Generally, when building a stereo rig the prevailing ideology is to build from the source out. So, in an analogue world you’d get the best turntable and stylus first and then worry about better speakers. The rationale being If the needle can’t read the record well the quality of the speakers are irrelevant since they are a downstream component. The signal is amplified from the source out. For recording it’s pretty much the same idea. No matter how fancy the software nothing will overcome a bad microphone or room dynamics. Some things just cannot be fixed in post production.
There are plenty of microphones available that work well for basic podcasting. This article outlines many good choices. Based on the usages I have seen so far in the various courses though I personally recommend the Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone – Silver Edition (there are different colours if you care).
There are several reasons I recommend this microphone:
- Allows for different recording patterns. (Aligning the recording pattern to the type of recording is very important. The company website has a graphic of the capabilities.) .
- The Blue Yeti is a USB microphone which makes it much easier for novices. Choosing a non USB microphone introduces an additional layer of complexity because you have to then get a board and other gear that really isn’t necessary. A high quality podcast can be recorded with a USB microphone.
- Blue Yeti is arguably the most popular USB microphone on the market making troubleshooting for it exceptionally easy. There is a wealth of information. Furthermore, it will be compatible with any competent audio software.
Acoustics is almost as important as the microphone. For podcasting you really want to try to reduce room noise (the sound of a buzzing fridge in the background) and echoes. This link I’ve included lays out some really easy steps to take to improve acoustics. For example, recording in a carpeted room makes a big difference. Even small things like having a large rug and curtains in the room make a larger impact than you would expect. You can also build a really cheap foam barrier which the link above discusses to reduce echo.
Personally, I use Garageband because it is easy to use and free. Honestly, the core abilities you will need in the software are equalization, noise gate, compressor, trimming, and mixing. Podcasting does not require an advanced software suite and it probably makes more sense to discuss these settings in practice rather than here. Often you don’t need to use a compressor or a noise gate but they make for a more professional product.
Also, very important but more seldom discussed is accessing a podcast. I am not sure the culture of posting materials regarding how professors feel about sharing their content to a “wider” internet audience vs keeping it locked behind D2L. However, a proper podcast should really be posted to a RSS feed that can then be read by podcast aggregators like iTunes, Google Music, or whatever. I’ve gone through the process of getting a podcast listed on iTunes and it is exceptionally easy. There are many ways to structure it but you could have feeds for every class so a student opens the feed and all of the podcasts are ready to go in chronological order and easily accessible and playable on any device of their choosing. This discussion is probably a more lengthy one but I would be happy to discuss it more in person.
An aside about the pitfalls of podcasting. Don’t be a podcast tyrant.
When recording in a new room it is inevitable some mistake will happen that requires the re-recording of a podcast. The risk can be minimized with test recording but eventually something will happen. I lost a 2 hour recordings once because of a fridge buzz. Problems like this are almost impossible to fix in post production. It is simply better to re-record the podcast. Basically, what I am getting at here is don’t publish a podcast that has a glaring audio issue. No one will listen to it. Audio issues are magnified substantially when listening in headphones, which I would suggest is how most students are listening to podcasts. Furthermore, it’s simply bad etiquette to force someone to listen to something that is unlistenable. Lastly, the most important piece of advice I have is don’t write a script write a skeleton. Have a structure of where you want to go in a podcast but don’t write a complete script. If you are reading from paper verbatim it will be monotone and the timing will always be unsettling to the listener. When recording visualize you are having a one sided conversation with an invisible guest. This will make the podcast infinitely more engaging to the listener. You want to get better at having a conversation with a microphone not how to write a better script. The essence of a podcasting, like radio, is conversational.
Google Doc on how to remote record a participant: