So you want to record your very own library podcast, eh?
Well, the good news is that it’s dead simple to do and you can make a really decent podcast with the simplest of tech. Indeed, you probably have most of this stuff lying around your library right now. For this little tutorial series, I’ll go over the basics of what you need, what we use here on BookTalk, and what else you can do to liven things up.
At its heart, all you need to record a podcast is something that will record digital audio and then a computer to upload the audio the Internet. There are digital audio recorders out there with prices varying from tens of dollars to around a couple of hundred dollars. My recommendation is that you use a laptop computer, a microphone, and some kind of audio recording software to do the job. This is a very compact, easily portable system that you can take anywhere. Let’s take a look at the basic equipment.
A laptop computer makes for a really decent podcast recording platform because of its versatility and its portability. Not only can you record the podcast on it, but you can use it to edit your audio, prepare it for upload, and then upload it to the Net for all to listen to. You don’t need a high end machine at all. You’ll want something with a modern processor (say, three years old or younger), a microphone jack (you’d actually have to look for one without such a thing), a headphone jack (ditto), and at least two GB of RAM (if you’re using Linux, you could probably get away with less). Almost any hard drive that comes with almost any computer made in the last five years will be more than large enough to hold your audio data so that’s not a big concern there.
Seriously, there are some high end netbooks out there that will do the job.
You need at least one microphone. If you’re going to have quite a few people in on the podcast, you’ll want to get something decent that picks up sound from all around it. For this, you’l want something called an omnidirectional dynamic microphone. To translate that jargon, you’ll want a microphone that picks up sound from all around (omnidirectional) and converts that sound to digital input (dynamic) for your computer. Most of these modern microphones are fairly inexpensive and plug into your USB port. See our section on what we use on BookTalk for some recommendations.
There are tonnes of applications out there for the recording of audio. In my opinion, one of the best is Audacity. Audacity is a free, open source programme which does a fantastic job of recording multi-track audio. Not that you need multi-track audio for your podcast, but it also does single track just fine. For such a robust, multiple purpose bit of audio software, you can’t beat the price and the quality.
What We Use
Now then, please don’t look at our set up as something you must absolutely have to record a podcast. What we use, and why we use it, is a study in special circumstances. See, before I became a librarian, I was a theater geek, and I mean a professional theatre geek. I went to a high school with a professional grade stage and there was a stage craft class that I absolutely adored. I learned everything from stage carpentry to lighting to, you guessed it, audio engineering and soundboard. Here at our library, we happen to employ several people with musical abilities and, thus, we formed a library band. (I mean, wouldn’t you?)
So some of the things we use pulls double duty for our show and for the band.
Okay, we clear on that? Good. Now, here’s what we use.
We use a Toshiba Satellite laptop computer. It’s no dream machine, but it’s got a decent processor and 4GB of RAM. It runs Windows 7 which, as a computer geek, I make sing and dance and bend it to my will quite nicely.
We use two different kinds of mics. There are the Audix OM-2 microphones that we use with the band and for recording spoken word, but there are also two USB microphones that we have running around here. Now, the funny thing is that those USB mics are from the video games Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Yes, they’re video game microphones used to sing along with a rhythm game. However, they’re USB microphones and they’re actually pretty respectible for recording to a computer. Just plug in a mic, and you’re set.
Also, can’t beat the price. The Audix microphones cost over a hundred dollars per unit. The USB microphones from the video games? You can pick those up for around twenty dollars and they do a very good job.
Remember, I came from a theatre background. So, while I’m not a professional audio engineer, I know what a decent audio mixing board can do for you and how it can help with your recording. We use a Behringer Xenyx 802 mixer which you can snag for $45 – $60 depending on the site you visit. It’s inexpensive, but it allows us to use multiple microphones, with independent volume controls, and hook them all to one computer. This way, if you have a presenter who’s a little quiet, you can turn them up. Ditto for someone who’s loud, and you can turn them down. While you don’t need a mixing board, it really helps the quality of your podcast.
We use two different software programmes for audio recording and editing. Part of this goes back to being a musician and recording my own stuff.
To actually record the podcast, I use Audacity. It’s basically a fire and forget solution. Hit the big, shiny red button, and you’re recording. Monitor your levels using the sound board and the only time you have to touch Audacity again is when you stop the recording and save it.
To edit the podcast, I use Adobe Audition. It’s a pretty expensive app that I have a long history with from recording my own songs at home. See, I used to use a multi-track recording package called Cool Edit Pro. It was a brilliant piece of software that I was intimately familiar with because I used it for, well, everything audio related. I still use Cool Edit Pro, except that Adobe bought the company who made it, renamed the product as Audition, and changed very little else. So basically I use Audition because it’s what I’ve used for years.
There are very few things that you can do in Audition that you can’t do in Audacity. I use Audition to add sound effects to our recording. You can do that in Audacity. I use it to edit out mistakes, bad takes, and other undesirable stuff. You can definitely do that in Audacity. I use it to mix everything together, edit volume control, and filter out some background noise. You can do all of that in Audacity as well.
But for the length of time that I’ve used Audition, I’ve developed a workflow and I can do it five times faster in Audtion than I can in any other software package. So don’t feel like you have to drop the money for it. I use it because I know it. You can learn to do the same thing in Audacity.
Now then, stay tuned for Part Two, in which we’ll go over the basics of recording and editing your podcast!