Guest Interview Preparation

Key Announcements


  • Let me know if you have any questions.
  • Join the Skype call 15 minutes before the start to allow me, the host and audio engineer, to adjust the sound levels.
  • Provide me with your Skype ID (and gmail address, if we decide to do a Google Hangout on Air), if you have not already done so. My Skype id is danielrfeldman.

Most Recent Interviews

Here are my recent interviews.

The Website

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Skype Interview Guidelines for Guests

There are two aspects that you need to prepare.

  • First, your main focus should be to make sure your message gets communicated effectively.
  • And second, it should be to make sure that you have the right equipment, connection, and environment necessary to capture a quality recording.

Giving a Great Radio Interview

Producing a Good Audio Recording

  • The guidelines below explain the equipment and conditions necessary to get a good audio recording.
  • Since we are doing a Skype interview, make sure that you have the right equipment, connection, and environment necessary to capture a quality recording.
  • These are the guidelines which Richard Farrar uses to educate his guests for Skype interviews. Below I have modified them slightly based on experience.
Acquire the Correct Audio Gear, If Necessary
    • Acquire or purchase a decent USB microphone or headset. A headset may run you about $40 while a decent microphone could range from $40 to $70. If you have an XLR microphone and an audio mixer even better.
  • Skype provides some top tips on how to improve the audio quality, as well as a list of the best USB headsets and webcams to use with Skype.
  • On the web you can find lists of top USB and top budget USB microphones. Audiomentor provides a list of their top 5 budget USB microphones, and Gizmodo lists their top 5 budget USB microphones. If you have extra cash to spend, three sites provide their top lists for USB microphones – Top Ten from Ezvid, Top 10 from Wirerealm, and The Best from Wirecutter. You may want to avoid the Blue Yeti, however. I have heard several podcasters complain that unless you know how to use it, it will produce very bad recordings.
  • If you use the built in microphone for your computer, or if your microphone is placed farther away than 1 foot, your voice will lack presence and intelligibility. The reverberation of your voice off of walls and other smooth, hard objects in the room will make your voice sound distant and hollow.
  • Remember the old engineering adage: garbage in equals garbage out. Even with the most sophisticated post-processing it will not be possible to rejuvenate a bad recording. Your ideas are important. Follow some basics to ensure that everyone can hear you easily.
Reduce Unwanted Noises
  • Mute your cell-phone, or preferably switch it off altogether.
  • Close all programs on your computer that make sounds, e.g. email, Facebook etc.
  • In your Skype settings click the “Mute all sounds” button on the “Sounds” tab to eliminate Skype sounds from the podcast, children, street noise.
  • Close external windows and doors to minimize noises from outside.
  • Ask anyone in the house to be quiet whilst you’re being interviewed.
  • Switch off TVs, radios and stereos, or turn their sound right down.
  • Switch off noisy air-conditioning, fans, washing machines, microwaves, or dryers. Isolate yourself from noisy refrigerators.
  • Don’t fidget: eliminate chair noises, table kicks, pen clicks, paper rustling etc.
  • Use a room with soft furnishings rather than an echoey room like a kitchen. Avoid rooms with smooth hard surfaces like glass or smooth walls. Soft, uneven surfaces, like eggshell cartons, absorb sound well. Ideally you only want your voice hitting the microphone directly from your mouth, not reflected off of other objects.
  • Close the curtains / drapes in your room as this helps to reduce echoes.
  • Don’t touch your microphone during the interview. Do not knock the table if your microphone is attached to it.
  • Use headphones (e.g. your MP3 player’s ear-buds) instead of your computer’s speakers so your microphone doesn’t pick up an echo of the interviewer’s voice.
Optimize your Internet Connection
  • Hardwire your computer to your internet router with a CAT5 / Ethernet cable.
  • If you can’t hardwire to your router, get as close to the Wi-Fi router as possible.
  • Turn off Skype video to reduce the load on your internet connection.
  • Ensure no internet intensive tasks are running on your network e.g. video streaming.
Microphone Setup
  • Speak close to your microphone (approx. 5 inches away). Ensure that you mouth is no closer than 3 or 4 inches from the microphone and no farther away than 1 foot. If you are using a condenser microphone ensure that you are using a pop-filter, to eliminate the aspirated b’s and p’s. Note that you do not want to be kissing the microphone either because that will produce pops and artificially amplify the lower register of your voice. However, every inch beyond about 1 foot will decrease the clarity and intelligibility of your voice.
  • Make sure your audio is coming from the correct device / microphone in Skype.
  • Try to maintain a consistent distance from your microphone. Your volume will fade away if you move or turn away from the microphone. Voices which fade in and out are very difficult to process, and podcast listeners in noisy environments like cars and gyms will find them difficult to understand.
Last Preparations
  • Have a glass of lukewarm water handy in case your mouth becomes dry.
  • Pause to collect your thoughts if you require; edits can always be made.
  • Reboot your computer to ensure it is operating optimally.
  • Close ALL unnecessary programs (e.g. iTunes) to reduce the load on your computer. This will enable the application to perform at peak performance and will eliminate the need for the computer fan to operate, which will only add additional noise.
  • If you are still having audio quality problems, you may want to try some of these simple ways to fix low quality problems on Skype.

Skype Interview Guidelines – Downloadable PDF

The above list is also available as a free, downloadable PDF. Please feel free to download it:

Download Skype Interview Guidelines PDF v1.0

Check this post out, if you wish to geek out on voice recording gear. I use the Zoom H4N to record the podcasts, if you are interested.

Producing a Good Video Recording

For the majority of my virtual interviews I have used Skype to record audio interviews published as podcasts. Interestingly even video recording experts like Caleb Wojcik prefer doing just audio interviews over Skype.

I think the perfect format for virtual interviews (when you aren’t in person) is audio only, posted as a podcast. I don’t ever watch side by side Skype recorded videos. I just leave a tab open and listen.Caleb Wojcik

I have recorded podcasts using Google Hangouts on Air. However, as many of my guests do not have access to Google Hangouts, that leaves Skype as the obvious choice for video interviews.

IMPORTANT: Please note that at least 80% of the video experience is conveyed by audio. Counterintuitively the foundation of a good video interview is an excellent audio recording. In fact, many people prefer to listen to a video interview rather than watch it.

Izzy of izzyvideo shares the Three Keys to Great Audio for Video.

  1. Equipment
  2. Placement
  3. Monitoring

Therefore, before continuing please review the Skype Interview Guidelines for Guests above in detail.

As a guest you do not need to buy any software. However, as the host I require additional software to record the video from the Skype call, and to edit the video and audio.

Note while you may not require any additional equipment beyond that which is covered in the basic Skype Interview Guidelines, you may however want to buy some audio and video equipment, if you would like to increase the quality of the final video.

See below.

Ways To Make Webcam Videos Look Better

This video describes 10 ways to make your web cam videos look better.

  1. Position the webcam at eye level.
  2. Look out for angles behind you, and figure out how to remove them.
  3. Put the window in front of you, not behind you.
  4. Set up some lights, or open photoshop or Word and set up a completely white screen on your computer, to light you.
  5. Get a better webcam, like the Logitech C920, for better image quality and more options for controlling it.
  6. Use a settings app for more control over your webcam, i.e. iGlasses on the Mac or Logitech Camera Settings.
  7. Use an external microphone, either a USB microphone or an XLR podcasting microphone. Do not use the built-in microphone on the webcam or on the laptop.
  8. Use a more interesting background than the blank wall behind you. Move the camera around a little bit. Put it on top of a microphone stand, i.e. On Stage CM01 Video Camera/Digital Recorder Adapter, or put it on top of a tripod and move that around.
  9. Look into the camera, do not look at the screen directly. View people using your peripheral vision.
  10. Record using the best webcam application that you have, i.e. ScreenFlow, which records at 720p, and ECAMM’s Call Recorder

Three Quality Levels

There are more or less 3 ways to do this. Each method yields a different quality level in terms of both audio and video.

Doing interviews over Skype seems like all the rage these days. It can be an incredibly easy to use tool when all you need is audio, but getting good video out of Skype can be a pain in the rear.Caleb Wojcik

Caleb Wojcik presents in this video a few different ways to get video out of Skype, and summarizes some of the difficulties and headaches in doing so.

Basic video quality setup
Assessment of the final cut

The video quality reflects the capabilities of our respective built in cameras (which are okay but not great).

As I record directly into an H4N Zoom audio recorder, my audio quality will be high. The quality of your audio would be slightly degraded as it will have been down sampled and compressed by Skype for transmission. In addition transmission problems, like lag or latency, will likely result in dropped video frames and voice distortion.

How to achieve this

I will use ECAMM’s Call Recorder to record the Skype Video, and then either Telestreams’s ScreenFlow or TechSmith’s Camtasia to edit the video. We use the built in cameras on our laptops or desktops, in my case, the iSight camera on my MacBook Pro. We each use either a USB Microphone (i.e. Audio Technica ATR2100) with ear buds or a Logitech Headset H390.

Medium video quality setup
Assessment of the final cut

The final cut mirrors the video quality capabilities of our respective Logitech external web cameras, a decent improvement in quality. My audio again would be high quality as I am recording directly into an H4N Zoom audio recorder. The quality of your audio would be slightly degraded as it will have been down sampled and compressed by Skype for transmission. In addition transmission problems, like lag or latency, will likely result in dropped video frames and voice distortion.

How to achieve this

I will use the same software as in the basic quality setup. However, instead of the built-in cameras, we both will use the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, Widescreen Video Calling and Recording, 1080p Camera. We use either a USB Microphone (i.e. Audio Technica ATR2100) with ear buds or a Logitech Headset H390.

This describes how to install the Logitech external webcamera.

Maximum video quality setup
Assessment of the final cut

The final cut would include HD video for both of us and high quality audio.

How to achieve this

As a backup method I will still use Call Recorder and either ScreenFlow or Camtasia. And also as a backup method we can still use either a built-in camera or the purchased Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, Widescreen Video Calling and Recording, 1080p Camera. However, for maximum quality we could both independently video record ourselves at 1080p using either a Canon Camcorder, or a DSLR (Canon, Panasonic, etc.) with proper studio lighting in our respective “offices”.

Audio for DSLR Part 1 – Run & Gun, B and H.

Audio for DSLR Part 2 – XLR Mics, B and H.

Audio for DSLR Part 3 – Dual Systems (the best method), B and H.

At all quality levels I will be recording my voice directly into a Zoom H4N audio recorder. If you wished to capture your voice at a higher quality level, you could also record your voice into a stand-alone audio recorder, preferably in WAV format using an XLR microphone.

Wirerealm compiled a list of the top 10 best portable recorders.

In his Filmmaking 101 video DiCasa explains with his pal Batman How to Record High Quality Audio on a Budget.

Video School Online provides an excellent brief overview of the use of lavalier microphones.

Curtis Judd describes how to get the best sound from your lavalier microphone.

The Frugal Filmmaker shares some simple tricks to get the best performance out of your lavalier microphones.

Curtis Judd explains how to get the best sound from your lavalier microphone.

Curtis Judd overviews how to record with RODE smartLav+ lavalier microphone into an audio recorder like the Zoom H1.

There are lots of ways to use lavalier microphones with recorders. Jean-Pierre La Forest describes how to plug a 3.5mm mic such as a lavalier microphone into a portable recorder, such as a Zoom H4N.

The Web Video Crew provides a brief tutorial on how to setup a lavalier microphone with an external recorder.

Audio Recording Tips with shotgun microphones with the Video School Online.

How to Record Great Audio and Get Proper Levels with the Video School Online.

But even using the voice message application on an iPhone with a proper microphone may produce good results. Here is a setup with a Rode lavalier microphone and a smartphone.

Adorama presents 4 Simple Ways To Light the Face – OnSet.

Unless you are using a mixer you would likey need 2 microphones – one to communicate with me over Skype and one to record your voice at high definition without the lags, latency, and interruptions of Skype locally. After the call you would send me the raw video from your video camcorder or DSLR and the WAV or MP3 file from your audio recorder. I would then use ScreenFlow or Camtasia to combine our independent audio and video tracks into the final edit.

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