Abroad in Japan talk recording remotely, 5000 miles apart!
Issue #013 of the Pod Bible magazine saw a new regular column from our partners Stakhanov. This is Breaking Bread.
Chris Broad created his multi-award winning YouTube channel Abroad In Japan after moving to Japan to work as an English teacher in 2012. In the 8 years since its inception, Abroad In Japan has amassed over 2 million subscribers. Pete Donaldson, a co-owner of podcast production company Stakhanov, met Chris when he interviewed him for his radio show. Already a fan of the channel, Pete joined forces with Chris and the podcast was born in 2018. Since then, the podcast has pulled in over 11.5 million listens. Abroad In Japan is currently the only Stakhanov show that does not record on-premise, offering a unique set of production challenges – from the logistical to the very technical. As broadcasters have been forced to adapt to lockdown restrictions, remote recording has become an art of its own – one that Chris and Pete have long had to master.
What is your remote recording set-up?
C: Once Pete convinced me we should do the podcast, I snapped up a Rode NT1A condenser mic and that’s been my set up for 3 years now! We started out having a Skype call and recording our audio locally then mixing it together, and these days we use a service called Zencastr which does it for us. While most of the episodes are recorded from my apartment, the beauty of doing our podcast remotely is I can stick the microphone in my backpack and record from wherever I am. For example, last week I was in Tokyo for a meeting and I was able to record from my hotel room!
How have you had to adapt the show in the face of the pandemic?
C: Given both Pete and I are sitting in rooms 8,000km away, we’ve actually not had to change anything since the pandemic started. On the contrary, our setup has helped us weather the storm better than other podcasts, I think, which have had to quickly adapt and abandon the comfort of their recording studios. We could never have envisaged our setup would prepare us for a situation of this scale.
P: Yeah, to be honest, I’ve mainly been rolling with Chris’s schedule. Being in Japan, he’s had a lot more capacity to get out and about. While London’s been in lockdown, Chris has been all over the place – I’m well jealous!
C: For the three years we’ve been recording, Pete has recorded in London and I’ve recorded in Japan. Typically we record on Tuesday at around 6 pm Japan time and 10 am for Pete back in the UK, with both of us hunched over a cup of coffee! Still, my favourite episodes are the ones where Pete visits Japan and we get to record face to face. Hopefully, we can make it happen again in 2021!
What are some of the challenges of recording remotely?
C: Although I have the benefit of being able to host the podcast on the go, the downside is that it can take extra hard work to make sure Pete and I sound natural despite the distance. In the early days when using Skype, there could be a delay of a second or so which could lead to awkward pauses, most of which we removed in post-production.
P: I’m with Chris! Whereas most people featured in these pages will be painfully aware of the limitations and challenges when it comes to recording shows in homemade insulated tents made of duvets and blankets, we’ve been wrestling with the best way to record remotely since the beginning. Our biggest adversary is latency. We’ve had to find our rhythm over the last three years as London to Sendai is quite the distance for VOIP!
C: Yeah – it’s incredible to think we’ve recorded over 150 episodes in this exact format for the past 3 years. But it’s worked surprisingly well and many of our listeners early on mistakenly thought we were in the same room recording together.
Listen to Abroad in Japan wherever you listen to your podcasts. Follow Abroad in Japan on Twitter and Instagram.
Stakhanov produces podcasts that entertain and inform, including some of the UK’s biggest and most popular shows – boasting a combined 4 million monthly listens and over 45 years of podcasting experience. Whether recording remotely or in our broadcast-grade London studio, we specialise in every stage of the podcasting process. To find out more or get in touch, visit our website at stakhanov.studio!