Offsite Podcasting

I’ve written before about how difficult it can be to record podcasts remotely, something that has continued to be a struggle throughout the pandemic. For the Unusually Pink Podcast, the irritation of recording remotely was enough to make both Brandi and myself decide it was best to throw in the towel after a year. Mark and I have managed to continue doing well with the Same Shade Of Difference podcast, though significantly more work is involved in getting an episode together when done remotely. I say that like I have anything to do with it, but it’s really all Mark going through the work of recording our podcast episodes that we do over Discord, editing the files, adding in the music, and everything else. It’s substantially more effort, and at the end of the day we still don’t end up with as clean and natural of a product as we would while recording in person; latency means we still periodically try to talk over one another even as we endeavor to avoid exactly that with video calls.

What we’ve been experimenting with lately, though, are offsite recordings. It gives us a similar experience to the onsite recordings we used to do from our old podcast studio but in random locations. We first actually gave this a shot at Dead Lizard Brewing Company in Orlando when we were there for the Podfest Expo, AKA the last thing we did before the pandemic ground everything to a halt here. That was a surprisingly good experience, and you might be surprised at how infrequently even the loudest background noise comes through to the recording.

With how cool the experience was at Dead Lizard, Mark and I have been trying to basically emulate that experience now from places that allow us to sit outdoors, away from everyone else. We’re racing against time a bit as the weather continues to get colder, but it’s mostly been a great experience thus far. We first recorded at the West Sixth Farm for the “How We Work in the COVID-19 Era” episode. The Farm is a terrific location, with a covered pavilion area that has picnic tables, accessible WiFi, and outdoor power we can use. Barley the farm dog came to hang out with us for a little while, and it’s a very difficult view to top while recording.

The one downside of this setup is that, with things being relatively out in the open, we do end up at the mercy of the wind. We attempted to record a second Same Shade Of Difference episode there maybe about a month ago, but we had to scrap the idea because the windscreens for our microphones couldn’t quite keep up with the wind that would have caused a constant disruption to the episode.

More recently, we recorded at Idlewild Park in northern Kentucky. This was also a cool experience where we were able to take a quick look around, find a pavilion with no one else at it, and post up to record without having to worry about being too close to anyone. We were fairly close to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, but even that sound barely came through the microphones.

That episode isn’t live yet, but look for it soon over at the Same Shade Of Difference website or your podcast source of choice.

As with anything, there are caveats to offsite recording. While the West Sixth Farm is an insanely good location due to this, things like electricity and Internet access aren’t guaranteed when you’re trying to stay away from everyone else. While at Idlewild Park, we just leaned on the batteries for our gear and used the hotspots from our phones and tablets for connectivity. The pavilions at both locations were clutch for the possibility of inclement weather. For both locations, either Mark or myself had to travel at least a bit to get there, so having backups of pretty much everything is helpful. Spare batteries, memory cards, headphones, etc. is useful to save yourself from a scrapped recording session. I say this as if I provide any of it, but it’s really all Mark who has both everything you need and backups of everything you need in his bag at all times. I give him a lot of grief over how heavy his backpack is, but I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t saved me more than a few times.

On the whole, I would highly recommend anyone struggling with remote podcast recording over the Internet try meeting up at an out of the way place to record in person while being outdoors and socially distant, weather permitting. The elephant in the room for this topic, of course, is how you record the episode since dragging something like the RODECaster Pro out there isn’t feasible, even if it’s technically possible since the device will run off of D batteries. The recordings in Orlando and at the Farm were done with Mark’s Zoom H4n Pro, and while that device did a terrific job of recording, it still left a lot to be desired with regard to the amount of edit work that was required afterward. Without any built-in soundboard someone (AKA Mark) would have to go in and actually edit our recording to insert things like our intro music. To alleviate this, Mark recently got the new PodTrak P4. I won’t share any thoughts on that here, though, as that’s the topic of a future podcast episode! Stay tuned to the Same Shade Of Difference if you’re interested in our take on that particular device.