As listeners of the Grimerica Show may know, I started a Podcast called Friends-To-Know (FTK) after Darren kept bugging me to create one of my own. I am thankful that I did and I jumped head first sinking straight to the bottom. I am finally learning to swim and want to share my journey. If you are thinking about starting a podcast or just like hardware porn and want see the equipment that makes the podcast you listen to, this blog is for you.
The thing that I completely under estimated when starting was the cost of podcasting. There are cheaper ways but on the advice of Darren I have opted to use Libsyn to host the podcast. Basically they make cross platform publishing easy and they have a reliable backbone so your content is always available to stream or download. If your podcast gets big, Libsyn is the best way to publish your podcast. Libsyn offers different monthly upload hosting plans. If you are using audacity, the free audio editing software and exporting at the standard 128kbs your file size will be about .92MB per minute of recorded audio. So factor that in when choosing your plan. Plans are based on how many Megabits you upload each month and content is archived on the 1st and your monthly plan is renewed. If you get too small of a data plan you can switch plans mid month but its not as cost effective and It’s confusing. I started on the basic plan, went to the $30 mid month and am now about to move to the $40 (US) plan so that I can record four 2.5 – 3 hour podcasts a month.
I wanted a landing page for new episodes and I choose square space, but don’t be fooled by the ads “easy drag and drop”, it doesn’t mean it functions like colorforms. You still have templates and text windows. This hosting comes to $120 annually with a $20 domain registry fee that’s waved for the first year. So far I have been very happy with square space.
So excluding equipment my podcasting monthly costs are about 50 bucks; or about 12 bucks an episode. If you have a website already, they may include podcast hosting services. Square space says they do but I have not attempted to publish through them.
The good news is you don’t need much to start a podcast, a smart phone will work. My setup is a decade of accumulated tech I wired together. Now the bad bad news is once you start its really hard not to get the “I wants”.
This is my current recording setup for the podcast which is soon to get a major revamp (stay tuned)
The first episode of FTK was recorded using the mic from an old Logitech v-u0011 webcam.
The computer that I use is a Toshiba Satellite T135-S309 released in 2009
13-inch, HD display
Intel Pentium SU4100 / 1.3 GHz SU4100 –
Intel GMA 4500M
800 MHz – DDR3 SDRAM – 3 GB
5400 rpm – HDD – 320GB
I would consider this to be minimum specs based on my experience running Audacity (the free audio editing software I use). I have to regularly wait 5 –20 minutes for imports, exports and effects on larger files; Plus dragging and editing gets choppy and hard to see on a small screen.
I highly recommend using a second monitor if your system allows it or if your screen is small. I do most of my audio editing with a much older display as well. This makes keeping Audacity open and accessing my audio files much easier. I added an external hard drive to back up my files incase of a data loss aswell. My laptop hard drive is starting to fail and corrupting files so this has paid off in spades.
Listening to your podcast recording quality is really important and I recommend using wired headphones. If you can swing 40 bucks, Superlux makes some amazing monitor headphones. My friend Ward over at the TekSyndicate put together a really good review of the 681 and 668B The Best Headphones Under $50: Superlux 681 & Superlux 66B . I was previously using Sony MDR-RF925RK 900 MHz Analog RF Wireless Headphones but they had too much interference. I couldn’t tell if my audio quality was good, which it wasn’t. I choose to buy a pair of Superlux HD668SB’s which are semi open and then I modified them to prevent noise leak with open cell packing foam, a laundry bag and decorated duct tape.
The modification worked very well and they retained much of their original acoustics with minimal noise leak. If I speak loudly close to the mic it still imparts an echo but it is easily avoided with a pop filter forcing some distance between the mic and your headphones. A screw on articulating pop filter costs less than $6 on Amazon Prime, but they are to heavy for my stock Snowball Mic stands so consider another anchor point or more expensive pop filter. Superlux also makes a set of closed back monitor headphones HD669 which have no noise leak. If you choose either of these they need to be used on a computer or audio equipment with enough power. You may also find the need to add a headphone amplifier (I don’t use one even for music listening). They are monitor headphones with and more frequency response means more juice. If you are recording on low power devices such as a smart phone or mp3 player without using an amp or will use the headphones with such a device, the Superlux HD661 or HD661 closed back are for you, they are the best non echo bet. They run and have less frequency response. I would not recommend using the HD668B headphones without additional noise leak modifications. But if you do, I grabbed these for $37 on Prime and couldn’t be happier.
The next thing to consider is a microphone and as I mentioned you really don’t need much; a pair of ear buds with a built in mic or one baked into your computer will work. If you are inclined to upgrade the audio quality, then I recommend starting with the Snowball by Blue Microphones. If you have $100 or more to spend on a mic then start looking at the Blue Yeti. They also sell a Pro version Yeti with internal upgrades that I am jonesing over but it costs $220 on Prime. If you choose the Blue Snowball mic like I did BEWARE, there are two versions available and one may not work for all your uses. The basic model has a unidirectional mic that picks up your voice directly in front of the mic. They record really well and cost around $50 on Prime. For another $10 or $20, you can get the upgraded version that has two additional mic capsules inside. The first mic at switch position -1- is identical to the one in the lower cost model. It records spoken words near and direct well. The -2- switch is a condenser mic for recording loud audio up close, like a guitar or television speaker. I taped a piece of foam from a CD container to mine so I could lay the microphone close to the TV speaker and record video games with the -2- condenser mic. The -3- setting is so you can record an entire room or have multiple guests use the same microphone.
If you are like me and smoke in your studio its also nice to have a cover to protect it when not in use. I use a beanie.
I have terrazzo floors and podcast while inside and outside are noisy so I have to combat sound. I added sound deadening material every where using open cell packing foam and I hang a shipping blanket outside the door before I record. I also block the bottom of the door with a towel.
Since I need to ventilate the studio of smoke and keep it cool during the summer I purchased two small USB powered fans that are very quiet; and the sound is not picked up by the Blue microphone in settings -1- or -2- ; nor is the air conditioner that’s within 5 feet. The Clip on fan I purchased at home depot for $10 and the fan with the base is by Opolar F60 for $16 on Prime. They have the same motor design and the Home Depot version includes an optional base as well. I keep one placed above me and another blowing out the window. When smoking I keep my air conditioner running for return air and my window cracked. To combat outdoor sound when the window is open, I draw the curtains which still allows air through the top while muffling outside sounds.
Getting your podcast accepted into iTunes
First off I can’t help you with the picture that’s required for a podcast submission, I was not able to find free software to make it a 1400 x 1400 – 3000 x 3000 pix JPG or PNG file smaller than 500KB in size which Apple requires.
Photo shop will easily do this or ask a Friendly Grimerican. *fist bump*
You must go through this link to get apple to accept your podcast for iTunes and the web page is really buggy. http://podcastsconnect.apple.com. Once logged in, click on your show, then hit the link to refresh (do not change *ANYTHING* else). Your show should update within a day. I tried Firefox, explorer and chrome which ended up working after several tries. Assuming you are using Libsyn and follow their instructions for validating your feed you should be ready to publish across all major platforms. If you are going to publish to SoundCloud you are only given 3 hours on a free account. If your like me, that’s only one podcast and you will need to delete the previous episode from your SoundCloud account before you publish to Libsyn.
To record Skype phone calls I use Pamela which is available for PC and will cost you $30. I have read that you can use Audacity but its not automatic and I haven’t tried. If you listened to the most recent FTK 07 Podcast with Arcade High something went wrong and half the show wasn’t recorded. This single recording system is critically flawed I will be addressing it with the forthcoming computer upgrade and a follow up blog.
Audacity nutshell basics
~If you are new to audio editing strap in and go to YouTube, Audacity is complicated until you figure things out.
~Different selection tools react differently with the play settings.
~You can click each track to select it and it will darken
~Click everywhere, every inch does something you need to know.
~You can disable quick play with a right click.
~Right side play button is for playing different speed.
~To do noise reduction you must first –select- the background audio you want to remove and then (click) -EFFECTS-NOISE REDUCTION- and -GET NOISE PROFILE-. Then (select) the audio you want the background sound removed from. (Click) -EFFECTS-NOISE REDUCTION-and (click) -OK-.
~To increase audio to max level without audio “clipping” (select) the low audio and (click) -effects-amplify- and Audacity will amplify to maximum without clipping. To increase audio beyond this limit, disable the auto feature by (checking) the -allow clipping box-.
Well guys that’s about it, hopefully your eyeballs didn’t fall out. I will be writing a follow up to this blog in the near future documenting the coming equipment upgrade.