This page describes the equipment and process required to make a high quality audio or video recording with two people in different locations. In summary, both participants will want to have a phone to communicate and a good quality recording device. Then, the two high quality recordings will be merged to make a single recording. As a companion article to this document, consider reading “How to Start a Podcast” by BuzzSprout for suggestions on planning your podcast.
Here’s the equipment you will need:
- iPad Pro. You’ll want two iPad Pro devices (one for each person). The 2020 version of the iPad Pro does a great job recording professional sounding audio, and also works well for video recording. It’s certainly possible to use an inexpensive digital audio recorder and save close to $1,000. However, what the iPad has exceptional recording quality and also makes it easy to upload your audio recording to the cloud for sharing with whoever does the audio editing. The iPad has other uses as well. You could also use an old iPhone for recording instead of an iPad. If you’d like a more economical recording option, consider a Sony digital audio recorder for about $60, but this requires more manual steps later to get the recording merged.
- Phone. You can use any smartphone or landline phone. Most people will want to use their smartphone. Whatever phone you choose, it won’t be used for recording. It will just be used for a phone call where you and the other person can hear each other.
- Headset. You will want an over-the-ear headset or earbuds. This is to ensure that the recording does not pickup the sound of the person on the other end of the conversation. If you want, you could just hold the phone to your ear as you normally would, although this can be tiring. Be sure not to turn up the volume higher than needed. You know how sometimes when a person is talking on their smartphone and although they aren’t using the speakerphone, the volume is up so loud that you can hear what the person at the other end is saying. You want to avoid this because your goal is to record only the person at one end of the conversation as explained below. There are many headsets to consider, ideally you would want a corded headset such as the Sony XB550AP for about $40. You’ll also need an $8 Apple Lighting to headphone adapter that goes from the Lightning port on your iPhone to a special 4-conductor headset plug.
The iPad and iPhone have a Voice Memo app that works well for recordings. You could also record directly into the GarageBand app. Either of these would work well. GarageBand has more features, but may seem a bit more complicated for some users.
Pick a good location without any outside noises or interruptions. Some podcasters will use a closet to record audio because it’s usually an interior space of the home and filled with fabrics that can dampen any acoustic room echo. A bedroom is a good choice because the bedding and drapes will dampen sound. Ideally both people recording would have similar acoustic surroundings so switching back and forth between the two will be indistinguishable as far as the background ambience.
The “Magic Keyboard Review” from Sara Dietschy offers examples of how different rooms can have a different acoustic ambience. In the beginning of the video she is in the kitchen, by 5m 28s into the video she is recording in a bedroom. In the video you can hear how the kitchen creates a little bit of an echo from the room, and the bedroom has little or no echo. If two people in two different locations are recording an interview, with one person in a kitchen and the other in a bedroom, the difference in acoustic ambience will be noticeable.
Do Not Disturb
Make sure your devices are set to Do Not Disturb so that text messages or phone calls won’t make noises or disrupt your recording. Let colleagues (at work) or family members (at home) know that you’re recording, so they won’t interrupt.
Each time before a recording session, you’ll want to test the hardware and software to ensure your recording is working well. Listen to your recording test carefully with high quality headphones, such as the headset recommended above (the Sony XB550AP for about $40 and the Apple Lighting to headphone adapter for about $8). Listen for background noises, and also evaluate the recording and determine if the sound is too loud and distorted or if it is too quiet. Adjust your speaking distance accordingly as described below.
From a comfortable seated position, maintain a consistent distance from your recording device or microphone, in this example your iPad. If you are too far away from the recording device, the recording volume will be too low. If you sit too close, or talk too loud, the sound will be distorted. Do not hold, touch, or move the recording device while recording because that will create unwanted sounds. You might consider having your device on a table, and raise it using some stable books or boxes to bring it up to the level of your face. A distance of about two feet (24 inches) should be good.
Ideally, it’s good to have both ends of the recording continue without stopping. That will ensure easy synchronization between the two. Even if a person needs to take a break, just stop talking for a moment and then say, “Hey, I’ll be right back. Let’s keep the recording going.” There will be a few minutes of blank recording in the middle, but this can easily be removed later. Keeping the recording going preserves the time synchronization.
Let’s say an airplane flies over, a loud truck goes by, or a siren can be heard in the background. Instead of pausing the recording, it’s okay to stop talking, wait for the noise to pass, and start talking again in a way that can be easily edited and resume naturally.
If someone at one end plans to pause their side of the recording, then it’s good to have that person pause at a good stopping point, and then say, “Hey, I’m going to pause the recording in 3… 2… 1…” and then pause. That way both sides of the recording will stay in sync fairly closely. It’s sometimes necessary to step away from the recording to take a restroom break or for some other reason.
The two people doing an interview will want to begin with a phone call. Before starting the recording, one of the people should count down, “3… 2… 1…” and then both people will press the record button. If possible, record in a single take with as few mistakes as possible to reduce the editing time required later.
Saving and Sharing
Choose a cloud service to use for sharing your audio recording with the person who will edit the audio and merge the two recordings. Google is a good choice because most people have a Gmail account, and when your audio file is saved you can use a share link that doesn’t require the other person to login or have an account. For detailed instructions, read “How to Share an iPad Voice Memo Audio Recording and Save on Google Drive.”
To merge the two audio recordings you can use the GarageBand software on an Apple computer. The desktop version of the software, with a big screen, will help you better see the waveform details while editing. If needed, you could use GarageBand on an iPad to edit the recordings. You’d need to create a new GarageBand project, then drag and drop your audio recordings into the new GarageBand project. It takes time to become proficient with audio editing and production, but you could try the process and see how you get along. Apple offers GarageBand support and tutorials.
Uploading and Publishing
If you have a self-hosted WordPress website, you can upload your audio to the Media Library, and then embed the audio on your site with the WordPress player module. This is a quick and easy solution that doesn’t require third-party audio streaming service fees.
If you have a WordPress.com hosted website, you’ll need to pay for more storage to accommodate uploading audio files. Other hosting companies such as Wix and Weebly allow for sharing audio.
If you are producing podcast, you could consider sharing your podcast with SoundCloud, BuzzSprout, and YouTube to get your message out on different platforms. The BuzzSpout service will distribute your podcast to iTunes, Amazon, and many other services. To learn more about features and pricing, visit the BuzzSprout website.