Podcasting From Home

With the dislocation of the Coronavirus, University of Utah patrons currently are locked out of the Audio Studio for podcast and other audio content creation. This guide will give input into creating decent quality podcasts from home.

Covid-19 Audio Studio Service Impacts

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Greetings,

Robert J. Nelson here. As head of Media Studios at the Marriott Library, access to the Audio Studio - located in the Faculty Center - has been a prime resource for students, faculty, and staff at the University of Utah. The lion's share of usage in the soundproof space has been for the creation of podcasts.

Covid-19 has necessitated changes for Audio Studio users.

  • Unmediated user access has been suspended. Tap-cards will not gain access to the locked Audio Studio.
  • All studio reservations will take place between 9AM-5PM; Monday through Friday.
  • All reservation requests submitted to robert.nelson@utah.edu.
  • No drop-in requests allowed.
  • Media Studios staff will ensure that the Audio Studio is properly sanitized one half hour before recording.
  • Bookings need a half hour between sessions for proper sanitization.
  • Media Studios staff, with limited exceptions, will record the session in the Control Booth. 
  • Audio Studio patron remains in the Performance Space. 
  • Patron and Staff will wear masks in the setup and completion of recording.
  • Sound file will be exported in a contact-less delivery fashion via Ubox, Google Drive or Dropbox, etc.

Temporary Podcast rules:

  • One person recordings will use a microphone, with a disposable cover, without mask.
  • Two or more person recordings will need to be distanced at six feet apart. ALL will be required to wear their masks during recording.
  • Two person podcasts should expect that one person is in the Audio Studio while another calls into the Audio Studio phone-line.

 

Podcast Equipment and Software to Podcast from Home

Alas, the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has necessitated extreme limitations to the use of the Audio Studio. Many users and user groups have been producing regular podcasts to highlight research, complete course assignments, and market services to a podcast hungry nation.

Until the University of Utah campus and the Marriott Library reopens to users, at full capacity, I have been asked how to generate podcasts from home.

First caveat. The Audio Studio is a completely soundproof space employing professional grade microphones recorded through a 8-Track mixer. Podcasting from home may not be as polished as what you are used to achieving there.

However, this guide will highlight:

1. Suggested equipment and software needed to podcast

2. Where to record and tips for minimizing sound bleed

3. Best practices in recording and editing sound 

I will describe my personal experience from my home studio where I generate music podcasts for radio station KRCL, as well as podcast site Mixcloud.

1. Laptop (no reason why a tablet or smartphone wouldn't work as well)

2. Snowball microphone, with tripod and pop filter. ($50)

  • I like this microphone because it is on a tripod which makes it easy to share between two podcast participants
  • A pop filter is a mesh screen that blocks the plosive P, B and T sounds that can overwhelm a microphone and cause overload spikes in the audio file

3. I use the Audacity audio digital recorder. Many other recorders such as Garage Band will work as well. Downloads are free

https://www.audacityteam.org/download/

4. Make sure to also download the LAME plugin for Audacity. If you don't? You will be unable to export your mixes as an .mp3. (Although other file converters make it easy to change .WAV or .AIFF files to the compressed .mp3 format that podcast hosting sites require.)

https://lame.sourceforge.io/download.php

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5. The Marriott Library has purchased 4 Podcast Kits for checkout at the Knowledge Commons Desk, Level 2: Marriott Library.

  • Students: Can request in-person pickup or home delivery, or pick up at the Knowledge Commons Desk. Kit checks out for 30 days and can be renewed if there are no other requests.
  • Staff/Faculty: Can pick up at the Knowledge Commons Desk. Kit checks out for 3 days. 

Where to actually record at home

Recording at home can be difficult if there is noise pollution such as traffic, barking dogs and babies, telephone ringing, etc.

Try to find the quietest room or space in your house to set up your podcast

  • Avoid windows
  • Avoid air vents/heat returns
  • Turn off phones, radios, televisions
  • Record away from other members of your household
  • Keep pets in the other room(s)
  • Hang a heavy blanket over windows, if you can't avoid.windows

A solid table for your laptop. You want to sit upright to expand your diaphragm. That lessens over inhalation and "wheezing" into the microphone. I use a small wooden box to elevate the placement of the Snowball. You want your mic placement close to your mouth rather than talking down into the top of the mic if it is flat on your desk. It is better ergonomically, as well.

Now you should be ready to record...

Recording with Audacity

Once you have installed Audacity and plugged your Snowball into a USB slot, follow these steps to add a track:

1. Open Audacity

2. File

3. New

4. Under Tracks, Add New Mono track. (Most voice is recorded in Mono; music is Stereo)

Mono Track in Audacity

5. Test audio recording levels. Midway, above the track is a microphone icon. Slide the icon to 50%. Press the red recording button and speak into your microphone at the same level you intend to record for your podcast. Maybe read an introductory paragraph to get some sample audio. Pressing the space bar will stop the recording.

You want your audio to be "between the 5's". The wave amplification data, in the top image below, is "colored" between .5 and -.5 decibels. The sweet spot of sound that is not overly loud and not too quiet. The second image shows what a too loud file looks like.

In the first example, the meter reading (colored in green with a little yellow at the end) is within the range of typical YouTube audio. Most of your audio, monolog or dialog, should be within the ranges of -18 to -12 decibels on the sound meter. Peaks, (the loudest section in a sound file: laughter, exclamatory remarks, etc.), should max out at around -4.The yellow indicates the "warning" of maximum acceptable sound.

In the second example, you can see the sound amplification is well beyond the +.5/-.5. If the sound meter "paints red" your sound is too loud and listeners will not listen to it. If you've ever heard a speaker played too loudly, that annoying crackle is bad audio. That is called clipping. Avoid clipping like the plague (no pun intended).

Ideal sound level vs. too loud

Adjust the microphone level and re-test to find that ideal recording  level of -18 to -12 db and then you should be ready to record your podcast.

6. Record some room tone. When you have concluded the audio portion of your podcast, continue to record but in silence. You want to capture about 20 seconds of room tone (silence.) This is noise reduction fodder that I will describe in the next text box  on editing podcasts

Editing a Podcast

If you are satisfied with your podcast content, now you can begin to edit the file

  • Top and tail your audio. As I instructed you to conduct microphone test levels, you will want to excise that audio from your file. Editing in Audacity is non-destructive. That means anything you "do" you can "undo." and not lose any of your original recording. Usually you will want to trim the beginning and end of your recording to retain only the podcast performance. In this example, I have two songs. I want to "cut" the second song from my edit. You place your cursor point and "wipe" the audio you want to highlight. Then hit delete. 
  • You can stretch or shrink your audio to find that exact cursor point by using the + and - spyglass icons under the sound meter in the upper right hand corner of the Track

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If you have set your levels correctly, and topped and tailed your audio, there is one more recommended step. Noise reduce your project. At home you don't have the level of soundproofing that we enjoy in the Audio Studio. You will most likely have some noise distraction in your file. If you recorded room tone, you can use that as a noise reduction filter. Highlight the room tone audio portion and wipe it (select the audio). It will mostly be a flat line of amplification.

Under Effects, selection Noise Reduction. Click "Get Noise Profile". It will establish what is noise from within your audio. Then select the entire audio (Control A), go back to Effects, and near the top of the Effects window select "Repeat Noise Reduction". Cut the room tone from your final audio. This should enhance the final audio.

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Exporting Final Podcast Edit

Now that you have your final edit, you want to export the file. Not save. Saving the file, saves it in .aup file format (Audacity). You want the .mp3 that will play on any myriad of links.

1. File

2. Export

3. Export as .mp3

4. Give your podcast a name (I always name my podcasts with the date)

Congrats, you have a finished podcast! Now you can upload it to a podcast site  (Spotify seems to be the most popular) or add it to a webpage, Tweet or Facebook account.

There are many more things you can do to enhance your podcast that I won't cover here, but you are most welcome to email me or look at the Podcasting website I created for the Marriott Library

http://campusguides.lib.utah.edu/c.php?g=860005

Robert J. Nelson

Head, Media Studios - Marriott Library

University of Utah

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