How to record and edit a podcast on a budget: life hacks and personal experience

Podcasts are a cool tool for anyone looking to reach out to a wide variety of audiences. The format has already been mastered by individual enthusiasts, various media and brands. Some people are even slowly monetizing this activity: they collect donations from listeners, advertise in episodes, and make native episodes for companies.

The beauty is that recording podcasts is inexpensive and easy.

A dubious sight appears before your eyes if you start googling information on the creation of a podcast on the Russian-language Internet. For some reason, everyone gives advice on choosing a microphone, but does not tell anything about recording and promotion.

My name is Nastya, and I have been doing journalism for 8 years. Recently I launched my own podcast “Beskultye” and, after more than three months of ordeal and torment, I am ready to tell you how to record and edit the whole thing.

About microphones

A decent microphone (one that does not hiss, does not “croak” and does not break in a couple of months) will cost from 5,000 rubles. Plus spending on a stand, filter, sound card. You also need a room with soundproofing, if you are really a perfectionist.

If you don’t buy a microphone and don’t look for a soundproofed room, you can record podcasts in the studio. An hour costs from 1,000 rubles. – an option for the rich or for those who have friends with the studio.

There is no point in spending money on an expensive microphone. It is not convenient for all guests to come to you, especially if you do not live in nearby regions. And some people like to chat more on Skype – it’s easier to be frank.

What I have from the equipment:

  • dynamic microphone Shure PG58, which costs about 5,000 rubles, and has a foam – a soft pad, is put on the microphone. For some reason I bought a branded one for 300 rubles, although you can find it for 100 rubles. In theory, it should save you from spitting when letters like “n” stand out strongly, but it doesn’t help me (probably, I spit too much);
  • mic stand and pop filter, constructed from embroidery hoops and tights. If there is no stand, buy a desktop microphone holder for 1,000 rubles. When he was not there, I just put the microphone in a tall glass. A pantyhose pop filter, by the way, works better than foam;

This is what a pop filter looks likeImage via wikihow.com

You can connect a microphone to a USB port on your computer. Then, accordingly, look for microphones with a USB output, there are many of them on sale. Microphones with other outputs are often found, for example, with a jack:

For such cases, there are adapters from jack to mini-jack:

A mini-jack is just the input that computers have and where a microphone is connected. You can buy an adapter at any music store, cable store, or simply order on the Internet.

There are condenser and dynamic microphones. If you do not go into technical details, then capacitor ones are more sensitive, they catch a larger number of frequencies, but you cannot yell loudly in them, otherwise you will get an overloaded (wheezing) sound. Unlike dynamic ones, they cannot work on their own; they need an additional power source. This means that you have to buy a phantom power unit or a special sound card with this function. See if you are willing to overspend.

I tried to record with guests using a more expensive (about 8,000 rubles) AKG P120 microphone. It is capacitor. The sensitivity of condenser microphones is a controversial point. On the one hand, this is good: you put the microphone on the table between yourself and the guest, and he (the microphone, not the guest) perfectly catches everything, even if you mutter or move away from the recording source. On the other hand, such a microphone records rustling, coughing from the next room and the cat’s meowing.

A dynamic microphone (specifically mine) is more modest in sound quality than a condenser AKG. It picks up sound worse, but somehow better – spitting. But it ignores background noise. In general, I have stopped at it for now. The main thing is to sit with the guest at approximately the same distance from the microphone (not too close, remember about spitting!) And do not fiddle with anything.

What I definitely don’t recommend is recording yourself and your guest on two different microphones. Then you will go crazy while you balance the two recordings in sound. My advice is this: turn on multiple recording devices at once. Even a voice recorder on the phone (after setting the airplane mode). You never know what won’t work.

And yes, of course, you can record audio using the laptop’s built-in microphone. But if for some reason you are not satisfied with it, you can always connect a microphone.

Live recording

So, we plugged in the microphone and start recording. In the lower right corner of the computer control panel, click on the sound settings. We need Recorders or Input. There we select our microphone.

Then open any recording software (Audacity, Wave Editor). My favorite is Sound Forge. There, on the toolbar (top left), you can immediately see the red circle of the Record button: press it and see how the recording went. Recorded is displayed in front of you in the form of a sound wave. You can pause at any time and then continue recording from the same place. To end the podcast, click the “Stop” button and save it in wav format – we still have to work with this file.

This is what the soundtrack looks like in Sound Forge. Above – a general view of the entire file, below – a smaller, approximate fragment. If you turn the mouse wheel, the track from below will get closer, and you will be able to distinguish between individual waves.

Remote recording

Still, I like to write sound remotely more. I tried several programs and settled on two.

MP3 Skype Recorder the sound of the interlocutor in Skype writes well, but you will not be heard well on the recording. This is not scary for me: I try to make podcasts more like monologues – often I just cut out my questions and do a musical interruption instead.

It turns out that the guest, as it were, touches upon different topics – without annoying leading questions from the host. And the volume level of your own cues can always be increased.

UV Sound Recorder writes sound from any audio sources on your computer, that is, both from the microphone and from the speakers. Moreover, you can poke the button “In different files”, and you will end up with two files: with sound from the microphone (your voice) and from the speakers (the guest’s voice). Important: if MP3 Skype Recorder turns on automatically, then you must poke the UV Sound Recorder record button yourself.

I am currently using this program. I call my interlocutors in Google Hangouts, which has several advantages over Skype:

  • the sound is much better
  • no need to create a separate account – it works by phone number or mail,
  • no need to download to your computer – it works in a browser.

Many podcasters write audio through QuickTime Player: there you can also click on the “Record” button. But he only writes the sound from your microphone, and you need to ask the interlocutor to install the player at home, record your own track separately, and then send it to you. But I don’t want to strain the guests once again. I generally follow their lead: one, for example, asked to record a podcast via WhatsApp (there should be an emoji with eyes rolled up). Well, I downloaded the Cube ACR program to my phone, recorded the conversation, and in the end it turned out disgusting: it’s quiet, everything hisses. Don’t do that.

Installation and mixing

I edit the sound in two programs. Sound Forge first. There it is convenient to cut unnecessary and glue files – for example, if you need to combine your sound and the sound that the guest recorded through his computer (open an empty file with two tracks and copy your voice and the guest’s voice to each). And also – adjust the sound level. The “normalize” function is my favorite: it draws out even the quietest whisper, while avoiding the off-scale levels. There are also all sorts of convenient things (noise reduction) with convenient presets for noobs like me.

In the same Sound Forge I add all sorts of eyeliners (“Hello, this is“ No culture ”, and today in the release …”), my own comments, I rewrite questions, if necessary. I’m pretty bad at speaking, so sometimes you have to rewrite your own question – hah, podcast host advantage!

Then I open Sony Acid Pro. This is an ancient program where you can glue multiple tracks. It works like this. You add the original podcast track there. Then you add another blank track below and load, say, the fanfare sound that you want to insert at a certain point in the podcast. At this point, you use the Pencil tool to draw a loaded fanfare sound – exactly the length you need. The picture is clearer.

On the first track there is a file with a podcast recording, on the second – a jingle (it plays only in the first couple of minutes of the episode, so at some point

In Acid, I also add jingles and cutouts to the main track, which are pieces of music that separate parts of a podcast or indicate a transition to the next topic. I download all sounds from free audio stocks (for example, freesound.org). And jingle is a song written by me from those times when I still imagined myself to be a musician: I take a small instrumental excerpt from it and insert it at the beginning and end of the episode.

As a result, I make a 40-minute podcast from a two-hour recording. First, I cut out everything that is not very interesting in Sound Forge, then I run it through Acid and cut it some more. You have to listen to one episode at least twice. And this is not a complaint: I like everything.

The final file in Acid, using the “Export” button in the “File” menu, I turn into a complete podcast in mp3 format. If the resulting sound is quiet, you can drop the file into the Sound Forge again and use the magic Normalize button.

Your podcast is ready.

Summarize

Equipment for recording a podcast at home will cost no more than 10,000 rubles. (if you wish, you can shrink), and if you record episodes with guests remotely, it will be almost free. Then – we remove the unnecessary, mount, add catchy chips (jingle). We export the file to mp3 and send it to the world.

All these seemingly scary recording and editing programs are pretty easy to tame. You can read the basic basics in the manual, and then try it by typing (presets to help). After all, you don’t need fancy features to record a podcast: leave the compressors and equalizers to the sound engineers. Just try to record the sound as best you can initially. Try different microphone positions, test recording programs. Everything will definitely work out.

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