It’s been exactly one month since I started my internship with the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at NASA Ames, in California’s Silicon Valley. Working remotely from Scotland has been a bit of a nightmare! Sure, travelling during a pandemic is neither essential or responsible, but that doesn’t mean I’m not gutted about missing a three-month trip.
I’m now working with an 8-hour time difference. I’m naturally more of a night owl – my most productive period is around 3-6pm – but it’s tricky to plan interviews with researchers who are just starting their day as I’m finishing mine.
Around 75% of my time is spent science writing and recording interviews for the Ames Share your Science series on StoryCorps. I was so looking forward to meeting NASA Scientists in person. Video conferencing just isn’t the same.
Trying to find positives – I thought I’d save a lot of time when it came to transcribing interviews. Normally, I record meetings on my phone (often in noisy cafés) and then I’d type out the interview manually. But if I record using my Zoom account, I can use the auto-transcription function (check it out if you haven’t already, it’s pretty accurate).
Unfortunately, on my first day I found out that NASA employees aren’t allowed to use Zoom. Or any other video conferencing software I’ve ever used. I’m stuck using Google Meet and I don’t have the upgrade that unlocks their recording function. I also can’t ask my interviewees to download any software, so I have to record my screen with the Xbox Game Bar (it comes with Windows 10).
My first interview was with Dan Whitt, an oceanographer who started working at Ames about a week before I did. I was pretty apprehensive – my Wi-Fi kept cutting out and I was scared I’d lose connection at a key moment in our conversation. I also had serious doubts about the audio quality I’d get from screen recording. Plus, I’ve listened to enough podcasts where professionals have forgotten to press record!
I asked Dan to record our conversation on his phone just in case I had problems. This turned out to be a great shout. I managed to remove a lot of background noise in the screen recording (I edit using Audacity) but there was some weird interference that I couldn’t budge.
I asked Dan to send me his phone audio and it sounded so much better. Initially, I tried to patch in his recording to replace the parts with interference, but I ended up starting from scratch using only that audio. I’m pretty pleased with the results considering I had background traffic, phone, dog and baby noises to contend with!
You can listen to the full interview on StoryCorps here – let me know what you think. And please comment if you have any tips for recording audio while video conferencing!