Having done my first double ender I thought I would give out some hints and tips based on my experience.
For those new to podcasting let me quickly explain that a double ender is where two people, at distance, use either a normal telephone or Skype to hold a conversation, but each records themselves locally with a high quality mike. One person then sends the other their recording. The two voice tracks are then merged to give the effect of both parties being together in a studio.
Use the same mike at both ends – or, at least, a mike that has the same sound characteristics. On my first attempt, I made the mistake of having my remote guest use a Samson C01U USB condenser mike while I used a Shure SM58 at my end. They’re both great mikes but they have very different sounds. When I merged the two recordings I sounded all warm, rich and sightly muted in an SM58 kind of way, while my colleague’s voice had the characteristic detailed top end, with clinically smooth midrange and bass characteristic of the Samson. While this was an interesting acoustic experience it didn’t exactly give the impression that we where in the same studio.
Understand that people converse differently when on the phone. This is especially true when using Skype, because of the small delay you usually get. Try to remember to allow the other person to finish speaking before you cut in – it’s very easy to speak over someone for several seconds without realising it when using Skype. This sounds terrible when you come to merge the two voices. It’s better to allow your partner to speak at relative length, ensure they have finished, then come in with your, relatively long retort.
Use the 1-2-3 clap trick to synchronise the two tracks. When both of you have fired up Audacity (or whatever you are using to record your voice), the first thing you should do, in absolute synchronization, is shout out 3 times in succession, “one… two… three… “ [then clap]. Why. This will produce three very characteristically shaped spiky waveforms on each recording – ideal for aligning the two tracks when you come to merge them. If you get these three spikes lined up, you know everything else is lined up too. It’s a bit like when film makers use the clapper board at the beginning of each scene to synchronise the sound with the picture.
Be prepared to spend time shortening pauses in post production. Because Skype has a slight delay, you may well notice longer than usual pauses between speaking turns. Be prepared to shorten these to give the show a better pace.
And finally, while you’re doing all this editing, be careful to include both tracks. When you are dealing with two or more tracks in Audacity, it is very easy to accidentally only highlight one when you meant to highlight two. Be careful, for example, when cutting a section out, that you do so from both tracks. If you cut it from only one, guess what, you’ve lost your synchronisation – and that sucks!
So, in summary, the double ender is a brilliant technique providing you keep your wits about you.
Happy double ending!
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