There are quite a few good ways to get quality production with cohosts and/or interviewees you bring in remotely using Google Hangouts or Skype. I will go over the ones I use and give you the pros and cons of each.
I started out with a gaming headset mic (Turtle Beach and then Razr).
Check out my first Through the Rift episode to hear how it sounds with a headset mic and no mixer. You can compare that to my sound now to get a good idea of the difference.
Online Interviews and Cohosts
Just record the conversation. You will end up with one track that you can edit. The easiest way to do this is to do a Hangouts On Air, download the mp4 from YouTube, and extract the wav from the mp4 to edit the audio. This method is really easy, however your editing abilities will be limited.
You can extract the audio by opening the mp4 in Audacity or Audition.
In Audition, just open the mp4. You will automatically end up with a separate audio file which you can save.
Audacity requires another piece of software (or a plug-in) to extract the audio.
This program should do the trick:
With this method you can have yourself on one track, and the other person/people on a separate track. This allows you to do some of the editing magic, but not all. It will have any interference from the Skype/Hangout as well, unfortunately.
If you don’t have a mixer, you can do this with two computers. On one computer you use Audacity to record yourself using your podcasting microphone. On the other computer you use Hangouts and use Audacity to record the other person. You have a second microphone, like a gaming headset, plugged into computer two—this is the mic that the other people in the interview hear.
To do this in Windows, right-click the speaker icon in your system tray and select “Recording Devices” from the pop-up menu. Go to the “Recording” tab, right-click on Stereo Mix and select “Enable” from the pop-up menu. Then right-click on Stereo Mix again and select “Set as Default Device” from the pop-up menu. If you don’t see Stereo Mix, right click inside the window and make sure “Show Disabled Devices” is selected.
You can also use the Stereo Mix recording device to record other sounds on your computer, like music or videos.
You'll end up with two .wav files that you mix together. You'll have a studio mic hooked to computer one via the mixer (this is the mic that will be in the final recording) and some other gaming mic or whatever hooked to computer two (this is what the person you’re talking to hears).
Here's an article with more details on this method.
You can also do this with one computer if you have a mixer. Bring the audio from your computer into the mixer by going from your computer’s headphone jack into a channel on your mixer. Plug your mic into another channel on the mixer. Take the audio from your mixer to your computer (via USB or going into the computer’s microphone jack), or to a digital recorder for recording.
You’ll want to use a mix-minus setup so your interviewee doesn’t hear their own audio coming back.
Here’s a great tutorial on setting up a mix-minus by Ray Ortega.
You can achieve a multi-track recording using this method. Using the pan knobs on your mixer, turn your mic all the way to one side (left) and the channel with the interviewee’s audio all the way to the other side (right). Your sound file will then have your audio in the left channel and the interviewee’s audio in the right channel. You then split the stereo audio file into two mono audio files, and you can then edit them separately. The nice thing about this method is they will automatically be in sync.
In Audition, right-click on the waveform in the Waveform Editor, and select “Extract Channels to Mono Files” from the pop-up menu. You will end up with two files you can then import into the Multitrack Editor.
In Audacity, click the name of the file to the right of the waveform and select “Split Stereo to Mono) in the pop-up menu.
Once you have your two recordings, you can export the recording from computer two as a .wav and import it into the project on computer one. You may have to use the Time Shift Tool in Audacity if they're out of sync, but I've gotten good enough at hitting record on both the mouses at the same time that it's usually not necessary. I usually do all my editing on each track separately (noise reduction, compression, etc.) before I mix them together. Just be careful if you delete/cut anything that you select it in both tracks, or it will mess up your time sync. Once you're happy with both tracks, select all (ctrl+A) or Edit->Select All then select "Mix and Render" under the "Tracks" menu in Audacity.
You can do what's called a double-ender. This is where each person in the conversation records his audio locally. Everyone then sends their audio (wav) file to the person who will edit the show. Then the editor brings all the files together (as separate tracks) in Audacity/Audition. This will give you much better sound. First, each person is recording their own audio, so if there's any distortions from Skype/Hangouts, it won't be in the recording. Second, each person is on their own solo track, so you can edit out things like people talking over each other and really work some magic.
Here's an article about the process.
Each participant records just their audio/mic using Audacity or Audition. Everyone then sends a .wav of their audio to the person doing the editing. The editor then pulls each .wav into an Audition project. Then you sync the audio, and edit the show. Once you’re done editing, you mixdown the session to one track.
Check out some of my actual play podcast. I had each person record their own audio, and I then brought all five tracks together and edited them. Even though I had players in Michigan, Canada and Australia, I was able to get great sounding audio thanks to this method.
A great way to have a fail-safe is to do your interview via Hangouts On Air and record the hangout using Hangouts On Air while you do your double ender. That way if you need a backup recording for any reason (say someone’s computer crashes, and they lose their recording), then you can always rip the audio from your Hangout mp4 on YouTube.
Here are some great podcasts about podcasting that can really help you out.
Watch Podcasters' Roundtable on YouTube