Exactly how we record the podcast isn’t a secret. Although we sometimes refer to being round a table it’s usually prefixed with “virtual” as we are all in a glorified conference call which Mike, or sometimes Alan, stitches together into the polished (ahem) production we all know and love.
The workflow is simple, we all join a conference call using VoIP software while simultaneously recording our own microphones locally. We then Dropbox our respective local, high quality recordings to Mike who, using a recording of the conference call as a sync guide, reassembles the conversation using high quality media.
VoIP Software And Timing Drift
When I started on the podcast we were using Skype. Skype is an excellent tool but Mike found timing could drift as bandwidth fell and on an hour long call this could be awkward. For a while we have been using Google Hangouts. This is better from a timing point of view. We have always had occasional issues with reluctant internet connections and it isn’t surprising that with four domestic internet connections over the course of an hour we occasionally hit a bottleneck and we lose someone for a few seconds. Exactly how much the performance of a call is down to contention on shared internet connections and how much the VoIP software influences performance isn’t an easy thing to test but a few minutes before the podcast record last week I got a message from Russ telling me that we were going to be using Source-Connect Now.
Cable Copper And Contention
I had no experience of Source Connect, I have tried Source Nexus before but checking on the Source Elements website it seemed all I would need as a guest on a call was a browser (Chrome is strongly recommended). Source Elements recommend a connection with a minimum of 1MB up and down. This concerned me a little as I’m not on fibre and my upload speed isn’t quite 1MB. However my previous experience on podcast records has been that it is consistency of connection which seems more important that peak speed. In fact my humble copper connection rarely if ever gives any trouble whereas other team members with far faster connections are regularly plagued with drop-outs. My guess is that this is a result of high contention.
Once I noticed the invitation email had arrived joining the call as was simple as clicking a link. As a precaution I set my connection to 64mbps, the others were all on the default of 128. I think this wasn’t necessary but no-one on the call noticed my reduced bandwidth until I pointed it out.
The experience of using Source-Connect Now was faultless. The audio quality was strikingly better that what we are used to using Google hangouts. The connection was stable and I don’t recall any of the sproingy, Dalek voices we are all used to using VoIP. Having easy control over input and output devices (you can access this in Google Hangouts but its not obvious where it is) and having control over the level of participants is excellent.
For the time being I can’t see us stopping our local record workflow. The possibility exists for us to all remotely record onto Mike’s timeline and while this would speed up the process, the possible points of failure with three remote locations via three domestic internet connections mean that until we all have more reliable connections this isn’t a tempting proposition. What I think might happen comparatively soon is our local recordings being relegated to backups in a local/IP dual redundant workflow.
For those with reliable, fast internet connections this way of working will be as commonplace as streaming video from Netflix. The one thing you can always guarantee about networks is that they always get faster. Source-Connect Now is so simple and works so well. I’m in!