape sync

When I was in college, one of the ways I cut my teeth as an engineer was through doing tape syncs. For the uninitiated, a tape sync is when a production has a guest they can’t record with in-person, but want to get the highest quality audio they can from a person without a recording setup. This can also be used to record an in-person interview between the host and a guest, with a third party doing the recording so that the host can focus on interviewing, or when the interview is a mobile walk-and-talk through a location. 

The production will often put out a call for a tape sync needed (the Public Radio NYC email group is a great one to join for engineers looking to pick up calls, or producers looking to put them out), and an engineer local to the area will bring their recording gear to the guest's location. The engineer will set things up to capture the best quality audio possible, do the occasional bit of education on best recording practices, and either monitor the recording during the call or follow the guest and host throughout the walk-and-talk. Once the interview is finished, the engineer will send the deliverables to the production and invoice for their time.

What makes a great tape sync is twofold: gear and professionalism. Productions will often ask for a list of the engineer's gear when choosing who to hire because they want to ensure that said gear is not only of good quality, but right for the job at hand. I have both a stationary kit containing a mic stand, a pop filter, a small portable preamp, and my AT2020 (which has a flat frequency response, making it a great-sounding mic for a range of voices), as well as a more portable kit with a Zoom H4n recorder and a windscreen.

Professionalism is also key: keep things polite, don't be afraid to ask questions about the space or the production's needs, and be punctual. Many shows with the resources to do tape syncs come from larger production houses with tight schedules who value quality and need their audio recorded and sent promptly.

The variety of options for gathering remote audio can sometimes feel overwhelming with some more obviously preferable than others, but it’s important to remember that each can be the best fit for certain situations. Sometimes your guest can only be reached over the phone; sometimes their connection is spotty and you need a constant backup of the recording; sometimes there’s a line item in the budget for a tape sync and sometimes there isn’t. The strongest tool in your toolbox is to know what your options are, and when each one is the best fit.

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