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YSDC Podcasting Equipment 2013 - Part I
It's also worth mentioning how we deal with chat room interaction. The short answer is we don't too much (at least during the show itself). YSDC has a chat room for members and during the live shows we encourage people to join in. (We usually advertise about a week before that a live show will be happening). The chat room is a great place for live listeners to interact with each other but we've learnt from experience that it's often better for the show hosts to primarily "focus on the show" and not be too distracted by online comments. The chat room is however, monitored during any event and that's handled in two different ways, depending on circumstance.
Chat Room Monitor 1
In this scenario we have a non-mic'ed guest moderator in the studio, using a laptop behind a card screen/baffle (to minimise keyboard noise). They can interact with listeners in the chat room and provide selected feedback to the hosts during the show. The moderator just raising their hand is a simple and effective way of letting the hosts know they wish to share a comment. This setup does mean that someone must be willing to act as a moderator in this fashion. Occasionally that is the case (thank you, Helen).
Chat Room Monitor 2
In this more common scenario the chat room is displayed on an iPad which is then projected onto a flat white screen by means of an Optoma PK320 Pico Projector mounted on a Joby Gorillapod. The projector is small, battery powered and most importantly, silent. The "screen" is actually a large ink blotter board that is held in place vertically on a shelf using paperclips formed into a chain and hooks (simple, cheap and effective).
The show hosts can glance across quickly at the large scrolling screen to occasionally check on comments or to see if a question they've posed has been answered in the chat room.
Live broadcasting coupled with a chat room is a great way to provide extra interactivity in your show.
While GarageBand is used for the recording of audio tracks, for actual editing another program is employed, Hindenburg Journalist. Each recorded track in GarageBand is exported as an AIFF file and then imported into Hindenburg Journalist, a dedicated program aimed at "audio storytellers" which provides editing tools for that purpose (rather than the many other programs often used for podcasting that are designed for musicians and simply repurposed). On import into HJ each track is automatically levelled (an overall increase or decrease in gain) to match our requested audio profile (such as EBU R128 or -23 LUFS or similar). Any additional audio brought into Hindenburg Journalist is also automatically adjusted to the specified standard. What this provides is a consistency in loudness both in the show itself (e.g. clips aren't too quiet or too loud compared to the hosts' voices) and also between different shows.
Rather than using headphones, freestanding Alesis M1 Active 520 Studio Monitors are used to edit the mix. The monitors provide a flat frequency response and mean you don't have to have a "pair of cans" clamped to your head for hours at a time. The longer the show, the longer the editing process. Typically this factors to be about 6x the final show length. For ease, the final production is delivered as a 128 Kbps Joint Stereo file with ID3 tags and album art before going into the podcast feed.
Belt & Braces
While GarageBand has yet to fail us, having a back-up recording never hurts. For The Silver Lodge a Zoom H4n Handy Recorder is connected to an output from the Saffire Pro 40 that carries only the hosts' voices (no audio clips). The Zoom records the additional audio to an uncompressed 44.1 KHz stereo WAV file. As of writing the backup hasn't proven necessary but it's nice to know it's there.
Clip from "The Silver Lodge" 13Conclusion
The above marks the result of almost a decade of software and hardware evolution in the recording of podcasts from YSDC. I hope these details have proven of interest. What I haven't covered here (besides the specialist cases of game and mobile recordings) is the use of webcams (stills & video) as an adjunct to the process. These are covered in a separate article.