Recording | The Pod Paste Process Part 3

The recording phase is step 3 of the Pod Paste Production Process. Please go back to the introductory overview here to familiarise yourself with the full process. Alternatively, you can dive right into this part of the series and figure it out as you go.

You spend a month prepping for your interviews, scheduling guests, and choosing your theme song. You’ve started a few mockups for your podcast artwork. To top it off, you came up with a couple of quick and witty tagline elevator pitches for those networking moments at the latest Podcast Movement Event.

It’s time to record which should be the fun and easy part. The interview hasn’t started and you realise your famous Instagram influencer guest isn’t speaking much during the warm-up chat. You chalk it up to nerves.

The record button is hit but your guest is a tad confused as to how to answer your questions with the correct energy. They begin to get slightly annoyed and give you one-word answers. The interview ends and you have that feeling that it was average at best and boring at most.

You are dejected and scared to listen back and make edits due to the negative events during the recording. But you soldier on because you are a bleeding heart optimist and say, “It can’t be that bad!”

You listen, and it is that bad. On the first listen back, you start hearing and noticing things that you didn’t during the recording, like;

  • A terrible echo from the glass and marble office room you recorded in (it looked amazing in the photos)
  • The microphone was too far from the guest (now you are getting all of the terrible echoes from the room into the microphone)
  • The garbage truck and jackhammer outside the open window happened at the best parts of the interview
  • The company next door having a 70’s disco throwback party (with extra bass subwoofer) was conveniently being picked up by your $30 mobile phone podcast microphone

After all of that, you listen back, and one of the files only plays up until 20 minutes because the SD card is corrupted.

Expectations were high as you created a lot of hype around this guest to your followers and potential customers. Unfortunately, you are stuck with a sub-optimal recording. You have to scramble to get another guest on your show to hit your weekly publishing deadline by Sunday.

You just started your radio on-demand career, and now you feel like it’s over. What has a podcaster got to do?!

Plan Your Work | Work Your Plan

While the above scenario is an extremely over-the-top fictional event, a few of those exact things have actually happened to people that I know when they first started off.

The main culprits of a bad podcast recording session are usually one or more of the combination below;

  • Minimal interview prep for the guest
  • Minimal research on the guest
  • Minimal gear setup prep, testing, and acclimation to the room
  • Bad room acoustics, reflective (echoey) room and building sound treatment (outside noise leaking in)
  • Microphone placement

Fortunately, this can all be avoided with proper preparation before you even hit record. This can involve, but is not limited to; planning and strategy (pre-production link), a bit of research, and an experimentative “mock recording” before you sit down with most of your guests.

Mic Placement
Illustration from the Buzzsprout in-depth article on recording techniques

The pro-sounding and problem-free recording checklist

Without going too much into the woods, we’ve put together a quick checklist to help in the lead up to recording any guest or podcast episode. We tried to make it as broad as possible so it’s applicable to most situations and levels of podcasters.

Each tick box could be a post of its own and want to stay top-level with this. Each section also has a suggested time frame of when to do it and how long it takes.

Guest confirmation

  • The guest has been sent all information in regards to the interview/conversation You’ve received confirmation from them that they have read it
  • You may also look to send a few questions during this stage (this depends on your style – some hosts don’t like to give any questions, some give all questions, while others give none)
  • Ask if there are any subjects that are off-limits
  • Plan for the recording to potentially go 30 minutes over the end time

Do This: 7 days in advance
Time Needed: 15 minutes

Pre Interview | Research and Call

  • Research your guest thoroughly (it might even feel like stalking a bit, but it’s far from that, we promise!)
  • Read things they’ve posted
  • Listen to samples of them talking and watch videos
  • Try to find things that the guest hasn’t spoken about in-depth (Tim Ferriss and First We Feast do this very well. The guests are pleasantly surprised to be asked questions they have never been asked before)
  • Call your guest up and have a casual conversation around the topics and points of interest (To keep the interview fresh, no need to ask any questions here)

Do This: 3-7 days in advance
Time Needed:

Gear & Space Setup

  • This is if you are doing it DIY and aren’t using an audio production service (like Pod Paste) to record
  • Tell any neighbours that you will need them to be quiet for the next 90 mins or so
  • Listen and identify any loud noises and try to turn them off or quiet them down
  • Setup far away from windows or other loud sources (fridges, etc.) if possible
  • Setup near dense cloths and fabrics (couches, rugs, curtains) and if possible don’t record near hardwood floors, glass tables/walls/mirrors/windows, and marble counters
  • Check battery levels of your laptop or recording unit if it’s not plugged in
  • Restart computer and internet if possible to make sure everything is working clean
  • Do a 3-minute recording with yourself or a stand-in person and check that both microphones work well. Strive to record around 40-50% input.
  • Listen back to this trial recording and identify any issues. Repeat if there are offensive sounds.

Do This: A few hours to 2-3 days in advance (depends on the availability of space)
Time Needed: 30 minutes

Soundcheck/Warmup Conversation

  • This is seasonal dependent. as soon as you can enter the room, turn on all heaters or air-conditioners to make the place comfortable – keep these on right until you hit record
  • Make sure the guest is comfortably seated before placing the microphone in front of them
  • Make sure the microphone is within a fist distance or closer from the mouth of the speaker. Buzzsprout goes in-depth on this in an article here
  • Listen back with headphones for levels, microphone quality, room noise, etc.
  • Close all windows and turn off any heaters, air conditioning, or anything else that makes a loud buzzing sound that can be picked up from the microphone
  • Hit record once you and the guest feel comfortable

Do This: 15-60 minutes in advance of recording
Time Needed: 10 -15 minutes

Visual & Audio Recording Check

  • Perform a visual check on your gear within the first few minutes of recording. Don’t obsess, just be aware. Finding an issue in the beginning is much better than later
  • Make sure the recorder or laptop is actually recording both of you (yes, this happened to many podcasters)
  • Perform an audio check by listening with your headphones for the first few minutes

Do This: Immediately after you start podcast recording
Time Needed: 3-5 min

Ending The Recording

  • When you end, make sure to hit stop on the recorder or laptop. This seems ridiculous, but in the excitement and focus on your guest, not hitting stop on the recorder and just unplugging the equipment later may cause you to lose everything you’ve recorded
  • While your guest is still there – listen back to all files of your recording to make sure it’s all there
  • If possible backup your audio files immediately to another computer disk drive and/or the cloud

Do This: Immediately after you finish your conversation
Time Needed: 10 minutes

Hopefully, this list gives you a better framework to avoid pitfalls in the recording that can make your session an enjoyable experience rather than a nightmare.

We’ve found that having a good understanding of the recording process helps give confidence to a DIY podcaster that then comes across in the actual recordings. That list may have been a bit expansive, but in reality, we’ve really only scratched the surface.

Feel free to jump to step four of the Pod Paste Recording process – Post Production here.

We are here to help the world promote, grow, and create great-sounding podcasts. Consistency in quality from the content, audio fidelity, and marketing assets are what we strive to assist people with.

Get directly in touch with us here to find out how we can help you with your next project.