Recording Podcasts On A Computer With Audacity

There are two basic ways to create an audio podcast. One is to use a digital music player with a built-in microphone or microphone input and the other is to use a PC or Mac. While there are a variety of ways to record a podcast with a personal computer, the free Audacity software is a good option.

Faculty may request a STAR student to configure their office computers and get them started.

In addition to the Audacity software, you will need a microphone. While your computer may have a built-in mic or came with a small mic, these are unlikely to give the quality you want. While there are many models and price points, here are three that we have used on both Macs and Windows machines:

For most of us, the least expensive USB mics will work fine, although there is no denying the cool factor of the Snowball.

Install and test your mic with the instructions that come with it (the procedures will vary depending upon your operating system).

Download the free Audacity software from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ . You will also need to download the LAME MP3 decoder to be able to save your podcasts in that popular format. For instuctions on dowloading and installing the LAME MP3 Encoder, see this page: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/faq?s=install&item=lame-mp3

Configuring Audacity For The First Time

Just so you don't worry, it takes longer to explain configuration than it does on how to make a podcast. Fortunately, you only have to configure the software once. For even more detailed instructions with screen shots, see Jake Bludington's MediaBlab ;

  1. Open Audacity
  2. Under the File Menu, choose Preferences
  3. Click the Audio I/O tab
  4. Select your mic from the drop down list as the Recording device
  5. Further down, in the Channels dropdown box , choose 1 (Mono) unless you have 2 mics and want to record in Stereo
  6. Back at the top of the window, click the Quality tab
    • If you are only recording people talking and not recording live music, try starting with a default sample rate of 22.050 Hz and a sample format of 16-bit.
    • If you are not happy with the quality of your initial recordings, go back and bump up the sample rate to 44.100 Hz and re-record
  7. Click the Format tab
    • Bludington advises "To avoid accidentally overwriting your audio files, select Make a copy of the file before editing under the When importing uncompressed audio files into Audacity options"
  8. Under MP3 export setup, click Find Library and follow the instructions. (This assumes you have already downloaded the MP3 decoder as outlined above.)
  9. Click OK to close Preferences.
  10. Click the microphone icon on the Audacity Meter Toolbar.
    • You should see a red level indicator moving slightly--if not, gently tap the mic.
    • If nothing, go back to Preferences and check the settings under the Audio I/O tab.

Making a recording

Talk into the microphone. You want to find a volume level that goes close to the right edge without turning the far right solid red. Take the time to experiment because too loud will distort the sound, but too soft will allow hiss or background noise to intrude that may be impossible to remove later.

Once you are satisfied with the level, you are ready to record. The buttons are the standard AV controllers. From left to right: rewind, play, record, pause, stop, and fast forward. Press the "record" button and begin.

When you finish recording press the stop button and Export the file as a WAV.

You can either EDIT your podcast or you can save the final version for uploading to the Web. Unless your podcast is very short, you will want to save in MP3 format. Under the File Menu, choose Export as MP3. This will greatly reduce the file size while preserving the quality.

If the quality of your recording is not adequate, there are some advanced techniques that may be useful.

If you only want to make this available as a Webcast, then upload it to your favorite webserver. If you want it to be a true podcast, you will need to create make it subscribe using RSS.

09.03.09

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