An introduction to podcasting by Chris Orsini
You have a voice, something to say and are ready to broadcast it to the world via the World Wide Web but have no clue how to get started. Here we would like to show you the ins and outs of starting a podcast on a low budget and keep it going.
Starting out you probably won’t be having guests on right away. It is probably safe to assume that it’s you and a buddy chatting away. For this you have 3 key audio objectives:
- Receiving your audio. This would be a microphone. There are many microphones to choose from but all offer their own pro’s and con’s. We will talk through that later and I will give my advice on what mics I would purchase.
- Capturing your audio. How are you going to record your audio?
- Editing your audio. This may or may not be solved with objective #2 and also comes with many options.
Receiving your audio:
There are various different microphones on the market that can meet various different needs. The two basic types of microphones you will encounter are dynamic and condenser mics. The easy distinction between these two is that dynamic mics are passive and condenser are powered but what does that mean for your podcasting? Anyone who has experience with studio recording would probably be quick to grab a condenser mic. I sure was but I starting hearing things in my recording that I didn’t like to hear, swallowing, lip smacking, weird tongue movements and just about anything that was happening in my home. The problem here is that condenser mics are generally designed to capture every nuance of a voice or instrument recorded in a soundproofed environment which would then be mixed with music. Not quite the same environment in talk radio. That is why I switched to a dynamic mic. They generally pick up only what is right in front of them and not a great deal of background noise.
The introductory microphone that I recommend:
So why do I (and many other podcasters) love this mic? First off it is incredibly affordable. It is regularly $79.00 on Amazon but has dropped as low as $39.98. If you would rather wait till a price drop, sign up for email notifications on CamelCamelCamel (http://camelcamelcamel.com/Audio-Technica-ATR2100-USB-Cardioid-Dynamic-Microphone/product/B004QJOZS4?context=browse)
This microphone is perfect for a bare bones starter setup but can also expand into a more complex setup. Let’s take a look at the connectors. There’s a lot more down there than a standard microphone. You’ll see your standard XLR jack as well as a USB port, a 3.5mm jack and a volume control wheel (which I honestly never use). At the very least, you can connect this mic to your computer via USB and record into your desired recording software as well as your video chat service. You can then plug your headphones right in the 3.5mm jack for monitoring. As your setup grows you can also your USB audio into your computer for chat and then send a separate signal via XLR to an external recorder for better stability.
You’re going to want to invest in a pop filter. This is either a screen or a foam cover that helps prevent plosive “p’s”. No need to spend an arm and a leg on one. I use this one that I got for less than $3 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2d0LDvV. If you want you can even find them in colors to match your podcast’s color scheme.
If you would like to get fancy, you could skip the included plastic stand and get an official looking desk boom stand. I got this one from Neewer (http://amzn.to/2d47iPM) for $17.99 and comes with an included XLR cable hidden inside the arm. The only thing I would suggest is to put some tape on the springs. They have a tendency to make noise when moving the arm or causing a spring reverb effect when speaking loudly.
When monitoring your audio, you have a decent amount of freedom when it comes to headphones. Some people prefer headphones, others prefer earbuds. It’s really up to what you comfortably have stuck to your head for an extended period of time. The only caution I give is to avoid open backed headphones. Rather than having a solid enclosure behind the drivers, they will generally have a mesh or semi open back which allows sound to leak out. This will pick up in your recording and cause a frustrating echo effect. I use Symphonized Wood earbuds (http://amzn.to/2cyq1Wg) as the wooden construction gives them a nice flat frequency range.
There you go! For no more than $126 (+tax possibly) you have all the gear you need to start a professional sounding podcast. Now on to…
Capturing your audio:
In the previous section, I implied that you could simply record into your computer/the same computer you would be chatting on (if used a video chat service). This works for many people but it is recommended to use a standalone recorder. Say your program crashes or the entire computer crashes or the power goes out on your desktop, all that time and effort is gone to waste. It has happened to me far too many times. If a standalone recorder is not in the budget then I would advise you to either use a laptop or a battery backup on your desktop so if power does go out, you won’t lose your work.
When shopping for a standalone recorder, there are more than enough options. One key question to ask yourself is, “How many tracks will I need to record simultaneously?” Many recorders will only record 2 stereo tracks but the Zoom H5 (http://amzn.to/2d4d6bZ) can be expanded to 4 stereo tracks with a dual XLR capsule (http://amzn.to/2dbl042). If you need 6 tracks, the Zoom H6 (http://amzn.to/2dlEqGg) comes with 4 and can be expanded to 6 with the previously mentioned capsule (http://amzn.to/2dbl042). Don’t forget an SD card. This 32GB Class 10 SanDisk card should more than suffice for $11.78 (http://amzn.to/2dmxpFy).
Say you want to skip the recorder for now, we can move into editing your audio as your editor will double as your recorder.
Editing your audio:
As with everything in the 21st century, there are plenty of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) to choose from. Here are 4 that I would suggest:
OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux
A lot of podcasters choose to use Audacity. It is at the very least a great springboard into the world of DAWs. It is pretty stripped down and straight forward which is great if this is a new environment for you. And hey, who can beat free?!
Price: FREE ($4.99 in some cases)
OS Compatibility: Mac, iOS
This is an obvious choice for Mac users. It is slightly more robust than Audacity. I used this for many of our early episode but there is a rare bug that I ran into that lost my recording. If you do plan on using GarageBand, I would advise you to Save and Export before closing it out.
Price: 60 day, full functioning, free trial. $60 or $225 after. See http://www.reaper.fm/purchase.php for details.
OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac
I haven’t had much experience with Reaper but I’ve worked with audio engineers who swear by it. It’s very affordable as you will likely only need to purchase the $60 license and is much more robust than GarageBand. The website has a forum that is very resourceful. A great option for a Windows user who wants more than Audacity has to offer.
Adobe Audition CC: http://www.adobe.com/products/audition.html
OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac
The way Adobe has formatted their prices makes this a less than ideal option if you don’t already have Creative Cloud. If you already work with CC it only makes sense to utilize what you already have available to you. This is a great, production level DAW that shouldn’t leave you lacking, especially for podcast editing. I suggest diving heavy into YouTube tutorials if this is your first venture into the world of audio editing as it may be a bit daunting.
Logic Pro X: http://www.apple.com/logic-pro/
OS Compatibility: Mac
This is what I currently use to record and edit our episodes. If you’re used to GarageBand, this will feel familiar and comfortable with much more control. The most standout feature of this DAW is what is called Varispeed which allows you to playback at up to +100% (2x) speed cutting your edit time almost in half. This is also a very robust program that I would suggest YouTube tutorials for.
In all these programs, take the time to learn some frequently used keyboard shortcuts. This will save you time and wrist cramping.