|How To Start a Podcast (Part 1)

[edited June 2016 after 3.5 podcast episodes]

The Adventist Peace Fellowship recently launched a podcast. This has all been new to me, and I’ve been learning a lot. But I still have so much more to learn (that’s why this is “Part 1”).

Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:

General Bits

Most of the material I summarize below I learned in these “General bits” resources. And this is all basic; I don’t go deeply into gates, condensers, telephone calls, apps like Sound Byte, and many other things. Okay, here we go….

Cliff Ravenscraft, the Podcast Answer Man, shows up in a lot of tutorials about podcasting. His website is loaded with quality content. I learned a lot from his 8-part Podcast 101 tutorial.

Pat Flynn also has a very helpful 6-part tutorial (see also).

I also appreciated these resources:

Now for my lessons learned (so far):

Recording the Podcast

There are a few ways to record a podcast. Here I list ways in increasing quality and cost. And you’ll want to record WAV files rather than MP3. You’ll convert to MP3 at the end of the process.

Option 1–Smartphone: You can record a podcast with only a smartphone. There are two ways you can improve the sound quality: (a) use an an external mic (see CNET), and (b) use an app designed for quality recording rather than the basic feature that comes on most smartphones. Look for an app that can record WAV files and record in stereo.

First, choosing a mic. You basically have two options for external mics (and see more about mics further down):

  1. XLR mic. Use an XLR mic (3-prong connection) like the Audio-Technica ATR2100 ($60) or Shure SM58 ($100). You’ll need an XLR female to 3.5mm TRRS adapter to connect it to your phone (example from Sescom, $35, or Comprehensive, $32). You can find many reviews of the ATR2100 and SM58 on YouTube.
  2. Lav/Lavalier/Lapel mic. Here’s a good video on YouTube about three lav mics. And here is more about the Rode SmartLav+ ($80) and two for an interview ($160 mics + $20 adapter).

Second, recording the signal in your smartphone. Here are some quality apps you can use to record your podcast (Bossjock has a lot of reviews on YouTube):

Option 2–Tablet & Bossjock: Yes, this is very similar to Option 1, but with a tablet you get a step up in features.

Here are five examples of using Bossjock (iTunes) on an iPad:

Option 3–Computer & External Mic: You can record a podcast using your computer with free software like Audacity (there are many tutorials on YouTube like this one) or Audio Hijack (YouTube one, two, three).

For this you need a USB mic, not an XLR mic. Or you can get a mic like the Audio-Technica ATR2100 or AT2005 that has both USB and XLR plugs [this is what I chose to do for increased flexibility as we develop]. More on mics below.

Option 4–Audio Interface, Mic & Computer: Use a USB audio interface to connect an XLR mic to your computer to record using software like Audacity or Audio Hijack (described in Option 3). There are many audio interface options; here are two — Focusrite Scarlett (2i2 or others) and  Tascam US-2×2. This way you can use a good mic like a Shure SM-58 without a separate audio recorder as described next in Option 5. 

To learn more about this method, check out B&H’s description or watch this video by Podcast Fast. If I were only recording in my “studio,” I’d be tempted to use a 2i2 (and here’s an example with Skype and the 2i4).

Option 5–Audio Recorder & Mic: If you record with a mic into a quality audio recorder (e.g., Roland R-05, Zoom H1), then you can save the files in high quality WAV format. You cannot use a USB mic with a field audio recorder. You have to use an XLR with a 3.5mm adapter or a lapel/lav/lavalier mic that is already 3.5mm (e.g., Hosa). Or use a recorder that has XLR inputs like the Zoom H4N, H5 or H6 (simple system, complex system). You would then transfer the file to your computer to do the rest of the editing and publishing.

Option 6–Mixer, Mic & Audio Recorder: Use a mixer to get quality sound and open creative options. If you start inexpensively by using the ATR2100 mic with the USB connection to your computer, you’ll get an upgrade in sound quality by switching to the XLR plug and recording it through a mixer. Basic sound flow: XLR mic -> mixer -> audio recorder -> computer.

Mixer reviews I read seemed to favor Soundcraft over Mackie, and some people said not to use Behringer. That said, I’m pretty sure any brand would work for the quality I’m able to produce at this point.

Note: This is the system I went with. I plan to add a gate/compressor by dbx. However, if I were starting over, I think I would use this system with the Zoom H6.

MICS

We’ve already covered the basic difference between USB and XLR mics. Get the kind that will fit your choice of recording technology (USB if recording with your computer; XLR if recording into an audio recorder or mixer).

You’ll also need to choose between a dynamic or condenser mic. I now favor dynamic mics for in-home studios. They are less sensitive to background noise (clocks, chairs, paper shuffling, etc.), so they’re more forgiving of in-home distractions.

As for choosing the specific mic, check out these two comparison videos: Golden Spiral Media and Pat Flynn. Here’s a third comparison that focuses only on high-end mics. You’ll also want to consider the type of mic stand you’ll want and pop filters. I tried to get away without using a pop filter, and my audio has suffered for it.

SKYPE CALLS

There are two ways to record Skype calls, and they depend on the recording system you use (described above).

Basic (computer): If you are recording the conversation with Audacity on your computer, then you can record Skype calls on your computer too. There are some free software options for this (I know one podcast that uses this), but the software I found repeatedly recommended online are ecamm (Apple) and Pamela (Windows) [Total Recorder also looks interesting]. If you use Pamela, purchase the Professional not Call Recorder. In Professional you can separate the recording into two tracks — you and the other person. That allows you to tweak audio levels for each track in Audacity (tutorial). I purchased Call Recorder, found it was limited, and then purchased Professional by paying the difference. It wasn’t hard to switch.

You could even record yourself with your USB mic and use that recording instead of the Pamela recording for your voice. Then just delete your track in Pamela. I know of one podcast that uses this method.

NOTE: I use Option 6 described above. In addition to feeding the Skype call through my mixer and into my audio recorder, I experimented and used Pamela to record Skype at the same time. I haven’t been able to get a good Pamela recording this way. It is too hot, so it’s peaking and distorting. But these are the levels that give me a good recording in my audio recorder, so I don’t want to turn anything down. Pamela probably words better in a simpler system without the mixer and audio recorder.

Advanced (mixer/audio recorder): If you use a mixer, then recording Skype calls gets a bit more complicated. Here is a tutorial on how to set up a mix minus — YouTube and written. Be sure to get a mixer with at least one Auxiliary line out.

You can also use equipment to record telephone conversations, but that is beyond the scope of this introduction.

For a simpler system that doesn’t require a mix minus, check out this method that could be adapted to other recording setups — YouTube.

MUSIC

Music can be tough to find. Here are some resources:

ID3/MP3 TAGS

Some people add ID3 tags in iTunes, some in GarageBand, and some podcasters use other software like ID3 Editor ($15) or MP3 Tag (free).

PROCESSING

Some people recommend using Levelator or Auphonic to even out sound levels. I will eventually look at these in more detail in Part 2.

ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT

You can find a lot more info on equipment here:

Broadcasting Your Podcast

Once you’ve recorded your podcast and mixed in music and whatever else you want, and then saved it as an MP3 file, it’s time to make it accessible to your intended audience. My three friends who have podcasts all use Libsyn as their host. I followed their lead, but you can find many other hosting services like blubrry.

Then you’ll need to set up your feed. Pat Flynn’s tutorials 3-6 cover this. Tutorial 3 is a bit more complicated than it needs to be, I think. It sounds like PowerPress is a useful plug-in if you’re using WordPress.org, but not if you use WordPress.com, which doesn’t allow plug-ins but can still apparently work for this.

And you’ll likely want to get your podcast on both iTunes and Stitcher. Since iTunes is the biggie, here are what other people are teaching about it:

I’ll probably expand and clarify this section later, or make it Part 2. Stay posted for more.

Closing Thoughts

If you have any questions, you probably don’t want to ask me. I’m learning all this as I go. You’re better off visiting The Podcast Answer Man to see if he’s already covered your question (or just search online for answers). 🙂

Finally, I want to thank three people who have answered my questions along the way:

CHECK OUT PART 2

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