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Creating a Podcast with Two Hosts

I kept looking and looking for details on how to record two hosts in the same room - for our new podcast. But so many of the guides and articles out there are focused on dealing with remotely located hosts. When you want to record audio of two (or more) friends in the same room it’s harder to pin down what you need.

Some Technical details on our new podcast website

Whenever I launch a new project it’s a chance to try out new technologies. When I just want to build a simple website I have a lot of choices of ways I can make it complicated. The last two sites I’ve built now are both hosted for free through GitLab. They offer a free hosting option for static websites, and they have built in processing pipelines for generating those static sites using systems like Jekyll or Hexo. I’m using Hexo because I’m most familiar with it. It allows me to write posts in plain text files on my computer. It’s an exceptionally fiddly way to set up a blog these days. I don’t recommend it for people who don’t know what most of those things are already. Most people should just start a free wordpress blog or use squarespace I guess.

We host the audio files at SoundCloud because it’s really simple and provides a podcast friendly RSS feed. I’ve already hit their upload quota (3 hours of audio total!?) for free accounts so I need to figure out if I want to start hosting our files on Amazon S3 instead of paying the $7/month for SoundCloud Pro. Which is realy $15/month if you have more than 8 or so episodes (Even “Pro” has a hard limit at 6 hours!)

Recording Hardware

We record the podcast together in the same room looking at each other. We needed our equipment to be compact, portable and cheap. I researched a few different options. One option is to have a single BlueYeti microphone that you place on a table between each host and just talk into it. This has a drawback in that the microphone will be relatively far away from your face and you need to be pretty close to your cohost.

You can also use two devices to record two tracks and then import them into garage band and sync them up. You can use the microphone on your favorite ear-buds if you want. Or you can have each user plug a mic directly into that device.

I decided to use a USB audio interface with two balance connectors and reord two mono tracks into GarageBand on the one main computer. So now I had to choose an audio interface. There are not actually that many options at this price level.

There is a good overview of audio interfaces over at SixColors. He recommends a $120 Tascam interface. Which isn’t bad.

I wanted to go even cheaper so I opted for one he doesn’t even review: the Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD. It’s half the price of the Tascam option and it’s even cheaper on ebay.

There is one critical problem with this unit, the monitoring chanel is incredibly noisy. Misleadingly bad monitoring which sounded just fine when recorded and played back in Garage Band. So you’ll need to monitor from the laptop, or just skip monitoring alltogether after you establish your levels at the beginning of a recording session.

It’s been rock solid for the few hours of recording we’ve put it through. I set it up easily and I was able to set each stereo channel in GarageBand as a seperate track.

The microphones I opted for was the incredibly cheap Pyle PD58. The 2 I got are fine so far. They are dynamic so they do pretty good in noisy and suboptimal recording environments like we have here. But they require a lot of gain to get decent sound into the computer.

I then grabbed a very cheap folding stand with shock mount and pop filter and I upgraded to some nicer XLR cables that are silicone coated so they are lighter and coil up more compactly in our luggage.

Software

I use Garage Band because it’s free and simple. We record directly into a two track project. I have used many other audio editors that I like better, but this is fine. I use the free tool Audacity sometimes for specific functions like converting a stereo track into mono.

Post-production

I edit the audio minimally in Garage band. This mostly involves tweaking EQ settings and compressors and tweaking volume levels to take out uneven volume problems. I also add on the intro and outro music. Then I select “Save to Disk” from the Share menu and I export the file as a 128kbps mp3 file.

This file does not have all the metadata on it and it’s a little bigger than it needs to be. So I run it through ffmpeg to compress it a bit more. I go down to 96k because 64k is too harsh.

ffmpeg -i "good words 07 hi.mp3" -ab 96k "good words 07 med.mp3"

(you can install ffmpeg on a Mac using brew or just install the GUI app Handbrake)

Then it’s time to add the right metadata, luckily iTunes can do this right out of the box. You simply add your mp3 file to your local iTunes library then right click and “Get Info” now you can use that window to edit all the necessary fields - the first one you will want to change is under the Options tab “Media kind” should be “podcast” - now the fields back on the “Details” tab will be the ones you want. At this point you should also drag your album art onto the generic thumbnail - a simple drag and drop. Use a good quality png file. Mine is 1024px square, which is probably too big because it’s almost a megabyte just by itself.

Currently I then just throw the file up on SoundCloud and let them take care of all hosting and bandwidth and RSS updates.

I followed this guide to set up soundcloud for podcasting.

Those technical tasks are problems I could solve myself for almost free but… I’ve already spent too many hours trying to get that working - and it’s been a pain. I recommend looking into hosting your files on Amazon S3 and configuring your WordPress blog to do the feed generation appropriately.