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YSDC Podcasting Equipment 2014
Changes in Equipment and Workflow
In the past year our audio equipment and working method has remained relatively stable with only a few minor changes.
For recording our podcast audio we moved to GarageBand 10 and 24 bit recording. The greater bit depth means we can record at lower sound levels and introduce less noise into the system, providing even cleaner audio. As discussed later on, for some our work we also record at 48 KHz frequency range, however GarageBand is limited to 44.1 kHz, so while we could use Logic Pro at 24 bit/48 KHz (24/48) the ease of recording into GarageBand currently outweighs the potential benefits in frequency response since most of our production is speech-based.
Our backup recorder has been upgraded from the Zoom H4n to the Zoom H6 Handy Recorder recording to WAV at 24/48. The lower noise floor, 4 XLR inputs, larger colour display and the interchangeable mic heads make this a rather good upgrade from the H4n.
Our specialist Icecast 2 server provider unfortunately closed in 2013 and so with them went our live audio broadcasts through that service. StreamSolutions not only offered Icecast servers but also enabled the 24/7 stream we provided on YSDC. With their closure we took the opportunity to simplify our broadcast provision. In essence we retired the Nicecast broadcast software and YSDCam 1 (static web cam) and then bumped up the resolution of YSDCam 2 (live video cam) sent out through Ustream. The audio for the live shows is now fed out of the Saffire Pro 40 audio interface directly into the Logitech Broadcaster camera and then to Ustream, thus removing a couple of interceding steps.
One issue with using a Ustream free account is that interstitial adverts are played randomly at varying times. These adverts buffer the content, the effect being that individual viewers can end up watching the show slightly time-shifted from each other. To try and overcome this we explored using YouTube Live as an alternative, however the additional software and extra steps involved meant this performed poorly for us, so the simplicity of Ustream integration means it currently remains our default choice for live broadcasting. We could of course upgrade to an ad-free Ustream account but at c. $100 a month for a less than weekly show the cost/benefit doesn’t fall in our favour at this time.
The “Zulu Clock” used for showing the current time in relation to the shows was also retired and instead we run site banners advertising the next live show that includes an integral countdown clock so no more local time calculations need be done.
For audio encoding we remain with MP3 but have increased the bit rate to 160 Kbps (with very slight stereo panning) to provide clean, quality audio. The use of stereo panning in the mix means that with multi-host set-ups it can be easier to distinguish voices by their location. The applied effect need not be great but it can help with clarity of conversation.
We stopped using SoundCloud as we are not currently offering enhanced (.m4a) podcasts, simply providing the MP3 files directly from YSDC. (The money saved was put towards Vimeo instead, see below.)
This concludes the changes to our default audio recording setup. For mobile and game recordings it remains ostensibly the same save the move to using the Zoom H6 recorder. However one big area of change for us is the increase in our video/short film provision.