The Recording Process ~ part 1

This is an area that terrifies many. Who can afford to build a radio studio or music recording one in their spare room, garage or garden shed?

Here’s the good news: You DON”T need to.

Radio has specific requirements, highly sensitive mics, audio engineers, executive producers, in fact an entire structure around the sound coming out of the radio. The same is true for music recording studios. A separate mic for each instrument, a mixer board, recording gear and on and on.

Podcasting, with a few strategic choices, does not require a fancy shmancy set up.

Let me explain.

We aren’t attempting to record the Ode To Joy in the Sydney Opera House, we aren’t even attempting to record Hamlet, we are looking for clear voices, minimal background noise and not sounding like we are sitting on the toilet.

For short interviews, even for long ones but especially short 3-8 minute recordings, a smart phone gets the job done. It’s a matter of understanding how the mic works, what angle of attack matters and to have the right end of the phone pointing at the person speaking.

There are plenty of great, and as it turns out, free apps for iOS and android that will get the job done and easily transfer your recorded file to wherever you need it dropped.

Practising with a phone is a great way to learn correct mic technique in a fairly forgiving way. Improvements on the phone include some attachments. When you think about outside reporters on the TV you’ll often see a long thin mic, known as a shotgun mic. It picks up sound in a narrow pattern from the business end in the same way as a shotgun sends pellets out in a relatively narrow area.

So picking a mic that records just what you want recorded and nothing, or very little of what you do not, is the key. A shotgun mic makes sense. It points at the voice source, blocks out much of the background and there are lots of options at various prices. I’ve used a small portable shotgun mic: the Rode videomic me. Small and portable are the keys. This mic works on a smartphone. There are two versions, one with the 3.5mm jack for standard plugin headphones and a lightning connector for iPhones and iPads. In conjunction with this little but powerful mic, I use Voice Recorder Pro, a free recording app despite the name which does the job well. This app is for both iOS and Android, links in the show notes. The combination of the Rode and that app are my “mobile”, in the field option.

The great advantage of this setup is that it really shines outdoors. Even without the Rode shotgun, the phone mic will get the job done. 

To use the outside option, find a space without a low roof and as few walls as possible. A verandah, a deck or a table and chair in the garden or, if you have one, a paddock. I’ve used this setup at my in-laws and managed a great recording. During editing, I picked up birdsong in the background. As I was recording an environment/farming podcast, it only enhanced the recording. I’m inclined to think birdsong would improve any recording, particularly at low volume in the background.

So download the Voice Recorder Pro and start experimenting. I’ll have a short video up soonish on the website covering the settings I’d recommend for Voice Recorder. Also I’ll cover more “formal” or more complicated setups in future episodes. I should point out I usually go for simple and uncomplicated, that should give you a clue.

Ready to start your service’s podcast? DM me on Linkedin or email me, links in the show notes.



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