Getting started with Podcasting

4 minute read

Podcasting is all the rage in 2015, with new shows popping up everywhere.

Since I am a newcomer to the podcasting world I have four objectives in mind: have the podcast sound nice, be practical to record, require a minimal amount of editing, and don’t break the bank in the process.

What follows is my current setup. Getting everything will cost you around 200€ in total, excluding the laptop and other ancillary hardware that you might already have anyway. You could certainly achieve the same results by spending less, but I didn’t want to waste too much time finding the ultimate “el cheapo” setup: everything in here is more or less tried and true by people with way more experience than me.

Equipment

To get started, you will only need a decent microphone and a pop filter:

  • The Blue Yeti is a decent condenser microphone with multiple pickup patterns, a gain control, a nice metallic stand, mute button, audio out and volume control. Some of my favorite podcasters have been using it for a long time.
  • A pop filter to soften plosive sounds. These are usually very cheap (around 10€) and you can even build one yourself with used socks.
  • A decent set of monitor headphones that you must wear while recording, you don’t want sound to come out of your speakers. I use a pair of Sennheiser HD202.

On top of that I added a shock mount and a second-hand NEEWER boom arm to physically remove the microphone from the desk and have it float out of the way when not in use. The shock mount prevents the “bumps” that I would get when I move the mic around 1. You can get both of them for around 50€ or less.

Software

I prefer to record over Skype since it has passable sound quality and it allows me to record from home. I simulate double enders with Audio Hijack 3 by setting up a pipeline like this:

Audio Hijack Pipeline

The pipeline above records my voice onto one file, Skype onto another and produces an additional file with both streams combined, with some volume equalization thrown into the mix. This is what I call the “virtual double ender”: it shares some advantages from the “real” double ender such as having both participants on different audio tracks, being able to space out overlapping voices with the added benefit that I immediately have everything needed to begin editing the episode.

A setup like this also greatly lightens the burden on my co-host since he will only be required to have Skype installed. No additional expensive or complicated software needed.

The drawback is that sound quality takes a noticeable hit, especially for the track that is being recorded over Skype, but it’s an acceptable trade-off for the simplicity brought by this setup. We are planning to move to a real double ender as soon as we gain more experience, though.

I use Trello and a document on Google Docs to plan each episode and collect all show notes.

Recording

I begin a recording session by opening our shared document on Google Docs, keeping a spare browser tab open and switching all devices and messaging application to “do not disturb” mode.

I then record between 15 to 30 seconds of background noise to aid with noise removal during the editing phase. I live near a busy road, thus a 30 second clip lets the microphone capture the varied background noise I am subjected to. 2

After that, we start recording, with Audio Hijack taking care of everything.

Editing

After the recording session, I import the clips into Audacity and perform some cleanup by doing the following:

  1. Select the first 30 seconds of background noise, then click Effect -> Noise Reduction -> Get Noise Profile button.
  2. Select the whole track and go back to Effect -> Noise Reduction and click the OK button, accepting the default settings.
  3. Select the whole track and then go to Effect -> Compression and click the OK button, accepting the default settings.
  4. Select the whole track again and apply the generic “Bass Boost” equalization curve.

After the cleanup phase I import the clips into GarageBand to cut and re-arrange the clips, space out overlapping voices, add the jingles and maybe the occasional sound effect.

Conclusion

That’s it, as you can see my setup is quite simple and while it could certainly be improved by throwing some more money at it, I’m quite happy with what I have now. I’m planning to do a full recording and editing session on an Ubuntu box in the future to see if I can use only 100% free software, stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I highly suggest you to read The ultimate guide to podcasting guides.

Footnotes

  1. Unfortunately the Blue Yeti didn’t fit into the NEEWER shock mount, fortunately I don’t happen to move the mic enough to be a problem. 

  2. I will probably switch to a dynamic microphone or make a small sound booth