Podcasting Like Crazy

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I’ve spent the past three days recording podcasts and really trying to build a professional system around it so that call quality is exceptional and consequently edits and delivery take a whole lot less effort. One of the most frustrating parts of podcasting is the setup. If you don’t try at all, it’s very easy. If you try, its complicated beyond belief and the costs are astronomical unless you are collecting trash from eBay.

So to help a bit with the frustration, here is my recording setup.

Core of the system is an Alesis MultiMix 8 USB mixer (sub $100) that allows for realtime mixing and volume adjustment. This is absolutely necessary as the podcasts can have multiple callers and some callers have a loud booming voice and others need an amplifier to even register a dB. The mixer bridges the VoIP interviewing system and the recording systems – laptop PC running Audigy (free) and an iRiver recorder ($20) with a line-in. Primary recording is to the laptop, the secondary output is just there as a backup “in case of Vista”

VoIP system is the other core of the podcast. It is based on Asterisk/Trixbox (Sorry Microsoft, I wanted to try ResponsePoint but seeing how I haven’t even read the manuals yet it didn’t fit into the schedule) with my cohost dialing in from his VoIP phone in the office (anonymous SIP call feature allows us to dump the call into an extension without actually establishing an extension for him on our side). For international callers we have an extension in the Asterisk box programmed in so they can use SJPhone or X-Ten lite softphones available for free – just need a headset. As a failover to that (blocked SIP calls or whatnot) there is a direct dialin number for the conference so it can be hit from a phone if the Internet connection goes down or via Skype if the recording is international.

I’m using a Samson C01U condenser mic and about $20 worth of foam padding from Home Depot. My office has wood floors, high ceilings, and nothing to absorb the echo so foam padding was a must. It rolls up quite nicely and stows away into a drawer.

The results… amazing. I only have one improvement coming up – I am sending people that will be making appearances SIP phones (Grandstream Budgetone 101). The voice quality is just spectacular when compared to POTS and the investment is $50 + shipping (3 day in USA is about $6)

Do Skype recordings still float? Not really. Yes, in 2005 when we started this, but in 2008 the expectations are for a far more professional production and frankly it shows when something is halfassed, which is why most the podcasts you see out there happen to have 6 listeners combined.

Anyhow, if your future calls for podcasting… hope this helps.