As a result of my post titled, “Intracast: An Example of an Internal Podcast for Employees”, I received a comment from Stephan Holt:
“You’ll have to explain how you set up your mobile lab of sorts. What are the essentials when trying to present a polished professional podcast?”
As Stephan mentioned, it was very important to me that I do present a professional environment to those I interview. Part of that is preparing. . .knowing who you’ll be talking to, having the questions ready to go, and presenting those questions before the interview to the guest so they may prepare. (There are some exceptions to that, of course. If I’m doing a bunch of man-on-the-street interviews with tradeshow booth attendees, I can’t prepare the guest. But for a pre-planned session, as was the one mentioned in the post above, the guests were all ready to go.)
Before talking about the equipment, a word about the location. If at all possible, I prefer a carpeted room with very little ambient echo. Most hotel rooms are great for this (the A/C can sometimes be a problem, but good noise reduction and gating can remove the A/C noise). Small conference rooms are okay as well. At a business location, small conference rooms are good, large conference rooms tend to be echo-y. Smaller rooms also create a less intimidating environment for the guest (who is often a little nervous).
In preparing the guest, I will ask if he has any questions about the questions I’ll about to ask. Anything else you’d like to add? Need any coaching on a particular questions? Do you still beat your wife?
Because it’s our job to make smart people sound smart, I’ll remind the guest that this is not live and that if he zigs when he thinks he should have zagged, not to worry. We’ll do it again and fix it in post-production. I’ll also remind the guest that we plan to remove all the stutters, false-starts, “umms”, “errs”, non-words, and over-used fillers (awesome, actually) to help make him sound concise, calm and intelligent.
I use the Marantz PMD670. It features two XLR mic inputs, can record in a variety of formats (MP3, MP2, WAV, etc.) with 40 different quality settings and looks and sounds professional. It records directly to a Compact Flash Card. It has separate volume control for each microphone (very important as my voice is pretty loud/boomy). It operates on batteries although I NEVER do that while recording, instead using the A/C cord included.
Microphone and Wind Shield
For a sit-down interview, I use two ElectroVoice RE50B with a windshield. This is pretty much an industry-standard mic for live interviews. Seems pretty rugged (I haven’t really tested it in that department), looks good, and works as advertised. I add the windshield because some folks tend to lean on the microphone and helps reduce popping “p’s”.
Part of coming off as professional is the use of a customized Mic Flag, which is the little box you see on all the local TV reporters out in the field. I can’t tell you how many under-their-breathe “wows” I’ve seen/heard when they see a mic flag attached to a mic. I worked with a company called Impact PBS in designing our mic flags. (Unlike the graphic to the left, the mic flag I used during my recent interview had the customer’s logo on it.)
Desktop Microphone Stand and Mic Clamps
I really like the look of two microphones facing the guest and host using a pair of desktop microphone stand. I have found the stands with a heavy die-cast base is much more stable than the tripod bases I’ve seen. Also, this particular stand adjusts easily. To secure the microphone to the stand, I use the SMC7 Spring-Type Mic Clamps.
Reporter’s Notepad and Earbuds
I also keep a reporter’s notepad with me to track the recordings that have been made and write down ideas for questions during an interview. I listen to the recording in real-time using some nice earbuds to listen for any distortion.
What are you using to record your podcasts outside of a studio? For remote recording in our Living in Las Vegas Podcast, we often use the Edirol R-09 when in the field. We’ve also use the R-09 our Local’s Choice Radio interviews as well. How about you?
I’ve enjoyed the dialogue about “Remote” podcasting. I’ve been in the radio business for years but have discovered “we don’t need no stinkin’ transmitters”. Last year I put together a remote recording set up patterned after live remote broadcasts of radio talk shows. We really make it a show. Unlike Scott’s seeking out a quiet room to record, we love to be in the thick of it. Crowd sounds, clinking dinner plates, a live band in the next room all add to the “live” feel of the podcast. I also use the Marantz PMD670 and it has never failed me. For a photo of the Audio Image Group Podcast Road Show click my web page: http://audioimagegroup.com/id60.html
If I’m doing what would normally be an in-studio recording remotely, I want quiet. But I agree with Dave that there are times when the background noise is a feature. For example, I’ve done several tradeshow “man on the street” interviews that captured the excitement of the event because you could hear all the activity going on in the background.
At the end of the day, the choice of background ambiance is dependent on the overall vibe you want your episode to convey.
I’m surprised that you’re able to pull this off with dynamic mics. It definitely explains why your recordings have such little noise, but I can’t seem to get enough signal strength with dynamics. Perhaps I’m just using the wrong dynamics, but using a Shure SM57/SM58 with a Zoom H4 just sounds muddy unless I’m right on top of the mic. I can’t imagine a guest is going to be that cognizant of mic technique. Given, the H4 is no Marantz, but it’s not a toy either. Then again, the Shures are made to record rock music and mic amps, so perhaps that’s my problem.
Thanks for sharing the info, Scott. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my sound and articles like this from people I trust and respect are great.
You’re welcome, Tim. And by the way, when I’m recording Melissa and I out and about for the Living in Las Vegas Podcast, I use just the Roland R-09 w/ no mics and no AGC.
I’m so glade I found this article. I’m thinking of doing a live podcast and have Never even attempted such a thing! My website runs in IIS7 and I believe that is a good thing as windows servers are made for this. Can I ask all the questions from A-Z? Can I make the podcast live from location to the web directly on my website, so people can view? What camera and other skills and technical stuff would I need?
All help is appreciated!
PS, I’m thinking most my podcast will be outside in a stationary position.
Lots of good questions, Al. Give me a call at 702.395.5268 and I’ll be better able to help.
What most versatile current up-to-date recording equipment (recorder, micro) & software that generates good transcribable mp3 audio files for face-to-face interviews do you recommend under $700? What transcription hard and software do you recommend?
I’d recommend you head over to BSWUSA.com. Great people, good pricing. Ask for advice. . .they’ll set you in the right direction.
With the advent of these handheld remote recorders, people may want to consider those as well. Zoom, Sony, Tascam all make them. We’ve also written an article that brings together four relatively new podcast recording equipment choices for June 2010. Thanks. Top 4 Equipment Choices to Improve Your Podcast Recordings