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Tools To Get You Podcasting Part II

Getting started is very inexpensive: entry level might include an $80 USB microphone, a computer and some free software. Want to get fancy? Buy a couple of good-quality microphones, a phone hookup, commercial software, and a soundboard to blend the different voices.

Fortunately, you don't need specialized digital recording software or proprietary hardware to podcast. In fact, you can probably use whatever digital audio software and hardware you already have. Audacity is a great free, open source digital audio application that is available on several platforms: Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and other operating systems. It is both an audio editor and digital recorder that can record live audio, convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs, edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and WAV sound files, cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together, and change the speed or pitch of a recording. You can do shows live, you or you can drag and drop the music files into the program and arrange them. Programs like Audacity are also called open source software, because their source code is available for anyone to study or use. There are thousands of other free and open source programs, including the Mozilla Web browser, the OpenOffice.org office suite, and all the Linux-based operating systems. Go to audacity.sourceforge.net/about/features for more info.

Other free tools include VOP (voice over IP) software such as X-Lite from CounterPath at www.xten.com/index.php?menu=Products&smenu=xlite and Gizmo, a free, open-source application from Gizmo Project at www.gizmoproject.com that can record phone conversations digitally. For budget-minded commercial products, there are many to recommend. ePodcast Creator lets you record, edit, create an RSS feed and upload your podcast; and is available from Industrial Audio Software www.industrialaudiosoftware.com/products/epodcastcreator.html. PlayPod by IGG Software is a powerful, easy to use Mac OS X podcast client that allows you to start browsing thousands of free radio shows, and news shows at www.iggsoftware.com/playpod/. Juice is a free application that allows you listen to podcasts. Do you want to listen to Internet audio programs but not when they are scheduled? This program lets you create your own custom online audio anytime, anywhere: www.juicereceiver.sourceforte.net/index.php.

Sony Media's SoundForge, Audio Studio, Acid Pro and Acid Music Studio cover all the audio formats you will ever need with lots of options including special effects such as EQ, reverb, delay, chorus, flange, phase, distortion, echo and more. Their professional mixing tools give you precise control over volume and panning, effects processing, audio routing and final output. You can burn your own CDs, upload to the Web, or export to your MP3 player. Fortunately, these products are very competitively priced for both the professional level and home studio solutions. They all have great tutorials built right into each product, which walk you through your creative projects step-by-step. Just click "Show Me How" to launch text dialog boxes, points and guides that actually show you what to do. Sony Media's Web site also features a great step-by-step tutorial entitled "How to compose podcasts with ACID at: www.custcenter.com/cgi-bin/sonypictures.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=12 93&keycode=3432

Another product to consider for doing podcasting is Apple's GarageBand. It has a very short learning curve with magical results in its digital audio sequencing capabilities. For GarageBand documentation look no further than to: http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/GarageBand_3_Getting_Started.pdf.

For recording tips creating podcasts with QuickTime 7 Pro, go to boinx.com/articles/podcasting/. Enhanced podcast tutorials with GarageBand 3 can be found at tutorcasts.org/?q=node/8 . Then find out how to voice audio record on your iPod and then plug it in your iPod to your computer at ced.ncsu.edu/ltrc/studio/workshops/podcast/index.htm

iTunes 4.9 or later brings podcasting into the mainstream by building everything you need to search, subscribe, manage, and listening. You can even publish your podcast to iTunes (as long as it's free of copyrighted material and overtly explicit content) and reaching a potential audience of millions. For inclusion in the iTunes Music Store, all episodes within a podcast must be available as either AAC or MP3 audio enclosures. Check out the iTunes podcasting Web page at www.apple.com/itunes/store/podcasts.html for a wealth of instruction and tips that will get you on-line and podcasting in no time.

Peak Pro 5 for Mac is a stereo audio recording, editing, processing, and mastering application and the ideal audio utility for podcasters. It integrates a wide variety of effects and signal processing tools to create custom fades, adjust and balance audio levels, repair digital audio spikes, add real room ambience, change pitch and duration independently and more. Peak's intuitive controls allow you to easily edit, process and prepare audio content for podcasting.

If you're looking for free or very inexpensive software podcasting applications that can really do the job, here are some good leads:

  • IGG Software with PlayPod. Designed exclusively for Mac OSD X it contains a powerful engine covered with a gorgeous Aqua interface. It integrates with iTunes. URL is: www.iggsoftware.com/playpod/
  • Blog*Matrix is great for podcasting and video casting. It is inexpensive start up package with one-month free trial. Virtually unlimited storage and downloads. URL is: http://www.blogmatrix.com

Podcasting Bundled Packages for Fast, Easy Productions
M-Audio's Podcast Factory combines all the hardware and software you need to easily produce professional-sounding podcasts that create sophisticated radio-style productions that integrate speech, music, and even sound effects. Here is what is included:

  1. Podcast Factory audio interface lets you use one USB cable to connect a microphone, instrument inputs, headphone and stereo outputs to your computer. It can also double as a professional audio interface for most popular music software like Apple's GarageBand, Sony's Acid and Magix Music Maker.
  2. An M-Audio Broadcast Microphone with a desktop stand to record broadcast-quality speech for professional-sounding podcasts.
  3. Editor software that makes it simple to record and edit basic audio content, then convert it to MP3 files for posting on Web podcast sites.
  4. Ableton Live Lite 4 which lets you easily produce sophisticated shows containing speech, music and sound effects. It even lets non-musicians create custom soundtracks for any podcast.
  5. Podifier is a simple-to-use application that automates the creation of an RSS feed, the enclosing of one or more MP3 files, and the FTP application to upload them to a server.

Sony Media offers a music podcasting bundle that includes a cutting-edge bundle with ACID Music Studio software. With this software, you can create a DJ mix on your PC and podcast it worldwide and there are over 1,700 music loops to get your started. This $89.95 bundle is even a better deal because it also includes a one year ACIDplant ProZone membership, a $49.95 value, for free. For more info, go to www.ACIDplanet.com.

Vodcasting
The simplest and most powerful software application that seamlessly combines audio and video podcasting capabilities is TechSmith's Camtastia Studio 4.0 which allows the user to export lectures to multiple formats like streaming media, MP3 audio, and iPod video in a single click. It even includes M4V iPod video film to reach the widest possible audience providing students with more delivery choices for their learning. And what's even more impressive is that this software greatly decreases the cost, complexity and time required to create rich educational video content. TechSmithhas combined Camtasia Studio 4 and Screencast.com, which facilitates fast and easy video sharing via RSS and iTunes for educators who want to ensure delivery and control of their recorded lectures. For more info, go to www.techsmith.com/screencast.asp.

Are you looking for a quick and dirty solution that let's you grab video content and easily put it onto iPods and other podcasting alternatives? iVideo To Go by interVideo at www.intervideo.com/iVideoToGo/ is an inexpensive answer. In just three steps, you can convert DVDs or video files for smooth, flawless playback. iVideoToGo Platinum is fast and simple software with cutting-edge H264 video compression that packs more videos and music on your DVD and iPod. It can automatically send videos directly to your iPod without going through iTunes and also check for new downloads, recorded videos and batch converts them to your iPod while you're away.

Digital Audio Recorders: Hardware Alternatives
New generations of dedicated digital audio recorders have entered the market offering great hardware alternatives for podcasting with professional level quality.

Marantz Professional at www.d-mpro.com has the PMD660 portable solid state recorder that is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand but has features that make more expensive, full-sized field recorders green with envy. It runs for hours on just four AA batteries. It records on Compact Flash media cards which you can find at any discount store and will store more than 35 hours of mp3 mono audio on a single 1 gigabyte flash card and over 3 hours of pristine, uncompressed, 16-bit .wav files. Editing can be done right there in the field with a choice of two editing modes or you can use your favorite audio editing software by transferring files to your computer via the built-in USB port. I particularly like that it can use two XLR mic connections with +48v phantom power, or its two built-in condenser mics for true stereo recordings.

M-Audio at www.m-audio.com offers a rugged high-fidelity mobile 2-channel digital recorder that records WAV and MP3 files to CompactFlash or microdrives at 24-bit 96 KHz quality. A 1 GB CompactFlash card can hold approximately 100 minutes of uncompressed

CD-quality 16-bit stereo 44.1. KHz WAV files. Powered by a lithium-ion battery the unit can recharge via the computer's USB connection or included USB power adapter.

EDIROL by Roland at www.rolandus.com/edirol offers an R-09 digital recorder which records in 24-bit uncompressed audio with a choice of 44.1 or 48 Hz sample rates. It records and plays back in MP3 format as well up to 320 kbps. It offers built-in stereo recording with the onboard stereo condenser microphone, or 1/8" Mic and Line inputs for external mics components. It records to an SD card (P64 MB card included), and uses standard AA alkaline or rechargeable batteries that can offer approx. 6 hours of recording time. The unit is pocket-sized, and features simple, one-hand operation.

Closing Comments
Some podcasts are simply recorded lectures, classroom noise included. Others are more sophisticated audio and video presentations. Podcasting seems to have rekindled an interest in the use of audio in education. And with the use of laptops and other portable devices, digital recording is possible everywhere. And new audio software is easy to use and at reasonably priced. This is the result of the podcasting/digital audio revolution. The type of podcast you want to create should dictate the production and technical resources you chose to use. Digital audio is well within the reach of teachers and students. For example, Tim Thompson and Roget Pontbriand at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida have integrated podcasting with the use of Sawbills to teach music theory and arranging concepts in the curriculum. Examples can be found at: http://Web.mac.com/thompsotd/iWeb/iPRC/



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