My friend Bradley Chambers and I have been recording and publishing a podcast for over a year now. I love podcasting because it’s fun, relatively easy and I love Bradley’s pragmatic take on things. I could be an ivory-tower theoretician so far up my own backside without Bradley to keep me grounded.
If you’re interested, the podcast is called Out of School and you can subscribe at outofschool.net. We would love to have you as a listener.
Our regular podcasting setup is a fairly standard arrangement: each of us record our own microphone. Bradley uses GarageBand and I use Adobe Audition to record my own microphone and the Skype conversation. When we are done, Bradley shares his recording with me via Dropbox. Then I drop it into Audition, line it up with the Skype recording, which I then delete, and we are off to the editing races. I upload the mix to Dropbox and Bradley posts it every Monday.
On the Road
This has been a crazy year for travel. I feel like I say that every year and every subsequent year it seems to get just a bit crazier. At the same time, I’ve been on the road to replacing my MacBook Air with my iPad for several years and every year it gets a bit easier.
I recently got to the point where the main reason I was carrying my MacBook Air to trips was to record the show. It was time to push the iPad boundary out a little more and investigate the possibility of mobile podcast recording and editing.
I have tweeted a couple of photos recently of my mobile podcasting setup and several people have asked for a write-up of the procedure, so here goes.
My desk microphone at home is a Blue Snowball. It’s a really great mic but it’s neither small nor light. At the recommendation of Myke Hurley, I acquired a Samson Meteor microphone which has an integrated tripod stand that folds to a very small and convenient size for travel.
The microphone connects to the iPad through the USB socket version of the iPad Camera Connection Kit. The Meteor also has a zero-latency headphone socket for monitoring so I connect my headphones there. I will use whatever headphones I’ve brought for the trip - usually my Bose Qc-15 noise cancelling headphones, if it’s a flying trip, or my Bose collapsible headphones. I always carry Apple earbuds but they are used for a different purpose, as I’ll discuss in a moment.
GarageBand on iOS is the obvious choice for making a podcast on the go. However, it has a critical limitation that leaves it completely unsuitable for recording hour-long shows: the audio recorder has a maximum recording length of 10 minutes.
I went looking for more serious options and I found one. It’s called Auria LE by WaveMachine and it is a quite incredible tool. It doesn’t look much like an iOS app and doesn’t really adopt many of the conventions of a touch interface but what it can do with hour-long audio files on an iOS device is amazing.
When recording the show on the road, I record my microphone directly into Auria. That much is fairly easy. You might be wondering, though, how Bradley and I hold a conversation.
The actual conversation is usually still conducted over Skype but this time running on my iPhone. At home. I’m running Skype on the same machine that I’m recording on. I can’t do that on the iPad (though I could if Skype somehow gained support for AudioBus, which would be lovely).
Since I’m not recording Bradley in sync with my own recording, we need to use some kind of clapperboard technique to sync the recordings, which we do with a simple four-count.
When I told some friends that I was “podcasting” on iOS, they assumed that all I was doing was recording myself on iOS and doing the post-production later on a Mac. Not so! In fact, we actually do the entire end-to-end audio production purely on iOS.
When Bradley uploads his recording, it appears in my Dropbox. The first step in getting that file into Auria is to download it to my iPad. There are a few ways to do this. I can use the Dropbox app to favourite it - hence saving the file to local storage on my iPad. From there, I can use Open In… to open it in Auria.
My preferred method, though, is to use an app called AudioShare. Audioshare exists to shuffle around audio files on iOS. It has Dropbox integration, so I download the file from Dropbox into AudioShare then I use the AudioCopy system to move it into Auria.
Once the tracks are aligned in Auria, it’s a simple matter of editing and trimming the recording and exporting it.
By comparison to Adobe Auditon, Auria lacks a number of audio processing features. In particular, the work I can do in Audition to recover a poor recording is not so easily done in Auria, so it’s more important to get a good capture in the first place. When it comes to cutting clips together, modifying volume levels and adjusting tracks, Auria has all the tools you need to make a podcast.
Finally, the export. This has always been the worst part of doing a podcast on iOS. On my previous 3rd generation iPad, it took approximately one minute per minute of audio to convert a mix to an MP3 file. On the iPad Air, it’s down to about 15 seconds per minute of source audio, meaning that I can export an hour long podcast in about 15 minutes.
Once Auria completes the conversion, it has native Dropbox upload. I use that to put the file into our shared folder and Bradley posts the show when the time is right.
And that’s how we do end-to-end podcast production on an iPad.