I get a reasonable amount of technology related questions each week, so I thought it would be a good time to start a regular column.
It can also save me some time, because there’s a lot of people asking the same questions, and I hate to repeat myself.
In this episode, we’re going to cover the hardware, software, and third-party services you’ll need to create your own audio podcast.
Full story inside.
In a future installment I’ll cover exactly how to USE all this gadgetry, but in the meantime, here’s what you’ll need.
A Personal Computer and Recording Software
Sounds funny, but I’ve had people ask me how to get the recordings they’ve made using a digital audio recorder onto the internet… without a computer.
Easy: you don’t.
For audio podcasts, your computer doesn’t have to be a mainframe; most computers made in the last 3-4 years are incredibly well suited for this type of work.
I’m going to suggest Audacity, a FREE piece of software to get you started in podcasting. As long as your computer will run this software, you’re stylin’.
Audacity Download Links/System Requirements
Hard drive space is important, so make sure you have a good deal available. Depending on if you’re multi-tracking, and the equipment you’re using, you may need up to 4GB of space available for a 1 hour podcast episode, although typically, you should only need 1GB for a basic two-host show.
It should go without saying, but you’ll want to hear what you’re saying, and have a good representation of what your audience will be hearing. You’ll not only need a set for every host on your ‘cast, but an additional set if you have someone acting as your ‘engineer’.
An engineer would handle all the technical/manual adjustments of your recording session, such as changing recording levels on the fly. Depending on your recording setup, you may also need headphone splitters. If you’re splitting to more than 3 headphones, you’ll want to get an amplified splitter.
I strongly suggest ‘can’ style headphones that completely cover both ears, with a separate volume control for each pair. I’m practically deaf, and a comfortable sound level for me is typically thunderous for other people in the studio.
These are the ‘phones we use at BOMB, being a reasonable balance between cost and quality.
USB headphone/mic combos should ONLY be used as a last resort, and ONLY if you’re podcasting solo. The sound quality is unacceptable, and getting TWO USB setups to work on the same computer is an absolute nightmare.
Since I just mentioned it, let’s discuss your microphones.
As a general rule, anything that plugs in via USB or 1/8″ jack (looks like a small headphone plug) is not a good idea. You CAN get it to work, but your results are not going to be stellar.
Make sure to have a stand for each mic, or be prepared for a lot of extra noise. Holding a microphone in your hand will always introduce extra creaks, pops, and clicks, and will also keep your sound levels from being consistent.
In the BOMB studio, we use a combination of mics.
Since we’ve already established that unless you’re podcasting solo, and in dire straits, you should avoid USB and 1/8″ microphones, exactly how do you get the sound into your PC?
Your options, in order of preference:
- A dedicated USB or Firewire mixer. This is the one we use.
- A standard mixer, passed through the ‘line-in’ jack on your PC.
- If you are using a laptop, an external sound card and a mixer used together. Back in the day, we used this one.
With a laptop, you’ll need both a mixer AND an external sound card because laptops almost always only have a mono ‘microphone’ jack, and not a stereo ‘line-in’ jack.
Once you’re recorded your masterpiece, you’ll need a place to store it, and a place to refer potential subscribers. Some servers are free, but have limited storage space and bandwidth usage, other charge for their services.
Some commonly used hosting services:
GoDaddy: Reasonably priced. Customer service can be lacking.
Switchpod: Packages ranging from free to $30 a month.
MyPodcast: Barebones, but free.
Be careful as you join or pay for hosting; some services place limits on where your podcast is available or charge insane overage rates if your program is more popular than you anticipated.
These guidelines are for podcasts that you intend to record in person, alone or with friends. If you’re recording hosts in different locations, the rules change drastically.
More on that in a future installment.
Matt Ellis is a founding member of Bag Of Mad Bastards, co-host of the podcasts Drunken Monkey Tech and B!tch Sl@p, as well as producer on… oh hell, he’s lost count of them. If you have a question about podcasting write him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.