6 steps to set up your studio for an interview

Someone asked the other day about how they could easily set themselves up in their home studio to have a guest call into their radio show for an interview.

I’ve done a few interviews from home and have found a setup and approach that at least works for me, so thought I’d share the main steps here for others to find.

Note that this pertains to a pre-recorded rather than live interview, though hardware-wise the same approach could be used.

1 – Use internet audio calling

Of course you can use the normal phone, but actually I’ve found that IP-based calling gives you almost FM-radio quality sound. All you need to do is find a version that works for you and the interviewee – e.g. FaceTime, Hangouts, Skype. I tend to use my iPad rather than my iPhone to reduce the risk of interruption.

2 – Use a splitter cable if using a device

My initial set up was as follows:

  1. My iPad running FaceTime.
  2. A jack plug to phono lead from the iPad’s headphone socket into my controller to record the interviewee’s side of the conversation.
  3. My usual studio mic to record my side at good quality.

The problem came however that positioning the iPad somewhere convenient where the iPad’s mic would pick me up sufficiently well for the other person to hear became difficult.

AKORD® Gold 3.5mm Headphone Splitter Jack Male to 2 Dual Female Cable lead audio Y-SPLITTER
An iPad/iPhone/device splitter cable – it means you can rig up a separate mic as well as taking the output into your mixer.

A splitter cable that separates the audio output from the mic input in the iPad’s headphone socket meant I could rig up a second mic right next to mine that would mean the other person could hear me clearly and I’d still get good contact for my recording.

3 – Do a dry run to check the levels

Sounds obvious but it’s worth having a dummy call with a friend beforehand to double check everyone can hear each other clearly, and that the levels are good for the interviewee side of the conversation. From experience, FaceTime can sound a bit tinny, and the level is quite low so a fiddle with the gain and the low-end is worth doing.

4 – Record the raw interview

With the above setup, at the appointed time I simply make sure I hit record on Rekordbox at the appointed time whilst the call is in progress. Because I’m using a controller, this means I can get a WAV or AIFF file directly with good quality.

Usually a good idea to record the call in its entirety – if the conversation goes well there may be some soundbites from your interviewee before or after the main conversation.

5 – Edit the raw interview recording to suit

When recorded, you’ll find the raw output contains quite a lot of noise (umms, ahhs, requests for a retake etc). I tend to use Audacity to get the interview edited down so it flows, not too much dead air, and fits into the schedule I’d like.

Editing the raw interview recording down in Audacity

As I sometimes write the interview up afterwards, I may even choose to keep something back for the write-up.

6 – Create a backing track for playback

I do this ahead of the time I want to run the interview on the show simply because it’s less to worry about than trying to both create the loop and overlay the interview recording live.

As I do a DJ mix show, I typically take a track related to the person I’m interviewing and find a suitable instrumental loop and create my own alternative version with several copies of the loop over which I paste the edited interview. I also drop the levels down so the music isn’t overpowering the interview.

Creating a combined interview and backing track for playback using Abelton.

Tools like Abelton are good for this, or even you can use good old Audacity and a bit of waveform copy/paste.

Published by Martin

Geek, DJ, runner, family man.