Stuart Buckland, Ampel’s Director of Audio Production recently sat down with us to talk about what it’s like creating a podcast during the middle of a pandemic. From dodging noisy neighbours, to keeping a noisy house full of kids quiet while recording.

The challenges creating a podcast in a pandemic?

Working in audio, it was the very abrupt and very necessary change from being able to sit in a studio with the talent for recording sessions to trying to explain to talent how to use the remote recording software (which you have only just figured out yourself), how to set-up the shiny new microphone you have sent them, why recording in that tiled kitchen may not be the best option.

Also trying to record any audio yourself at home can be an exercise in bad choreography on the part of your neighbourhood. Even if you manage to get everyone in your house to be quiet for 20 minutes, you can guarantee a leaf blower will start somewhere in the immediate vicinity the moment you hit record. I think each suburb should be allotted one hour of mowing time in the week, and if you miss your window you have to wait until next week. 

The rewards?

Definitely seeing more of my family. Leaving before they are up and coming home near their bedtime is a pretty sad way to watch your kids grow up for five-sevenths of the week. 

On the industry side of things, the rewards ended up being that once the process of remote recording was worked out smoothly, it pretty much eliminated geography as a restriction to getting guests on shows. Not just for shows I was involved in but audio generally, the idea that your pool of possible guests opened up from people who happen to be able to get to your recording space to anyone worldwide who has a computer or phone was game-changing.

What does a typical day look like for you now?

On WFH days, I start work quite early as that is when my brain is freshest (and the house is quietest). I also like to go back and check what is happening with work after dinner, which can be short or long depending on the day. Because I work longer hours than an office-style 9 -5, I give myself more little breaks to refresh my mind during the day than I used to in the office. There are lots of meetings going on at the moment so that is taking up a fair part of the working day. I have gotten quite good at eating some almonds if a meeting is going on a long time without it looking like I put anything in my mouth or am chewing, so I am proud of this new skill. You just bring your hand up to your mouth like you are really pondering what was just said, and slip that almond right in there. Give it a go. 

What advice would you give to others considering a similar move?

Be aware that it is ‘swings and round-a-bouts’. Working from home has benefits (more time with family, not being stuck in traffic) but there are some other, less quantifiable things that you do miss out on being in an office, like the spur of the moment conversation that really benefits what you are working on that you couldn’t have planned, or the bonding that happens sharing a space and experience. Depending on your industry, the fact that people might be happier to share sensitive information in person that they wouldn’t dare put in writing or say over Zoom.

In audio production, while it is great that everyone discovered remote recording and it helped the show go on, there is a bit of the creative magic lacking sometimes that the studio environment can bring. 

I think a mix of working from home and working in the office is the best model, but the fact that businesses now know that they can be flexible with work arrangements and still get the productivity out of their teams that they need is a win for all.