The original goal with my podcast was to make it as labour-free and as low cost as possible. If I could work entirely within the world of iOS with just a couple of free apps and a lav mic, I'd be happy. Well, that ethos has ended up being rather bothersome.
My first recording (the podcast trailer) was with just my Rode SmartLav+ and my phone, recording straight into the Anchor app. The result was disappointing, I have to say.
Then a pro told me that if I physically hold my lav mic up to my mouth, that would help a lot. Okay, it sort of defeats the purpose of a lav mic, but whatever. For my first/introductory episode I did this and recorded into the Rode Reporter app instead this time around. The quality was a lot better. However, this time I had editing to do before importing the completed audio into Anchor (my podcast host, who pushes my episodes out to Apple/iTunes etc).
First, I tried Anchor's native editor. It's terrible. You can edit, but when you save your file it jumbles up all of your cuts. How this made it through production and testing through to release, I have absolutely no idea?!
I then tried to navigate my way around GarageBand and was left feeling frustrated and confused. All I wanted was a simple (preferably free) sound/voice editor. I ended up finding one called Hokusai. It worked well enough for simple editing, and so my first/introductory episode was done. I still sound like a hostage held to ransom, being forced to read a list of demands, but that's to be expected for a first/second try.
Moving on to my first remote interview. Talking to my first guest in Colorado whilst I'm down here in Adelaide, Australia is pretty incredible. Naturally, in order to make this happen I turned to Skype. Not only has this been a solid podcasting choice for many years (apparently), but the convenience of their mobile app and built-in recording feature made it a no-brainer for a newb like me.
Then I made a bad call (no pun intended). Just before the interview, my hand gravitated passed my Rode and Bose gear and towards my cheap, wired Apple EarPods. Big mistake! Why did I do it? Why, why, why?
I don't know if my unfamiliarity with the superior mobile setup I had been working on kind of scared me? I don't know if being so new to this, I needed the security of something familiar, something simpler, something that I knew would work, at least technically?
So, there I was. iPhone, Skype app and cheap EarPods in-hand, off to conduct my first podcast interview. The interview went well enough, but then I listened to the recording. Aww crap!
It sounded super tinny and low in overall quality, particularly on my end. I wasn't expecting miracles, but damn! This is when I knew I had made the wrong mic choice. Further, I also knew that some Hail Mary editing was going to be needed to save this thing.
First thing's first though, did you know Skype's built-in recording feature saves voice calls as a video file? I didn't! So the first thing I needed to do was convert the file to audio. That's cool, I found an app for that, but it created another annoying step in what was already a frustrating experience.
As for editing, this wasn't just about cutting this time. The file needed some sort of normalising and mastering. Hokusai wasn't going to cut the mustard. So I turned back to GarageBand. I actually made some decent progress this time before I realised that GarageBand projects had a time limit, which this interview ran over. I also had problems exporting the files. Again, I found myself frustrated and confused.
It was at this point I was reconsidering my entire mobile-only, low cost ethos.
After spending a bit of time on YouTube researching possible solutions, I ended up downloading the Ferrite app and shelling out some clams for the pro version. A nice and clean application that allows for recording, editing and mastering in the same app. I used the app to clean up the interview and complete my episode. It's still not perfect. Far from it! But it's now at least tolerable to listen to, and you're going to want to. The interview was a conversation with Colorado Cadi and it was epic!
Ferrite has now replaced three other apps on my phone including Rode Reporter, Hokusai and my file converter app, as it just so happens Ferrite can do that too!
My mobile-only ethos has quickly become a mobile-second ethos. After the quality of the Skype recording genuinely shocked me (in a bad way), I've started looking for an alternative. It just so happens that the Anchor app has guest calling and auto-record feature. I tested it, but it's totally unreliable. It works well when it wants to, but that's not all that often... Also, I have vowed to always use the best possible microphone I have at my disposal at all times. Right now that's a Rode NT-USB mic I have for my computer. Goodbye mobile-only. We had a short and shit run!
Next I discovered a desktop web app called Zencastr. I haven't tested it yet, but it seems like the solution I'm looking for to conduct remote interviews.
The small amount of money I've invested in lav mics and adapters for my phone and the Ferrite app will come in handy for face-to-face interviews. I can make the best of it with minimal gear in that regard (provided we hold the lav mics close to our mouths, of course). Most of my episodes will be remote interviews or solo shows though, so it's all good. Even for mobile-only solo shows, I've noticed that simply holding your phone up to your ear and talking as if you're on a regular phone call can yield some pretty good results.
I'm currently editing my second interview on desktop using Audacity. There are some good tutorials on YouTube, so I’m expecting better results all-round moving forward.
I have three more episodes to record and edit before I do my five episode mega release (in one day). Two of these episodes will be based around my new Rode NT-USB, Zencastr and Audacity workflow. The remaining interview I might use my mobile kit and Ferrite to record, but still edit on desktop using Audacity.
So, there you go. A bit of an update of my experiences as a newb podcaster to-date. Barely started and I've already completely changed my approach to gear and workflow.
Learning curve? Steep. Fun? Yep.
In other news, I've been thinking about what to do with my Medium account. I think what I'd like to do is maintain this notebook section of my website as my general brain-dump area. A monologue space where I can just rant and write for therapy.
In the three posts I've already done in this notebook about podcasting, I can already tell that an eventual podcasting article is forming in my head. That's what my Medium account will be for. My notebook is just that - a notebook. What happens here in my notebook is the dress rehearsal for various ideas that might eventually inspire me to take what I've learned, polish it and publish it for wider circulation on Medium.
I could end up doing another six or more notebook posts on podcasting before I'm happy with what I've learned through trial and error about my own podcasting workflow, to then want to polish a single consolidated article on the subject for Medium.
That's how I see it all in my mind anyway. We'll see.