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Chapter 7. Recording Your Podcast > Recording Tips and Techniques

Recording Tips and Techniques

Here is a cafeteria selection of ideas that can make your recording sessions more consistent and more effective. Not every one of these will work for every podcaster, but some experimentation will help you uncover several that will work for you.

  • Try standing while you record or, even better, try walking around.

    There’s no rule that says you need to be stuck in a chair while you’re recording. In fact, many podcasters find that it’s easier to keep their energy level up during a podcast if they are standing or walking around. If walking around works for you, you should consider using a wireless headset. The important thing to remember is that your microphone, whether it’s in your hand or attached to a headset, will pick up the vibrations from movements and brushing against clothing, your skin, or other things; this comes through on your podcast as thumps and scrapes. If you want to move around, record a practice session or two to make sure that you’re not inadvertently putting lots of thumping and bumping sound effects into your podcast.

  • Get used to keeping your eye on your levels.

    Your recording equipment and/or software provides visual cues about whether or not you’re recording at the proper level. Get in the habit of scanning these indicators, such as those shown in Figure 7.1, regularly. You’ll have to force yourself at first but eventually it will become as unconscious as looking at your mirrors while you’re driving. This will make it less likely that you’ll wind up with an unpleasant surprise when you listen to what you’ve recorded.

    Figure 7.1. Levels on your meters should stay below the “0” mark—going above that point means distortion: For a podcast that just sounds bad.

    The precise look of the level meters will vary from recording program to program, but all have a scale that starts with negative numbers around −32, goes up to 0, and then above zero to +6 or +12. The number to keep in mind is 0, because that’s the point at which your recording will be at the maximum volume without danger of distortion. You’ll want to keep your recording level as close to zero as much of the time as possible, and above zero as seldom as possible. In general, if you’re recording and the needle or stack of bars on your meter never reach zero, then your recording is going to be softer than it should be, and your listeners will have to turn up the volume on their MP3 player to compensate. If the meter is showing a recording level that’s at the top of the scale all the time then the odds are good that your sound will be distorted, “rough,” and hard to understand much of the time.

    Of the two problems, a low level is more readily fixable in the editing process—you can boost the level of the track as you’re creating the final version (and we’ll show you how to do that in Chapter 8, “Processing and Posting Your Podcast”). Distorted sound from a recording that was too “hot” is pretty much impossible to fix—you just have to go back and do it again.

  • Maintain a mental picture of specific listeners while you’re recording.

    In Chapter 4, “Strategies for Planning Each Show,” we discussed the importance of knowing your audience. Many podcasters find it helpful to take that concept a step further and develop a mental image of some specific listeners, then talk to those people when they record. In one way or another, every successful podcast is able to create a connection with its listeners. This technique can help make your communication sound more personal and less antiseptic.

  • If you’re going to edit in post-production, pause for a moment after a stumble.

    This technique isn’t useful if you’re going for a “live” feel to your show. If you’re going to edit your podcast, however, you’ll make your job a great deal easier if you pause for a moment of silence after a mistake you know you’ll want to edit out. A pause will create a visual cue for you when you edit the sound file, making it easier to find the parts that need to be trimmed.

    It’s best if you’ve decided before you begin your recording whether you’re going to edit the files in what’s called “post-production” or just convert your recording to MP3 and post it on the Web. If you’re going to edit your recording then plan to put a moment of silence before and after major topics, at the beginning and end of the session, and after any error, especially if you correct the error and then keep going. All of these pauses can easily be cut out during editing, and allow you more “elbow room” when it comes time to add sound, splice different sections together, or add sound effects and music to the final version.

  • Record some “room tone.”

    In post-production, you will sometimes want to add some “silence” into your unedited recording. “Silence” is something of a misnomer, though. As you’re recording your podcast, even when you’re not speaking, the background of the environment in which you’re recording contributes ambient noise to your recording. That ambient noise is known as “room tone.” When you need to add a few seconds in which no one is speaking into your recording, if you added real silence it would stand out starkly from the rest of the track. Room tone, on the other hand, will blend right in.

    The ambient noise in your room can vary considerably from one day to the next. Be on the safe side and record 10 seconds of ambient noise before each podcast and you’ll never find yourself in a bind.



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