When we think of an image of podcasting, it usually involves microphones, mixers, and computers. Think ‘podcast recording space' and you'll imagine bedrooms, cupboards, or basements.
There's a good reason for this, as these images are all fairly accurate for the majority of podcasters. But there are a few folks out there who actually record their podcasts outside. This could range from someone walking along the street with a microphone, to a podcasters sitting in their car.
So why would anyone choose to record their show outside? Well, there are a number of reasons. And some might actually be beneficial to your own show.
Podcast Recording Problems
In podcasting, there are three main problems that most people struggle with. See if any of them apply to you.
- Getting over the feeling that you're talking to a microphone
- Finding a decent sounding microphone
- Having a decent sounding space to record in
Finding Your Voice
The first problem can be overcome by creating an ‘avatar’. This is that one person you feel you are talking to when you hit record. But that's still sometimes not quite enough to get people past the stage of staring into the microphone. This is essentially a form of stage fright. Don't worry though, we'll come back to this.
The second and third problems are issues people encounter once they’ve managed to find their voice. Their content might be good, but their audio quality is bad.
A microphone and it's recording environment work in harmony. So a top-of-the-range condenser mic can actually be a curse if you're recording in a boxy cupboard, hard-surfaced room, or noisy household.
On the other hand, you could go ahead and sound-dampen an area of your house to get around this. But it won’t make much difference if you’ve got a low quality mic.
These problems can all be overcome by investing in soundproofing and recording gear. But what if you're struggling to find a suitable recording space, or a quiet time to record in your house?
The great outdoors is a vastly underused recording environment for podcasters. One famous example of a podcaster who enjoys taking his listener for not just walks, but bike rides too, is Cliff Ravenscraft.
Going out for a walk to record your show can really help eliminate the three main problems we’ve talked about.
Think of it as like being on the phone to a friend whilst out on a walk.
You’re no longer staring at a microphone in a quiet, sterile environment. You’re up, you’re out, you’re on the move, and the blood is pumping.
This is a great way of occupying your brain and body with other things. At this point you can begin to talk to your listener more naturally. Think of it as like being on the phone to a friend whilst out on a walk, I’m sure you’ve done this many times before without giving it a second thought.
The natural ambience of being outdoors can also add something extra to your episodes. It feels very real. That soundscape – even if it’s completely irrelevant to your topic – draws the listener in. Subconsciously they are picturing your surroundings in their head. This is great for engagement.
Your journey through the environment around you allows for some natural pauses, like checking to cross a road, or letting a car pass by. In these short moments you can collect your thoughts, and that can help you to keep speaking with your listener in an engaging way, rather than running on to waffle.
Whilst I'm a big advocate of recording outdoors, for most people it won’t be a year-round option. You’re at the mercy of the weather, the worst of all being strong winds.
Microphone wind protection (wind jammers) can work up to a point. But are you going to be in the best frame of mind to record whilst being blown off your feet, with leaves and crisp papers slapping you in the face?
Other weather conditions can affect outdoor recording too. It could be way too cold (or way too warm – but that’ll probably never be an issue in Scotland). It could be apocalyptic rain too, though even mild rain can be pretty uninspiring to go out in.
You could live somewhere that’s exceptionally busy with pedestrians and traffic, which makes it a real chore to walk anywhere. In this case, the outdoor podcast probably isn’t for you. So let’s look at our second option…
Recording In The Car
It would be shameless to plug a certain award-winning podcast that does this on a regular basis. But your car can act as a great little studio if your house (and conditions outside) are proving a bit too challenging.
Recording in a car actually offers a well above-average level of sound quality. The general shape and soft surfaces in your car interior will be far kinder to your voice than that room in your house that makes you sound like you’re in a cave.
In the car you have the option of moving to a suitable location like a quiet, residential area, or large car park. The car, though not soundproof, also does enough to block out most of the external noise from outside. You also have the option of letting a little outdoor ambience in by lowering your window.
Portable Recording Equipment
So, you're set on recording outside. How do you go about it?
Portable recorders come with built in microphones so, in theory, you don't need anything else to record a show outdoors or in the car. However, it's worth considering the use of lavalier mics (such as the ATR-3350).
These connect to your recorder and pin to your clothing for a more consistent sound, especially if you're recording with a co-host or guest. Just bear in mind you would need two of these lav mics for this purpose, and either a splitter or two 3.5mm to 1/4″ mono adapters depending on your recorder.
In terms of portable recorders, I’m a big fan of the Zoom models. The Zoom H1 is a great affordable option for mobile podcasting, they cost as little as £67/$112, and are powered by a single AA battery.
The H1 has it's limitations however. If you're prepared to pay a little more £160/$200 you can get a fantastic Zoom H4n which has two XLR inputs (the H1 has none). These will give you more options when recording your podcast in the future.
Preventing Recording Issues
Whatever handheld recorder you use, you might want to get yourself a furry windjammer if you're using the built-in mic. Even if it isn’t too windy outside it’s advisable to use one of these. If you’re using the Zoom H1 a Movo WS1 windjammer will fit on there at a cost of around £10/$13. These will give you a much cleaner recording when you’re out and about.
One final piece of advice is to use earbuds when recording too. That way you'll notice immediately if any problems arise. One of the most common disturbances to a portable recording is mobile signal, so either leave your phone at home, or stick it on flight mode.
Where Do You Record Your Podcast?
Hopefully that's given you something to think about if you're suffering from any of the problems listed above. I'm interested to know
- do you already podcast outdoors or in your car?
- Or have you managed to find a space indoors that works for you?
- What problems have you had when trying to record your show, and how did you overcome them?
Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Get Better Interviews with our Skype Checklist for Guests
Download our pro-designed checklist for interview guests. It makes you look great & side-steps interview disasters.