I´ve been contemplating podcasting for some time and my interest grew to the point where I recently began an investigation of hardware, software, and ancillary tools required to create and distribute MP3 files. There are two formats of podcasting I´m interested in — phone interviews and studio recording.
As incredible as it sounds, I couldn´t Google my way to a straight forward answer to some of the basic questions I had"?¦a simple how-to to point me in the right direction and get me started. After a little bit of research and experimenting, I found there´s an inexpensive way to get into podcasting. What follows in this post is what I found. Maybe others will benefit from what I´ve learned. Call this the Laymen´s Quick Start Guide to Podcasting 🙂
There are four tools you need to get started quickly, easily, and inexpensively: Skype, HotRecorder, Audacity, and a Plantronics Headphone. Far more robust solutions are available however; this suite gets you going fast, without emptying your wallet.
Skype: Skype is a Luxemburg VOIP company, providing P2P VOIP services using your computer as an end device. Skype has a feature called SkypeOut which allows you to call any PSTN phone in the US for approximately $.02 a minute. The service is billed in 1 minute increments. This is the service used to podcast telephone interviews.
Skype has some other interesting services including dedicated number for incoming calls and voicemail. They aren´t required for podcasting, but you may find them of use.
HotRecorder: HotRecorder is ancillary software that works with Skype to record calls. HotRecorder has a basic (free) and premium (one time fee of $14.95) service. The basic service is fully functional however, the output files are proprietary. The premium service is required to export the recorded audio files in WAV format (MP3 export is not supported). HotRecorder is very easy to use – it only has three options.
A side benefit of HotRecorder is its ability to serve as voicemail for Skype"?¦but that´s a different post 🙂
Audacity: Audacity is an open source tool that records, imports, and edits audio files. This is the software where you do all the fancy introduction audio clips, fades, mixing, etc. Audactity is free.
Audacity can record audio directly from your mic input and as such can be used for studio recording — in person interviews, information products, audio notices, etc.
Plantronics Headphone: You need a microphone to podcast. There are a lot of microphone choices; I have a Plantronics headphone with dual earpieces. Just plug your microphone into the mic and speaker jacks on your computer and you´re set. The Plantronics model I have is discontinued however, here is a link to one that´s similar – it´s not expensive, approximately $20.
Here is a link to a sample MP3 file using the tools above. Note: When you listen you´ll notice I referred to Skype as a UK company; they have an office in the UK and are actually headquartered in Luxemburg.
The sample MP3 file is a call I made to my business partner Richard Hall. I called Richard from my Skype service to his Vonage phone. I used HotRecorder to record the call and converted the WAV file to MP3 using Audacity. I did not filter or clean the audio file in any way. The WAV file was 4.7M, the MP3 finished up at 306K.
Here are the characteristics of the file:
Bit Rate: 24K
Audio Sample Rate: 16K
File Size 306K
One last thing to note — you may need to adjust the mic gain on your computer. The first couple tests I did had a lot of noise and low volume on my voice. I played with the gain of my mic and it cleared right up.
The bottom-line is Podcasting is imminently doable. I´m planning to podcast occasionally on JSLogan; I’ll likely come up with some silly name and logo 🙂 The whole thing is going to be fun! Look for the first podcast in the coming days.