As a lifetime PC user, I bought my first MAC because of podcasting. I kept reading how the MACs were ideal for podcasting because of the software that already comes with the MAC, and some of the 3rd party software made for the MAC. So I bit the bullet and bought a MAC. About 18 months later, I own seven MACs, and just two PCs. Without question, MACs make podcasting easier and I would argue that they allow the majority of people to produce a more professional quality podcast. Perhaps the main reason for this is GarageBand.
GarageBand is a both a music and vocal production application that comes pre-installed on all modern MACs. It was designed with the podcaster in mind and therefore works wonderfully for podcasting. Unfortunately, docs and online material the clearly showed how to use GarageBand for podcasting could not be found. So it took me about a year to trial and error to discover many of the tips I am about to share.Start by creating a new podcast project.
When you open up GarageBand, you will be asked to choose the type of project. Choose "podcast".Create your album art.
A podcast logo should be 300x300px. This is the size that iTunes asks for, along with most other podcatchers. I will do a post on album art later, but for now, just realize that album art is very important. If you cannot do a great job at creating it, hire someone who can.Drag your album art into the "episode artwork" area within GarageBand.
When your podcast is playing on a user's podcatcher, you want your artwork to show. This is prime advertising you do NOT want to miss out on. Also, a lack of artwork will make your podcast look unprofessional.Set up the recording tracks.
Let's assume that you have one local mic, your guest on Skype, and your podcast music (intro/outro/transition) track. You want to have 3 different tracks to you can control of the sound of each one independently. You want to avoid mixing sources together whenever possible.
Your voice tracks are "real instruments" in GarageBand. By default GarageBand will start you off with a male and female track. Use the fist one for your local mic and change the sound to "no effects" in the info tab to the right. This is a preference of mine, but you may choose to keep the effect. While you are in that section, make sure you set your input source to your local microphone.Adjust your track settings.
The default settings for your track should be just fine. However, I can't tell you how many times I messed something up by accident and had no idea how to fix it, thus many a podcast sounded like crap! So this is worth paying attention to:
Rename the track by clicking your mouse on the name and holding it. Naming each track helps with understanding.
The red dot to the left means the track is recording. This MUST be on or your track will NOT record. When you click around, this frequently will go off, so you must be sure all your tracks you want recorded have this red dot showing.
The yellow up arrow means that the track will run in the foreground -- the light blue arrow below it means it will be a background track that will fade out when another track has input. For all talking tracks, you want to make sure you see the yellow arrow.
The "L" and "R" button is the balance for left and right speakers. You want this to be in the middle, otherwise it will sound really annoying to the listener.
The speaker slider bar is the track volume. Keep at 0 until post production. This is when you can adjust the track to compensate for quiet guests or loud guests.
The two bars over the volume slider display the sound your mic is picking up. You should be able to talk at a normal volume and see the green bars peak out to yellow bars. If you see too much red, your mic volume it too loud.
If you see a "track volume" section under your track, you hit the "a" key while the track was selected. Select the track and hit the "a" key again to make it go away.
The Skype Track
If you are not planning on interviewing others, or having people join you on your podcast remotely, then you can skip this section. However, if this is in your plans, read on.
Skype is an application that runs on both PC and MAC. It is free, and used by 100's of millions of people. It is the preferred voice/video communication tool on the Internet, and certainly the preferred communication app for podcasting. With Skype, the sound is crystal clear (depending on many factors, but compared to a phone line - crystal clear) which will make your podcast sound as if your guest is right there in your studio.
Now we get to the tricky part. Garageband needs to be able to pick up the Skype sound on a separate channel than your main microphone. Plus, Skype needs to be able to send your guest the sound from your microphone, but NOT the sound coming from the Garageband channel using Skype. Basically what all that means is that we need to make sure the person on the other end of Skype is not hearing themselves talk which would mean massive feedback. There are two ways to accomplish this -- through hardware and software.Warning: This hardware solution is quite complex and I did my best to make my solution as generic as possible. If it is too much, just skip to the software solution.The Hardware Solution.
I happen to use a more sophisticated hardware solution to solve "the Skype problem". This is because I require a more complex setup already for the multiple computer, multiple in studio mics, video podcasting, live broadcasting (streaming), need for guests to hear audio from MAC, serveral people on Skype at once type of podcasting I do.
Here is my setup: Total hardware value (minus MACs and MICs) about $1200. Top left is my Edirol UA-5 Audio capture USB, top right my USB2 Alesis MultiMix8, and on the bottom is a headphone splitter.
Without getting into the full details of my setup, which really wouldn't help anyone unless they are using this same setup, I will tell you HOW I am dealing with Skype using a hardware solution. You should be able to use what I am doing and apply it to your own hardware solution that fits your need and budget.
First for Garageband. I have my Garageband audio settings for both input and output set to my main mixer - my MultiMix.
Now I need to make sure my Skype track in Garageband using the right channel. So I need to click on the track to select it (notice I renamed the track "Skype" -- I had to manually do this - see part 2 for details)...
then go to the right side of the Garageband screen and make sure I click in the info icon (circle with the "i"), the the "Real Instrument" tab on the upper part of that side of the screen. I will then see this section below:
I then selected an one channel where I have my physical connections dealing with Skype (ignore that confusing statement for now).
Ok, now let's go to my Skype settings / preferences and click on the audio button:
Here I am using my second USB device that will feed in the sound coming from my MultiMix. For MONTHS I would torture our interviewees by making them hear painful echoing due to the fact that I had no idea what the "pre" and "post" AUX buttons were and what the "AUX SEND" was for. Now I now that I want to output the sound that the Skype caller hears from my AUX SEND jack, and make sure that I have the "POST AUX" knob turned all the way down. This will prevent our interviewees from hearing the Skype track and the massive echo.
The end result is a clean Skype caller channel on Garageband where it only records the voice on the other end (not mine) which makes it ideal for balancing the sound in post production.The Software Solution.
If you have one microphone, you are not live streaming, you are willing to sacrifice a tad bit of your sound quality, then I have a very simple solution for you: Audio Hijack Pro. The licensed version cost $32. This allows you to record high-quality audio from any application on your MAC. In this case, you select to use Skype and simply record your call.
Once done, grab your call from the recoding bin and drag it into an empty track in Garageband. Done! Remember that this solution mixes your voice with your guests -- so there is one track. Use your Skype volume controller to balance the sound the best you can prior to recording. Technically, you can adjust just one voice on the track but that is a major PIA (yes, I have done it before).
Now that we have recorded our podcast, did our basic editing, added into/outro music (that is simple and Apple actually has many tutorials on that part), it is time to save and "share" the file. Here are the steps I go through to ensure all is good with my podcast before the final sharing (which is the same as exporting to an MP3).1) File > Save.
Don't screw around! Save ASAP and save often.2) Check balances, mutes, and volume levels.
I cannot tell you how many times in the early days our listeners would complain that our podcasts were all different volume levels. This is because I turned down the main volume when playing back and editing, and never turned it up when sharing (exporting). Do NOT make this same mistake! Make sure the balance knob is in the middle (or where you want it), make sure you are not accidentally muting any tracks, and most important, make sure the master volume level to the right of the digital counter at the bottom of the Garageband screen is at zero (you can actually adjust this if track volume is too loud or low, but just know you are adjusting it purposely).3) Complete podcast details.
Click on the podcast track, then on the right side fill in your podcast details.4) Share it. Share > Send Podcast to iTunes.
I choose this option because it saves me a step. In our unofficial part 3 of this article (ID3 tags) we complete the process and need to do this in iTunes. Back to sharing for a moment... I like to use custom settings. I have found that 80kbps, joint stereo is the ideal setting for podcasting. Click the "Share" button and you are done... almost.
The final step that is not technically part 3, because it has nothing to do with Garageband, is completing the ID3 tags for your podcast. See our Q&A on that.
Holy crap! This podcasting thing really is not simple, is it? If it were, everyone would be doing it. This leaves opportunity for those who are willing to put in the small investment (time and money) and do it right.
Bo Bennett, PhD
Social Scientist, Business Consultant
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