How to record a remote podcast

A quick article about how to record a remote interview and how to fix the audio levels after the interview.

I got a few questions about the equipment I used to record the podcast interview with Tony yesterday. I recorded it remotely using Skype – Tony was in West Seattle and I’m in Sammamish. We were both wearing headsets which I recommend because even though Skype is good at cutting out feedback from a PC speaker, some noise does get through if you’re not wearing a headset.

I used Pamela to record the audio. I recommend the Pro version because the other versions limit your recording to 30 minutes or less. Pamela is free for the first 30 days and it’s about $12 after that. A tip when using Pamela: To get to the mp3 audio files, right-click on a recording and click “open call recording folder”. It took me a while to figure that out.

The only complaint I have about Pamela is that it doesn’t regulate the volume of the caller vs. the callee. So my voice was very loud and Tony’s was much softer. It’s taking the audio directly from Skype, so perhaps that’s too much to ask. I also haven’t experimented playing around with the Skype audio settings. Fixing this was time consuming:

I used Audacity, and open source sound editor to fix the difference in Audio volume, and besides the actual interview, this occupied most of my time putting the podcast together. Using Audacity you can see the waveform and it’s quite clear where the audio level is much lower. So I selected the parts in the audio where Tony speaks and applied the Amplify effect. Amplify automatically detects the largest waveform and sets the amplification so that the largest waveform won’t clip – in other words it wont over-amplify and cause distortion. I recommend using the default number it gives you and if that’s too low, then look at the area of the clip you’ve selected and you’ll probably see a spike in the waveform that’s causing amplify to give you a low amplification number. Just select around that spike and you’ll be able to boost the signal more.

I’m sure there’s an easier way to do this, but I tried using Leveller and a couple of other tools and the results weren’t as good as Amplify.

Next time, I’m going to make darn sure my levels are much lower and as close as possible to the person I’m calling. Pamela has a level indicator when you’re recording, so I might try and use that as a visual guide and tweak Skype’s audio settings.

Once I’d finished working with the clip in Audacity, I saved it as a WAV file rather than using Audacity’s ‘save-as mp3′ option and I used RazorLame to convert the WAV to mp3. That gave me more control over the mp3 quality. Under Edit/LAME options, select 24kbit as the bitrate and ‘mono’ as the mode.

Then I just uploaded the file to my blog server and presto!