Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac
Editor’s Note: The following article is an excerpt from Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac, a $10 electronic book available for download from TidBits Electronic Publishing. The book looks at picking appropriate hardware, editing and encoding podcasts, and promoting your finished podcast; this excerpt focuses on podcasting recording.
Recording a podcast is about capturing audio. You may record your voice, include a song, interview somebody over Skype or iChat, or play sound effects. No matter what the source of the sound, it has to be captured and recorded by software on your computer.
In this excerpt, I walk you through some software programs that I recommend using for audio capture: Audio Hijack Pro, GarageBand and Audacity. (In the “Record Your Podcast” chapter in my book, I also discuss SoundStudio. There are also tips on Soundflower, a shared audio space that makes all these other tools work better with multipe audio streams.)
Record with Audio Hijack Pro
Audio Hijack Pro enables you to manipulate complicated streams of audio on your computer. At its simplest, it can take the standard audio input and record it to a file. But has much greater capabilities: the program can take in audio from multiple sources, mix those tracks together, post-process the sound with any number of interesting (or scary) audio effects, and then encode the audio directly to an MP3 format file.
With Audio Hijack Pro, I can do lots of recording tasks—record interviews using Skype, play music, create voiceovers, and more. The application has never crashed on me, and switching applications while recording does not result in any dropouts or other weird problems.
Install program at first run
The first time you run Audio Hijack Pro, it suggests that you let it install three extras.
• Instant Hijack: This system utility allows Audio Hijack Pro to grab audio from any running program. Without installing Instant Hijack, Audio Hijack Pro needs to quit and re-launch a running program to hijack its sound. This gets in the way of setting up all your sound sources in advance.
( Warning : Instant Hijack relies on the Application Enhancer technology from Unsanity, which many believe can cause random software crashes. I have not had any troubles with crashes, but if you are concerned, don’t install it. Instead, accept that you need to let Audio Hijack Pro launch each program when you hijack those programs’ audio outputs.)
• Soundflower: You may or may not need Soundflower depending on the complexity of your podcasts. There is no harm in installing this extra; it may well come in handy.
• Schedule Helper: This utility makes scheduled recordings without Audio Hijack Pro already launched. Without it, you have to leave Audio Hijack Pro running all the time or set as a startup program (Launch System Preferences, open the Accounts preference pane, and use the Login Items tab). If you plan on scheduling recordings then you should install this extra. For instance, I use this feature to record CBC Radio’s The Vinyl Cafe every Sunday at noon.
Set up Audio Hijack Pro
To set up Audio Hijack Pro for your podcast, launch the program, and then carry out the next steps:
The input options for your podcast session in Audio Hijack Pro. Notice the buttons at the lower right, which you click to switch to panes where you set recording and effects preferences for the session selected at the left.
The Recording options for your podcast session in Audio Hijack Pro.
My effects are set up and ready to go with a full set of recommended effects for a podcast recording session.
You might wonder why I chose the particular set of effects shown in the above screenshot. Let me walk through the reasoning behind each effect and the values assigned to them (not visible in the figure):
When all the input/output preferences are set, you are ready to record.
Make a podcast
Here’s a window into how I make a podcast using Audio Hijack Pro.
Prepare all audio I open all audio clips I want to play in QuickTime Player (Pro or regular), even music files. I don’t use iTunes because the window takes up much more room than a bunch of smaller QuickTime Player windows. I also don’t have to worry about iTunes starting on the next song if I forget to stop it at the end of the one I was playing.
You can open iTunes music in QuickTime through these steps:
Record the show Once everything is on my screen (pictured below) and ready to roll, I click Hijack at the top of the Audio Hijack Pro window, get my headphones on, and verify sound levels by performing a quick test: I click Record, talk for a few seconds, and click Record again to stop recording. I switch to the Recording Bin in the session list on the left side of the Audio Hijack Pro window, locate the most recent file, and click the Preview icon. If it all checks out, I throw that file away and return to my podcast session.
On the left of the screenshot are the QuickTime windows, one for each clip or song I plan to play. Below them at the bottom left are Skype and iChat windows in case I have any conversations with other people planned. In the middle is the main Audio Hijack Pro window. On the upper right are the Application Mixer windows for QuickTime and Skype. On the bottom-right is my Inspector window so I can monitor my audio levels.
Once you’re ready to go, take a deep breath and begin. Here’s a look at how I do my podcast recordings:
From here, I move on to SoundStudio to trim. I usually need to clip just a touch off the front, because I tend to click record and then wait a second before I start talking. I save the final cut of my podcast and I’m ready to compress it and get it online!
Tip: To make your podcast more useful, announce the podcast name and date at the very start of your show before any intro music is played. This helps people who are using MP3 players that do not have screens (such as the iPod shuffle), and people who are not in a position to see their screen. Once listeners know the show title and date, they can decide whether or not they want to listen to it or skip to the next track on their device.