The best way to save yourself time in post-production is by getting a great initial, usable recording.
It’s easy to focus most of your attention on your content, but if you don’t get a great initial recording, you’re going to spend hours and hours editing and mixing to make it sound decent.
That’s a bummer.
Usually, the most fun part of podcasting is creating and releasing the actual episodes – no one wants to spend hours upon hours trying to fix the audio quality of their recording.
The following five tips focus on just that – getting a quality, usable recording to eliminate a lot of the corrective work you’d have to do in post.
1. Use a Decent Microphone
Please, oh please, don’t use the built-in microphone on your computer. We all have to start somewhere, and it’s definitely better to start your podcast even if you are just using your computer microphone, but if at all possible use an external mic.
If you absolutely don’t have the resources to get a mic right now, try getting a little closer to the computer mic when you speak and recording in a room with full of materials that will dampen the echo/reverb of the room. This will reduce a lot of the room noise – which is one of the main causes of “was this recorded in a giant tin can” effect.
Here are two entry level options if you’re going to purchase a mic on a budget.
Budget Option One: Use Literally Anything Besides Your Computer Mic
Have a gaming headset? Use that. Have a musician friend or an audio engineer uncle who has extra mics laying around? Use those. I guarantee you’ll see an improvement with whatever you use over the built-in mic on your computer.
Budget Option Two: Audio-Technica ATR2100 (aff link)
When I talk to anyone starting a podcast and looking for a mic, this is the one I recommend.
Why it’s awesome:
- They’re versatile. This mic has both a USB and an XLR connector, so it grows with you as your setup grows. This means you can record directly to your computer, or if you at some point use an external recorder you can run it using an XLR connector.
- Great quality. They really do sound good. Are other mics running at $300 plus going to sound better? Yes. But you’re going to get a great sounding recording at a fraction of the cost. Even if you do upgrade in the future, you’ll have this one as a backup for that mic, or to record multiple people at once.
- It has an on-off switch. That’s fun.
- This is a dynamic mic and therefore doesn’t require an external power source. Plus 1 for ease of use.
- It’s a great price for the quality. These run around $79 USD anywhere online such as here on Amazon (aff link) and I’ve seen them as low as $28 USD (generally around $30 to $50 USD) on eBay. So definitely keep your eye on Ebay if you’re looking to purchase one of these and don’t mind searching for a deal.
Higher Price Points:
There’s plenty of other great mics out there at higher price points, but if you’re above the $80 value for your mic mentioned above, chances are, your mic isn’t the weakest link in your quality chain.
2. Don’t Clip the Recording
Just as important, if not more important, is to make sure you don’t clip your recordings by recording at too high of a gain/level. You can have a $600 mic, but if you clip the whole recording, no one’s going to care how great the mic is.
A couple of tips to prevent clipping:
- Ere on the side of caution – it’s better for your recording to be a little quieter than you would have liked (that’s easily fixed with compression and noise reduction) than to have it clipping throughout.
- People get louder as they get into the topic – especially if it’s something they’re passionate about. So although you might have checked levels at the beginning of the session just be aware that without proper head room on your levels, your guest, Jerry, might start talking about politics, or you might tell another hilarious joke and then it’s clip central for your recording.
3. Wear Headphones/Earbuds when recording through Skype
If your recording convos over the computer through Skype or another method, be sure to wear some type of earbuds or headphones to prevent the audio bleeding into the recording on your end. Skype usually has a fluctuating time delay between the two speakers, this will cause a weird echo happening between the speaker on one computer and the voice on the other computer – this is virtually impossible to fix in post-production.
4. Use a Pop Filter
Pop filters prevent plosives, the popping ‘p’ sound, and sibilance, the hissing ‘s’ sound that can happen when a speaker is too close to the mic or a voice that accentuates those sounds. These can be a pain to fix in post, so an easy set-and-forget way to fix this is to use a pop filter whenever you record. I’ve used a few different ones, but the best are the ones with two layers of mesh.
5. Record Each Speaker to a Separate Track
This does take a bit more work and coordination, especially if doing it over Skype, but the benefits are significant.
Individual recordings allow you to process and edit/mix each speaker separately to whatever needs to be done – basically giving you the control you need to fix any mistakes and improve as needed – versus blanket effects over everyone trying to fix a single issue from one of the speakers.
So, if you’re recording in person, record each speaker to their own track on whatever device or software you’re using. If recording over Skype, have each person record themselves to their own computer, and then send the file to you. You easily line it up by remembering to clap at the beginning of the recording and lining up the tracks from that point.
If you’re still in the planning phase of your podcast and aren’t sure what you need, check out our Getting Started Resource. It gives a rundown on our recommendations and uses for microphones, recording equipment, software, media hosts, and web hosts.
Get out there and make some recordings
Hopefully, you’re already doing some of the above suggestions. If not, I guarantee if you start employing the above points when recording your episodes, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time in mixing/editing and have a much better end result.
But above all, if you haven’t started your podcast yet, don’t let equipment or technique limitations stop you from podcasting. It’s a learning process and you’ll only get better with practice.