Archived => Hobby => Topic started by: Grebog on June 16, 2010, 12:42:16 PM

Title: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: Grebog on June 16, 2010, 12:42:16 PM
Many people have some thoughts on what they need to get started in recording content, whether it is short form content or even delving into doing a podcast. There are a lot of opinions out there on what you truly need to get started, and if you have suggestions for something that could improve this information, feel free to pass the information to me and I will add it in.
First, I want to break it down into some basic levels of recording and give some tips on what to look for and some things to try to improve your sound. These levels will be closely based on the impact on your pocket book. And I will admit that am no audio god and do not know everything.
First I want to cover a few tips that can be used just in general during a recording. Some of this is like turn off any and all items that make noise in the room you are recording, like your TV, fans, cell phones, and maybe even your heating or air conditioning unit. Not all of the heating and air conditioning units are an issue in the room you record in, but for some people they can be quite loud. If you are getting an echo of your voice without a reverb setup turned on, you may need some more sound absorption in the room, and an example is a certain host and co-host had to use some blankets once they upgraded their recording setup to cut down the echo.
Level 1: $0
This is a level most people can do right now. Most times you already have a microphone and headphones. To help reduce as much noise as possible in your setup, I would try to get the microphone cable going away from the power cables as fast as possible. The reason being is that there can be line noise induced if they are close to each other. And the reason you should go for headphones is to cut down on sound from speakers feeding back into your recording.
For software to record with and edit your content download Audacity, and there are PC and Mac versions. It is a free and great program, especially for its price. It is all you really will need for most things you will want to do.
Link: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Level 2: around $100
This is where you have decided that you want a better sound quality in your recording. My best suggestion is to get a USB microphone. The benefit to doing this is that the analog to digital conversion happens at the microphone, so less chance for noise to be induced in. Another benefit is that being USB, it is easy to setup and should work whether you use a PC or a Mac. A fine example of a decent quality USB microphone is the Samson C01U. You can get the microphone by itself or get it in a “Podcast starter kit.” The kit comes with the microphone, a shock mount, desk microphone stand, Cakewalk Sonar LE, and a nice case all the gear can be stored in.
Just mic - http://www.amazon.com/Samson-CO1U-USB-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B000AP1RE8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1276332616&sr=8-1
Kit - http://www.amazon.com/Samson-C01U-Recording-Podcasting-Pak/dp/B000H4MZU2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1276332616&sr=8-2

Level 3: $200 to $350
The next step up is to go with a setup that where you can use standard microphones with your computer. I personally like the external devices versus the specially designed PCI soundcards made for audio recording. The benefit to an external device is that if you ever have a computer issue, you can grab your setup and hop on a new system with very little if any difference in your sound quality. This setup is more costly simply because you have to buy two devices, the external device and the microphone.
An example device is the Creative EMU-0202 at $100 or the M-Audio Fast Track for $120. They have 2 inputs and 2 outputs and this means 1 left channel and 1 right channel. Each only have 1 XLR input and the EMU-0202 lacks phantom power, while the M-Audio does have phantom power. By not having phantom power, you will be stuck to dynamic microphones unless you purchase a phantom power device that you connect between your microphone and the EMU-0202, which they typically cost $50 to $100 for a single microphone or more for multiple microphone support.

To go with this setup you will need to find a microphone. As I stated before, if you do not have phantom power, then you will need to stick with a dynamic microphone. The Shure SM58 is a decent microphone and normally will set you back $100, but it does have a brightened midrange and drop off on the low end, this means that depending on your voice, it may make you sound a little different than you really do. The bonus to this microphone is that it is almost indestructible, so can be moved around without to much issue. If you do have phantom power, then I would recommend you start looking at what they call studio condenser microphones, but I must warn you that these can be VERY pricey. I personally went with an AT 2035 based on reviews and feedback that I have received on this microphone. It costs $150, but from the reviews and feedback it is said to give you the sound quality closer to those in the $500 range. I am happy with this microphone so far, but this may not be the microphone for you. If you can find a place that will let you test out a microphone before you buy it, I would definitely do that. I know there are many audio stores that do this. Then you can listen to how you sound on that microphone and decide if you like what it does for you.
Title: Re: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: Grebog on June 17, 2010, 12:31:08 PM
This section will be more geared towards general editing and tips to do on sound levels. A lot of what I am talking about is considered POST editing and that is because your microphone goes into an amplifier and then you are editing the sound. I will be adding a Pre-editing section above when I add in a Level 4 where pre-amp devices will be talked about.

How to setup your background music level. A lot of times when first adding music in the background a common problem is making the volume level of the music bed too loud. The background music is desired to add a little kick to your audio, but if you have the levels too high can cover up syllables and could distract the listener from your voice. So, the best method I have found and read in "Podcasting for Dummies," is to turn the volume of your bed music all the way 0 and slow increase it so that you can barely be heard while you are speaking. Thank you Octale for bringing this up below.

How to adjust your audio level. If you have a recording already and the levels seem to be all over the place and you want to try and fix it, there is a nice simple tool that you can download and use called Levelator. It is free and can be found here: Levelator (http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator) Do note that this will not make you sound any better than you already do, but bring all levels in the file to the same level. It will also destroy fade ins and fade outs that you may have done. I like it when there are two people recorded, but are in a single audio file and not broken out into tracks or channels, so you can get as close as you can get on equal levels between the two people.

If you are trying to record two people or more there are a few options that you can do to achieve this. I would recommend connecting to everyone you are wanting to record in Skype or even Ventrilo. Skype typically will give you the best results as it is a more peer to peer connection, while ventrilo sends all data to your ventrilo server and then it ships it all back out. By using skype you can use a program called Call Graph (http://callgraph.biz/). This program allows you to record Skype calls, but the major drawback is that all the audio will be in a single audio file and so if the volume levels vary between the people in the recording, can be more difficult to adjust and fix.

Virtual Audio Cables (http://software.muzychenko.net/eng/vac.htm) is another option for bring in the sound. This can be used to record Skype or Ventrilo sessions. The typical setup for recording is to create a virtual cable to receive the sound from your voice chat program and make it a track input in your recording software. Then you need to setup another virtual cable to handle your microphone. You will need a repeater for this cable so that your microphone can be heard in the recording software and in the chat software. I highly recommend that your try their software before you buy it. It will help you understand if it is compatible on your setup and if you even need it.
Title: Re: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: UnknownGamer on June 18, 2010, 10:09:59 PM
    As a fellow broadcaster/podcaster I have some additional recording equipment you might want to consider adding to your podcasting tips post. First off, you might want to consider adding a vocal strip to your high end list of recording setups. For example, in my setup I use a DBX 286a which costs roughly $200. The DBX 286a includes a mic preamp,compressor,de-esser,enhancer, and expander noise gate. Additionally, the DBX 286a also provides "the sound" that many broadcasters try to achieve and if configured properly, the DBX 286a will eliminate a lot of software side post processing like compression and noise removal. Furthermore, for a mid-range mic I recommend the MXL  990s. Not to get confused with the MXL 990, the 990s provides a -10db switch and 150Hz low-cut switch (which the DBX 286a also provides). The MXL 990s is of course is a condenser mic and retails for $90. For groups of people or even individuals you can't go wrong with a Behringer  mixer like the Xenynx 502, which is a five channel mixer that retails for about $50. The reason for this is because besides offering phantom power, a mixer can easily allow you to bridge people into Skype for live use. Continuing on this subject, I recommend the $30 Behringer  U-Control UCA202 to connect the mixer to a computer from RCA to USB. For a more high end connection that uses RCA to PCI, I would recommend the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 that retails for about $90. Lastly, you might want to include the Heil PR-40 or even the Rode Procaster as high end dynamic mics. All in all though, you did a thorough job on this tutorial/tip writeup and I can't wait to read your future installments.
Title: Re: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: VerveMan on October 18, 2010, 01:54:00 AM
I am reading all the wonderful information provided.

But, there is one question that I am not seeing answered here.

Where is a good place to place to store my podcast that would be available for all to download and listen from, that is either free or very low cost, with unlimited bandwidth usage for all who decide to download?

I can't use a comcast account because they have created a limited amount of uploading capabilities. 8MB totals is unfair in my opinion, which would have to break up the podcast into several different parts, specially if it's a 30 minute or more discussion.

Any ideas? Any info?
Title: Re: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: Grebog on October 29, 2010, 11:10:36 PM
The size of the audio file will change on your quality and compression used. An example is a 56kbps mp3 at about 2 hours is just under 50 MB. The reason I mention this is so you can get a rough idea on how large of space you will need for storing your podcast episodes. Typically you will need enough space to keep 12 episodes, if you plan on archiving old ones at another location, which means just in podcast episodes you will have 600 MB of storage needed. A web page is much smaller and requires even less space than 1 episode, unless you are doing something very special on the site. But, the biggest concern is bandwidth. Not all free or low cost hosting packages offer a lot of bandwidth and so once you get a lot of people downloading an episode, you will start accruing additional charges and fees or they will shut your site off for the rest of the month, either scenario is not good.

I am going to do a couple hypothetical scenarios here to give you a guide to use when looking around.

Since you are starting out, lets keep the episodes at 1 hour in this assumption and 56kbps mp3 files and you post 1 a week.
Single File Size ~ 25 MB
2 Months of recording ~ 200 MB

30 listeners
Bandwidth each week ~ 750 MB
Bandwidth for the month ~ 3,000 MB or 2.93 GB

100 listeners
Bandwidth each week ~ 2,500 MB or 2.44 GB
Bandwidth for the month ~ 10,000 MB or 9.77 GB

1000 listeners
Bandwidth each week ~ 25,000 MB or 24.4 GB
Bandwidth for the month ~ 100,000 MB or 97.7 GB

This gives you an idea of possible bandwidth usage. Depending on how fast you grow will change your bandwidth needs.

As for places to store you files, you can check around. There are a lot of places out there, but as I have only used 2 different paid for hosting companies, can only give you information on them. They both charge about $10 a month, but of course for a full year, and you get a domain as part of the package.

My first experience was with Canaca, who at first were very nice until I started getting Internal Server Error 500  randomly and quite often on my pages. I did learn that it was likely caused from php server configuration settings, and as I do not have control of servers could not change any of that. I did contact them MANY times regarding the issue and all I ever got response-wise back from them was "your web page appears to be working on from here." They finally admitted to an issue on their end when I cancelled my service with them over a year later... I only stayed with them as long as I did due to the fact a site I ran back then exceeded 5 GB bandwidth a month and at that time was one of the few host companies who offered enough at a decent price.

My next and current experience is with Dreamhost. I have never had any issues with them. The nice thing about them is if you have no clue what you are doing, they have 1 clicks to help you pre-setup software, or if you know more and want to dig in, you can do that as well. They now offer unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth. They use to offer a package that automatically incremented storage and bandwidth available to your account each month to try and stay competitive with everyone else, but with unlimited, there is no need for that.

I am sure there are others out there with more information on other hosting offers.
Title: Re: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: VerveMan on October 29, 2010, 11:20:02 PM
WOW! Thank you so much... that information is super helpful.

Not only with the file sizing, but with an explanation of what bandwidth is.

Thank you, very much.
Title: Re: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: Octale on November 09, 2010, 10:35:18 AM
There's a good technical discussion going on here.  I want to add one thing that I see a fair bit in content segment submissions that might help the burgeoning content provider.

In several first efforts, and sometimes from our veterans, the background music overpowers the speech in the sound file.  There are a couple of ways to overcome this.

One is to project your voice into the microphone.  Yes, it will sound like you are yelling.  Yes, it takes practice to feel comfortable.  However, once you get the hang of it, your voice will sound better in the content you provide to us.

Second, when editing the segment or when recording the segment, drop the volume of the background music such that it is barely audible to you as you are speaking.  Anything more than just on the edge of perceptible as you are speaking, and you run the risk of the music overpowering the speech, making the segment unusable.

Keep these things in mind as you start down your path. :)
Title: Re: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: Grebog on November 12, 2010, 01:34:32 AM
That is a great tip Octale. I think I read from the book "Podcasting for Dummies" they recommended that the best way to get the volume of the music bed is drop the volume to absolute lowest possible point and slowly increase it a step at a time. Now if you vary your volume like most people do while talking, you will need your quietest point still be easily audible over the music bed. I think they also estimated that it should only be able 10% of the volume of your voice track.

This does not mean you can not have your music bed louder at the start and end, but you need to drop the volume while you are speaking as Octale has said.

Again thanks Octale for brining this up. I will write something up and put it into the reserved post at the top.
Title: Re: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: Grebog on March 11, 2011, 06:30:50 PM
Here is another quick tip. If you are sick, take a pass on doing a recording or let someone else record your information for you. I know there are times that illnesses go around and sometimes talking becomes hard to do. Obviously do what you can to get better, but do not worry that you had to take some sick time and skip a segment or episode. Take it from someone who's voice is currently sometimes functional right now.

But if you do decide to record and you have a cough, try to edit out your coughs the best you can. If you are going to do a live stream, just have a handy mute button set up so you can quickly mute yourself and essentially edit out the cough on the fly.
Title: Re: Recording Starter Tips
Post by: Ken on January 31, 2017, 11:11:40 AM
I had a friend ask about this recently, I wanted to bump it back up to the top of the board for people to view. Necro!