FYB 86 | Podcast Recording Environment Tips

 

Podcasting is the most significant source for audio content. With that being said, it is essential to note that you must have an environment that will not mess up your first and future podcast recordings. As we kick off our series of tech checks for our private client webinars, we dive into the tips or hacks to sounding like you are in a recording studio. Take a pen and paper and make sure you keep in mind how much your environment plays a role in your recording quality.

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Recording Environment Tips

I’m going to share with you some tech tips for your recording environment. It’s something that is too often overlooked for podcasters. Even seasoned podcasters are already getting into their groove and think, “Everything’s working great,” and don’t think much about it. Especially if you’re a new podcaster, there are a lot of things you need to consider where you’re recording the environment and how it sounds. Everybody always thinks, “It’s about the tech, it’s about the microphone and the equipment.” Those are important things but even with great equipment, your recording may not always sound very good because you haven’t considered what’s around you in your environment. This is also true if you’re going to record video.

I want to share with you why I’m going to do what I’m going to do. I purchased and reviewed at least ten different microphones because as we get a lot of new customers at Podetize, there are a lot of questions about, “What is the best equipment to use?” I realized I started podcasting a number of years ago. Microphone technology has probably changed. It’s been a while since I’ve checked out everything that’s available and how well they are suited to meet the needs of podcasters and live streamers. I went through and bought them all. In an upcoming Feed Your Brand episode, I’ll review them, break them all down, the pros and the cons, and share my recommendations and why you might choose one microphone over another.

It’s not that there’s ever one that’s perfect or one that’s terrible. A lot of times it depends on your particular needs and preferences. As I went through that process, I was reminded about how much your environment plays a role in your recording quality, your actual space that you record. There are a lot of things to consider while having a microphone that’s appropriate and you’re happy with is important. I personally believe that your environment plays a big role whether your audio quality for your episodes, your recording aren’t good, bad or maybe not as good as they could be. Understanding some of those things and preparing ahead of time can make a huge difference. You can have a very expensive and excellent quality microphone. If you’re not recording in the right environment, you might as well not be using that expensive microphone. I wanted to share some tips and things for you to consider in your environment.

There's always going to be things you cannot anticipate. When that happens, you've got to go with it and address the elephant in the room. Click To Tweet

One of the biggest tips I want to share right off the bat, especially for any of you new podcasters, a lot of you come and ask, “Do I need to go into a professional recording studio to record?” I want to set aside this myth right away. I know there was a time when microphones were super expensive. You had to plug them into these big fancy mixing boards. You have an actual studio engineer that is adjusting the equalizer and get all that right to produce what’s considered to be good quality audio. Especially people who started in radio decades ago would believe this or subscribe to this. While it would be wonderful to have an actual official sound appropriate intentional audio studio to record in, that would be nice to have. In all practical reality, most of us don’t have access to one, either can’t afford it or don’t want to spend the money that it takes to pay someone to go into a recording studio. If you want to do it, more power to you. One of our clients, Dustin Matthews of the Get WealthFit podcast, he has a recording studio that his company has built. Podcasting is a huge part of their company’s marketing efforts. They have the space, the desire and the budget and they built a recording studio. If you have that opportunity, do it.

Most of us are not that way though and don’t have that opportunity. You can still create a tremendously high-quality audio recording without going into a recording studio. The one exception I met is if you were intentionally recording an audiobook or an audiobook series, that might be a situation where I decide I might go and seek a recording studio or all of us have some environments that do perform much like a recording studio does. If you’re going to do a short series and you need that highest quality, you can certainly do it. With the way technology is and the reality is most of us are recording podcasts and at least some of the time recording guests, you’re going to record them over the computer, much like I’m recording this and broadcasting it over the computer live through Facebook. You’re already reducing the quality of audio down to what we’ll go through a USB port in a computer and that has audio limitations. Having a big fancy studio and a very expensive microphone becomes less effective and less noticeable, if you’re going to be using a computer to broadcast or if you’re going to be connecting to interview somebody over Zoom or SquadCast or Skype, any of those tools. The need for a recording studio is not there. However, you don’t want to record anywhere that you’d like to record. You need to think about your environment.

Your Exterior Environment

We’re getting into some of the tips of your environment. Number one is be cognizant of the noise that’s happening outside. Is the room you’re recording in on the exterior of your house or your building? If you’re at work that you’re recording it, what’s going on outside those windows? Know what days of the week your trash gets picked up and this is whether it’s home or at a business, it doesn’t matter. Trash gets picked up from everywhere. What day of the week does it get picked up? Roughly what time of day? I know that where I record most of my podcasts in this studio that I do not record on Monday mornings and on Wednesday afternoons because on Wednesday afternoons, the trash trucks come. It’s right outside my window, which is three feet to my right. It’s a horrible noise and it’s distracting to me as much as I think it is to my audience if they hear that background noise. If I’m talking while that background noise is happening, certainly there are some improvements that can be made in audio editing but you cannot completely eliminate it. It’s the same thing with Monday mornings. We live in a neighborhood where all of the outdoor landscaping and lawn mowing is all done on Monday mornings. The first tip is to make sure you’re aware of what’s going on outside.

FYB 86 | Podcast Recording Environment Tips

Podcast Recording Environment Tips: Soft surfaces are your friend. These are sound absorbing materials and those are good for your audio quality.

 

There are always going to be things you cannot anticipate. You don’t know that a fire truck is going to drive by your building to help put out a fire in an emergency. That can happen at any time. Things are going to happen. When that happens, if you can, pause your recording and wait until it passes to continue or if you’re on with a guest and you can’t help it, you’ve got to go with it and address the elephant in the room. If it’s that bad just say, “Sorry, we couldn’t help that ambulance going by but the content was so important. I’m sure you’ll appreciate it regardless of that background noise.” Let them know and don’t pretend that it wasn’t there. Outside forces, that’s something that you can try to make sure you don’t set yourself up for failure and schedule recordings at times when you know there might be distractions or interruptions.

Your Interior Environment

Let’s talk about your interior environment, your office space, your home office, your work office, maybe it’s your home, it’s a passion project podcast you’re doing this from your home. Soft surfaces are your friend. That means wall-to-wall carpeting, drapes on windows, rooms that have maybe sofa and cushions. These are sound absorbing materials and those are good for your audio quality. What’s bad for your audio quality are hard surfaces that reflect a lot of sounds. Windows that are uncovered, tabletop surfaces made of glass, anything hard especially the floor and your orientation in that room. If you’ve got a room that is square, rectilinear and also the smaller the room can hurt you and create a lot of echo sound like you’re in a box. You may be thinking if you’re new, “What does that sound like?”

Test

The thing that I would always recommend is a test. Go and set yourself up in the environment that you would like to record in. Set it up with your equipment, with your good microphone and your computer. If you’re going to use Zoom to record, you can start up a Zoom session, not connect with anybody and record yourself. You want to be using the software, the hardware and the environment that you’re intending to record in and record some sample audio. Play it back with some good quality headsets and listen to it. Don’t just listen to what you’re saying. Listen to everything else because that’s going to tell you a lot. If you record in a few different locations within your building or your home, you can listen to how different they sound.

Understanding things and preparing ahead of time can make a huge difference. Click To Tweet

Let’s say you don’t have a lot of options. You have an environment that is not ideal. It’s got a lot of hard surfaces. It’s got a lot of parallel walls close together with a lot of reflection. Try to think about that and decide, “Is there anything I can do either permanently or even temporarily to improve that environment?” I’m going to tell you there are a few things you can do. My table that I’m using that my computer is on and my microphone is in front of, it’s a very hard surface. I’ve got a hardwood floor, you can take a blanket or a towel whatever you’ve got and drape it over the desk. Put it under the computer, drape it over it, even in front of you and maybe into your lap so that some of your sounds doesn’t go down to the floor and reflect back up. It may sound a little extreme like, “Why do I need to do that?” If you’ve got a bad environment with a lot of hard surfaces and a lot of echoes, you may very well want to do that.

Making Improvements To Your Space

Once you set that up temporarily a couple of times, you might be thinking, “I like to make some improvements to my space so I don’t have to go through this every time I record.” Let’s say you don’t have wall-to-wall carpeting in your room. If you don’t have a big budget, you can go out even to an IKEA or something and get an area rug and make sure you measure the size of your room. It doesn’t have to go wall to wall, but it hopefully maybe eight foot by ten-foot at least or even bigger, that would cover the majority of the floor in your environment and go underneath you, your chair and the table that you’re sitting at or working on. You will find doing something like that will improve your audio quality tremendously and it will absorb more sound and reflect it less. It’s the same thing with windows. In California, we have a lot of these shutters to close our windows. We don’t use drapes a lot, but you might want to install a curtain rod and have a drape that you can pull across the window before you record to help absorb some of that sound.

On The Road

This will keep it from hitting directly to the glass and reflecting right back at you. That’s going to help reduce that echo. Some people also ask, “What about on the road? I’m going to be traveling for a couple of weeks on business and I need to record some episodes. I’m not going to be in my normal environment. Is that okay?” It can be okay. In fact, I would suggest that hotel rooms are not the worst environment to record with a few caveats, but there are things you can control. For example, hotel rooms, usually you have one or two beds with pillows in the environment. The windows always have curtains of some kind. They’re usually thick because they are made to block out light and it’s usually a couple of layers. Pull those across and do not have the window open. Even if you like the view, while you’re recording pull it close, those curtains are going to do a lot to help you. Also, remember the environmental factors you can control. Think about the thermostat in that room, the air conditioner. A lot of times, hotel room heaters or air conditioners make quite a lot of noise when they’re blowing air into your room and the humming of an air conditioner.

FYB 86 | Podcast Recording Environment Tips

Podcast Recording Environment Tips: If you’re going to record a video, you want to think about what you’re wearing. We don’t want to look like we wear the same clothes over and over again.

 

You obviously don’t want that noise in your background. For the time that you are recording, turn it off. You usually have control of those things to be able to turn them completely off for a few minutes or an hour, whatever amount of time you’re going to record so it doesn’t become an issue. When you’re sitting in that hotel room, if you’re sitting at a desk, usually there’s a wall very close right in front of you at a desk. I would change your orientation to that wall. Turn yourself at an angle, back away from it a little bit. Don’t sit speaking right into that desk at that wall and have that sound reflect back at you. If you’re going to record a guest in a hotel room over Zoom, SquadCast, Skype or whatever, make sure you go and pay for premium internet, which is faster speed. I would highly recommend you do that. You want to have a high-quality audio recording for your guests. You want to have a high-quality show so pay for that internet, get that increased bandwidth and make sure that you don’t have some of those internet interruptions or glitches because of low bandwidth. That frustrates your audience and hurts the quality of your show.

Recording Videos

If you’re also recording as video, a couple of more tips for recording for your environment. At Podetize, about 30% of our customers are recording and distributing video as well as audio. We’re seeing those percentages increase over time. More and more people are doing video because some of them are going live. Others, even if they’re not live, they’re recording the video. We’re editing it and putting it out on YouTube for them, embedding it in their website, repurposing it a number of different ways. If you’re going to do that, you also need to think about your visual environment. What does your environment look like? What’s in the background? I have an intentional backdrop. It’s not very expensive. This is maybe $100 or something. It’s a large print. It’s hanging from the ceiling. I don’t particularly like the look of the environment that would be here behind me if I rolled that up. It looks cluttered. It’s not intentional. You don’t have to use a backdrop like that. Maybe you have a particularly beautiful home or you have these really nice bookcases behind you and you have a lot of cool books in there. People can’t always read what they are but that collage of bookbinding edges there can look cool.

We see a lot of people have a nice desk or credenza setups behind them. If you ever see a live stream that Tracy does from her desk, she’s got a corner of the room. Her desk is angled at an odd angle, which is good for recording, where you see a corner of a room behind her with art on the walls. Some things that are intentionally set there. It’s not completely random. That’s the big tip is make it intentional. Don’t make it random. If you’re going to record a video, you want to think about what you’re wearing. If you’re going to record several episodes back to back, change your shirt between each video because they’re going to come out on different days. We don’t want it to always look on video like we wear the same clothes over and over again. Even if you do record episodes in a batch, you don’t necessarily want your audience to know that you’re recording them in a batch. Personally, I prefer audio only but the way the world is going, we do a lot more video.

Whether you're just recording an audio or video, it is all about preparation and being very intentional about it. Click To Tweet

One other thing is the lighting. If you’re going to do a video, make sure your lighting is decent. I have an intentional light that would be in front of me, shining back on my backdrop. I have another, sometimes it’s called a diva light or a vanity light. I mount it, project it when I’m being specific and intentional about my environment. It lights me and it lights the backdrop so that the video quality is better. It’s also a little difficult with my glasses. One more visual environmental thing you want to be careful of, everything reflects off my glasses. I have to take that diva light. It’s on a tripod and a pole, I put it up very high. We have to raise it up very high. It lights the backdrop and a lot of it is way over the top of my head. The light can go above me, light that backdrop and not reflect in my eyes. You’ll see the light ring in my glasses. That would be very distracting. What we do in that situation, you have a couple of options. I recorded some video where I took off my glasses and I wore contacts. I usually use them for sports. We’ve got the lighting. It’s lighting me up better, lighting the background up a little better. Think about that and be intentional about your visual environment as well.

Another thing is that my backdrop is not exactly centered on where I’m sitting. I have this situation, where it’s not ideal to see the whole logo, center it and center me without making it a little crooked. Honestly, that has more to do with the backdrop that I printed and its position relative to my space than my positioning. I can only stretch my microphone so far away from where it’s mounted. I have this boom mount. If I was doing a tabletop mount, that would be no big deal but I use a boom mount because I swing it out of the way when I’m not recording and swing it back. Those are some other dynamics you want to think about. Is it the end of the world? No, I certainly think the background is fine.

Also, the quality of background, as long as we’re talking visual, I’ll give you one more thing. It’s one of the first backgrounds I printed for us here at Podetize. At first, I thought, “It’s decent, it’s intentional, better than nothing.” I went and had another one printed for a trade show that we were exhibiting at. The colors are so much more vibrant and the quality of the print was so much better. I learned that not all of these printers that print backgrounds are created equal. I’ve found these new large format printers that use latex inks and those colors are more vibrant. That’s what I’m using. I hope you’re finding these tips helpful about your environment, whether you’re recording audio or video. It’s all about preparation, thinking about it and being very intentional about it. That’s the biggest takeaway. Don’t let it be random and test.

FYB 86 | Podcast Recording Environment Tips

Podcast Recording Environment Tips: Every home has an environment that you can use that’s an ideal audio chamber where it’s not going to reflect any sound, like a closet.

 

It doesn’t take much time to set up, record, experience it and listen to it and/or watch it. Things appear a little different when you’re recording in Zoom and maybe when you’re listening to yourself. When you’re listening or you’re speaking, you’re not paying attention to all those details and you may not be able to see it or hear it. Record it, play it back, listen to it, think about it, give it to somebody else to listen, see what they think and listen to it then compare to what you hear. Listen to some other podcasts or some other live videos and do some comparison. Be intentional about it, make it the best that it can be. You’re going to take the time to spend to intentionally record some great content. May as well make the audio quality and the visual experience the best that it can be.

Recording Podcasts On Your Cell Phone And In Your Car

One more thing about your environment, there are some people that teach you can record a podcast on your cell phone and in your car. They’re like, “The car is one of those environments there are a lot of soft surfaces, a lot of fabric and no parallel surfaces. Everything are in angles.” While that’s true and you can record a podcast in your car, I don’t recommend it. Remember we talked about those outside environmental issues, you cannot control those. There are completely random cars going to drive by. Firetrucks are going to drive by, people talking outside your car. You can hear it. I don’t recommend that although I know some teach, “You can do that.” Second thing, you’re going to record your prerecorded intro and outro for your show and you want that audio quality to be the absolute best it can be, and even a little better maybe than the audio quality you’re going to approach for your regular shows.

Recording In An Ideal Audio Chamber

Every home has an environment that you can use that’s an ideal audio chamber where it’s not going to reflect any sound. It’s a closet. Some homes have larger closets than others. If it’s a very small one and you’re claustrophobic, you may not want to do this. If you have any kind of a walk-in closet, it’s ideal. Whenever we’ve been in our home environment and we’ve wanted to produce some high-quality audio recordings and whether it’s to a computer or a digital audio recorder, it doesn’t matter. All the clothing in a closet is ideal sound absorbing the material and it becomes the closest thing you can get to what they call an anechoic chamber. Meaning it will not echo anything. No sound will bounce. It all gets absorbed and it’s a high-quality audio recording environment.

If you want to record something special, maybe it’s a promotion, a commercial you’re going to put in some of your episodes. I’m not suggesting you use a closet as the place where you record all the time because that would be no fun. Where are you going to put a chair in there? You’re going to hold stuff in your lap. It’s not ideal. For short recordings, it can work very well. For long ones, regular ones, take care of your major environment and make it the best it can be for the best quality. We’re going to be doing these with tech tips and calls here on Podetize. It’s a part of our series with some other client-only coaching calls. If you’re able to participate live, I recommend you do. I would be happy to bring you on to ask any questions you might have live. If you have any questions, you can always comment on our Facebook page. We’ll reply to it. We do monitor this, it may not be immediate but within a day or so, we will reply.

I do recommend you check out the video. There are some of these visual things we’ve talked about regarding reflections, my glasses, and the lighting. You’ll notice at the beginning of the episode, I was not using the lighting. I probably should have been when we turned it on part way through so you can see the difference. In any case, it’s an important issue and all too often overlooked. Consider your environment and make it intentional. If you ever have a particularly challenging issue in your environment, please reach out to us either on Facebook or you can send an email to us. I hope this is useful to you. Thanks so much. We’ll be back in the near future for another tech tip.

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