How can I record a 3-way long-distance podcast... with two hosts?
October 27, 2010 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm working on a new podcast with a co-host who's 3000 miles away. The podcast requires us to take telephone (or Skype) calls. What hardware & software setup will allow us to record mic-quality audio of my co-host and myself, along with telephone/Skype-quality audio of our guests?

We're able to buy hardware and I have a telephone hybrid, if it helps. I currently record in Audition on a PC, and he uses a Mac. It's important that we not place any technical requirements on our guests, who will be coming on two at a time.

My mind is seriously bent right now.
posted by YoungAmerican to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you have the time and skill to do it, you should have each party record their part on the same computer using better software like audacity, then combine the three files. I believe this is the way professional radio outlets like NPR do this. They conduct the interview over the phone, with a sound engineer recording the interviewee, and then splicing the audio together in post.
posted by anotherfluke at 3:55 PM on October 27, 2010

Response by poster: The issue is that we can't have the guests record on their end - too complicated.
posted by YoungAmerican at 4:04 PM on October 27, 2010

Why not record mic audio of the two of you and record the phone call as phone quality, then splice the three together (the high quality mic level of you and your far away co-host, along with isolated telephone audio of the guest)?
posted by JakeWalker at 4:28 PM on October 27, 2010

The Conversations Network have a great how-to video that addresses your issues here. It's a little old now, but still relevant and useful.
posted by dirm at 4:30 PM on October 27, 2010

I don't know what equipment you need, but I do know that for a time I listened to the ExtraLife Radio podcast when the hosts were in Utah, Florida, and Colombia. They recorded live, were able to have guests call in, and sounded pretty good except for occasional but serious connection lag from Colombia. Maybe you can get in touch with Scott Johnson and see what equipment he used?
posted by hukka at 4:31 PM on October 27, 2010

Okay, so this is really a 2-parter. How should you record your host, and how should you record your calls. Am I right about that? Let's start with your host.

What are your limits on hardware purchasing? Can you afford something like a pair of IP codecs for your host? You could both get something from Tieline, and you'd have a nice-quality line from his place to yours. Works fairly well on consumer-level internet connections, but I don't know how expensive they are. Also, they're a bit of a pain to set up, and having a dynamic IP could create difficulties.

There's also the option of tape-synching his portion of the show - you use your phone hybrid to send him a mix-minus, and he rolls on himself. You get the file of just him, and everything gets magically mixed in post.

As for calls, I'd run one instance of Skype, and do a group call. It lets you do that, right? The output of that machine goes into the board, and gets fed a mix-minus. If your host is also going to be on Skype, that removes one input and one mix-minus, but you're surrendering a lot of level control to Skype.

This is all possible with the board you have - complicated routing and mix-minuses are more suited to a broadcast console, but definitely possible with a Mackie.

And seriously, anotherfluke - Audacity pales in comparison to a full-fledged audio editor. As someone who edits audio 3-4 hours a day, I consider it hardly usable.
posted by god hates math at 4:47 PM on October 27, 2010

I believe I recently did a similar thing for my own podcast. I usually Skype with my co-host, but interviews required us to have a Skype phone number. Here's how I it set up:

The Recording:
- I record the show on my Mac, using WireTap Studio. It lets me record decent studio quality on my end and the audio from Skype on the other end. My friend uses a Windows machine and has used CallGraph to record conversations, but we've never had to use her files, so I can't speak to the quality.

The Call:
- I added the guest (using a phone) to a group call with my co-host and I recorded the conversation using WireTap.

I've found that with a nice enough mic on the other end, the Skype part isn't too bad. The biggest problem is talking over each other, since all audio is on one recording.

In your case, you might just want to record your part, have your co-host record his and use CallGraph or WireTap to record only the Skype. You'll have to edit out one of the hosts.
posted by joanofdark at 7:37 PM on October 27, 2010

So, you already do TSOYA and JJGo (thanks for that, by the way :)) with two hosts and call-ins. So the only new issue is how to get both of you to be able to communicate with each other, and the guests, while still getting separate audio of the guests so you can do mixing. Here's the simplest setup I can think of:
  • You and your co-host both record yourselves on mic, as you'd expect.
  • Everyone gets on one conference call, by phone.
  • The guests also get on Skype with you, and you record them with something like CallGraph. Only the guests are on mic in this call, and no one listens to it during the recording (except, ideally, an intern to make sure no one is breaking up or anything).
Then, of course, in post you mix the two host recordings and the Skype recording of the guests.

This way you get a separate track with just the guests' voices, and you get to record them at Skype quality, but there's none of that satellite-delay awkwardness, because you're really talking on the phone.

There are two main disadvantages that I can see: it's kind of cumbersome to make people call you on the phone and Skype at the same time, and you're still not going to have a separate track for each of the two guests. Still, seems like it'd be workable.

I'm an audio nerd, and I'll totally help you set this up if you want. Email's in my profile.
posted by abcde at 9:28 PM on October 27, 2010

The Bugle is a podcast recorded by two people on different continents. You could look into their setup. But it's very professional with producers and directors and likely out of any non-sponsored budget range. But it could give you an idea of how they have it set up.
posted by carlh at 3:46 AM on October 28, 2010

Response by poster: A lot of folks are suggesting what in the business we call a double-ender or tape sync. That unfortunately won't work, as we can't ask guests to record on their end. Even if my co-host and I are both recording, we'll end up with a Skype track that has our guests and one of us, which will mean that we can't replace it.

(By the way, I am a professional radio outlet - though I'm PRI, not NPR. I do tape syncs regularly, but that won't work for guests unless we put them in a studio, which would be cost prohibitive and a logistical nightmare.)

At the suggestion of Dan Benjamin of 5x5 Studios, I'm going to try recording my co-host over Skype, with a netbook dedicated to running that instance of the program. Apparently that's how he records his cohosts, and it actually sounds pretty good. I can tell the difference, but only barely.
posted by YoungAmerican at 9:00 AM on October 28, 2010

In case it wasn't clear, the issue with one of you showing up in the Skype track is the reason that I suggested doing it by phone but recording just the guests over Skype.
posted by abcde at 9:48 AM on October 28, 2010

Response by poster: abcde - your solution does sound like it would work, but I'm wondering if I'll be able to pull it off. Doing both at once is a lot. But possible. I think the biggest problem would be keeping guests on-mic for Skype while they're talking on the phone. Also just making sure that callers have Skype, which is far from a sure thing.
posted by YoungAmerican at 1:12 PM on October 28, 2010

Oh, duh! I knew it was a bit too close to bedtime to attempt to write a logical AskMe answer.

I just realized that you could connect to your co-host with your phone hybrid, a fancy codec, or a second computer with a separate instance of Skype—doesn't matter which—then get on Skype with your guests, feed them a mix of both of you, and feed your co-host a mix-minus of everyone. That way, you could simply record the output from Skype for a track with just your guests.

(Obviously, you'll still need your co-host to record on his side if you use the phone hybrid for your connection to him.)
posted by abcde at 5:32 PM on October 28, 2010

Oh, and obviously you could do much the same thing with phone guests using the hybrid, but you might still want to do it all through Skype using a Skype Online Number, just so you don't have to mess with two different rigs for regular and Skype callers.
posted by abcde at 8:39 PM on October 28, 2010

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