In the last couple of years, especially with the pandemic, everybody has gotten used to using remote podcast recording tools like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. But now, as we’re emerging from isolation, the opportunity to record podcasts in-person is opening up for us. Which is better, in-person recording or virtual podcast recording? Tom Hazzard flies solo in this episode to explain the advantages of recording your podcast in person. Tom explains the crucial difference between recording virtually and recording in person. He also breaks down the equipment you may need to record a podcast in person, from the simplest setup to more complex setups like some Podetize clients have. Join in for some great tips!
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
What Are The Advantages Of In Person Recording Vs. Virtual Podcast Recording
I’ve got a great topic for you. This will be useful for every podcaster, whether you are experienced or a newbie. In the last couple of years, especially with the pandemic, everybody has gotten very used to remote recording and using a tool like Zoom, Riverside, StreamYard, and SquadCast. There’s Google Meet, which I don’t like. There’s also Microsoft Teams, which I like even less.
There are lots of different tools out there you can use to record remotely, and we’ve all gotten used to them. We’ve gotten comfortable with them. Nobody is isolated very much anymore, but we’re getting much more comfortable being in person with people. We’re starting to go to events again. I’ve had a lot of questions here at Podetize about how to record people in person. They’re like, “Do we need any different equipment? How easy or hard is it to do?” I want to break some of that down in this episode. I’ll talk about some of the pros and cons and arm you with a little more information so that you can be best prepared if you decide to record someone in person.
In tools like Zoom, you need a microphone with a USB cord, a USB interface, and your computer. If you’re having an interview or a discussion between two people, we do this all the time where Tracy has an office that’s 50 feet away. When we’re doing a podcast recording together, we’re in different rooms. We’re on Zoom. That works well because it isolates us and our voices from each other. We each have our own cameras.
When we did these coaching calls, a lot of the time, we used to sit side by side. We’re squeezing in together and putting one microphone between us. It’s nice to get us side by side on camera, but it’s not the best for audio quality. Tracy’s voice is louder than mine. It’s hard for our team to change the audio levels because if we’re both speaking into one microphone, we’ve got one track recording the two of us. You can’t adjust that well. That was great during the pandemic. Everybody’s remote. Maybe most of the time, we’re all remote, and that’s fine.
Recording In Person, The Old School Way
A lot of people have been asking me, “What about recording in person? I’m traveling. I want to get out. What equipment do I need? How easy or hard is it?” That’s what I want to talk about. The vast majority of us podcasters are pretty used to those remote meeting tools like Zoom, Google Meet, SquadCast, or Riverside. We have all these different tools. All you need is that USB microphone, a good quality one that reduces noise and is very directional. What about when you have people in person? I want to talk to you about what it takes to do that. You need a different kind of equipment because eventually, you’re going to connect it to a computer if you’re going to do remote.
If it’s just the two of us, we could sit and record that audio or video on us and that’s it, but oftentimes, we would do this all the time with one of our co-hosted podcasts. We have a guest, so we’re both on with the guest. That guest is remote, even though we’re together in the same room. Similar things can happen. You need another device. This was early podcasting. We started researching. We were novices. We were researching blogs. We got this big mixing board, which is a serious piece of equipment. It was way overkill for what we needed. We used about 1/3 of what it’s capable of. That was okay. It was fine.
I have a microphone. Tracy is on the other side of the desk and has a microphone. They’re both going into it. We can adjust our levels with that mixing board, which is what that’s for, but it was still mixing us into one track to a recording device, which is not ideal. That’s why we wanted to mix those levels and get them right. We had it connected to a USB interface to put the audio into the computer. It was to use it over Zoom so our guests could hear both of us and we could hear them. It was a pretty complex setup. It was about $1,500 worth of equipment.
Fortunately, things had gotten a lot easier. You don’t need to have a big mixing board necessarily. One of the reasons we did have a mixing board in the past is something that modern software has taken care of. I want to share this with you so you understand how easy software has made these things. We used to use Skype way back in the day to connect with remote guests. I don’t recommend that anymore.
First of all, when Microsoft bought Skype, it ruined it in many ways. They made it much harder to use. They got rid of all these third-party apps or plugins that would help enhance more capabilities. Microsoft threw all of them out and started to try to build in those capabilities themselves. They didn’t do as great of a job with it. We did use Skype back then.
What you used a mixing board for was to create what they call a mix minus. This is old tech, and I’m not going to spend too much time on it. You wanted to make sure that the person that is on the other remote part of the Skype call is coming into the mixing board and then out so we could hear them. You don’t want their voice going back into the input and recording them again. There are a lot of technical reasons why, which truly don’t matter because almost nobody has this problem anymore.
You had a way that the audio you’re feeding back into them from the computer didn’t include their own voice. It only had your voices. That sounds odd, but it was the way things used to work. Modern software like Zoom handles that for you. That’s why we recommend you listen like me. I have a headset and earbuds that I’m listening with so that anybody I’m hearing over Zoom is coming into my ear. That’s important because my mic can’t hear them. Only my ear can hear them. It’s separating what I’m hearing from what the microphone is hearing. The microphones are only hearing me. That’s going to come back and be important in a couple of minutes.
In concept, the hardware separates the two sides of the conversation. The microphone going into the computer can’t possibly have the guest’s voice over Zoom coming through the speaker of my computer. That’s why we always recommend using a headset. Modern software like Zoom and all these tools do a good job of this. There’s no need to have a complex mixing board. Unless you have two people in person side by side, you want to level their voices. A mixing board will do it, but that is overkill.
Why Record Voices Separately?
When you’re recording two or more people in the same room on a podcast, ideally, you want to separate their audio. Each person speaks into their own microphone. If it’s a good directional microphone like the one I’m using, even another one in the room might hear me a little bit, but this one’s going to dominate and pick me up the most.
You want to get the recording for only that microphone and then a separate recording for any other mics in the room separated. That is so that audio editors can do their best job making everybody sound their best, change their levels, and eliminate them entirely. When I’m speaking, they can make the other mics silent. Even if those mics hear me bleeding over into them, they can eliminate it entirely.
When someone was talking at the same time, for editors, that gets a little tricky. The best scenario is that each person has a separate audio file. The modern remote recording software does that, but you need to be in different rooms. Otherwise, if we are in the same room on two computers with Zoom, then we hear each other through our ears in the room and then hear each other a little delayed. It can be annoying and take you out of your game. I’m hearing Tracy twice. One is live and then one is delayed a split second. That’s no good either. You don’t want that situation, so what do you do?
There are different devices that you can buy. Here’s one. It’s a ZOOM H6 digital audio recorder. It has these different microphone inputs. For those of you that always use a USB microphone, some of them and the ones we supply our customers have both a USB port and this large circle with these three-pronged metal connectors. That’s called an XLR port. You have a cable that is this big, thick cable. It’s this old-school, 50-year-old technology from the ‘70s. My dad was a musician. I remember as a kid. This was the technology still then. It hasn’t changed a whole lot because it’s a standard. You got to use these big cables.For most people, you don't need a whole lot of equipment to record a podcast. You don't need to spend a lot. A good quality microphone and your computer will do. Click To Tweet
It’s a lot of stuff to deal with, but this device can take up to six different inputs to different microphones on each side. Effectively, it’s a total of five microphones. One of them has a left and a right channel. There’s a dial for each one here to increase the volume level or reduce it. Before you start recording, you plug everybody in and listen to everybody’s voice. There’s a level meter. If you have a much louder voice than me where your resonance and your loudness inherently is louder, we can dial you down and raise me up to get us to the same level. That is what’s going to create that great listening experience for the podcast listener so that it isn’t loud and soft constantly.
You’re doing some of the work that a typical postproduction audio editor would do after the fact, but you’re mixing it so that it’s being recorded at that level. It makes it a little easier in some ways for the audio editor when they get it. You put a headset into here and listen to it. You can listen to everybody talk, get those levels down, and then record it. You can record this offline. It doesn’t have to be connected to a computer, but it can be connected to a computer. That’s an expensive device. It’s about $350 from what I’ve seen mostly on Amazon to buy them. We use them when we do in-person recording at events. We bring them with us, especially when we have multiple people.
There are other devices. This is a new device called Vocaster from Focusrite which creates a lot of audio interfaces. It’s got this XLR port. They have a version for two microphones. It plugs a USB into the computer. It’s made to help level those audios easily and put it into the computer. You all may not know this because you don’t see behind the scenes, but Tracy, at her computer setup, has a digital SLR camera. It’s a $750 camera on a tripod over her laptop. She’s not using the laptop webcam. She’s using a higher quality camera that’s plugged into the computer and streaming that video into the computer for a higher quality video. That camera has the capability to record.
This Vodcaster has an output that’ll go into the camera. If you’re using the camera to record offline, it will record the better audio from your microphones in the room into the camera rather than the ambient mic built into the camera, which is a nice feature. I was given this by Focusrite on loan to test it out and try it. I’m going to be doing a whole unboxing and review of this.
Recording With More Than One Person In The Same Room
I’m not going to go into all the details of that device. I wanted to show you there are devices like this that if you’re going to have more than one person in the same room, you need an interface to the computer that’s going to take more than one microphone. It will help you level those audios, get them to be what it needs to be, and then also feed them to the computer. It will give you the best quality sound and try to get more to that studio sound.
We have some podcasters we work with. The podcast is called The Clip Out. The hosts are Crystal O’Keefe and Tom O’Keefe. They’re husband and wife. I can relate to that because I’m a co-host with my wife and business partner, too. We produce for them on a regular basis. They have a camera in their studio. I’m saying this to you to tell you about the complex setup they have. Crystal is on one side of the table and Tom’s on the other. They each have these over-ear headsets. They’re trying to block out any other ambient noise and not hear any echo. They’re hearing each other through the system. I tend to like that when I have other people in the same room. It’s not required, but you can do that.
They have a mixing board set up that’s complex. Their microphones are big. These are XLR microphones. They’re using those big cables that I was telling you before that are connected to a mixing board. Their levels are done. There is a USB interface that is feeding into a computer, but they also have separate cameras on each of them. Beyond that, they’ll have a guest on Zoom.
They have a computer in the back. That’s the computer interface where everything’s feeding into. They have their guest over Zoom and are recording their guest video through Zoom. All their audios are going through an interface recorded locally and in Zoom. They’ve got lots of backups. They’re giving us at least four different video recordings. It is sometimes more because they’ll have more than one guest on these episodes. They’ll have one guest earlier and another guest later and our video team puts it all together.Many podcasters have a bigger podcast listenership or following than their YouTube following. So the audio is really critical. Click To Tweet
A Complex Setup Is Not For Everyone
The recording in person with the two of them to get high-quality audio is a pretty complex setup. They do it the same way every time. They have these boom mounts holding their mics and all these things. If you’re going to do this occasionally, you don’t need that complex setup. If you have experience with it and you know what you’re doing, then it’s great. If you’re going to do the occasional recording in person, probably a simpler device like the Focusrite or the ZOOM H6 is probably going to meet your needs. They’re both fairly portable. You got to plug more than one mic into them, but then each person has their own mic.
If you’re recording a video, you do want to think about how you’re going to do that also. Are you setting up different cameras or using a couple of cell phones? Cellphone cameras are incredibly good quality. There’s nothing wrong with recording video on a cellphone, but you might need a little tripod to hold one camera on you and one camera on the guest. Are you opposite or are you going to sit side by side? That’s what we like to do. If we’re going to sit side by side, we’ll have one camera on the two of us. We will then have a second camera coming at an angle only getting a close-up of me and another camera close-up getting Tracy. You get all these different video shots to edit between.
The audio is the primary thing that I wanted to talk about. What do you do when you’re recording someone in person? There are fast and loose ways. You saw us doing coaching calls where we put one microphone between us or we’re both on camera. You can do that, although the audio quality is not as good and it’s harder to edit. I highly recommend a different device recording separate audio tracks. It records to an SD card on this device and can still plug into your computer and stream.
You might have a different device like the Vocaster. There are other USB interfaces that allow you to plug in 2, 3, or 4 microphones. Focusrite has some others called Scarlett. They’re a little more complicated to set up but work very well, too. They have multiple inputs for multiple microphones for different people, but it’s going to mix them down into one audio track. There are lots of things to consider.
On Podetize.com, in the Feed Your Brand section, we do have a blog post. If you go into any of our blog pages, there is a search bar. You can search about ZOOM H6, microphone reviews, and all sorts of different things. With the ZOOM H6, we do have some tutorial videos on how to set up and use a device like that. They are detailed. They’re technical step-by-step videos, like, “Here’s what you need to do. Here’s how you set up that device.” If you need that support, you can check that out and also the benefits of it. There are a lot of resources there.
Recording On Streaming Platforms
In 2022 heading into 2023, in modern podcast recording, so many of us are using these streaming services, and for very good reason. You need and want to use an online streaming service that has the capability to record. You may want a better-quality USB camera. I’m even using an external USB camera. Mine’s not the $750 SLR. It’s a $50 USB one. It’s still better than the one built into the computer.
Most of us think of our podcasts as the main way people consume our content. Statistically, with all of our customers, that is true. In fact, I would say all of our customers have a bigger podcast listenership or following than they do a YouTube following. The audio is critical. The question keeps coming up. They’re like, “How do I record people in person?” There are lots of ways to do it from simple, fast, and loose. If you’re going to do it a lot, having the right piece of equipment and an extra microphone or two and understanding how to use it is going to produce better audio quality.
It is more advanced podcast logistics because when you use these devices, you’re going to get more recordings. You’re going to need to take the ones off the SD card and rename the files for who it is. You’re going to need to upload them to your producer or to us if you’re working with us to produce your episode. There’s a bit more logistics and work for you as a podcaster after the recording to get all that where it needs to be to become the fantastic audio and/or video experience that you want your audience to have.
I told you that example of The Clip Out. That’s weekly. Every week, they do that for their audience. We produce that at Podetize. We like all the multiple recordings. It’s easy for us to deal with because we’re used to it. You, as the podcast host, or whomever you have supporting you that is charged with gathering all those files and uploading them to your producer have a lot more to deal with. It’s inherently a little more complex, but great audio quality at the end of the day.
For most people, your needs are met by using a tool like Zoom. I don’t have a dog in this fight over what platform to record for remote recording online. I don’t have one that I advocate as, “It’s the best.” I’ve experienced an awful lot of them. I’ve experienced some of the pros and some of the cons of them. Every different one that I’ve experienced has had a problem and has had glitches in 2022. It doesn’t matter which one it is. None of them are perfect, but they’ve all gotten a whole lot better and do a much better job recording than they did a couple of years ago. That’s to the benefit of all of us.
For most people, you don’t need a whole lot of equipment. You don’t need a lot of expenses. A good quality microphone on your computer is about it with the exception of, “I’ve got somebody coming to visit me. I want to record them on my podcast. I want to do it the best way possible. What do I do?” This is why I wanted to share this with you.
I hope that’s been helpful. It’s meant to be an overview, not a deep dive technical. There are always good tutorials on Podetize.com. We have them. There are other tutorials on YouTube available to you to learn some of the technical ins and outs. It’s cool stuff. I’ll leave it there. Thank you all for reading. I’ll be back next time with another great topic.