I recently launched my first weekly podcast, and in preparation I planned and scheduled the first six episodes — intentionally arranging a remote guest on the fourth show. I did this because I wanted to establish an natural rhythm between myself and my regular co-host for the first three episodes, and because I was wary of the “double ender” process. I needed more time to research.
If you’re not familiar with the term double ender, it’s the practice of having each remote person record a high-resolution version of their own audio, on their own computer or other recording equipment. Then, when the show is over, the remote people email the high-resolution version of the audio that they recorded to the person who is editing together the show (usually the host).
Why is this done? Audio podcasters primarily use Skype to talk to one another when remote guests are involved. Skype is favored for its audio quality. This raises an obvious question: if the audio quality is good on Skype, why bother recording separate audio? The answer is simple: even though the audio on Skype is better than other voice-over-the-internet options, the audio you can record with a decent mic, recording software or a digital recorder is vastly better.
You want to give your audience the very best listening experience possible.
You want to give your audience the very best listening experience possible. Sure, you can record and publish an inferior sounding podcast using audio recorded directly from Skype, but, the overall production value of your show will be low. The extra effort involved with making a double-ender podcast is a lot more work, but the result is a far more polished and enjoyable product.
One of the biggest hurdles of recording a double-ender podcast is that both the host and the remote people must be technically capable of recording their own audio. I have a lot of experience with audio recording, and I happen to enjoy the process quite a bit. However, one of the things I love about it is how confusing and difficult it can be! As simple as sound recording may be in essence, confusion and problem solving are almost always involved.
The person I asked to be my first remote guest wasn’t a technically-inclined audio person, but, they did already own a Blue Yeti microphone. I was excited to learn that they had a decent podcasting mic in their possession. Even though this person didn’t use their mic very often (hardly ever), I knew I could call them through Skype before the recording and help them set it up properly.
The day before the recording, I Skyped the remote guest and walked him through the process. We launched Garageband on his Mac. We set up a new Garageband session. We got levels on his mic (this post of mine clearly explains how to set levels). We recorded audio. We made adjustments after listening to the first recording. We recorded another test run, this time with both of us recording. He sent me his audio file through Dropbox, and I edited them together. At that point I knew I could make the double-ender show actually happen!
The next evening we recorded the show. You can listen to it here.
Problems I encountered
The biggest issue was that the remote guest couldn’t hear himself through his own headphones. I got his Garageband software to recognize and record his mic, but in the heat of the moment I never figured out how to route his microphone’s audio into his own headphones.
This is an issue because being able to properly hear yourself as you speak into a microphone is incredibly important. When you hear yourself, you know instantly if you are turning your head too far away from the mic. You can also tell when you’re speaking too loudly. It’s fundamentally important, and I didn’t get it running. Bummer. Oh well… The show still happened.
Another problem is that putting the show together required several hours of editing. This is mainly because the remote guest’s environment was a bit noisy (he lives in New York City). I needed to apply a noise gate to his audio track, and once it was set, I still needed to remove the occasional noise that got through the gate. (The software I used to edit the show together is Ableton Live 9.)
I also recorded the entire Skype conversation on my computer with software called ecamm Call Recorder. This file has the remote guest’s Skype audio, and my audio from Skype. This audio is used as a guide, in the event that there is any drift in the audio recordings. Sometimes audio can get out of sync, especially when you record long podcasts. However, I ended up not needing this during the editing process, because I didn’t have sync problems.
Even though it was a bit of a challenge, I’m glad that I did a double-ender podcast episode. I will likely do more in the future. Hopefully, in the future I can help my remote guests get the routing properly setup, so they can hear themselves as they speak into their own mics.
I plan on writing more about the technical side of podcasting on my blog. I will likely make a post about the equipment I use to record our show in the near future, and other related topics. And, if you want to hear the Zoom H4n Pro in action, listen to Episode 5 of Mallercast later this week. Thanks!