Recording Podcast Interviews on Zoom and CleanFeed – Episode 11

Recording Podcast Interviews on Zoom and CleanFeed

Thanks for joining me as always! Today's episode comes from a listener question. If you have a question, you are always welcome to send me a voicemail by clicking on the purple button on the right side of the screen labelled "Send Voicemail" where you can record a 90-second voicemail! Now for today's question.

"Hi Mary, this is Ya-Ling from 'Conversations About Everyday Pain' and I was wondering as I'm preparing to get back into recording for the second season, which is now over a year delayed, but I will get back to it and I'm thinking about all the people I will be interviewing remotely now. And I just thought that I might like to actually record a video so I thought okay. Well, let's do a Zoom interview and then I wondered if because Zoom audio is not necessarily very reliable, I thought what if I also record the interview on CleanFeed and is that possible? So I'm asking you if you think there's some way to be able to get good audio maybe through CleanFeed or and record a video like Zoom for the interview. Thank you so much for taking my question."

Well Ya-Ling, so glad to hear that you're working on your second season, every action will take you to the launch of your new season and this question of your counts towards a step towards your goal. Prepping how to do interviews is one thing many many podcasters are afraid of and I'm hearing that more and more recently because everybody is online these days. So they hold back on working on their podcast because they don't have all their tech foundations in place. If you want interviews on your show, yes, preparation is key, but if you over-prepare or want to iron out all the details before you dive in, your voice isn't going to get heard, nor will your potential guests. So let's break this down a little bit more to dissect the overwhelm of recording online while still recording great sounding audio.

First off, let's break down the different options for recording and their pros and cons.

Ya-Ling mentioned CleanFeed and this is something I recommended to most of my clients. Cleanfeed.net is a browser-based audio recorder that lets you record, send, and receive high quality/broadcast-ready audio, created by former radio engineers, so you know they really care about audio standards. The main supported browser is Chrome and this is also handy for guests who have android devices, as Chrome is the main browser on their phones. You, as the host, create an account, then emails the participants an invite link. When the guest is ready for the interview, they don't have to install anything, but just click the link to open in a Chrome browser, which happens to be the browser on their phone. So if they don't have a mic, their mic on their phone is pretty good. Cleanfeed also records in separate tracks and you hit record and download the audio when the interview is complete. Or at any point in the recording, even in the middle of the recording. If you are afraid your audio is going to disappear into the internet, you can download it as often as you need to while you are doing your interview.

I really like this option as long as everyone has headphones and can use Chrome. The quality is amazing and it's like having a conversation on the phone, but with a drastically improved sound. The main reason why CleanFeed is the best choice for podcasting is because the audio is never compressed. So what I mean by this is if you're listening to audio from a Zoom call, Skype or other online conferencing platforms, Zoom automatically takes out some of high and low frequencies in the audio to make the file size smaller and adds in filters for noise suppression. This means your audio won't be clear and could potentially be very distracting to your listeners over a long period. If you think being on Zoom calls all the time is tiring these days, try listening to Zoom calls as podcasts over time; it's Zoom fatigue for your ears and brain.

Or think of your audio quality in terms of a picture. CleanFeed quality is taken with everything in focus and the perfect lighting. Zoom quality is when your picture might be blurry, grainy, out of focus, or perhaps it's too dark to see a lot of details. Or maybe your picture is off-centered or it's got filters on it and you don't want that making your picture over exposed. If it's blurry to begin with or you need to zoom in more, that picture isn't worth fixing. Trash it and move on. Same with audio. It all starts with great audio to begin with, so you don't have to mess around with it after the fact. Maybe you've heard the phrase, "I'll fix it in post." This means that you'll deal with the editing of the audio after the recording is done. And yes, there are times when that is handy, but if you can get the best audio to begin with, you are going to have a great sounding podcast.

Now the reason Ya-Ling asked her question is because CleanFeed, as I mentioned, is like a traditional telephone call. There are no visuals or videos, like on radio. It's the video portion that hogs all your internet bandwidth, so your best option is having no video. However, with all the social media and video platforms these days, podcasters would like that option to record a video at the same time. Or I even had a client who would very much prefer speaking to someone she can see. So OK, then what do we do?

As Ya-Ling wondered, can we record on CleanFeed and Zoom at the same time? The quick answer is yes. There are settings for your mic to make sure both can be recorded as long as every participant mutes their Zoom mics, so you only hear from the CleanFeed audio. But the downfall of this is back to bandwidth. Zoom's video might be delayed than the audio coming from CleanFeed, so the conversation might be staggered. And then, you'll have to remember, you muted your audio on Zoom, so you'll have to add back in your audio from CleanFeed. This way of recording is only best if you want high-quality audio, but want to see your guest and don't need the video for anything else. Another alternative I like is recording on CleanFeed on my laptop and then using your favourite video chat app of choice on your phone to see the person you're talking to. And again, muting everyone on the phone, so your mic doesn't pick up the audio from your phone.

However before you record an interview, let's go back to the beginning. Start by asking yourself, what is most important for you on your podcast? Is it audio quality? Ease of use? Wanting to repurpose video content? Also, think about the time you have in post-production. What do you want to achieve with the videos being recorded? If you know what you value the most, you'll find your answer. I have clients who care only about the highest quality audio, so they only use CleanFeed. I have a client who can only deal with ease of use, so she only uses Zoom with a few settings tweaked to make it sound better. So if you really want that video, Zoom is a pretty convenient option.

So what are the alternatives? There really isn't a great podcasting alternative yet. There is Squadcast, which records high-quality audio and has a video portion. It's very seamless for your guests and saves audio during the recording. Although they do not record video, that is a feature they are working on in the future. The video they have is only for ease of use and to see each other for the conversation.

Another alternative is Zencastr. It records locally and then uploads the audio after the fact while the guest is still online. It's a bit more cumbersome if the guest leaves before their audio gets fully uploaded and then sometimes the guest's audio is on a 3-sec delay from your audio; that's what we call audio drift. So there's some fixing to do after the fact to clean up that conversation, so you and your guest line up. Otherwise, with the audio drift, your guest's answer is a little late from when you ask it, so you'll have to edit out that pause
to make it more seamless.

Lastly, here's a wildcard suggestion for you. There's also BlueJeans which I haven't had the chance yet to use myself, but is like the Cadillac of online conferencing with Dolby Voice® and HD Video. It's geared towards enterprise organizations because of its secure premium platform, but the quality and ease of use might be worth the investment if you will be doing lots of interviews and the high-quality audio and video align with your brand and values.

If for nothing else, bad call quality can come in the form of dropped audio or when your connection is buffering and then we sound like robots. To alleviate that, make sure you are connected to the fastest internet possible that you have and use a cable to plug into your laptop if possible because wifi can get sketchy sometimes. And lastly, for anyone doing any sort of call online, whether this is for podcasting or not, wear headphones at a minimum. This will create a better listening experience.

So Ya-Ling, I hope that answers your question as I know this is quite the convoluted answer, but like I've said before, everyone's podcast is going to be different, so my answer is going to depend on what you want to ultimately achieve with that video. So think about that and good luck with season two! I can't wait to hear it!

If you're thinking about doing interviews for your podcast and would love to deep dive into a process or foundation that will work for you, let's get together for a strategy session! Email me at mary@organizedsound.ca and we'll set it up!

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