A weak internet connection is enough to ruin a great recording. Imagine yourself getting into the moment of sending out the message that you want your listeners to hear, and having it all go to nothing because your internet cut you off. Frustrating as it is, this is, unfortunately, a scenario that all of us in the industry faces in one way or another. Fortunately, with great know-how, you can easily work your way around it. In this episode, Tom Hazzard shares some great recording tips that can save you from weak internet issues. He also gets right into the gamut of why these things happen and how you can prevent yourself from falling trap of having your internet connection impact your recording quality. He further goes deep into dealing with guest recordings, recording platforms, household internet usage, and more.
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Recording Tips For When You Have A Weak Internet Connection
I decided to do this on my personal Facebook page. Normally I would do something like this on my business Brandcasters’ page or Feed Your Brand page. I went on my personal with this message. What I’m about to share with you applies not only to all the podcasters out there that we support here at Podetize, but also there are a lot more of my friends and even family that are using tools like Zoom to communicate with each other. Some of those are being recorded. Think of this as a public service announcement for all podcasters and live streamers who use a video tool like Zoom going live on Facebook. There are other tools that do it as well. We’re finding that a lot of people are experiencing problems with their internet connection and when they’re recording it, especially if you’re recording something you want to save to hear and see later.
That applies to all you, podcasters, out there. You may think you’re recording everything properly, but there have been a lot of issues people are having where they’re recording quality. They think it’s good and it’s going to be acceptable, but when we get it and review it to produce it, the audio may not always be there. What I’m talking about is to be aware of your internet connection and how strong is it. Lots of us probably have internet connections through a cable provider. We don’t anymore here. We used to through a cable provider, but when you have it through cable, when a lot of people are on the internet, in your neighborhood, your internet bandwidth, your signal goes down.
Everybody can siphon off your bandwidth in the neighborhood. There’s this pipe carrying all this information on the internet. The more people that are on it, it gets divided by all those people. Your internet connection can get weaker and that can impact the recording quality of your episode. I want to explain why that is and I also want to give you some tips on how you can be aware of this. Also, what you might do to try to improve that situation going forward.
Recording Through Zoom
First of all, to be aware when you are recording, I’m going to speak specifically to Zoom. I know people are using WebEx, GoToMeeting and probably Google Hangouts still. There are lots of other tools. I don’t know how many people are still using Skype. It’s not exactly the same anymore, but that’s another potential tool you could be connecting with somebody on. It still have internet bandwidth issues.
Zoom at least gives you feedback as to your signal strength and your internet connection. I think a lot of programs do. I’m not talking about your internal Wi-Fi and your environment, but the internet connection itself. That should be pretty solid if you have any kind of modern Wi-Fi. Zoom will give you a little feedback. It’s like signal bars that you see on a phone. If it goes down, you know that the internet bandwidth that you’re using is not that great. It may be causing problems. If it gets bad, Zoom will put this big message in a black bar across the screen with white letters saying, “Your internet connection is unstable.”
When that’s happening, even though you may be talking and you hear yourself, your guest on the other end of that Zoom call, if you’re interviewing, may not be hearing you. You need to be aware of that. If they’re not hearing your question or the context you’re putting around something so that you’re expecting them to comment, they may not be able to hear you. This is something that’s good, especially in a podcast interview situation. Prep your guests ahead of time saying, “If at any time the internet drops out and you don’t understand what I said or you didn’t hear the question, let me know. We always edit these recordings. Ask me to restate it. Don’t try to answer a question when you heard half of it or you didn’t have all the context.” Prep them a little bit for that.
At the same time, I want to raise your awareness that sometimes I may not be you. We have Fios here. It’s a strong internet connection and we’re not having nearly as many problems as we used to. Even with that, with many people home with the stay at home orders, a lot more of home internets are being used at much higher levels. The reality is there’s got to be some bandwidth issues. There’s a pipe that all of this communication is traveling through the internet. The more people using it, the more crowded it gets, the more that there are going to be potential problems with you having a clean connection and communication with your guests. One important tip to be aware of is that if you’re noticing any bandwidth problems or you’re hearing any, and it may not be you, it may be your guest or the person on the other end.
Their internet may not be as robust as yours. Go ahead and make sure that you’re able to hear that guest. If there are some internet dropouts and some of that electronic distortion and you’re not hearing them very well, I’m here to tell you that your recording is not going to be any better than what you’re hearing of your guests. Their voice and their video, if you’re doing video, is coming through the internet, coming through that pipe. If you’re hearing it garbled or every other word or not good enough to be a good quality recording, then it won’t record any better than that because you are recording here on your side. We always are recommending all of our clients do record on their local computer, not in the cloud.
Record On Your Computer, Not In The Cloud
The reason we do that just as a quick reminder is that when you are recording in the cloud, you only get one recording. One audio file with both of your audios, yours and your guests, mixed and you can’t separate them. We don’t recommend that. We always recommend you record on your local computer. Especially in Zoom, you should go into your recording tab and your preferences on Mac or your settings in Windows for Zoom and check that box that says, “Save a separate audio file for each participant.” What that does is if there are two of us talking in a conversation and we both talk at the same time, let’s say I want to interject and say something. The other person was talking and I accidentally jumped in too soon.
I thought they were stopping but they didn’t and I speak over them. What we would want when we edit that episode is to have the guests be heard and not me. If we recorded in one file, there’s nothing we can do about it. If you both talk at the same time, we either leave it all in or we can edit it all out, but I can’t separate you. If you check that box that says, “Save a separate audio file for each participant,” then you get multiple files. You get one for you and when you’re talking, you’ll hear you, but when the other person’s talking, it will be silent. The same thing for their recording. When they’re talking, you’ll hear them but when you’re talking, their recording will be silent. That allows us to take where the two of us are talking at the same time.
We can do a few things. We can either move it and slide the two apart. Maybe what I said was okay, even though I talked on top of that person, but it would be better if I said it after they were done. We can move it apart and essentially extend the length of the entire conversation a little bit. Also, we could take one of us out and leave the other one in. That’s an important thing. When you do that kind of recording, which is recommended, if I’m hearing my guests and it’s sketchy, there’s nothing that’s going to make that any better. There are a few possibilities for how you can improve the situation.
One is to go ahead and ask your guests if they could repeat what they said. You can say, “Pause. We’ll have a couple of seconds of silence. Start again with that complete thought.” As long as you hear it, it’s going to be good. It’s going to be recorded fine. It can be edited and be very clean as a professional show when it’s done by the time it’s published. That’s one opportunity. Have them repeat it. Another tactic, and this depends on how well you know your guests, how tech-savvy they are. If they’re another podcaster, they probably can handle this with no problem. If you’ve got somebody who hasn’t used these video recording tools like Zoom very often, this may or may not be something you want to do. You can give permission for your guests to record the same session. You can record it on your side. They can record it on their side.
If you give them that opportunity to record and they are willing to upload that recording to a Dropbox, Google Drive or something and give you the recording when you’re done, then we can take the recording from their side. When they’re recording them, even if their internet is bad, they’re being recorded locally on the computer without going through the internet. Their part of speech would be clean, and so with yours on your side. That’s a little more complicated way. If you give them the ability to record, they’re willing to give it to you, we can put all that together and make it one clean thing. Even if the internet connection wasn’t so great, but you understood what they said. You’re able to have that valuable conversation or have that dialogue, that question-answer interface. As long as you understand the context, go ahead, have the conversation and ignore the quality of what you’re hearing from them as long as they’re recording. When you get it from them, it’s going to be solid.
Schedule Your Household’s Internet Use
Another tip is if you’re like me, you’re working from home and your kids are home. My kids are home every day. I’ve been used to working independently from home for years, so is Tracy, and that’s great. Having the kids on top of us all day long, we’re not used to that. We don’t usually do that. When they’re home, they’re either online in a class situation. They’re using internet more or they’re playing Minecraft with their cousins for an hour every day. When they’re allowed to, they may be streaming and watching something on their device, their computer or their Kindle.Using a good quality microphone while recording makes a huge difference in the quality of your sound. Click To Tweet
If they’re streaming a lot of stuff at the same time you’re recording, that’s going to hurt the local bandwidth of your internet connection and your Wi-Fi. I highly recommend another important tip that before you’re going to record that episode and you should know when you’re going to do it, it’s probably scheduled with a guest. You should ask your kids to do something else during that time. Maybe go out in the backyard and play a little bit, get some sun, read a book or whatever. Stop the screen time. Don’t use my internet because I need it for my recording. That may help you very well. If you’re someone that’s a do it yourself podcaster and you don’t edit your stuff, you’re putting it out live on Facebook maybe like I am, that’s it.
You’re going to leave it or you’re going to download that recording and then you’re going to put that out as a podcast later. Maybe you’re not going to record it all. You’ve got to be a little more creative in how you address this issue. If you don’t hear your guests very well, you got to politely being in the moment of a recording, being live in your show. You’ve got to politely ask them, “Could you repeat that? There was a little connection problem. I want to make sure our guests hear that.” Address the elephant in the room for your audience, whether they’re live on Facebook or they’re watching later as a podcast published days or even a week later. Acknowledge that everybody knows.
Every podcast listener knows and if they don’t, they’re a very new listener and they’re going to learn quick. The podcast hosts conduct interviews over the internet. They’re not always together in the same room with their guests when they do it. Especially now, I hope nobody is in the same room with their guests when they’re recording. For example, I acknowledge that I lost my train of thought. I could probably leave that and my audience would be fine with it because I’m being real with them. I’m being authentically me. The audience likes that as much as anything else you would probably say. They want you to be real with them.
They don’t want you to have a facade. Say, “We’re recording this over the internet and we’ve got a little issue with the connection. Could you repeat that for our guests? I want to make sure they heard this. I have a feeling this is valuable information that they would like to hear.” There are ways you can deal with that in an authentic way that listeners will still appreciate. One of the things I do and we recommend for all of our customers is to use a good quality microphone, not just the one built into your computer because it makes a huge difference in the quality of your sound. Listeners do want professional sound. They understand maybe your quality is going to be better than your guests because they may not have a good mic and it’s coming to the internet, but at least you the host should have stellar audio.
Going Live On Facebook
I want to talk about going live on Facebook. I got a brand-new MacBook Pro computer. I had one that was seven years old. I don’t get a new computer every year, every other year. It had been a long time. It was due and I was having all kinds of problems with it because it’s old and technologies change a lot. I was looking forward to improving performance with Zoom and going live on Facebook. I had not been having some good experience right out of the gate with this new computer, especially going live from Zoom. You have to have a paid Zoom account to go live on Facebook from it. I’ve always had that. There’s a point at which you start your Zoom meeting and then you click a button that says, “Go live on Facebook.” It opens up your browser. It connects to your Facebook account and lets you start to create, type in a title and description and go live. At one point, there’s this black screen and you get a little circle, almost like a watch while it processes and gets ready. It was getting hung up there all the time and I wasn’t able to go live.
It’s very inconsistent. What I found and I hope this will help you if you’ve been having this trouble. Number one, having a new modern computer is going to be very helpful. If your technology is newer and faster, you’re going to have better performance. That’s always true. More importantly, I’m one of those guys that I leave my Chrome browser up pretty much all day, days on end with all kinds of crazy tabs in it because, “I don’t want to forget to do that.” I leave it up. I don’t close it down and clean it out every day. That was hurting me. That was my biggest issue with going live on Facebook. There’s something about Chrome, your cache and how much stuff that your computer’s keeping in RAM memory that when you have all those different webpages still up, it’s having a store all that stuff in temporary memory, leaving less temporary RAM memory for the Zoom communication.
These videos Zoom communications are very demanding. They need a lot of system resources. The lesson for me was, “Tom, you’ve got to turn your computer off and reboot once in a while or shut your Chrome browser and clear your cache.” If you want things to go smoothly, you’ve got to have a pretty clean situation without a lot of overhead on your computer. Mostly, I’ve found that it comes down to my browser. If you have an older computer and your hard drive is almost filled up all the time, that’s a bigger issue. That’s what I was having back in January with the seven-year-old MacBook. The hard drive was too small and I had to constantly delete stuff off of it and that became an issue too.
Be Intentional With Your Environment
The last thing I want to share with you about is your background. If you’re going to do a video on a regular basis and you’re going to use that video, I would argue, even if you’re not going to publish video to YouTube, but you’re doing anything live on Facebook, you’re using that video. You need to be intentional about what is all around and behind you and your environment. You don’t have to be like me. I’m using a green screen. They have a virtual background and they call it virtual background. Using the green screen to make the quality much better. I got this roller shade green screen off Amazon. I got one and tested it. It’s hanging from the ceiling.
It pulls down like a roller shade when I need it and I can put it away when I don’t and I love it. It’s fantastic. It works incredibly well to the point where I bought another one for another room where sometimes I do some of these things so that I can do this anywhere. You can change it. You want to know the right proportion and they have that information on Zoom, the size of the background. It’s 16×9 proportion for that size image. Create a background and you can change them on the fly.
I have different ones for different types of meetings that I use, different episodes that I do. I’ll have different ones and you can even use videos. I’ve been playing with that too and that’s fun. Anybody who knows me knows that one of my things is 3D printing. I have one of my designs. It’s distorted, but it’s a necktie that’s 3D printed. I created this video that oscillates and repeats. I use that when we record on the 3D printing show. You can have different purposes and have different backgrounds and it works incredibly well. If you’re going to use this background feature, you’ve got to have a modern fast computer. Their recommendation system requirements are an i7 processor or better or newer. If you have an older or a slower processor, this might not work as well for you. That’s just a limitation of it.
If that’s the case, what would you do with your background? I’ve had for a long time a printed fabric backdrop behind me of the same thing, but it has lots of problems. It’s not stretched tight. It’s fabric. It’s hanging, it moves. People get in the way. You use the green screen and it’s clean. Depending on your hair, that can be a little fuzziness around you. I find good lighting has a lot to do with that. I’ve got a Diva light and if I turn my glasses up, and I’m sure some of you have seen this already, but if I look up, you can see, “I’ve got a light up there.” Projecting good light into your environment makes it better. I’m using the default camera on my MacBook Pro. If I use a USB webcam like a Logitech or there’s a bunch of different kinds out there, $100 or less. You don’t have to spend a lot.Zoom communications are very demanding. They need a lot of system resources. Click To Tweet
Using that kind of an external camera makes you not only look better, the color of your skin, and it’s cutting you out from the green screen. The quality is better. The whole system works a lot better when you use an external USB camera. Also, another thing I do want to let you know, remember we started talking and this is relative to this virtual background. When I started this, I was talking about internet and making sure you have awareness of things with the internet. As much as I love this virtual background stuff, it’s a killer. It has a negative impact on your bandwidth. It takes a lot of bandwidth to do this and processing power in your computer too. Not only is your processor need to be a very fast one, i7 or better.
In reality, you’ve got to have a strong internet connection. This is a lot of information and data that’s being pushed through your internet connection. I find that internet companies are offering faster speeds at lower prices. They’re getting a lot of business from everybody. They’re not hurting as much as other businesses. More and more communities have fiber optic available, which gives you much faster speeds where this just becomes a non-issue. In Southern California, I’m paying $104 a month for the fastest internet. Fios is getting me 500 megabits per second upload speed. It’s usually something less than that, which is surprising download speed.
It’s good internet and it’s not terribly expensive, at least for me, because I’m on Zoom usually more than half the day, sometimes all day long in my business. I hope you are getting some value out of these tips for recording, especially live broadcasting, also recording quality audio for your podcast. I don’t want to see any of you think you’ve had this incredible interview. It’s good stuff. At the end of the day, when we go produce it for you, we’re not going to be able to hear your guests very well. That would be a tragedy and I don’t want to see any of you have that problem. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for reading. I’ll see you again soon.
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