FAQ for podcast (and screencast) interviewees

I spend a lot of time recording and editing audio interviews for two shows: ITConversations and Perspectives. I also do a lot of interview-style screencasts. I’ve been meaning to write up a FAQ for interviewees, so here goes.

Preparation

As the interviewee, you need not prepare anything. Your life is the preparation. You might, however, want to help me prepare, by referring me to background materials that I may not already know about. I don’t show up with a script in mind, but I do like to be as informed as I can be.

Recording

My preference is that you use a landline, not a cellphone or a speakerphone. If you have a strong preference for Skype, I can accommodate.

Either way, it’s ideal if you can make a decent recording of your half of the call — for example, by using a USB microphone plugged into your computer, or a standalone digital audio recorder — and convey that recording to me as uncompressed audio. It’s easy to splice the two halves of the conversation together in post-production, and if you got a decent result on your end, the combined result will be way better than any current scheme for squirting audio through a long-haul network. If the local recording doesn’t pan out, we’ll just fall back to the phone recording that will occur in parallel.

Editing

As discussed in this essay on the audio digital darkroom, I’m fairly aggressive about editing audio interviews. As a result, you and I will come out sounding somewhat better than we really are. I do this out of respect both for the listeners’ attention, and for the importance of the ideas we’re discussing.

The amount of editing varies from show to show. Some hour-long interviews have produced twenty-minute shows, other hour-long interviews have produced fifty-five-minute shows. I would say the compression is normally in the ten-to-fifteen-percent range. In all cases, I apply one rule: Focus on the most interesting and important stuff. Interviewees have so far always been pleased with the results.

One of the useful consequences of this approach is that, since you know there’s a safety net, you can relax, there’s no pressure to perform flawlessly, and we can work together to capture the interesting and important stuff.

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