IN THIS CHAPTER
Making your podcasting rig portable
Podcasting from mobile devices
Portable recording devices
Up to this point, we have been building our podcast studio with your home computer as the center of your digial audio workstation. We have a mixer plugged with a few mics, and we have our software up and running. Or maybe we have a USB mic hooked up to your desktop computer (directly, and not through a USB hub, remember?), and you have Audacity primed and ready to go. Welcome to your new audio recording studio.
But hold on — what if we want to record someplace else? What do we need to do to pack up the whole recording unit and take this show on the road? What if your podcast isn’t about where you are but where you are going?
That’s why we’re spending some quality time on portability in this chapter. The aim is to be able to pack up our podcast and set up wherever we stop. Yes, yes, yes, we know — podcasts are portable by nature, but we’re talking about packing up the studio and working on location. In this chapter, we’re taking the studio to go. Super-sized. And a happy-cool-fun meal for the kids.
So you want to have a podcast that has that studio quality sound, but you want more than one microphone, and be able to have a bit of control over the levels. This is when you would want to invest in a preamplifer or a preamp. To understand what a preamp is, you should learn a few more technical matters around microphones.
Microphones, be they condenser or dynamic, record their signals at mic-level. This is the signal created from the internal diaphragm moving back and forth against a magnet in a wire coil, generating an electrical signal. It’s a clean signal, but very weak. The best audio is recorded not at mic-level, but at line-level. You get line-level signals coming out of electric guitars, keyboards, and other instruments. To get a weaker mic-level signal boosted to the line-level signal, you need to give it a swift kick-in-the-pants. The preamp, sometimes a separate unit or built into a mixer board or a USB microphone, provides that kick to bring the mic-level signal to line-level without adding any noise to the original signal.
Now that you know what a preamp is, how about a few options for you to consider?
The Mackie Onyx Blackjack offers you all the power and reliability of a mixer in a small, compact design. The best part of working with this preamp is it has zero latency when recording. This means there is no delay for when you speak and when you hear your voice while recording. You can adjust the Blackjack’s buffer settings to maximize your computer’s processing ability as well.
Blackjack also offers podcasters:
Shure Audio, a manufacturer we name in Chapter 2, is no stranger to setting the bar for audio engineering and recording on looking at the prevalence and relevance of its audio gear. With the rise of podcasting, Shure set out to create gear that would capture quality sound, and the MVi is a compact, USB-powered preamp ready to power your microphone (or microphones, if you employ a splitter) accordingly.
The MVi, shown in Figure 4-1, offers a podcaster-on-the-go:
The Shure MVi can serve as a preamp, powered by USB, similar to the Onyx Blackjack. With an even more compact design, the MVi makes your portable studio even more so.
Development of mobile devices — smartphones like the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy and tablets like the iPad and Surface — has been astounding to watch over the past decade. With cloud computing becoming more and more prevalent not only in personal lifestyles but now in corporate sectors, mobile devices big and small are quickly becoming the new alternative to portable computing. When once it would require an entire backpack and pockets of accessories to replicate the office, mobile devices have reduced portability to a single pocket and a connection to the Internet (see Figure 4-2).
Now, leading names in microphone technology are releasing new audio gear designed for the portability you come to expect from smartphones and tablets.
Shure Audio’s MOTIV series not only includes a preamp but also a new line of microphones built to be portable, and still able to yield superior audio recording quality Shure is known for.
The MV5 (shown in Figure 4-3) packs a lot of audio punch in its small, sleek, retro design and its economic cost of just under $100USD. Offering you professional-quality audio when recording, the MV5 provides latency-free headphone monitoring and quick-and-easy plug-and-play capability.
Other features of the MV5 include:
The MV51 (also shown in Figure 4-3) is much like its small counterpart, the MV5, in its retro design, ability to capture professional-quality audio, and zero latency when live monitoring. Beyond that, the MV51 is a fantastic addition to your ultra-portable studio on account of the additional features found only in this higher model:
The MV51 is more than just a step up from the MV5. It promises to set a new standard in mobile recording. With its capability to capture clean audio, setup and recording is as simple as unlocking your mobile device and recording on your audio app of choice. You are also given advanced options such as either recording with one of the MV51’s onboard presets or simply recording at, uncompressed, unaltered audio, offering you full control over post-production treatment. Whether in-studio or on-the-road, at $200 the Shure MV51 proves itself a valuable asset in your mobile studio setup.
Røde Microphones (
/) have made a name for themselves since podcasting's early days. New Zealand’s first podcast author, Pip Ballantine (
http://pjballantine.com), won the 2009 Sir Julius Voguel Award for her podcast Chasing the Bard, recording her epic fantasy on the Røde Podcaster (
http://en.rode.com/microphones/podcaster). Pip still endorses the USB microphone, suggesting it to everyone building a new home studio on a tight budget.
Røde continues to provide a complete array of mobile options for podcasters ready to take their recording out of the studio, and go one step further in specializing gear for smartphones. Why smartphones? Particularly in interview siutations where sitting is not an option (press conferences, man-on-the-street interviews, and so on), you are going to need your recording rig to be even more compact than a tablet. That is where your smartphone transforms faster than an Autobot (or a Decepticon, depending on the mobile OS you prefer) to become your recording studio.
Røde's VideoMic Me (captured in action at Figure 4-4) at the cost of just under $60USD upgrades your on-board smartphone microphone to higher-quality audio. Instead of that tinny quality found in most phone conversations and smartphone recordings, the VideoMic Me picks up a far wider range and frequency, while focusing the direction of the mic, yielding audio of a much higher quality. The accessory also comes with an optional mount for better mic stability and a windscreen to cut down on any unexpected weather elements you might encounter.
For the podcast more about the host or for the interview where the interview host is edited out of the final show and only the subject’s voice remains, the smartLav+ at a cost similar to that of the VideoMic Me offers broadcast-quality audio for a modest investment. The smartLav+ is a lavalier mic, meaning it is not held by or pointed at the subject but worn on lapels or the collar of a host or guest. Unlike other lavalier mics that are connected to a wireless transmitter, the smartLav+ connects directly into a smartphone or tablet headset jack and records using GarageBand, Røde’s own Rec app, or any other media-recording app of choice. A small windscreen is included in order to cut down on both wind noise and percussive vocal elements.
The smartLav+ also features:
Up to this point we have gone from podcasting with laptop computers to podcasting with mobile devices. Now we take everything we need to record and reduce it to a fully contained recording studio that ts comfortably in the palm of your hand.
In 2006, Zoom Technologies (
/) introduced its own series of recorders that raised the bar for not just podcasting but for digital recorders across the market. With each new model, Zoom upped its own game and now offers an entire line of lightweight, unobtrusive, all-in-one solutions for portable podcasting. Welcome to the new standard.
The H1n Handy Recorder is the smallest, sleekest of the Handy Recorder series. With the APH-1n Accessories pack, the recorder can either attach itself to a standard mic stand or to other recording devices like DSLR cameras. Along with ease of use, the H1n offers:
The H2n is the next step up that may surprise you in what it can do. In the palm of your hand, with the H2n you have a surround sound recorder, a spatial audio recorder for virtual reality (VR) projects, and a microphone that can be used as your desktop computer's audio interface. The H2n makes portable recording a piece of cake with:
The H4n Pro sets a new standard for portable podcasting as it delivers a wide array of features building on the previous models. With the H4n Pro, you get:
Maybe you need more than the H4n Pro offers, and if that is the case you need to look at Zoom’s H5 and H6 (shown in Figure 4-5). Both these portable recorders offer all the functionality and features found in the previous models (as you would expect), but the H5 and H6 offers more options for your on-the-go studio.
Portable recorders, over years of development, have established themselves as reliable, durable, and affordable options for field and on-location recording. Depending on what you need for your podcast, you no longer have to worry about remaining tethered to a studio. Portable recorders can make your podcasts happen just about anywhere!
Now that you know how portable you want your podcast to be, how exactly will the workflow differ from the usual editing work in a studio? There are a few different approaches to consider when working portably. If you are concerned about the learning curve here, don’t be. We got you, fam. It’s not a dramatic switch in approaches, but more of the most efficient approach to getting audio from your mobile devices to your studio’s DAW.
After you finish recording with your portable recorder, you have audio sitting on your recorder’s internal memory card. How do you get it from the recorder to the computer where you are editing your podcast?
The hard part is already done. You got great audio for your podcast, and make no debate over it — that is the hard part. Getting the audio to the computer? In the words of brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin at the Bridge of Death: “That’s easy!”
Connect the portable recorder to an available USB port.
Recorders should have a USB cable included that physically attaches the device to your computer, as seen in Figure 4-6. If you lack such a connecting cable, your local electronics store should have what you need.
Recent computers are transitioning from USB to USB-C ports. Adapters are available that can quicky convert standard USB plugs to connect with USB-C ports, or provide additional ports for other devices like HDMI and native USB-C devices.
The portable recorder’s interface should give you either Storage or Audio I/F as an option.
Select Audio Storage from the menu.
Audio I/F is the option for using your portable recorder as a USB microphone or preamp for your computer. In Storage mode, the portable recorder (and the SD card inside it) mounts onto your desktop as an external drive.
Once your portable player mounts as a drive, select your new drive and then select the folder labeled in the mode you used for recording.
Depending on the model of portable recorders, you may see folders labeled with offered recording modes. That should be where your audio is stored.
Find your latest recording, and then drag it to the location where you are storing your audio sessions.
Whether you are working on an internal drive, an external drive, or cloud storage, you now have copied your audio file source from the recorder to your workspace. You can now begin the post-production process.
With your smartphone or tablet, it’s a little different environment. Instead of a hard drive or an SD card, you have internal flash memory that will quickly fill up if you are saving audio or video files directly on your device. To work with your audio recorded on your mobile device, you need to transfer it to some sort of cloud storage service. The workflow we have created here is built around the following services, software, and hardware:
If you are using other devices or services, it should be easy to incorporate your own setup and adapt it for this easy-to-follow workflow:
Launch GarageBand for iOS.
If you have been working on a project, GarageBand for iOS opens on the last project you were working on or defaults to an audio recording interface.
Find the project you want to export and tap it once to select it.
The project(s) you want to export is highlighted in blue.
Tap the Share option in the top left corner of the app.
The Share function (shown in Figure 4-7) accesses which apps are able to share the media you are about to export. If you cannot find the app you want to share to, find the More option to add your cloud service app.
Tap your cloud service app.
In the case of Dropbox and iPad, tap the Save to Dropbox option to begin the export process.
Edit the Info for the file and then select Audio Quality from the offered options. Tap Share to begin the exporting process.
In GarageBand, you can select from four different MP3 formats, Apple Lossless (m4a), and AIFF.
Select the location where you want to save your media and then tap the Save option in the top right corner of the Save window.
Your media has now been exported on to your cloud service and is waiting for you to edit or prepare for uploading.