Thursday, September 10, 2015

Toddcast Studio Equipment - Version 1 - Budget Setup

As of August 2015, here is the equipment used to produce Toddcast. As this was an experimental project at the time, I took the simplest, cheapest point of entry. If you're interested in dipping your toe in the podcast current, you might do the same.

I used this setup to interview Ilia Salem and Darlene Marion for Episodes 1 and 2, respectively:

Hardware:

  1. 1x Blue Snowball: A simple, USB microphone with a switch-controlled "dual capsule design" allowing you to change the microphone's capture pattern from cardioid (sound in the front of the mic only: Setting 1) to omnidirectional (sound from the front and back: Setting 3) . Setting #2 provides a cardioid capture pattern with a -10dB Pad, to capture loud instruments, like electric guitar or vocals, without distortion.

    For simple podcasting and voiceover work, use setting #1. To record an interview with a second person or group, use setting #3. It works best at a small table where everyone is less than 12 inches from the mic. However, the overall volume level can be increased later when the audio is imported into your audio editor using "Leveller" and "Amplify" functions.

    I love this mic. Some complain that it is quiet (it lacks built-in gain control). As I said, the recording can be easily amplified by editing software. If you'd like a microphone with gain control, look at the Blue Yeti. Do realize, however, that added gain creates added sensitivity to background noise. The Snowball is great for capturing one or more people sitting close together at a small table, while minimizing noises that are several feet away.

    Note that the price of these microphones varies by as much as $20 depending the colour or type of finish. If you're not fussy about colour, look at the finish choices and choose the least expensive option (it varies from day to day, depending on demand vs. inventory). Also beware of the Blue Snowball ICE model, which looks very similar, but does not have the 3-position switch.
      
  2. 1x - Smartphone. Did you know you have a portable digital audio recorder in your pocket? Just fire up the sound recorder app and you can record voiceovers or interviews on the go, all for the incredibly low price of whatever your wireless provider has already locked you for in via their 2-year contract. Once you've captured some compelling content, you can import the audio from your phone to your audio editing software, along with other recordings you made with the Blue Snowball or Yeti, mix in some music, and enjoy.

    Alternately, you could just try doing all your content with your phone!  Just be careful if you wave it back and forth from your mouth to your guest's. The phone mic can pick up hand motion, clothing ruffles, or wind noise easily. You might try placing the phone flat on a table between you and your guest, or on a higher platform (like a cardboard box) closer to mouth level. Much of the result will depend on the quality of mic on the phone. I get acceptable quality from my Samsung Galaxy S4, but my HTC Desire produces shrill, nasally recordings.
      
  3. 1x - Headphones: To monitor the sound in your audio editing software, you'll need decent headphones. I really like my Sony MDR-V300 series -- warm sound and an extra long cable so I can walk around without taking them off. But... they're not available through Amazon, and besides, they're $70. If you want something good, basic, and reasonably priced, check out these Sony MDR-ZX100 Series Stereo Headphones  for less than half the price.
      
  4. Desktop PC or laptop, running the operating system of your choice. Personally, I love Kubuntu Linux on my laptop and desktop.
Audio Editing Software:

Audacity (FREE!) is available for Windows, Mac, Linux; and other operating systems.

Questions? Comments? Leave me a note!