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Audio Project (Podcast) Production Guide

Beginning Production

Once you’ve planned out your show, you can begin recording audio.

Podcasts can be made with the simple set-up of a computer with a built-in microphone and access to the internet. But you will produce a much higher quality podcast if you use better recording equipment.

One option is to record in an audio studio, like the one located in The Workshop. Studios are generally well sound-proofed and the studio in The Workshop has excellent equipment that is already largely set up. To use the studio, attend an orientation to become an authorized user and reserve the audio studio in advance.

Another option is to borrow equipment from The Workshop. This is a good option if you want to record interviews at an event or record sounds that you can’t get in the studio. Equipment is available first come, first served for a three day loan, with one renewal allowed, for a total of six days.

General Recording Tips

Choose a quiet setting
Ideally you want to be in a quiet, secluded, and sound-proof room. If you have to be outside, stay away from roads, dogs, mowers, etc. Record all audio in the same room - elements in rooms like carpet, ceiling height, and windows will make each room sound unique.
Wear headphones
Headphones help isolate the audio, helping you catch any problems in your narration or audio.
Place your microphone strategically
Don't be too close or too far away from the microphone. The appropriate distance between your mouth and the microphone is 6 to 12 inches. This prevents "popping" noises and heavy breathing in your recording. If you sound thin and distant, get closer to the microphone.
Check your levels
Your microphone levels should never peak into the red during your test. The optimal point for your microphone levels is just below the red.

Speak clearly and articulate your words
Remember to speak conversationally, as if speaking to a friend. Sit in a chair and sit up straight. Sound confident!

Listen to the audio playback
Always listen to the audio you recorded to make sure that the audio levels are okay. If you find yourself lowering or raising the volume on your speakers, you will probably need to start over. 

Record high audio quality
When you're recording, always record .WAV files at 16-bit, 48 kHz. Do not record .mp3s or other compressed audio.

Recording a podcast in The Workshop audio studio

 

 

The Workshop contains an audio studio equipped with sophisticated microphones and software. Attend an orientation to become an authorized user and reserve the audio studio in advance.

For help setting up and using the equipment in the audio studio, refer to the audio studio start-up guide.

Recommended equipment includes:

 

Electro-Voice RE20 microphone - The classic radio broadcast microphone. It provides a reliable, warm sound that flatters most voices. The audio studio has two RE20s. Use with the Cloudlifter, which is a microphone pre-amplifier, to increase the level of sound you can get. The audio studio has two EV RE20s - if you want to record more than two people in the audio studio, also check out the two Shure Beta 58as.

 

Avid MBox Pro audio interface - A high-end audio interface to connect to the computer. Four microphones can be plugged in at once.

 

Sony MDR-7506 headphones - Wear good headphones to monitor what’s coming in through your microphone. You need to hear that you’re close enough but not too close, that you’re not popping your P’s, bumping the stand, or in need of a drink of water.

 

Boom arm microphone mount - Mount the RE20 onto the boom arm with its shock mount to position the microphone and protect it from sounds when it's bumped.

 

Pop filter - The RE20 works best when positioned close to the speaker’s mouth, but that can cause the microphone to pick up breath noises and “pops” from words with P’s. A pop filter helps reduce this problem.

Recording at home using equipment from The Workshop

Best Quality Option

The Workshop has a variety of microphones available to help record an audio project at home. Equipment is available to anyone in the VCU community and is checked out from the lower level of the VCU library. It is loaned for three days and can be renewed once for another three days, for a total of six days loan.

You can browse all of the equipment available at the Workshop here. Recommended equipment is a Sennheiser e835 microphone, Zoom H4n recorder, XLR cable and microphone stand. 

Recommended equipment is a Sennheiser e835 microphone, Zoom H4n recorder, XLR cable and microphone stand.

For help setting up the equipment, refer to setting up audio equipment guide.

 

Zoom H4n audio recorder - A multipurpose portable recording device with two XLR inputs and two built-in stereo microphones. Plug one or two microphones into its XLR inputs and record onto a memory card, and then later transfer the sound files to a computer. Can also be used as USB audio interface to record directly onto your computer.

 

Sennheiser e835 dynamic microphones - A classic microphone designed for vocals, with low handling noise and a sturdy construction. Connects to a recorder with a XLR cable. If interviewing - you want one for the interviewer and one for the interviewee.

 

XLR cables - use XLR cables to connect your microphone to your recorder (most quality microphones cannot be plugged directly into a computer).

 

Headphones - always listen to the sound that you’re recording

 

Windscreen - if you’re outside, use a windscreen to prevent the microphone from picking up the sound

Easier Option

The Zoom H4n is an audio recorder with built-in stereo microphones, which do a good job of picking up all sounds near by. They are not the most ideal microphones for vocal recordings but will work if the Sennheiser microphones are unavailable or if you’re worried about a complicated set-up.

A Zoom H1 audio recorder is alternative option. The Zoom H1 does not have a way to attach external microphones, but otherwise is similar quality.

For help using the Zoom H4n or Zoom H1, refer to audio equipment set-up guide.

Recording remote guests or co-hosts

Most podcasters use Skype to record their sessions if the co-host or interviewee is not in the same location. Skype lets you have audio conversations with quality beyond what you'll find on a regular phone call and you can have calls with multiple people at once. Most podcasters use Ecamm's Call Recorder for Skype, which is a Skype plug-in that records your own microphone input and the output of your Skype call as separate tracks. Unfortunately there are not good free options, as most of the free programs have timing limitations. Ecamm's Call Recorder is available on computer in The Workshop's audio studio.

There are two basic approaches to recording with Skype: you can record the conversation as you receive it over the Internet from Skype, or everyone on the podcast can record their own end of the conversation, which is called a multiender.

When Skype is working well, the audio quality is good and Skype's audio algorithm suppresses background noise and levels out the volume. If your connection is solid and you're recording a two-person conversation, just recording the audio from Skype and using that as a basis for your podcast is fine. But if your Skype connection falters, which it has a tendency to do, you can end up with silent patches, artifacts and other bad sound. If you can't get a clear, reliable Skype connection or if you're recording more than two people, don't use this method.

Recording a multiender requires each podcast participant to record their own microphone and send the editor the files after the fact. While this method ups the difficulty level, it's usually worth it in the flexibility in editing and higher audio quality. Mac users can use QuickTime Player app to record their own audio for free. After launching QuickTime Player, choose New Audio Recording from the File Menu, then hit the drop-down triangle next to the big red button and select your microphone. Windows users have a slightly more complicated workflow and probably need to download Reaper or Audacity.

When the podcast is over, have all of the participants send their audio recordings to the podcast editor. The editor can match up the tracks with the master recording from the host's Ecamm recording.

This is a helpful page to send to your new podcast guest to help them get set up to set up their end of the recording.