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Though some podcasts record with all of their hosts and guests in the same room, it isn’t always possible to record a podcast featuring multiple people in person. Whether remote recording is a necessity or simply a convenience, many podcasters have embraced remote recording to bring their shows to life.
In this post, we'll teach you how to record a professional-sounding podcast from anywhere in the world using free and paid software solutions, with a focus on the popular conferencing program Zoom.
You might be asking yourself, “Why would I want to use Zoom for podcasts? Aren’t there other ways to record a podcast remotely?” There are, and we’re going to talk about those in a moment, but there are a few reasons we think you should consider using Zoom for podcasting from different locations:
If you either don’t want to use Zoom for podcasting from different locations, or are just interested in the alternatives to Zoom, you might want to look into Zencastr, Ringr, Skype, Squadcast or Google Hangouts.
Most of the advice in this article can be carried along to any of the above software solutions, but the exact details for points like testing your audio and recommended settings might vary.
Zoom is a great tool for recording podcasts over the internet.
Though Zoom boasts almost 13 million users, not everyone you’ll have on your podcast has Zoom installed on their computer or phone.
If you or your guests don’t have Zoom ready to go on your devices, getting started with Zoom is an easy process. First, you’ll want to sign up for a Zoom account and download either their desktop or mobile app.
Your guests will never need to pay for Zoom, as it’s free to join any conference. However, if you want to host meetings with more than three total participants, or for longer than 40 minutes, you’ll need to sign up for a paid account. For unlimited group meetings, Zoom is $149 per year, which comes with 1 GB cloud recording. Any Zoom account can record locally to a computer.
One thing you will need to know how to do before using Zoom as a remote podcasting tool is to create a calendar event and link. You can create your event either in your web browser at zoom.us or by opening the Zoom program on your computer. All you need to do is find the “Schedule a Meeting” button.
From there, Zoom will have you fill in an event title, time, duration, time zone and a few other preferences. Then, it will create an event and will give you the option to add the event to a Google, Outlook or Yahoo Calendar that you can invite your guests to. Or, you can simply copy the invitation and email it to your guests.
Before we cover how to record on Zoom, you need to test your audio. During a Zoom call, you’re probably not monitoring your own audio, so testing beforehand ensures that you’re actually capturing your voice with your mic of choice instead of your built-in computer microphone.
When you start or log into a Zoom call, Zoom will first ask how you want to connect to audio. Unless you can’t connect via your computer for some reason, we recommend you select the option to connect via computer. But first, click “Test Speaker and Microphone.”
Always test your audio before recording a podcast over Zoom.
Zoom will automatically detect which speakers and microphones are connected to your system, including USB microphones, built-in speakers and microphones, and audio interfaces such as the Focusrite Scarlett.
Select your microphone of choice, then speak into the microphone. If you hear a clear replay, you’re good to go! If not, check your microphone connection and make sure the microphone isn’t accidentally muted or that the gain isn’t turned down all the way. This is also the perfect time to set settings such as gain on your microphone or audio interface.
Check your audio settings to make sure you’re using the right microphone.
After you and your guests successfully test your microphones with Zoom, you probably want to go ahead and start recording. But, there are a few settings we recommend. None of these are absolutely necessary, but in our experience, they can greatly improve your podcast audio.
The truth of the matter is that Zoom was made for conferencing, not podcasting. While podcasters typically understand things like using headphones so that there isn’t an echo, that’s not a given for people on their weekly sales call who prefer to always listen and talk via speakerphone.
To keep users from getting frustrated by echoey audio and background noise, Zoom works a little magic for them by default. This includes background noise suppression and echo cancellation, which aren’t necessary if you use headphones or if you prefer to fine-tune noise removal in post-production.
With that in mind, we recommend clicking on “Settings” toward the upper-left corner of your Zoom screen, navigating to “Audio” and clicking “Advanced.”
Zoom includes handy settings for echo cancellation and high fidelity audio.
Click on “Show in-meeting option to ‘Enable Original Sound’ from microphone” to show the option to disable echo cancellation and enable “High fidelity music mode.” High fidelity music mode does use more bandwidth, so it’s not always possible with poor internet connections, but your listeners will be happy to not have the aggressive dynamic and data compression that Zoom uses by default. In other words, your audio will sound more natural.
We also recommend disabling Automatic Gain Control, also called Automatic Gain Compensation. Automatic Gain Control (AGC) tries to set the volume of the speakers to an equal level. It’s essentially a compressor. This is great for conference calls with folks who can’t stay on mic or when you’re in a room with people who are different distances from the microphone, but it eliminates the dynamics of your voice. If you need to edit dynamics, it’s best to do it in post-production, where you have more control over how the compression is enacted.
Before recording a podcast over Zoom, disable Automatic Gain Compensation.
To turn off Automatic Gain Control, go to your audio settings again and deselect “Automatically adjust microphone volume.” It’s that simple! You might also want to turn off or turn down “Suppress background noise,” depending on the noise level of your environment. We think that, even if your background isn’t perfectly quiet, it’s still best to use a noise removal plugin in post-production. Otherwise, Zoom might filter out sounds you wanted to leave in!
There are also things you can do to record crystal-clear audio outside of setting Zoom settings. After all, a lot of those Zoom settings we just disabled are only necessary if you don’t put effort into creating a great-sounding environment before they even turn on their computers.
Quick, clap your hands! Do you hear an echo coming back to you? If so, you have a lot of reflective surfaces in your room, like windows or bare walls.
Try to find a space in your home that absorbs that clapping more, like a room with more furniture or even a walk-in closet that’s lined with clothes. Otherwise, you might want to consider investing in some sound absorption panels or other acoustic treatment.
You’ll also want to consider carefully selecting your recording time when you know your home and neighborhood aren’t going to be as loud. Make note of the times your living space is noisiest, and plan your podcasting around those potential background noises.
For more information on getting great sound while recording your podcast, check out our tips for recording a great sounding podcast, our recommended podcast accessories post and, most importantly, our advice on choosing the best podcast microphone for you.
You have two options for recording a Zoom meeting for your podcast. You can either have everyone record their audio in a separate program like Audacity or Studio One and send it to you afterwards, or you can record directly through Zoom.
Recording a Zoom meeting for your podcast is easiest if you’re the host. To record the meeting, hover your mouse pointer over the bottom of the Zoom screen. Find the “Record” option and press it. Zoom will then notify all participants that the call is being recorded, even if they join after you start recording.
If you’re not the host of the Zoom meeting and want to record audio, the easiest way to record is to get permission from the meeting host during the call, or to have the original host add you as an alternative host.
If the host’s Zoom plan includes cloud recording, the host could enable automatic cloud recording for the meeting when the meeting is being scheduled. The host would also need to enable the “join before host” option. With those settings enabled, recording will start as soon as the first guest joins the call.
To automatically record a Zoom meeting for your podcast, all you need to do is check the box that says “Record this meeting automatically” when you first create or schedule the Zoom call.
By default, Zoom saves recordings in one of two places, depending on your operating system. For a PC, the file extension will look like C:\Users\User Name\Documents\Zoom. On a Mac, it will look like /Users/User Name/Documents/Zoom.
To change where Zoom podcast recordings are saved, go to Settings and click “Recording.” The first option in the Recording settings is the local recording location, which you can customize.
We’ve already talked about recommended audio settings, but what about recommended recording settings?
Let’s take a look at the recording settings and our recommendations.
Before recording a podcast over Zoom, double-check your recording settings.
If you aren’t interested in always having your Zoom recordings saved to the same place on your computer, enable this setting. That way, you’ll always know exactly where to find your files instead of trying to remember your default setting.
By default, a recorded Zoom call will combine each audio file for you. This makes it easy to upload directly, but it doesn’t leave you with a lot of control when it’s time for post-production. A lot of podcasters prefer to edit out unwanted background noise and crosstalk, but that’s difficult—if not impossible—to do if you don’t get separate audio files.
Without separate audio files, you also can’t add separate compression, noise reduction or EQ to each person’s track. The truth about recorded voices is that everyone’s voice needs slightly different attention in post. For example, a deep voice might require a high-pass filter so that it doesn’t sound boomy, and a guest recording in a small room might need a cut in the 200-500 Hz frequency range to reduce muddiness.
This is an insurance policy. If you let Zoom keep temporary recording files, it’s more likely you’ll be able to recover audio if something happens to your computer or internet connection while you’re recording or while the audio is rendering after you stop recording. It requires a little more storage space, but you’ll be happy you turned this setting on if you ever find yourself needing it.
Unless you also release a video version of your podcast, you probably don’t need to worry much about the video recording settings. But should you even enable video when you’re recording an audio-only podcast?
Though video does require extra bandwidth, enabling it can make your conversation feel smoother because you and your guests are able to pick up on visual cues that might indicate when you’re joking or if you’re being sarcastic, if you’re done talking or just pausing to sneeze, and the like. Ultimately, if you have the available bandwidth, enabling video will likely make your conversation feel more natural, but don’t enable video at the cost of audio quality.
Zoom saves audio recordings in the .m4a file format. To open these in GarageBand, simply create a new GarageBand file with an Audio Recorder track and head to “Tracks View.” Open your Loop Library, import your file into the files list, then drag your file from the Loop Library into your project.
Unless you’re strapped for time or are uninterested in editing your podcast, you’re probably doing some post-production such as compression, volume adjustment, simple EQ or adding limiters and expanders.