Podcasting Equipment

Making a podcast requires recording equipment for either sound or video with sound. The most basic items are a microphone for making audio podcasts and a video camera with microphone for making video podcasts. Other kit might be useful, for example, equipment to improve the environment in which the material is recorded, headphones for reviewing your recordings.

Microphones

Microphones are available in a number of formats, from inbuilt microphones found in many laptop computers, to professional standard microphones which may be used with recording software and devices. The quality of sound recording is variable, generally the cheaper the microphone the lower quality recording you will achieve. Inbuilt microphones can be adequate for quickly produced sound podcasts where the sound quality is not so significant, but they can pickup a lot of background noise and as there are relatively cheap superior options the inbuilt microphone is not recommended. Microphones that plug into a USB socket are the norm now for mid-range sound recording. Desktop USB microphones and the microphones built into USB headsets can be sufficient to achieve good quality sound recording. Whilst USB microphones and headsets are relatively inexpensive they are variable in quality, a little extra investment could well pay dividends in terms of quality. Professional level microphones are probably only worth considering if you intend to podcast a lot of material, they do give exceptional sound quality but the extra cost involved for an occaisional podcaster possibly wouldn’t warrant the cost. Borrowing a professional level microphone might be an option.

The Learning Technology team use these uncomplicated and affordable microphones.

Logitech USB Desktop Microphone Logitech USB Desktop Microphone
This mic is simple to use, robust and gives a clear recording. This is a handy mic to have if you need to interview a group of people in a room setting.
Logitech USB Desktop Microphone Logitech Noise Canceling Microphone
This Noise Canceling Microphone is part of a comfortable and elegant headset. It also does what it is supposed to do, reduce annoying background noise. Working in a busy environment can sometimes mean a noisy one, so recording a conversation with this headset can make the event less stressful.
lapel-mic2 YOGA EM-8 lapel microphone
Of all the microphones we use this  is the least impressive as it has a 3.5mm Jack Plug which picks up internal noise from a PC.When choosing a microphone which will be connected to a PC  select one a USB microphone in preference to a jack plug.

Cameras

Video podcasts of course require a video recording device. This could be a camera connected to a computer, recording through a software package to the hard drive, or a camera that stores its own recordings, which subsequently have to be transferred to a computer for editing. The cheapest option is to use a web cam and one of the free recording packages, e.g. Windows MovieMaker, GarageBand, the camera only providing the video images, which are then captured with the recording software. Web cams are an inexpensive camera option but tend to be low in image quality as they are designed to enable visual communication over the Web in programmes that have just 640 x 480 pixel displays. However, it is possible to buy HD web cams which though they can’t display their full resolution in web communication tools the full resoultion can be recorded. A web cam is less mobile than digital video cameras as it has to be connected to a computer, but it is a viable option for quick and easy podcasting where high quality and mobility aren’t essential. Digital video cameras record video within the device, so are inherently mobile, and range from budget point-and-shoot devices to higher quality sophisticated cameras, including high definition.

Webcam

The LT team use a variety of Logitech web cameras, each arriving with a variety of software, but all of them give a good picture quality.

Budget digital video camera

Xact-avc-vpc-cg65ex2 Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG65EX
This is a neat, compact 8 MegaPixel camera. It is lightweight, fun and easy to use and can take video clips as well as photographs. You will need a ‘Flash card reader’ or a ‘USB 2.0 A to Mini B’ Lead to transfer content from the camera to your PC. This camera does have its drawbacks when performing inside without adequate lighting and the flash underperforms when you want depth to your still pictures. The camera best performs outside and during daylight hours.
Flip camera Flip camera
For mobility and super simplicity, this camera takes a lot of beating. Like the Sanyo Xacti it’s lightweight and compact. The camera only takes video clips though, but it’s reasonable quality and it can be transferred very easily from the camera to your PC via the inbuilt flip USB connection. It comes with its own software for additional functionality.

High Definition camera

Panasonic HDC_HS20 Panasonic HS20
If you are new to digital video cameras and have a recent Mac computer then this is a good camera to start with. The camera performance is good for a midrange camcorder and the output is sharp providing the lighting is good. This camera has a lot of automatic features that will make it easier for the novice user. However, it is so compact that a lot of the functionality is hidden away in submenus. Another drawback is the complexity of downloading content to a PC, which seems near impossible without the use of a Mac computer. You first have to transfer content to the Mac, then move it from the Mac to a PC.

Environment

It is important to consider your environment while recording for podcasting. Background noise, poor lighting, complex backdrops, and a variety of other nuisances can reduce the quality of your source recordings and hence the end product, your podcast. Sound recording in particular can pick up spurious noise, from computer fans, heating systems, lights, other activities in the vicinity, and these tend to be very distracting if present in your final podcast. It is possible to reduce noise interference when recording by selecting a suitable location, but if you’re constrained to working in your office and want to make good voice recordings with minimal background noise how about making your own recording ‘booth’. http://youtube.com/watch?v=CV5Rl-IK-eo Whatever you can do to improve the environment of your audio and video recording will enhance the final quality of your podcasting. Be creative!
If you would like more information regarding the availability of hardware for Podcasting, contact the Learning Technology team 01752 587600 or e-mail us.
The Library Media Centre lend recording hardware to staff and students. For further information contact the Library Services E-mail libraryservices@plymouth.ac.uk

If you would like to connect a microphone directly into a Camcorder, then these links have been recommended by Mr Dave Hurrell, Television & Broadcast Services Manager, Learning and Research Support:

Lapel Mic:

http://onecall.farnell.com/audio-technica/atr3350/microphone-omni-lavalier/dp/MP34336?Ntt=MP34336

you will also require one of these per mic as your camcorder probably has a stereo mic I/P:

http://onecall.farnell.com/pro-signal/psg02760/3-5mm-jack-adaptor-mono-to-st/dp/AV17277?Ntt=AV17277

If you require a hand held try:

http://onecall.farnell.com/hama/46110/zoom-microphone-rmz-10/dp/MP33054?Ntt=MP33054

Cheap USB Mic:

http://onecall.farnell.com/pulse/pls00097/microphone-boundary-usb/dp/MP34291

You may find this USB mixer useful:

http://onecall.farnell.com/alesis/io-2/usb-audio-interface-alesis-io-2/dp/CS13495?Ntt=CS13495

Item 1. A Pod casting kit

Item 2. A reasonable quality MP3 recorder connect the lapel mic to it and record a lecture.

  1. http://onecall.farnell.com/behringer/podcastudio-usb/podcast-bundle-usb/dp/DP29612?Ntt=Podcasting
  2. http://onecall.farnell.com/tascam/dr-1/portable-recorder-stereo-1gb/dp/DP30439?Ntt=DP30439

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