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YSDC Podcasting Equipment 2013 - Part II

In my previous article on YSDC's 2013 podcasting equipment I dealt primarily with the equipment used for producing The Silver Lodge. This time (as promised) I'll be talking about what we use for mobile and games recordings, along with the use of webcams.

Mobile Recording


When out and about there are two primary recording set ups put to use (depending on the situation). These are:


iPhone 4S with iRig PRE, Shure SM58 Microphone, Hindenburg Field Recorder software


This set up works well for one on one interviews. The iRig PRE connects the iPhone to the Shure SM58 mic via a short (0.5m) XLR cable. The SM58 is a dynamic cardioid microphone which means you have to be quite close to the other speaker to pick up an effective sound. This does mean however that combined with its rugged construction, the SM58 is ideal for recording in noisy and busy places like conventions as the cardioid (heart-shaped) pick up pattern will reject a lot of the surrounding extraneous sound. The iRig PRE is also versatile enough to provide phantom power for condenser mics should you need it.


For recording in outside spaces (such as in the street) a windjammer is used. You'll have seen these typically on TV at news events, stuck on the end of boom poles. It makes the microphone look like a hairy rat - or in our case it's a matter of "Talk to the Tribble". It does a very effective job of cutting down wind noise that might otherwise end up overpowering the recording.


To actually record the audio that comes into the phone we use the smaller partner to our main editing software, Hindenburg Field Recorder. It's a powerful and effective iPhone app that features a big button to hit for recording, file markers, the ability to alter mic sensitivity, edit on the phone (if needed) and the ability to share and upload to other locations. The latter is worth mentioning in a little more detail.


Hindenburg Field Recorder can export its audio in a number of ways, including sending by email, uploading files via FTP to a designated server and also uploading to SoundCloud. Any of these are useful ways to ensure you have immediate back-ups of your recordings elsewhere (just in case you lose your phone). Using the SoundCloud service you can also share your recordings directly with an audience. Another very handy feature of HFR is that if it's on the same Wi-Fi network as the Hindenburg Journalist desktop program it can wirelessly transmit a selected file straight into an open window on the desktop program in a matter of seconds. No need for cables or syncing, it just appears right in the chosen editing window.


While the above describes an ideal and prepared set-up, sometimes an unexpected recording opportunity can occur (no external mic or connectors), in which case recording straight into the phone can still do a great job (as long as you're indoors and out of any wind). It's said that "The best camera is the one you have with you.", the sentiment of that maxim is also true for audio.


Zoom H4n Handy Recorder


This is probably one of the few times where the marketing name of a device actually lives up to its promise. The Zoom H4n Handy Recorder was discussed in the previous 2013 article as a back-up recorder for The Silver Lodge shows; it also performs double duty for making seminar recordings. The device (which for some reason always reminds me of a weird Star Trek Tricorder) is able to produce stereo (and even four channel) recordings. The XY configuration of the mics, if placed near the panellists/speakers, does seem to help reduce some of the ambient echo. The Zoom H4n is usually mounted on a Joby Gorillapod to allow for a range of placements, or attached to the end of a Rode Boompole when using a Rode NTG2 shotgun mic with W6 windscreen. The H4n is able to run off two AA batteries for several hours and accept high capacity SD memory cards such as Kensington SDHC cards, this is a high quality and versatile audio recorder. Its ability to accept two XLR inputs is an added bonus when connecting to external microphones.


When making field recordings, running off batteries is the most convenient way to power the machines. In these cases it's far better to invest in some decent recharagables designed for high power consumption devices such as Uniross Ni-MH 2700 mAh or higher. If you can, always charge a few more batteries than you think you need...


Game Recordings - Binaural


The game recordings YSDC produces are a specialist format. Back in the day we used the old trusty iRiver iFP 790 (hung from the light fitting as usual). Fast-fowarding once more we've now settled on a dedicated set-up that makes use of the binaural recording technique.


In short, binaural recording endeavours to replicate the way people hear sound naturally, by placing two small microphones in a position similar to where human ears would be. Sometimes (as we do) a dummy head (Kunstkopf) is used for easier placement of the mics and to better copy the natural listening experience.