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Something a little different today. Over the last week I have helped four new podcasters with their audio setups. I also received a number of emails asking similar podcast audio questions. Obviously people are looking for some guidance in this area. While I am no expert, I do have experience and I decided to do a podcast about how I have been handling my audio. Podcaster to podcaster if you will. I include lots of pictures and details – so if you’re interested, give it a listen and let me know what you think.
Direct download of the podcast: Podcast About The Podcast (24:22min 16.3MB)
I feel like I have a lot in common with the average person who would like to start podcasting. I had no radio or recording background. As such, I had to figure it all out the hard way. While I have yet to get it “all” figured out, I hope that the following information will be of some asistance. I know when I was starting, I was looking for a post similar to this.
The following photos and information are meant to supplement the information in the podcast. I am working with the assumption you have listened to it.
Here is the equipment I mentioned that I started with:
I also used this basic Radio Shack mic. It costs about $49 and works great.
I used the standard -12db setting, 3:1 compression and attack time 0.1secs. (For those of you who are “picky” this waveform was pre-processed that’s why it already looks nice. )
I kept the standard Normalizer settings – seemed to work fine.
I used the setting of -0.2. See the arrow above.
This is what the waveform should look like when you are done.
Slide Track 1 down and add a Track 2.
Fade Track 2 in and out.
You can export to WAV, AIFF or MP3 here depending on your preference.
This pic shows a good comparison of levels. Notice how the top track (this podcast) fills out nicely. The bottom track is my first podcast – before I learned about this stuff. Both tracks represent the same amount of “audio time” roughly 5 1/2 minutes. Quite a difference. Your goal is to get your audio to look like the top track.
Very important. The only thing that stays with your podcast is your iD3 tag. Fill it out!
Following are all of the audio chain upgrades I have made – none of which are required. The first step in podcasting is to start with whatever equipment you have at your disposal. As in – start NOW! If after you have started you are enjoying it and you’d like to approach it as a hobby, the following might be considered akin to purchasing a good set of golf clubs with which to play. If you approach it as a business, then consider them an investment one might make.
Just a picture from the side of my table top setup in the Home Theater.
This is a screen shot of the current editing software I am using. It is BIAS Peak 4.1. I also use SoundSoap to clean up the audio feedback calls. While at first I did not like Peak, I have come to really enjoy using it. Like anything, there is a learning curve, but I now much prefer it over Audacity. It is a great software package for the Mac. You see it here with the Vbox which has the sequenced plugins I am using.
This is the first podcast in which I am using the BBE Sonic Maximizer plugin suggested by Jim Kloss. Please let me know what you think. It is intended to add a bit of “sparkle” to the podcast. Jim has another great “how to record podcasts” posted here at his site Whole Wheat Radio, check it out.
For those that are really “geeky technical” I used LAME to encode this podcast with the following command line switch instructions: -v -V 4 -b 64 -B 128 –abr 120 –lowpass 10 –resample 24 -h. If you don’t know what that means, then don’t worry. (Though a quick definition is an instuction to encode with a Variable Bit Rate (VBR) quality of 4 with a minimum of 64kbps and a maximum of 128kbps encoding with an average of 120kbps. To have lowpassed below 10,000Hz and to have resampled to a 24 kHz sample rate with a high quality algarithm. Keep in mind it ended up with an average of 93 kbps.) There, now you can impress your geek friends. ðŸ™‚ If you want a suggestion for an everyday spoken word podcast using LAME try : -q 0 –lowpass 10 -a –resample 24 -b 64. That should work fine
Hopefully, those of you interested in podcasting have found this useful. If you have questions or comments, I suggest rather than emailing me – post a comment below, that way everyone can benefit from the discussion. I look forward to hearing from you.
Well this post sure seems to have garnered a lot of attention. I’m glad so many people are finding it useful. My original goal was to help people get started. Not long after I first posted this I got a call on my audio comment line (206) 888-Blog from Doug Kaye of IT Conversations. He offers some great additional information including some ideas about how to extract the best possible encoding from your MP3 codec. For those that are referring and linking to this post for podcasting guidance I wanted to be sure to make Doug’s comments available:
I have also changed some equipment since first posting this. After the podcast first went out I started corresponding with Paul Figgiani who has a podcast called The Point. Paul is similarly interested in trying to squeeze as much audio fidelity into his podcast. After emailing back and forth we each decided to try experimenting with the hardware version of the BBE Sonic Maximizer. I can report that we were both disappointed in our findings. While the software plug-in does allow me to add a bit of “life” back into the audio, the hardware version was way too overbearing. Might sound good on a guitar, but was way too much for the human voice. As such we both ended up returning the units.
You’ll be able to hear this unit at work in the next podcast. I also went about trying to organize the gear a bit and settled on a Road Ready case. Since I record in my basement theater I wanted something I could pack up quickly if guests were coming over. I also added a Furman Power Conditioner So that all the cords etc, could stay inside the case. Obviously the case has no audio benefit; just makes organization of everything simple. Here is a picture of everything put together.
Some people have asked about my headphones. I use Sennheiser HD600 for mastering and then the iPod earbuds to check everything. I learned the hard way to make sure you are using the equipment your listener is most likely using to do any fine tuning.
NPR explains how they make “media sausage” out of their audio in Pulling Back the Curtain. You too can sound like NPR talent. An interesting transcript and audio of a story about NPR’s editing process. Every wonder how all those people sound so spot on and intelligent – never at a loss for words? Is this where podcasting is headed? Remember – these people have staffs to do the “dirty” or should we say “cleaning” work. ðŸ™‚ Thanks to John for the link.
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If you want further information on podcasting then check out my book. It covers the same kind of information handled here but with much more detail. From soup to nuts we cover show creation, recording, editing, equipment, software, show promotion, podcaster secrets and monetization. Podcast Solutions, the book which I co-authored along with Dan Klass is now available on Amazon.
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