We have used 7 different ways so far to record podcast interviews online ever since we started Kamakshi Media LLP in January 2016. For example, out of the seventy plus interviews for MyKitaab, only three or four interviews which were recorded in person. The rest have been recorded online, because either the guests were in a different city, or were traveling. And even if the guests are in the same city, given the traffic situation in Bengaluru (Bangalore, India) where we live, recording the call over the Internet works best. Depending on the situation, we have used different methods for recording.
Many podcasters and podcast How-To guides recommend using one method and sticking to it, maybe use a second one as a backup. For example, Skype as the primary and Google Hangouts as the secondary. But our philosophy is simple. The guests’ words, their thoughts are paramount. After all, without the guests, our interview based shows would not exist. But we also believe that quality of the audio is as important as the conversation. Therefore, we do not want to stick to one or two methods. Podcasting is new to India, and we live in a world where some users use desktops or laptops, others use tablets, while a majority of them have their mobile phone as their only Internet device. Moreover, while majority of people may be familiar with Skype, it is not always the best means to record audio. Internet in India can sometimes be patchy, and the data quality reflects in the recorded audio.
Given this background, the question in front of use was: how to make the lives of the guests easy and not have them download software X or use technique Y for the calls? While looking for an answer to this question, we realized that it would made our lives easier too! We decided to try out multiple ways to record the interviews- either as hosts or as guests. Note that the below options are primarily for audio recording, though many of them (Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.) are applicable for Video as well. They are as follows:
7 ways we record podcast interviews Online
- Skype (Audio/Video)
Skype is the Go-To tool, it works on PC and Mac, as well as on android and IOS devices. It also has a web version, which is currently in Beta. There are several softwares available for recording in windows, Mac and Linux. So far, this has been the easiest to use and record, and I have also tried video recording with limited success. I used to record all my shows using a 10 year old Dell Latitude running on Linux, and we have recently moved to a Mac. Only recently we installed a program to record Skype calls for the podcast interviews, so time will tell how it works out.
- Zencastr (Audio)
We use Zencastr as a backup for MyKitaab. This is a web based service, where you can send an link to your guests and co-hosts to the ‘show’ that you are recording. All they need is a web browser (Chrome works best) and a microphone. Each speaker’s audio is automatically streamed to the host’s Dropbox account. The site does some basic post-production, which gives fairly decent results. The audio files can be sent off for editing directly from dropbox. I like this service. It is still in Beta, so it does have a few bugs in it. For example, I was trying to record an interview this afternoon, but the browser kept refreshing or the page would take a very long time to load. This is a minor quirk compared to the advantages it offers. I would not mind paying for it once it gets launched.
- Google Hangouts (Audio/Video)
I have used Google Hangouts only twice, and with limited success. Both the times, I and the guest were supposed to record an audio call, but the guests had only used Google Hangouts in the past. I extracted the audio from the video, and the quality was acceptable. But it was not the best we could have had. Unless we are specifically going to record video calls, we will not use Google hangouts. Having said that, it is one of the best options available.
Update August 15th: Youtube Videos will supersede Google Hangouts on Air Going Forward. Read this news article about it here.
- Cleanfeed (Audio)
Cleanfeed is another web browser based alternative, it works on Chrome browsers. Irrespective of the device (laptop/desktop, tablet or smartphone), the quality is great, and this afternoon we recorded nearly a one hour long call for MyKitaab Podcast. They have a decent FAQ, and we like this service the more we use it.
- Zoom (Audio/Video)
I am a member of a few Facebook groups on podcasting. There was a discussion on one of the groups about Zoom.us. I decided to give them a try- they have an app for tablets/ smartphone and also the Mac. The audio recording went quite well, and I have done one full length recording using Zoom. Guests can dial into a number to start the conversation, unfortunately there is no toll free number for India. They have free and paid version. Worth a try!
- Each participant records their own voice (Audio)
I have not tried this for “production time” but the way it works is as follows:Lets’ say there is a conversation between three participants, each has a sound recording program like Audacity or Garageband that records their voice as an independent feed. The participants may carry on the conversation over Skype, or Google Hangouts, or on a conference call. Once the call ends, each participant uploads their audio file on a site like Dropbox. An editor then mixes/ edits the files, and that’s how you have a show. It is a nice use of online/offline medium.
Other ways of recording:
As my former boss used to say, “There are many ways to skin a cat.” The below ways are all options, that I have not used, but I have read about them.
- Record the phone conversation. Either the host has a call recording setup, or they use Zoom or any other service.
- Screen capture on Facebook or Facetime. Mac users can use Quicktime, as explained in this article.
- Using a web based service like appear.in, and doing a screen capture.
- Sites such as Gotomeeting
Once two way facebook live becomes available, it will present a strong alternative for podcast recording.
Summing it all up
Technology is constantly evolving, and with it, so are the challenges. As we mentioned before, there are three major types of devices, and at least two dominant operating systems. Add to that over 10 languages in India. As we produce and release shows in regional languages of India, time spent in helping the guests configure their setup could be significantly higher. At this time, we have set up a Guest sign up form on the MyKitaab website using Google Forms, where we ask the guests to tell us which tool they are most familiar with, as the screenshot below shows. We do not want to depend on one particular tool or technology, and the amount of time we have spent in trying these options out in an effort in that direction.
Note: In this post, I have used both “I” and “we” because I (Amar) keep trying and testing new techniques, while Minu is sometimes my partner in crime. She is the ‘guest’ for testing purposes.
Update December 9, 2018: I had written this post originally in Mid-2016, since then many things have changed. Some sites or services are discontinued, there are new additions now, and I am dropping the “Online” from the original title to make this post more encompassing.
Update: April 20, 2020: This post needs a refresh- I have added a different flavour of this post on my podcasting blog here.