Lessons Learned from Recording a Podcast Remotely

All this talk of remote working is making me smile. I’m smiling because I’ve been doing this for years. Not just from home but recording podcasts remotely from all kinds of crazy locations thousands of miles from ‘home’.

When I sold my production company in 2014 I took on a project that had me travelling the world for about two years. It was great fun but unproven so I kept a couple of side-gigs in my pocket. They included producing two weekly podcasts, making commercials and providing tech support to a radio station.

I learned three things fast; discipline, systems and remote recording. The first two are self-explanatory but the third took some initial work.

At the time, the de-facto method for remote recording was to record a podcast with Skype. This worked pretty well in major cities where a good broadband connection gave you a solid link without dropouts. However, two things were niggling the fussy area of my mind. Firstly, that bubbly squeaky Skype sound was driving me crazy. On certain words it sounded like my guest was on the moon! Secondly, when travelling outside of big areas it became very sketchy and ‘moon quality’ sound was a dream. There were lots of drop-outs and mangled words, which could be fixed in editing, but it completely killed the flow and nothing could be done about that squeaky sound you get with apps like Skype or Zoom.

The work around was to use Skype to connect but other software to record. This worked like a dream. The most extreme example I can think of is recording a podcast with a guest in Dublin while I was on a yacht at Coffs Harbour NSW. The connection was terrible but the recording was perfect.

Technical issues aside, I also learned a lot about where to record a podcast. Occasionally I was able to use my network of radio contacts and grab proper studio facilities. More often, I was in hotels or apartments. That led to a lot of trial and error to figure what worked.

One of the top answers was a walk-in wardrobe. This I discovered with a voiceover buddy who turns over $100k pa from his studio near New York. He wanted to get into acting so split time between home and LA, where he literally stuck a microphone, laptop and lamp in the wardrobe and voiced promos for the nightly news on NBC. And I mean the Tom Brokaw/Brian Williams national TV news. Crazy!

There is a phrase in radio which says that ‘it’s what comes out of the speakers that counts’. Podcasting is an audio platform so listeners can’t see. If you’re in a wardrobe or have a duvet over your head it doesn’t matter once the sound quality is good. Listeners expect the same audio quality they get with a ‘professional’ radio station. Anything less and you are an amateur in their ears. The same goes for the quality of your content. While we have a million podcasts worldwide, you consistently see the professional ones rise to the top.

By comparison, all of this running around the world creating ad-hoc recording spaces, has made the art of turning a home based ‘remote working’ space into a usable recording area very simple. I have learned practically, yet professionally, how to record a podcast in any location and have it sound as good as anything on radio.

This has also opened up a whole new world. While I used to be tied to my studio location in Dublin, my podcast clients now have access to talent and guests anywhere. It also helps massively with scheduling time with hosts or guests. Of course, I still use studios, but rent them according to needs, budget and where my client is located.

So after years of remote working, under difficult circumstances, it does make me smile to see people excited about working from their own homes. Welcome to the party!

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