Monday, 16 April 2007

I've listened to several recordings of myself over the past couple weeks, thanks to the fact that we've recently started producing RunAs Radio, a weekly tech podcast. As I mentioned on the launch date, I am co-host with Richard Campbell. It's fun so far. We have a couple more shows "in the can" that will run very soon where we'll speak with smart and knowledgeable people about technology topics that matter.

I have found - as do most people, I think - that I really dislike hearing my own recorded voice. Honestly, it drives me nuts. Both metaphorically and physically speaking, nothing sounds the same inside our own heads as it does to the outside world. So when we hear a recording of our own voices, we tend to cringe - especially when we realize that's what we really sound like.

But the interviewing is fun, and Richard is a great guy to work with, so I have been enjoying the process. Some people tell me they're wondering what equipment I ended up with for the project. I bought a few things last week to set myself up (I had been borrowing Scott Hanselman's stuff for the first show and some testing). So, here goes:

The microphone is a Samson C01U USB studio condenser mic, which plugs straight into the computer's USB port and is recognized by Windows without any additional drivers. There is some fancy software available for Windows XP that can be used to pre-mix and some other fancy stuff, but for my use on Vista, I just plugged in and went. And it works great. For about $80 you can't really beat the quality. It's a solid, good sounding mic.

The mic is suspended in an audio-technica AT8415 anti-shock mount, which is one of those nifty rings with a bunch of rubber bands that keeps the noise from bumps, vibrations and other environmental noise away from the microphone. It can make a huge difference. I scooped up the anti-shock mount for $19 at a local store - it was in a box barely used without a price, and they were happy to sell it. New they sell for much more.

The desk stand is a short, basic Atlas Sound model that sells for under $20 and stands about ten inches tall when it's collapsed. It has a heavy padded base.

Finally, I bought a pop filter, which for all intents and purposes is just a fancy ring with nylon material (a lot like pantyhose) stretched across it, plus an articulating gooseneck mount that you can clamp to the mic stand. You just position it between your mouth and the mic.  The pop filter helps to ensure your P's and T's and what-not don't result in loud popping sounds to the mic - It keeps the harshness and resulting rush of wind from those types of syllables to a minimum. I didn't buy the most expensive model, and we'll just have to see whether or not I should have.

The way we record the show is a little different than most podcasters probably used to. RunAs Radio, like other shows done by Pwop Productions, is a fully-produced show, meaning a human being actually goes through the recording tracks, lines them up, cleans them all up and produces the final cut of the show. Quality of the sound is important to the producers. For my part, my voice is actually recorded twice during the interviews: Once by Richard over the phone on a system he has set up there, and a second time locally and in a high-quality mode on my computer using the mic setup described above and some special audio recording software from Pwop. The Pwopcaster software lets me set the mic levels, test, record and then upload the audio files to the Pwop studio, and they take it from there. My uploaded voice track is synched up with the phone track of my voice from Richard's multi-track recording, the audio is cleaned up for noise and edited for sneezes and such, and there you have it - RunAs Radio.

Of course, it's not really that simple - post-production is the hard part. The fact of the matter is that the main thing that makes it possible for me to participate in this show on my schedule is the fact that I only have to do the easy part: Chatting with smart people about interesting tech topics. I've turned down several requests and opportunities to participate in podcasts in the past simply because I did not have the time to do it all by myself and do it well. With this opportunity as long as I suit up and show up, we're good to go. And that's something I can work to make time for.

Stay tuned for more editions of RunAs Radio - coming very soon!

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