Part 2 in our Podcasting Series: The Technical Details
You’re still with us! That must mean that the idea of creating your own podcast still seems interesting and exciting to you.
There are some basic items that you will need in order to create your podcast: A microphone, a way to record your voice (example: a laptop) software to edit your recording, and ideally a set of headphones. In Part 2 of our Podcasting Series we’ll do a deep dive into the hardware, software and hosting platforms that you’ll need to get your podcast off the ground!
What Equipment will I need?
Let’s Talk about Microphones:
There are several different options for microphones and to be honest, in the beginning, I got a little lost in the weeds with microphones. Did I want one that connected to my computer via USB? Do I want one that had analog capabilities? What if I want to just use an app on my phone? (The answer to that last question is yes, an app on my phone would have been ideal but unfortunately the audio quality is never as good when you go this route – in this case, it is often too good to believe.)
Some microphones come with either a USB or XLR input, and some create versatility by providing both options.
An XLR connection is usually used to plug into a mixer or audio interface which can give you more control, allow for mixing on the fly, create better sound by boosting power, and allows multiple microphone inputs which is ideal for in-studio guests.
My personal favourite and the mic that I use is the Blue Yeti mic (shoutout!). Yeti offers several different recording modes including cardioid (perfect for solo podcasting), omnidirectional (great for a group) and bi-directional which records from the back and front of the mic and makes it ideal for interviews and two person chats. Budget between $150-$200. What I love about this mic is its versatility and because it uses a usb port I feel like its a simpler set up.
So when you’re trying to decide what type of mic to get, you need to be aware of what your computer’s capabilities are. If you go shopping at a best buy or a similar electronics store they should be able to help you decide on a system that works best for your particular needs.
Optional hardware: XLR Recorder
XLR recorders can capture multiple microphone channels and allow you to do basic sound level adjusting and muting on the fly if its a portable piece of equipment. Audio files automatically get organized and stored on a memory card that you can insert into a card reader or slot in your computer. The benefit to this is that its much easier to create studio quality sound in post production. Your editor will appreciate being able to fine tune each speaker’s voice independently rather than having two voices on one track and one being louder than the other (because this always happens when you try to record two people together). Earlier recordings of High Friends are an example of using one recording track and having some jumpy volume issues. Some of these are relatively affordable, although if you want some of the best, they usually run between $100 to $200.
If that’s not in your budget, don’t worry. For our podcast, we did find a way to record our voices separately over the internet without using an XLR recorder.
What if you’re not in the same location?
Because Rachel and I are on opposite sides of the country from one another we have to record our conversations over the internet. This actually turned out to be a blessing because we were able to figure out how to record separately so our volume is matched well.
The way we did it is actually really low tech and inexpensive so I’ll share it with you now:
We use a conference line called Zoom – but any other would do as would Skype or Google or even FaceTime – and we use headphones plugged into our laptops to hear each other. Then we have external microphones plugged into our laptops and we use Quicktime to record our own sides of the conversation. Our editor can then mix the two sides together and our voices come out evenly matched.
It gets a bit trickier if you plan to record most of your podcast or interviews over the phone Using a phone call recording app like Tape A Call ($13) will do in a pinch but remember how earlier I said that we wound up having to rerecord a bunch of interviews? Well, they were all recorded with this app. The sound quality was tinny and it was like listening to someone shout down a tunnel… It wasn’t great and the goal should really be to sound as though you are in the same room. Alternatively, you can use a program like Zencastr to record conversations on separate tracks. Both parties login into the account and hit record, then each voice is recorded on its own in a downloadable format.
If you don’t want to record your voices separately or if you have a guest without the means to set up quicktime you can still use these conference call or VoIP services and just record the entire conversation. Note though that Skype doesn’t offer the ability to record calls so you’ll need additional programs for that. I recommend checking out eCamm Call Recorder for Skype.
What kind of editing software do I need?
If you decide to tackle the editing on your own – you have a few decisions to make. The software that you choose is dependant on the hardware that you have. For example, Mac users will likely find that GarageBand meets all their needs and that program comes free on all Macs. Audacity is another program that many people love and swear by. It’s a free open source audio editing software that allows you to edit multi track recordings. It is available for mac, windows and linux.
Both audacity and garagband offer easy editing with commands that are familiar such as Cut, Copy, Paste and Delete. They both also offer the ability to find the spot that you want to edit easily with scrubbing capabilities plus they have unlimited sequential Undo (and Redo) in the editing session so you can go back any number of steps. This is extremely helpful if you plan to do any of the editing yourself.
Other popular software choices include:
Adobe Audition which is a full-featured Digital Audio Workstation used by many professional and amateur audio engineers. Audition is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud plan where you can get an entire suite of Adobe apps for around $50 a month or one app for around $20 a month. There is also a free trial available.
Like most Adobe products, there is a learning curve. Although Adobe provides many helpful tutorials. One nice thing about the subscription based service is that you always get the latest version of the software.
Pro Tools by Avid is another full-production and sound recording DAW – that acronym stands for Digital Audio Workstation by the way. They have three versions. You can get Pro Tools First for free when you register at the Avid website. You will also get access to nice beginning tutorials. If you would like to upgrade to the full version of Pro Tools there is a monthly subscription option for around $25 a month. The Pro Tools HD version is said to be the most powerful DAW in the audio industry and it is available for around $85 a month.
There are a few things before recording you can do to make editing in post production much easier.
- Find a quiet spot. This should go without saying but its not always obvious.
- Find a small spot. Large spaces allow for audio to bounce around and echo. You’ll get better quality if your in a small space
- Find a space with lots of soft surfaces. Closets are ideal because the fabric will dampen your sound rather than bounce it off a hard surface (like glass)
- Turn off fans, A/C, & extra computers that generate noise because it will get picked up by the mics… same goes for squeaky chairs FYI.
- Write an outline for each show. This can be as simple as a bullet list of points you want to make and articles or studies you want to reference. This way you wont forget anything important.
What are the best hosting options?
Hosting services range from basic to all out editing suites. It all depends on your budget. Lets go over a few of the more popular services and what they offer. I’ll try to help you get an understanding of what is available from each and whether or not you need that.
The way we do it is a very simple example: We built the podcast website on Squarespace which integrates with Apple iTunes and offers podcasting hosting. For me, this seemed like a no brainer. The website is the host and I can control everything in one place. As I upload new episodes to the website they are automatically uploaded to Stitcher, Google Play, TuneIn and Apple. I also use Soundcloud a lot. We have our own on-staff audio editor too. So I wasn’t looking for additional editing capabilities.
Podbean Example: Podbean.com is a hosting service that offers users an interface that they can use to record, edit and publish their podcasts on iTunes as well as track analytics. The pricing ranges from $3/month to $99/month and Podbean offers the ability to set up crowdfunding and advertising opportunities.
Blubrry example: Bluberry is “the largest podcast directory in the world” and offers users hosting, podcasting stats, a WordPress plugin and managed WordPress hosting. They have over 400,000 podcasts in their directory and Blubrry creatives can opt to allow Blubrry to facilitate advertising campaigns. Pricing ranges from $12/mth to $80/mth or customized plans are also available.
So deciding on a hosting platform really comes down to weighing the pros and cons of each and deciding which will work best for you.
Stay tuned for Part 3 in our Podcasting Series where we’ll looking at how to Promote you new podcast!
If you missed the first part of this series, take a boo now – Part 1: Should You Create A Podcast.
Thanks for reading!