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How to get started in podcasting: capturing the audio

Dan Miller | April 3, 2014
Once you've decided on a format and focus for your podcast, it's time to get down to some nitty-gritty: Figuring out how you're going to capture the audio. That means choosing a microphone (and maybe other hardware) and recording software. It means figuring out a recording workflow. And, if you're going to include guests who can't be in the same room with you, you have to know how you're going to record them.

Once you've decided on a format and focus for your podcast, it's time to get down to some nitty-gritty: Figuring out how you're going to capture the audio. That means choosing a microphone (and maybe other hardware) and recording software. It means figuring out a recording workflow. And, if you're going to include guests who can't be in the same room with you, you have to know how you're going to record them.

Here's how four podcasting vets — Christopher Breen (the Macworld Podcast); Editorial Director Jason Snell (The Incomparable); Erika Ensign (Verity!); and Chip Sudderth (The Two-Minute Time Lord) — capture their audio.

Christopher Breen

Breen has a couple of options when it comes to recording. Macworld has its own special podcasting room, equipped with four Shure 58 microphones mounted on boom stands with pop filters; they connect to a MOTU audio interface which in turn connects to an iMac. Everyone listens to the proceedings using Sony MDR-V6 over-the-ear headphones, and everything is captured in GarageBand 6. (The latest version, GarageBand 10, doesn't support podcasting.)

More frequently, though, he hosts the podcast from his own home, and all participants record themselves remotely. In his home office, he uses a vintage AKG 414 microphone with pop filter on a standing boom stand connected to an Apogee One USB interface. He used to use in-ear headphones, but found them uncomfortable and switched to the Sony V6s.

For remote guests, he uses Ecamm Network's Call Recorder to capture Skype tracks. He likes the way it places his voice on one track and the rest of the speakers' voices on another; you can then split those tracks using tools supplied with the application. Macworld staffers have developed a way to pipe Skype tracks into GarageBand.

At the same time, however, he has guests record their side of the conversation and then send their track to him. The audio quality is always better than with Skype, and those separate files provide more mixing options.

Erika Ensign

She says that the Blue Snowball USB mic is the "official mic of Doctor Who podcasters". (It doesn't hurt that "they look like little Ood translator balls.") So when she started Verity!, she encouraged her cohosts to invest in Snowballs; eventually, they all complied.

Everyone records into their own mics in their own location — preferably the quietest room they can find. As most of her cohosts are technophobes, Ensign selected software that was both free and easy for all them to use. After testing a few free recorder apps, she settled on Audacity. That's also a common choice in the Doctor-Who podcasting community, so there are lots of people to ask for technical assistance when required. Ensign has a professional background in tech writing, so she assembled a how-to document covering the steps necessary to recording and exporting MP3 files.

 

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