When Longer Really Is Better__ … __Podcasting Quicktip #8 __(Making Short Musical Spots, Longer)

(Click Here) for the podcast version of this article from “mypodcast.com”

(Click Here) for the podcast version of this article from “podcastpeople.com”

Since we’ve recently been talking about putting a musical floor beneath your talking or reading of your podcast, you may have the problem of your musical spots being to short. So, if that is the case, what can you do to make them longer?

In this article I will be talking about, and using “Audacity” (1.3.0-beta version). It’s for Windows XP . If you download a later version, (like 1.3.3, which I think is the latest) I will be updating this article and it’s information to that version soon. There are some slight differences in the 1.3.3 version and I am not totally familiar with it yet, (but you can get it by Clicking Here).

If you are using an editing program like “Audacity” I will be showing you what I consider to be the easiest way to extend the length of those short musical spots that you have access user rights to and want to use. Even if you aren’t using “Audacity”, the principles and techniques will still hold true. This is not something that is hard, but it does require you to expend a little effort to accomplish the desired results. Who knows; you may actually find that it’s a lot of fun finding ways to make them work differently.

Remember; my examples are just that– examples– and please do not think I am in anyway trying to limit your creative capabilities. I simply offer these examples as my creative offering. Continue reading When Longer Really Is Better__ … __Podcasting Quicktip #8 __(Making Short Musical Spots, Longer)

Following Up on the “Hums and Buzzes”…Podcasting Quick Tip #7

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I’m sure you all remember the time, recently, I was talking about hums and buzzes in my recordings, (Podcasting Quick Tip #5) and I told you I would fill you in on why I was having some ground loop problems when I knew more. Well, I did figure out part of it and the other I haven’t quite got a grip on yet.

The first problem was when I hooked up directly with my laptop to record stuff off of the telephone, (possible interview practice), an noticed I had a bad hum or buss in the recording. I solved it temporarily by removing the laptop power supply. But, the technician in me wanted to know where the ground loop was coming from so I had to try a few things.

I finally isolated it to my modem connection on my downstairs computer. You see, because of some of the work I do, I have and test some head-end parts for RF distribution. I have one of my computers connected to this system to play music and sometimes show stuff from ‘TSTN’ on my whole house system. I have experienced ground loop problems before with the system and thought I had it all taken care of. Apparently, I didn’t. Since I use the computer as my fax machine, it is connected to the phone line via the modem and also the head-end system. When I remove the connection to the modem of that computer, the hum goes away from my other phone connection to my laptop. I won’t go any further with that one, i just know where it is and I can deal with it.

The other one still has me a little baffled. Why my microphone does what it does I cannot say for sure. Perhaps I should try a USB input and see if it does the same thing. As it is now, I am using the mic input at the front of my computer and it has no buzz as long as I am not connected to the power line with my laptop power supply. It also seems to be pretty much evident with the mic I am using. Others I try are either not as evident or don’t have the hum/buzz in them. It is still a little confusing to me. Maybe one of you out there in the land of podcasting and blogs can help me this one. It really doesn’t bother me that much, but I would like to know why. If you have any input, please leave your ideas in the comments section.

I am going to be stepping up to a little bit different equipment in the very near future and I will probably solve my delima in that way. Still, my curiosity is arroused and I would like to know why it does what it does.

I have been extrememly busy lately and have had a little bit of a hard time keeping up with the blog. I have been forced, at least temporarily, to only update twice a week and I have moved it from Monday and Friday to Tuesday and Friday. I hope you won’t mind. Perhaps soon, I will be able to get back on the old schedule. In April, I will probably be turning out one podcast a week on this site, but it will be a compiliation of the articles and thoughts for the week. I will still be providing the podcast version of the articles for those that want to listen to them instead of read them.

See ya next time . . .

Podcasting Quick Tip #6

(Click here) for the podcast version of this article

You know I have been speaking very highly of the stuff available over at www.mypodcast.com. I have been so pleased with the quality and the ease of using their site, software and little recorder program that I can’t help but give them another big thumbs up. I have been using it regularly for a while now and have become just a bit spoiled I guess. It’s like I said before, “When something works, it works” ( see, ‘Beginners . . . podcast ‘on the cheap’), and I still feel that way.

So, if you’re a beginner and want to get started with mypodcast.com’s “Mypodcast recorder”, I have a couple of helpful hints for you. Please remember, it is a simple recorder and not extremely versatile, but for what it is, it works great! If you just want a simple way of getting started recording your podcast, this is a great place to start.

One nice thing about this simple little program is it can be used immediately after you download it. As long as you don’t make any mistakes or have to restate a statement because you got tongue-tied, it is completely easy to use. It is when you have those moments of brain strained audio garble that it becomes a little tricky.

If you mess up right at the beginning of your talk, it’s probably best to start over from the very beginning. If it is a half a minute or so into it, you can stop, playback or advance to just before the mistake and pick it up from there.

So, how do you do that? I’ll try to ‘simply’ talk you through it. It will help if you have already downloaded it and tried doing a few things with it so that you are at least somewhat familiar with it.

First, when you open the Mypodcast recorder and click the record button (I’m assuming you have a microphone attached) you will notice it immediately starts recording. Notice the line that moves through the time graphic. As you record, it tells you where you are. (You can use this as your guide as you record your production for how much time has elapsed and it is also helpful for correcting a mistake.) When you click the record button again, it stops recording. If you click the record button again,(whether accidently or otherwise), you just erased what you just recorded and started recording all over again. That probably wasn’t what you wanted or expected, so, here is the first really big tip:

  • After you have recorded something, either listen to it by clicking the play button to advance it back to the end of the recording, or,
  • Manually advance it, either with your mouse or arrow buttons, to the end and you can begin recording again without losing any of the previous information

This particular feature is a mixed blessing. If you accidently double click the record button to stop and listen to your recording, it will stop the recording and start recording again, BUT, it will have quickly erased all of you previous work. I guess the best thing I can tell you about this is just don’t be in a hurry. Take your time and be cautious. While working on a recording, you can make corrections and add to the recording as long as you don’t save it. Once you save it it is fixed in stone, (unless you enter it into another program, like Audacity, for editing it that way.)

Here is hint number 2 for the day. If you are recording your program and notice that you have made a really noticeable mistake, simply stop recording and do the following:

  • Click play and listen to what you have recorded up to the mistake.
  • Notice where it was and click stop on the play button.
  • You can back up in small increments by using your left arrow key
  • Hit play and make sure of where you are in the recording
  • Hit stop one more time and back up to a good place for starting the statement over
  • Work at it until you are sure have the right spot
  • Click record and proceed from that point with your recording

At this time, I have found no way to do insert editing with this program. You can go back to where you want to pick it up from, but you cannot insert something in the middle. Once you back up to where you want to record something, the program erases everything beyond that point and starts recording new from that point. This one little drawback to this program is at times a nuisance, but as you get used to using it, you find how easy it is to work with this feature. With practice, you will find you can do things that no one will notice, including yourself.

Just remember, this works only in original recordings. Once you save the recording, it is not able to be added to or corrected unless you put it into another program to edit it.

See ya next time . . .

Podcasting Quick Tip #5 . . . Got hum and buzz problems?

(Click here) to listen to the podcast of this article

Have you been hearing some mysterious hums and/or buzzing sounds in the background of your productions? If you have, it could quite possibly be associated with ground loops of some sort.

I came across this problem as I was trying out a new headset microphone to use with both, “Audacity” and “mypodcast recorder”. You see, I use my laptop for almost everything I do at the moment because it is my fastest and best computer, as well as the most portable. (It is also my newest). I have been trying a lot of new things lately, for my own benefit and, hopefully, for yours. This led me to discover I had the above mentioned problem.

While doing some practice recordings with “mypodcast recorder”, I noticed a buzz in the background of my recordings. It was probably always there, I think the new microphone just helped me notice it more. For that I am thankful, because I really don’t like hums and buzzing and I find them quite distracting.

At first, I thought it had something to do with the mic, but substituting a different one proved that theory to be false. (The substitute generated the same thing, only a little softer in the background). It was beginning to really bother me. Now that I had heard it, my hearing really began to focus on it. I was determined to get rid of it, so the troubleshooting process continued.

I decided to see if it was associated somehow with the software, although it didn’t make sense it would be. I tried using “Audacity” and found the same thing once again. There was that distracting buzz in the background. I decided to go one step further with “Audacity” since I was planning to use it to directly record interviews over the telephone. I called a friend up and recorded the conversation, (with his permission of course). The result was horrible, (and I am being extremely nice about it). I was really begining to think I had a major problem and began to worry that some of my plans for the near and distant future were going to be out the window. I have to admit, it had me baffled, at least for the time being.

I began to look for possible ‘RF generators’ like lighting dimmers or something similar. Nothing I checked made any difference. I was really beginning to get concerned when the thought finally struck me. In audio work, we often contend with ground loops of one sort or another. We can usually temporarily lift a ground to test and isolate the problem. The problem was, I was not using any plugs with ground pins in them, just the standard two prong, so how was I going to lift the ground separately. I remembered I didn’t have the problem when I used only my portable digital recorder, to capture with. Nothing else was attached to it, so, what was the difference between the two ways?

(Well, I hope you haven’t guessed yet, because that would spoil the rest of this article.) It was the fact that the digital recorder was totally self-powered by battery and I was using the power supply/battery charger for my laptop. When I removed the power supply cord from the computer and it went on to its own battery power, the buzzing completely stopped. My recordings were once again clean in both, “Audacity” and “mypodcast recorder”.

The problem seems to have been a difference in ground potential (a ground loop) between the phone line and the electric in my house for the problem with the telephone buzzing. Removing the connection to the power line, removed the ground loop problem between it and the phone line. Now I just have to consider laptop battery life into the extended phone interview equation for the future. Hopefully, that is just a minor problem that I will be able to wring out soon.

I have to be honest. I still don’t fully understand why that cured the buzz in the microphone, but my theory has to do with the stereo plug it has. I think it has to do with the way the plug makes connection internally in the computer. To be technical about it, it is like inserting a balanced plug into an unbalanced input, or vice versa. At any rate I will keep working on that and let you know when I totally figure it out. If you have any ideas about it, please, feel free to leave your comments!

For now, though, all is much quieter on the recording end.

See ya next time . . .

Podcasting Quick Tip #4 . . . Try This

This little Quick Tip has a lot to do with something I tend to nit-pick myself about regularly and it has to do with paying attention to small details. Sometimes, the smallest little thing catches my attention and drives me crazy.

Admittedly, this probably catches my attention (and bothers me) more than it does others. Still yet, I think it can make a difference in the recording, editing and production of your podcast, (or any other recording for that matter), if you pay attention to this small detail. (Now, I never said what I turn out is perfect, but, no one can say I don’t pay attention to details when it comes to podcasts and broadcasts.)

Have you ever been listening to someone’s production and you could tell where many of their edits were because of the difference in background noise or a bit of silence between one statement and another? You see, (as I said back in “Podcasters Should Pay Attention to the Details”), constant attention to small details can make a very big difference when it comes to the final result. This is one detail that many don’t think about. They just pass over it as though no one will notice. (But rest assured, someone will notice. When you notice it, and take care of it before the others have a chance to hear it, your production will be that much better.)

So . . . what is this little thing that bugs the heck out of me? It is those noticeable edits.

Since I have been experimenting so much with my little digital voice recorder and telling how well it works, I will use it as an example. One little drawback it has is the fact it has a little hiss in the background, kind of like the old tape hiss of the old cassette tapes. Sometimes, when I want to cover a mistake or add a bit of spacing to something I have said, the easiest thing to do is insert a bit of silence. Unfortunately, when I do that, it is noticed as being different than what comes before and after it.

So what do I do to cover it? Some of you have already guessed I suppose, but for the novice out there I offer this little bitty detail that can cover that noticeable edit. (The nice thing is it doesn’t take much time either.)

I go find a place either somewhere in the recording before or after that section and look for a break in the words that are spoken. That’s right, I am looking for some hiss to copy. After I copy it, I insert it at the point of the noticeable edit and then I trim out the stuff that drew my attention to it in the first place. I then listen to it and make it sound as normal as possible, hopefully unnoticeable to those listening to it. Sometimes I have to do nothing more than insert it and trim out the differing background or silence. At other times it takes a little more work to make it fit. I may have to play with the level of the insertion to make it match or I may have to shorten or lengthen it to get the right feel. In the end, the idea is to make it sound as though there never was an edit and if I pay enough attention to the details the only one that will know is me.

Don’t get discouraged if your first attempts don’t turn out right. This will take some practice to master, but as you do, the end result will very pleasing to you and to others.

I know it works, too. I use it all the time. (Click here to listen to the podcast of this article).

See ya next time . . .

(Podcasting Quick Tip #3) Try this . . .

A short while ago, I talked about using a digital voice recorder to record something and then load it into your computer later using audacity to edit it. (That was in podcasting quick tip #1 if you would like to check it out.)

This one is for beginners and advanced users alike. It is either good in a pinch or as a quick way of having a backup for a phone interview. It could possibly even help with a quick live interview that you weren’t really prepared for or one that happens on the spur of the moment.

Now remember, this isn’t being captured in your studio, so it won’t be perfect, but, it will turn out remarkably well. You can enter it directly into your computer and use your digital voice recorder as a hand held microphone. On thing I really like about this is it allows a better quality input because you are entering it directly into your computer as if you had a hand-held microphone. It also leaves you with a backup copy on your digital voice recorder just in case something goes wrong with the computer copy.

Once again I am using an OLYMPUS digital voice recorder,WS320M. I really like the way it records, (I use it in HQ record mode). It is a 1G voice recorder and mp3 player. It also has a USB direct connect input for your computer. (This makes it quick and easy to enter into your computer, later, should you need to.) To Try This . . . you will need:

  • The Olympus digital Voice recorder (or a good substitute)
  • An 1/8 inch (at both ends) stereo cable (preferably a minimum 6 feet long)
  • Your laptop(or desktop computer)
  • Audacity software

The other thing I like about this is that it is really simple. You will have fun with this. You can even use this as a way of getting a quick start for your podcast.

(For starters, be sure to turn down your speaker volume control to eliminate possible feedback while you are trying to record. Audacity has settings for being able to listen to what you are recording. Let’s keep it simple and have fun. There’s plenty of time to confuse ourselves, later.) Here’s how to do this:

  1. Plug one end of the 1/8 inch stereo plug into the earphone jack of the Olympus.
  2. Plug the other end into the Mic input of your laptop
  3. Open Audacity and set it for Mic input. (Click here if you don’t have Audacity)
  4. Press record on the audacity program
  5. Press record on the Digital Voice Recorder
  6. Run a test recording of the input to set your levels
  7. Press “control Z” to erase the the test recording (for the computer)
  8. Press stop button on digital voice recorder (manually erase)
  9. Repeat steps 4 and 5
  10. Start talking and watch the magic happen.
  11. When done stop both recordings and you are ready to edit and upload or store.

That’s easy, huh? With practice, you will be very pleased with the end results.
Just a couple more things you will need if you want to use it for recording a telephone interview. You will need a tape recorder to telephone adapter for recording you and your interviewee from the telephone. (I got one at Radio Shack. There are other places to get them.) You may not need this next item but it is nice to have and it makes everything work much better. An 1/8 inch monoral/stereo adapter for adapting the telephone adapter to stereo input. This can help eliminate problems with noise, hums etc.

See Ya Next Time . . .

(Podcasting Quick Tip #2) Try this. . .

Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Podcasting (Solutions)There is a lot good stuff going on the software and hardware areas of Podcasting these days. I am always looking for ways to make things easier for myself and I am favorably impressed enough with this piece of software that I am willing to recommend you try it.

First, let me tell you how I came across it. There are millions of search results for anything to do with podcasting. So I don’t generally go that route. I tend to use people’s sites that I have come to trust over time. One of those is Paul Colligan. I visited his site again a few days ago, (something I do quite often), and he mentioned this software that is available from GigaVox media. It is called the “LEVELATOR” by GigaVox media. (Although it is free for personal use at the moment, there will probably be a reasonable charge in the future for those that will be using it commercially.)

It is the “podcasters dream” as they say. It is able to take uneven audio (like when you interview someone over the phone or in another type situation and your audio is not at the same level for both speakers) and it levels out the audio (bringing the two into a much closer reference level). It should be used before you convert the file to mp3 and it only works with WAV files.

I tested it with a very bad beginning to a taped seminar. To add a slight twist to this particular test, I had to convert the mp3 file back to WAV (which I did with ‘audacity’) and then run it through “Levelator”. I have to admit, the result was quite acceptable. I was very pleasantly surprised and pleased, I will admit, it wasn’t miraculous, (it could not bring back what wasn’t there) but it did a good job of what it was made for. Give it a try. I really think you will like it.

By the way the book shown above is co-authored by Michael Geoghegan (CEO of GigaVox media) and Dan Klass (“The Bitterest Pill”) . It is a good source for podcasting because it covers the whole world of podcasting, whether you’re just a listener or a podcaster. (Just clickon the picture above to purchase it) Be sure to visit the GigaVox media site for more info on the “Levelator”. They are also a great source for info and all kinds of related ‘stuff’ to podcasting.

See ya next time . . .

(Podcasting Quick Tip #1) Try this . . .

If you’re just beginning in podcasting, or just want a low-buck startup option, here is a way that could get you started without too much expense.  In one sense, this may not be the least expensive way to get started, but it may be worth a try and, if you have some of the equipment laying around that you need to try it, you could get at least some practice sessions in to see how you do before investing in something more sophisticated. 

This process requires the following items:

  • A computer– PC or Mac– with sound recording capabilities (with at least a mic input)
  • Some type of portable recording device (even an old hand-held cassette recorder)
  • Download a free software program (in this case, “audacity” from http://audacity.sourceforge.net )
  • Cable(s) for connecting your portable device to enter your recording into your computer.

(Although this will work with either a portable device or directly recording to your computer, this example is based on remotely recording with a portable device and then loading it into your computer later.)  If you don’t have any of the above hardware, that will determine how expensive this could be.  (If you don’t have a portable cassette recorder, they can still be found and are relatively inexpensive.)

The quality you can produce in this manner depends on how well your portable recording device records sound.  I suggest you record at the highest quality available on your particular device.  It cuts down the amount of time available for recording on your chosen media, but, higher quality recording is an essential.  (If you don’t already know that, you will find it out soon enough.)  Here’s how easy it can be:

  1. Go to the above address and download “audacity”.  (Be sure to read what plugins you need along with it.)
  2. Record your self talking or conversing with another on your portable device
  3. Hook up to the mic input of your computer and download your recording into “audacity”
  4. Once it is in “audacity” you can edit it.
  5. With the additional plugins, you can export it to an mp3 file (or other types)
  6. It is ready to send or upload to your friends or site

Although this sounds (and is) relatively simple, it will probably require some practice and experimentation to achieve the best results.  At any rate, you can have some fun playing around with it while learning the “audacity” program.  It is a neat little program and works well.  (Besides, for now, it is free!!!!).  Have fun with it.

See ya next time