Published in the July 2006 Issue (#6) Podcast User Magazine (Download)
Podcasting is by no means an exact science, but thatâ€™s one of its beauties. Indie Launchpad recently released its 21st show, which featured some of the best songs featured in the previous 20 weeks. It was a sort of coming-of-age show, â€˜21 and never been kissedâ€™, thankfully much different than the person behind the show… yeah, that person being me.
For the previous 20 shows Iâ€™d recorded my voice using a microphone that I think cost me the giddy sum of $2.00. No, thatâ€™s not a typo — two dollars. First off, this should prove that you donâ€™t have to spend a fortune, as mentioned in a previous article, but thatâ€™s not to say I didnâ€™t have issues with this method of voice recording. One of the consistently difficult things I confronted was maintaining unified, consistent sound levels. With music at one level and my voice at a totally different one, the first half dozen or so shows were a real learning experience. After that I managed to end up with something that I thought was OK, but there always was that little nagging voice in the back of my head….
And so, with the 21st episode I decided to give the show a coming-of-age present, a Samson C01U USB microphone. Before I get into the details of this purchase, I want to say that this wasnâ€™t what Iâ€™d intended to buy. My idea was always to buy a mixer and microphone combination, which was going to set me back about $200 or more. However, when the time came to make a purchase, I wanted something I could just go out to the stores and buy, and I wanted something that I knew a little about. Having read the PUM review by Chris Matson on the Samson mic (Issue 3), I phoned around to see if I could purchase one locally, here in Ottawa, Canada. After numerous stores told me they had no plans to stock them, I finally found a store downtown that had some to sell. With my $115 Canadian + tax in hand, I got my wife to drive me downtown (in case parking was a pain), and a half hour or so later, I had a shiny new Samson microphone in my possession.
The first thing thatâ€™s blatantly apparent when you get your hands on this mic is that itâ€™s heavy and very nicely put together. Thereâ€™s a mounting bracket, so you can attach it to a stand, but unfortunately the unit doesnâ€™t come with one; this is a pain, as without a stand, you canâ€™t set the mic standing up and are forced to have it lie on its side. Yes, a desktop mic stand will only set you back $20, but even a piece of plastic that would let it stand freely would be nice to find inside the mic box.
This mic certainly looks nicely made and is pretty, but what does it sound like? Now remember, Iâ€™m coming from something that cost me $2.00 to something that is quite a bit more expensive, so you might think my standards are pretty low; not so. Iâ€™m subscribed to over 80 podcasts and sample many more, so I know what sounds good and what sounds bad. With this new mic Iâ€™ve recorded only one podcast so far, but wow, what a difference. You can tell you are doing something right when, after the first show using the new mic, you get emails from happy listeners. But itâ€™s funny how you just end up replacing one problem with another, even though the problem is pretty easy to rectify — have a nice chunky mic that encourages you to talk into it quite closely, and enter the old bugbear of pops and esses, the sounds that result when you say the words with the letter â€˜Pâ€™ and words with an â€˜SSâ€™ sound. To rectify this problem youâ€™ll need to get what is commonly referred to as a pop filter, usually a sheet of fine mesh over a circular frame thatâ€™s connected to a gooseneck (flexible cable) with a crocodile clip. Itâ€™s fairly inexpensive at around $20 but very effective. Now I only have to go pick one up myself.
The next goal is to learn how to record some decent bumpers and sweepers. For anyone whoâ€™s looking to record some musical vocals, this may also be a nice microphone to pick up. Iâ€™ve dabbled with a few tracks, and the results on the whole have been pretty good. There is a slight hiss when you get some quiet spots, but itâ€™s nothing too noticeable. One thing I would recommend is the downloading of the â€˜Software Preâ€™ as Samson calls it. This is basically a small applet that gives you some extra control over the microphone. The microphone is usable out of the box, with no extra software, but I had noticeably better results once I installed and used this applet. The software is available for Windows XP with Service pack 2 installed and Mac OSX.
The only problem I have with the microphone is that I canâ€™t seem to record my voice whilst at the same time listening to it through the headphones. Iâ€™m not sure if this is a limitation with the microphone, my set-up or both, but will try to test on my laptop when I get a chance. The other problem I have is with losing my levels. I went to record my podcast on Friday night but could only get my voice at a very low level. I finally rebooted the machine and everything sprang to life again. So yes, a pain, but worth it for the improvement in quality.
I can go on and on about how great this microphone is, but the proof in the pudding is in the eating. Go check out any of the Indie Launchpad shows before # 22 and any of the shows after that episode, when I started using the Samson microphone, and let me know what you think. Check the show again a few weeks after that, and you can see what kind of improvement the pop filter makes.
My final point is this: Yes, you do not need to spend a lot of money to get started in podcasting, but after a while and with a few shows under your belt, you will start to take pride in your little baby. Yes, you can spend a lot of money on new toys and gadgets, but you can still get very good results without breaking the bank. Thatâ€™s not to say my spending will now cease, as I still have my eyes on a nice mixer, but suffice to say you will be the first to hear when I get it.
Published in the July 2006 Issue (#6) Podcast User Magazine (Download)
If thereâ€™s one thing virtually all users of the internet do, itâ€™s email. Thereâ€™s nothing that quite matches the buzz of receiving your first email. Thereâ€™s also nothing that matches that first email you receive from someone whoâ€™s listened to your podcast. If youâ€™re an avid podcast listener, youâ€™ll have noticed that many of the shows give out an < A HREF="http://www.gmail.com" target="_New">Gmail email address for you to contact them. So what is Gmail, and why would you want to use it?
Gmail is a web-based email service. Yes, there are many email services out there, offered by companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo, but Gmail is a very different beast. Gmail was first launched in beta (and yes, itâ€™s still in beta over two years later) in April 2004, and what instantly set it apart from the competition was that it offered 1 gigabyte of storage space, at a time when the competition was offering between 5 and 10 megabytes. The folks at Gmail have refused to stand still, however, and my current storage capacity is nearly 3 gigabytes. This increased storage capacity meant that you no longer had to worry about deleting old messages, you could just archive them away. Yes archive, because your email now is in a sort of virtual filing cabinet. As Gmail is offered by Google, you can of course use Googleâ€™s powerful search engine to search your email, which means nearly anything you could ever want is at your fingertips in a heartbeat. If you have a music podcast and regularly receive music or large files, Gmail is ideal, as you can then have access to these files anywhere, safe in the knowledge that they are backed up on Gmailâ€™s server.
One of the other main benefits of using Gmail is the ability to view your emails in a thread. This means that youâ€™ll see all emails that are part of the same conversation — such as messages you replied to and were replied to in turn — in an easy-to-navigate manner. This is a real time saver, especially when you are having extensive email dialogs. Another great time saver is the ability to view a wide variety of file formats, such as Microsoftâ€™s Word and the very popular Adobe Acrobat, within Gmail without having to launch the original application. Donâ€™t expect nicely formatted documents to look half as nice as the originals, but nevertheless this is a great feature to have, especially when you are viewing your email on a computer with download restrictions.
Of course, having a web-based email service means your email is with you wherever you have an internet connection. But you always have the option of getting your email through the more conventional POP3 route, allowing you to read your email using Thunderbird, Outlook Express or any of the other great email packages around. Remember, though, you will lose the aforementioned features unless you decide to leave a copy of the email on the Gmail server. For anyone whoâ€™s registered a domain name and would prefer to use that, you can always set up your domainâ€™s email to be forwarded to you Gmail account, and can also set up Gmail to allow you to send email using that address. All pretty neat stuff.
Gmail for me is an essential service to help with my podcast. Itâ€™s is still in perpetual beta, which means that itâ€™s still invitation only, unless you are in the USA and want to join with the aid of your cell phone. If you have difficulty securing a Gmail account, just drop me a line and Iâ€™ll try to get something sorted for you. Send an email to email@example.com and be sure to put ME PLEASE as the subject and the first line of the email. Please bear in mind that I may get inundated with requests, so if you donâ€™t hear back, Iâ€™m sorry that it wasnâ€™t possible to help at this time.
As far as I know there is still an ongoing dispute about UK residents getting gmail.com addresses; instead they are given a googlemail.com address, but it functions in just the same way.
If you have any questions or have something you would like me to cover in future issues, just drop me a line