Podcasts are becoming very popular as a new storytelling medium to spread ideas and your message online. In this series of posts, I’ll detail everything that you’ll need to know as you get started in the world of podcasting.
Our first post focused on understanding, subscribing, and listening to podcasts. The second post discussed identifying the purpose, audience, and format of your content. The third post dug a bit deeper and unpacked the process of finding talent, content, great audio, and your voice. In this post we’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of recording your podcast.
Recording your content
Throughout this series we’re taking a deep dive into the world of podcasting. At this point you should have a good grasp of podcasting and have started to listen to several. You should also have the desire to reach out to specific audience and make content available for them. Keep in mind that I believe that you could & should be podcasting. Chances are, you’re already creating great content in some format. Podcasts allow you to make this content easily available to a wider audience.
In these posts we’ve included a mixture of video and audio podcasts. You may choose to include video in your podcast, but we’ll continue to focus on recording and sharing audio content in these posts. Perhaps in a future series we’ll take a deep dive into sophisticated video productions.
Building your podcasting kit
Please note that it is very easy to spend a lot of money on podcasting equipment. As you investigate podcasting equipment, you’ll also recognize that there are individuals that will only advise that you purchase the best of the best equipment. I received the same sort of guidance as I’ve experimented with photography, videography, and podcasting. I don’t think that you need to subscribe to this thinking about you get started.
My goal is for you to get started, possibly invest in your equipment along the way if you like it. You need to develop a podcasting kit that is of good quality, easy to use, and relatively fool-proof. You don’t want to worry about the equipment when you should be focused on your content. Most of the equipment in my podcasting kit serves double duty and is also used for webinars, screencasts, and narrating videos.
As you record your podcast, you will record this content on your own, or with others. If you’re recording your content with others, these recordings may be face-to-face (F2F), virtual, or some mixture of the two. We’ll unpack everything in this post.
Recording on your own
If you’re recording your podcast by yourself, I’d recommend starting with a minimal kit. I use a computer (Mac) and a microphone. I use (and love) the Audio-Technica AT2020 USB mic. I recommend a mic with a USB cable so you can plug it right into your computer. I’ve used this on my Mac and PC with no issues. You might also want to check out the Audio-Technica AT 2005 USB, the Blue Yeti mic, or the Samson C01U Pro.
I’d select a quiet space to record your podcast that cuts out the ambient noise. You’ll want to consider background noise. If you live on a busy street, or having crying babies nearby…it’ll come through the recording. You should also be aware of how noise travels in your room. If you’ve got bare walls, hardwood floors, and a lot of echo…noise will bounce around and go straight into your mic. You might want to drop a carpet on the floor and add some plants to the room. Curtains and possibly some sound deadening tiles or foam might help as well.
You might want to investigate adding on to your mic over the future with a tripod, shock mount, and pop filter. Check out this list of equipment used by hosts on the Incomparable Radio Network. Tripods, shock mounts, and pop filters will help clean up the sound coming out of your mic. You’ll want this.
Plug your mic into your computer. On the Mac and PC I recommend using Audacity to record your audio. It is a little tricky to install, but it’s free…and has a lot of support tutorials available online. You can also use QuickTime Player to record on the Mac. It’s already installed…and works great. In either situation, make sure you’re selecting the USB mic and not the built-in mic on your computer.
I also recommend using headphones and either plugging them in to the computer or the mic if it allows this connection. This will help reduce background noise and give better control over your volume levels.
I don’t recommend using Garageband on the Mac to record the audio as it sometimes adds in effects that are more of a hassle than they’re worth. We will examine GarageBand later for editing your podcast.
There are many options that use your iPhone, iPad, or Android device to record podcasts. I don’t trust, or use these at this point. I prefer the mic and computer kit to ensure that once I set things up, things just work.
Record your audio and save the output file in Dropbox or Google Drive. You want to make sure you’ve got a backup before you proceed.
Recording F2F with others
If you’re recording with a colleague (or group) in the same location, you can use the same setup as listed in the section above. The one challenge that you might have is too much background noise, or the mic competing to pick up multiple speakers. Try to not speak over one another while recording…and make this evident with your group before you start recording. Be sure to turn off the computer microphone and select the one that you’re plugging in to the computer.
If you want to invest a bit, you might consider adding multiple microphones and a mixer, but that is adding a ton of cost and expertise. Alternatively, you might check out this kit from Tim Ferriss. His kit is simple, and doesn’t contain a lot of things that could go wrong. With the earlier example, the USB mic by itself should only cost you $100 to $150. If you upgrade to this kit from Tim you’ll realize that you’re multiplying your original costs. Once again…start small.
Be sure to find a quiet room and place the computer and mic in the middle of the action. If you’re not able to select the podcasting room that we discussed in the last section, be aware of the setting in which you record with your panel. I’ve learned that lecture halls are great for taking once voice and sending it to the back of the room, but horrible for recording group audio. You should also be aware of others entering/exiting the space.
Record the audio, and make sure you’ve got a backup. I’d also recommend having a secondary recording device (i.e., a phone, tablet, computer) in case something goes wrong with the original recording.
Recording virtually with others
In this scenario you connect with others virtually using online tools. This is how I record most of my podcasts. You can connect with others online, anywhere around the globe. The hardest thing is usually finding a time that works, and dealing with time zone issues.
For this scenario, you should once again use the podcasting kit and setup that I discussed in the last two sections. You’ll want to use your computer and mic, and connect with others using web conferencing software.
Most times I use Google Hangouts-on-Air for this purpose. Hangouts-on-Air (HoA) will stream your video conference (with up to 10 people) live to your YouTube channel. It will then archive the video to your YouTube channel. I share this video out with others to allow them to view it. One thing to be aware of is that the podcast is streamed live to the Internet. If you get a glitch, it’ll be live online. If there is a glitch, it’ll also be recorded on that YouTube video. You can go back and change the settings to make the video private or unlisted after you have finished.
Once you have finished, I strip the audio from the video and use that for my audio podcasts. There are a multitude of services that will convert your YouTube video to an audio file. I recommend and use ClipConverter.
One of the main complaints that I have with HoA is that the audio sometimes is lousy once you’ve stripped it from the video. For this reason, I’ve started using Skype and ecamm Call Recorder. Call Recorder records the video and audio that Skype uses. It’ll capture and separate all of these different parts, and can assemble or separate them as needed. In this process, it saves the audio coming from your mic, or the microphones of your panel. That was you can make sure that if there is an issue with audio, it’s coming right from the source. ecamm Call Recorder is $29.95 and works on the Mac. There are a ton of alternatives for PC that you can check out as well.
I’ve started moving over to Skype and ecamm Call Recorder for most of my interviews and podcasts.
Save the recorded audio in Dropbox or Google Drive. Make sure you’ve got a backup before you proceed.
What is Next?
In the next post we’ll discuss editing the audio content before moving on to saving and sharing this content online. Please feel free to share or comment on these materials.
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Also published on Medium.