Viewing entries tagged
recording a podcast

How to Record Anything That Makes Sound on Your Mac

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How to Record Anything That Makes Sound on Your Mac

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

This is the mantra of any Mac user, and the quest for drop dead simple podcasting applications has been a hobby of mine for almost a decade. Unfortunately, podcasting to date has been a relatively small market for software developers. So accomplishing seemingly simple audio tasks on our computers meant having to resort to overly robust and often complicated audio software and hardware configurations.

One such task would be recording audio - and I mean any audio.

 

Mac Podcasters’ Secret Weapon

For years, the majority of podcasts were created on Macs and listened to on Apple devices. The integration of podcasts in the 2006 update of iTunes, along with the likely intentional and misplaced association with the iPod, made podcasts appear to be a “Mac thing”. Set aside Apple’s typical usurping of technology and slapping their Zen-ness on to call it their own, this meant some of the best software for podcast recording was written by Mac developers, for Mac users.

Windows folks were stuck with a mishmash of kludge solutions to perform what, on the surface, seems like simple audio operations. For example, recording audio on your computer that is coming from your computer. Simple, right? As with most things Mac, yep.

 

 

Rogue Amoeba - Strange Name. Great Software.

ammo.png

From the developer: "Rogue Amoeba Software is a privately-held software company, based in the USA with offices around the globe. Since 2002, we've been making tools for Mac OS X to assist you with all your audio needs. In that time we've delighted tens of thousands of users and received some of the highest honors in the industry.

Our product line includes the wildly popular home audio streamer Airfoil, our powerful Audio Hijack audio recorder, and our streamlined audio editor Fission."

Mac users and podcasters have known of this company for a long time. We’ve used Rogue Amoeba’s stellar lineup of easy-to-use applications for a variety of production tasks. Many of us can’t live without them. OK, back to recording audio from your Mac.

 

 

Enter Piezo - Charmingly Simple Audio Recording

From the developer: "Say “hello” to Piezo! Piezo makes it a snap to record audio on your Mac. In seconds, you'll be recording audio from any application or from audio inputs like microphones.

Piezo requires almost no configuration, and it's a blast to use. Simple and inexpensive - that's a winning combination.”

To say I love this little app is an understatement. The folks at Rogue Amoeba have made it not only easy to record audio from any source on your Mac, they’ve made it elegant and fun too! The interface couldn’t be clearer. Pull down the menu of sources to display what application audio you want to record, add a title, comment and select the audio quality, and press record!

This can be anything you desire from your USB microphone to Skype. You can even record audio from DVDs, websites, or Spotify if breaking some laws is your bent (though we don’t advise this, obviously).

Once recorded, you can click the magnifying glass in the title window to reveal your pristine audio recording in the finder. Love it.

 

Call Recording

Recording Skype audio is by far the most common need we address from podcast clients. In short, they are co-hosting or interviewing a guest on their podcast and want to record that conversation for use in their show. There are now (thank goodness) a variety of simple ways to do this. The most popular call recorder for Skype is the eCamm Recorder for Mac. However, what if you’re using another program like Zoom, or Google Hangouts, or Facetime, or…?

Granted, eCamm can handle some of these applications. But it certainly can’t handle them ALL. Piezo is as simple as selecting from the pulldown menu the application from which you want to record the audio, and pressing the big, red button. Boom!  It couldn’t get easier than that, and you can do it on the fly.

 

 

Try Before You Buy

Mac and iOS users are familiar with the App Store. I’m a big fan of this as a user largely because it both keeps my applications automatically updated, and also enables me to install them on up to 5 machines. Anyone who uses their Mac as a creative tool will appreciate the ability to install Logic Pro X on 5 production machines for $199. However, this isn’t always the best deal for software developers.

One, the App Store doesn’t have free trials. Boo. Two, Apple takes a hefty cut for having it positioned in the store, purchased, and delivered via their system. Granted, for many developers this is a fair deal. For smaller companies that I adore, such as Smile Software and Rogue Amoeba, to name a few, it’s better to go the old fashioned way and sell direct.

The point being, you can try ALL the Rogue Amoeba software before you commit to a purchase. So installing this and then deciding if it’s a good fit for your podcast workflow is a no-brainer.

 

 

Piezo Not Powerful Enough for You?

Fear not. Audio Hijack 3 is Mac audio capture on steroids! If you’re brave enough to check it out before my upcoming review, you can get a trial copy here!

In the coming weeks I’ll be demonstrating practical podcasting applications of other software from Rogue Amoeba, including Audio Hijack 3, Loopback, and Nicecast.


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Basic Podcast Recording and Editing in Audacity

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Basic Podcast Recording and Editing in Audacity

In this quick session, let’s look at basic audio recording into Audacity using our Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface. 

Advanced audio editing will be covered in future specializations, so stay tuned!

 

Recording and Editing

Hi, this is Corey from Podfly Academy. Hopefully, by now we feel comfortable enough with our physical equipment to start looking into the digital realm of audio recording. Today we're going to be focusing on a DAW, which stands for Digital Audio Workstation, called Audacity. There are a wide variety of these available on the market, but we're going to look at Audacity because it's simple, it's free, and it's compatible with all computer operating systems.

 

Recording Into Your Computer

We've taken a quick look at the physical setup required to get the audio from the microphone into your computer. The next step is now looking at how we're going to actually record that audio in the machine. Whether you have a Windows PC or a Mac, they both come with audio recording programs built-in.

However, for podcasting we usually want something a little bit more sophisticated, as we're going to need to edit that audio. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular programs for podcasters when they get started, because it's free. This is called Audacity.

 

Audacity

The program Audacity has been around for many years. It's a free program because it's something called open-source. That means anyone can develop, improve, and work on this program. Downloading it is as simple as going to audacity.sourceforge.net and get the Mac or Windows version.

 

Recording Audio

Now that I’ve installed Audacity on my computer, I want to select both the input and output that I'm going to be using. Notice at the top I can choose my input device. In my case, I'm using something called a Scarlett 212 USB interface. Your USB interface or microphone will appear in this menu after you've installed it. In this case, I'll click on Scarlett 2i2.

I'm also going to listen back to my audio through the headphone jack on my USB device. So in this case, I want to select the same device. To the right, I have the opportunity to select whether my input is going to be mono or stereo. If I have one microphone plugged in, I want to select mono. Above this there's a little microphone icon where I can select enable or start monitoring. Notice you see here now that I am able to see my input going into Audacity. We want to stay at the negative 12 db or just slightly above level, since we've adjusted our microphone gain before we opened Audacity, we have a great level going in.

The most important part is to make sure that level never clips. Another consideration is you don't want  your level to be too low. My levels going in right now look great and you want yours to look similar. Recording your voice now is as simple as clicking record.

As I record my voice, you can see that a wave form is appearing. This is a visual representation of audio. To stop the recording, I simply press stop.

 

Playback Audio

At any point I can playback any part of the audio I recorded. By clicking in the project where I'd like the playback to start and pressing the spacebar, you'll see that I can playback through the audio.

Now that we are successfully recording our voice into our DAW, it's time to look at manipulating that audio. Quite often we have ums, and ahs, and breaks, and mistakes that we want to edit. These are very simple functions within Audacity. The great news is a lot of these skills that we're learning today are transferable to other programs as well, whether you're using GarageBand or Adobe Audition or Logic Pro. Any of the DAW's have a very similar layout and a very similar set of commands. We'll be looking really in depth at these down the road in specializations, but today let's make a couple of quick edits in Audacity.

 

Deleting Audio

I'm going to do a simple read and I'm going to make an intentional mistake. This mistake I'm going to repeat and then edit out. I'm going to click record and start my take:

“I would like to welcome John Smith to the program today. Take Two. I would like to welcome John Smithe to the program today.”

I've mispronounced the name of my guest, I thought it was Smith, but it's actually Smithe. So now I need to get rid of or delete the audio where I've made a mistake. So let's go to the point where I made the mistake and have a listen. By pressing space bar, I can play the audio.

I obviously do not want to have my first take or where I said take two. This is now as simple as grabbing and highlighting the area and pressing the delete key. Now the audio is gone and I only have the take that I want.

“I would like to welcome John Smithe to the program today.”

 

Removing Mistakes

In some cases we make a mistake during the recording process or the interview. We needed to look up a piece of information or simply stumbled over our words. When you're recording, all you need to do is take a quick pause and start again.

I'm going to make a really simple mistake during my recording and then I'm going to edit it out.

“I think it's great that you're here today, ummmm....John Smith, I appreciate you coming in.”

Notice that I made an intentional mistake in the middle of the recording, where I forgot the guest's name. Editing this is quite simple. Again, I can listen to where that point is, highlight the area that I want removed, and click delete. Notice that mistake is now gone.

“I think it's great that you're here today…..John Smith, I appreciate you coming in.”

If I want to fine tune this edit, I can magnify in closer and make what we call a tighter edit.

“I think it's great that you're here today John Smith, I appreciate you coming in.”

 

Keyboard Shortcuts

As you become more comfortable with the editing process, there are a couple keyboard shortcuts that we recommend you learn. We noted during this processes hitting the space bar stopped and started the playback. Highlighting the audio and pressing the delete key obviously gets rid of audio. But sometimes we make an edit, and we listen to it and we don't want it. Undo is as easy on a Mac as hitting Command + Z or Control + Z on a PC. Another important keyboard command to remember is Control + S, or on a Mac, Command + S. This saves your audio and saves your work.

In many cases we do a long audio recording and our computer suddenly crashes. In these cases we can lose minutes or sometimes hours of audio recording and editing. Getting in the habit of every other edit you do, hitting Command + S or Control + S means that if your computer goes down, you've not lost your audio or your work.

 

Practice First!

Today we went over some of the most basic functions of getting a microphone connected to your computer, recording that audio, and doing some basic editing. We strongly recommend you spend some time before you even think about recording your first show getting familiar with your gear. Understanding how you to use your microphone can save you hours and hours of time editing down the road.
 

We've seen a lot of podcasters setup, record, and then find at the end the audio quality is not good enough for release. Doing a couple dummy episodes to get comfortable with the way that it works is not only going to help you with your voice training and help you with your recording, but it's going to ensure that you don't waste time every time you setup your microphone.

 

Conclusion

Some of these DAWs can seem a little bit complicated at first, but once we get comfortable with them we see the basic functionality of them as relatively easy to master. Some rookie mistakes tend to happen though when using these DAWs. We want to make sure that we definitely have the right microphone plugged in and that we have the right sound sources. We at Podfly have seen many times people recording their podcast and end up realizing that they were using their laptop microphone or something else. This can be a complete waste of audio and a terrible waste of time.

We strongly recommend that you create a checklist for the beginning of each and every show. Checking to see if your microphone is plugged in correctly, that you have the right input, and more. This checklist can save you hours of time and tons of headache. Look in the specializations down the road in creating these checklists and how to make sure you have the right equipment setup each and every time you record.

 




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The Best Portable Way To Record Face-To-Face Interviews

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The Best Portable Way To Record Face-To-Face Interviews

When you're on the go and need to record an in-person interview, it can be a bit hectic dragging along your mixer, condensers, mics, and mic stands. The very thought of unplugging and re-plugging all of that equipment just seems a bit ridiculous. Also, if you happen to be in a different state or country, do you really want to risk your expensive equipment getting damaged by the airport 'throwers' or worse, have your luggage go missing? Let's just skip all of that right off the bat and go with something lightweight, portable, and simple.

 

What You'll Need:

  • A Digital Recorder
  • 2 Lapel or Lavalier Microphones
  • A Two-way 3.5mm Jack (Jack Splitter)
  • And that's it!

 

The Digital Recorder

First of all, one of your first questions might be, “Why do I need a digital recorder when I have a perfectly good smartphone?” The thing about smartphones is that they don't deliver the interview-type quality you will need. As I write this at the near end of 2014, smartphones still have a hard time recording more than one microphone in their little device.

After all, I think when every mobile creator in existence decided to add a microphone in their phones, it was more for you to record personal voice memos than to record an all decked-out face-to-face quality conversation that thousands of people will listen to.

Don't get me wrong, you can attach a high-quality mic to your smartphone if you want to, but just be aware your guest will seem washed out standing next to your high-quality voice.

A good digital recorder doesn't cost as much any more. Now-a-days it's mostly used among professional musicians who are playing around with a tune and don't want to rent out studio space to test it out. This is great news for you who may not want to spend their entire savings on portable audio equipment.

Good recorders on the market today are the Tascam DR-05 and the Zoom H4n. The Tascam sells for about $100 on Amazon and the Zoom is going for about $200. The Zoom is the pricier among the two because it has four channels that you can record on simultaneously. They both have pretty great microphones built-in, but the reason why we don't want to use those for our podcast is because the audio levels will vary if two people are sitting far enough away from each other.

You will have more control over the audio quality with two good lavalier microphones, which brings us to our next topic..

 

Lavalier Microphones

These are tiny clip-on microphones that you attach to your shirt. They will make you feel cool, professional, and snazzy. There are microphones out on the market that come with a battery pack and are wireless, but I think the moment you have to start dragging around extra equipment, you reduce the meaning of what 'portable' is. So for today, let's keep it simple.

There are two great microphones on Amazon that come highly recommended. The first one is the Audio-Technica ATR-3350 valued at $33 dollars and the Sony ECMCS3 Clip valued at $20. The Audio Technica is the preferred choice because it has a 20ft cable. This gives you the flexibility you need for interviewing people at a distance. The Sony Clip has a 3ft long cable, so it may make things a bit awkward for interviewing purposes. However, if you are fixed on the Sony Clip, you can buy a jack extension cable for about 8 dollars or less.

 

The Two-Way 3.5mm Jack.

This jack is a necessary component to tie the entire recording process together. As you can imagine, you place your microphone in one end, your interviewee's microphone in the other, and then you plug the male end into your digital recorder...and you're done! This is what it takes to obtain a high-quality recorded podcast on the go. The microphones listed above are great for both outdoor and indoor activities, so you'll never feel left out of the loop again.

You can purchase jacks that have more than two inputs. For example, if you're expecting to interview a group of people all at once, you'll need the appropriate amount of mics and to attach it into your 3 input, 4 input, or even 5 input 3.5mm jack. If you are expecting to interview even more people in one room, then using the built-in microphone that the Zoom H4n has, although not ideal, will help you get there.

 

Conclusion

Overall, owning two mics, a tiny portable recorder, and a jack split is the best option you can have to get great results on the go without being bulked down by equipment. You'll be able to produce a great sounding podcast with your interviewee and be proud to share it to your listeners in no time. Editing your podcast on the go might be a little bit difficult, but don't worry, you have Podfly here to help you.

 


Podfly is a group of audio engineers that focus on making your podcast sound the best it can be. We provide editing services, transcriptions, show note descriptions, and more. All you have to do is contact me at ayn@podfly.net or any one of our team members to get started.

Until next time, Ayn. 

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Pre-recording Checklist for Podcasting

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Pre-recording Checklist for Podcasting

“  It takes about 3 minutes to check, but it can really save you an hour of bad quality audio.  ” 

Rookie mistakes can happen to anyone from the first time podcaster to the weekly podcast professional. It doesn't matter how much experience you may have when it comes to producing a great podcast - everyone makes mistakes. In order to make as few mistakes as possible, I have written a quick go-to list that you should check every time before you hit that big red button.

Podcast Checklist:

  1. Turn off your phone and place it far away from you
  2. Kick out any pets in the room
  3. Have water or a beverage close by
  4. Use the bathroom
  5. Open any relevant links and resources that you will be referencing later
  6. Have your questions and notes close by
  7. Find and plug in your headphones
  8. Warm up your voice (optional)
  9. Do a quick mic check and sound test
  10. Do a guest mic check when they're on
  11. If you're recording video for your show, then make sure you're in frame (tips below)

Although the above list may seem simple, you'd be surprised how many times podcasters, including myself, will regret not having a glass of water to drink during an hour long show. Turning off your phone during an interview will prevent you from having to edit more later, yet it's something we don't always do every single time - especially if you're interviewing a person that you've known for a long time and feel comfortable with. Don't be afraid to ask the same of your guests while they are on the show.

I personally like to put my phone on a soft surface where I won't be able to hear or feel the phone vibration. When editing shows, I can often hear that vibration sound being picked up on the mic, which can be pretty annoying if you are receiving a call. A hungry indoor cat or dog can be the worst and can really distract your focus from an important interview. Not only that, if your animals are often seen walking past the web cam, then it's best to kick them out of the room while you're recording. If your animal is known for making lots of noise, then make sure you feed them a little bit before your big interview.

We might have urges to skip through the sound testing process, but it's something that really shouldn't be avoided. There isn't a lot you can do to your voice quality after the show has been recorded. This means that if you recorded your voice using the web cam mic or your default laptop mic instead of your high-end microphone, then there's not a lot you can do on the editor side to save the interview.

You can often test audio quality and sound by using the Skype Sound Test. This is useful when you already plan to be chatting with your guest through Skype and need to hear how well your voice is being portrayed. While you're testing your voice, you can press the record button to hear back how you and the Skype Sound Test system sound. It takes about 3 minutes to check, but it can really save you an hour of bad quality audio.

“  A hungry indoor cat or dog can be the worst and can really distract your focus from an important interview. ” 

A hungry indoor cat or dog can be the worst and can really distract your focus from an important interview. ” 

Wearing your headphones always helps to prevent your microphone from picking up feedback and warming up your voice can be seen as a bit extreme, but sometimes when the weather is a bit too cold, the quality of your podcast can really benefit towards a better sounding show. If you've already done a mic and sound check before your guest comes on, then doing a second one with the guest there live with you isn't always necessary. However if you have a doubt or think there's something wrong, then do the check anyway just to be safe.

And the last tip I mentioned in my Podcast Checklist was in regards to video.

It doesn't matter if you're recording yourself through a professional camera or just your web cam, recording yourself in frame is extremely important. As a tip, make sure your head, shoulders, and elbows are in the camera frame. There should be a little bit of space above your head, on the sides, and slightly below your elbows.

Imagine that there's an invisible border around the frame that you can't touch, this will give you accurate dimensions and prevent you from looking like you're too close or too far away from the camera. Of course, during the camera test you can see what's best for you, but just remember someone who is too close or too far away from the camera can be a bit uncomfortable for the viewer to look at.

Until next time!

Ayn. 


"Tweetables"

"When it comes to producing a great #podcast - everyone makes mistakes" Tweet This!
A hungry indoor cat or dog can be the worst and can really distract your focus from an important interview. ” Tweet This!
It takes about 3 minutes to check, but it can really save you an hour of bad quality audio.” Tweet This!

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Quick and Dirty Guide to Audacity

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Quick and Dirty Guide to Audacity

Audacity is an excellent free alternative to anybody who is looking to do simple edits or record their voice in no time. GarageBand or Audition are great products to use if you want something more complex done to your audio, but you will have to pay to use those software products. Despite Audacity being free, there are a ton of great options for the everyday audio editor and it has even become a preferred editing tool for many podcasters who need simple, clean, and quick editing work done.

Getting Started

To begin, it's best that you have Audacity already downloaded. Here is a quick link to their download (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/) page. Once done, do a quick audio test using your preferred microphone. If you have more than one microphone, it's recommended that you go into properties and name your devices accordingly to prevent you using the wrong microphone to interview people and to save you any confusion in the future. We will show you just how to do that in just a moment.

Recording

The buttons to record are pretty straight forward. You can press the record button and then pause button if you plan on using the same track later on. If you press record and then click the stop button, then it tells the program you're completely done with your first audio track. You notice that if you were to click the record button again, there will be a brand new audio track and you may even pick up some of the first track's audio recording if you're not wearing headphones.

If you don't want to have two different audio tracks on the same playback time, it's easy to move a track in to its desired time slot. All you have to do is click the TimeShift Tool located to the right of the red record button. It's the icon with two black arrows sticking out in opposite directions. See below image for a clearer idea:

This Timeshift tool can detect where the end of your first recording is, so that you can perfectly align the two recordings together without skipping a beat.

Now referring to the above image, if you click the Selection Tool; the capital I shaped icon on the left hand side, you can also decide where you want your second recording to start. If your first recording is 6 seconds long for example, take your mouse and click anywhere in the light gray area of Audacity. For this example, let's say around the 7 second mark. Once done, you'll see a black line where you just clicked. When you press record, that's where your second audio recording will begin.

Recording Sounds From The Computer

Some podcasters would like the ability to record sounds coming from their computer instead of their microphone. Obviously, if you use your microphone to record sound coming directly from the speakers, you will lose an enormous amount of quality in that recording and it simply won't sound great. This process can sometimes take people a couple of hours to figure out, but lucky for you we're going to get it done within a couple of minutes.

For Windows:

Looking at your computer's toolbar, click on the little speaker icon located on the far right hand side near your time clock. You should see your sound levels and a blue text link that says Mixer, click on it and then click on the System Sounds icon. This should lead you to a popup window.

If you do not see this speaker icon and it's not in the hidden icon section, then go to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > and then click the Sound option. This will take you directly to the popup window.

Once this window appears, you should see four tabs. Playback, Recording, Sounds, Communications. Click on the recording tab and look for the Stereo Mix option. If you do not see it, then right click in the box and check the “Show Disabled Devices” and the “Show Disconnected Devices” options. There you should be able to see the Stereo Mix option. Enable it and restart Audacity.

Since you're here, it'll be a good time to name the various microphones you might have to something more memorable. All you have to do is right click your desired microphone, click Properties and then type in a name into the input box.

When Audacity has started back up, go to your microphone drop down, located in the near center of your Audacity toolbar, and click the 'Stereo Mix' option. This option will now help you record sounds generated from the computer and not from speaker-to-microphone.

For Mac:

The Audacity team have already written a great tutorial on how to record sound from your computer using a Mac. Click here (http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/tutorial_recording_computer_playback_on_mac.html) to follow along.

Headphones

When you're recording over tracks, it's important to wear headphones so that the microphone doesn't pick up any playback from your original recordings. This is also an important tip to keep in mind during Skype interviews. In fact, wearing headphones is the best way to make your audio sound crystal clear and professional.

Editing

Audacity is great for simple touches and little edits here and there. They have made such a great tool for quick editing off the bat that it's almost troublesome opening up heavier products like Audition and GarageBand to do simple work.

You can find these editing tools on the upper right hand side. Make sure you have the Selection Tool selected before you begin trying to use these icons or else it simply won't work. Drag your mouse and select sections of your recorded audio that you wish to delete, then once the pieces are highlighted, click the scissor button to remove the excess or Ctrl+X. You can also take the same highlighted audio and click the copy button or Ctrl+C. Respectively, you can select elsewhere on the audio track and click the paste button or Ctrl+V.

If you just like one section of your audio, then you can highlight it and click the Trim audio button or Ctrl+T, which will remove all the non-highlighted parts of that audio. The opposite is true with the Silence button. When you highlight a section with heavy audio, the Silence button or Ctrl+L will automatically remove it and replace it with a single line. There are Undo and Redo buttons right after the Silence button, however you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Z to Undo and Ctrl+Y to Redo.

Ending Thoughts

We hope this quick introduction to Audacity has been helpful. Remember, it's best to save your audio files in WAV format. However, WAV can take up a lot of space. An alternative to this and to save you some hard drive space is to save your files in .mp3 format. When you export your audio file out of Audacity. Select 'Save as Type: Mp3 Flies' and then click on Options on the right hand corner. This will bring up a MP3 Export Setup popup window where you can set the quality. 320 kbps is the maximum that it can go, so select that and continue on to saving your file the way you would normally.

 

See you next time,

Ayn. 

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