Christmas Gifts For 2010: A Podcasting Kit For Authors/Editors/etc.


Christmas is almost here and one thing every SF/F author needs is the the ability to do interviews and online discussions without sounding like they’ve been living in a broken WW2 submarine in the Mariana Trench.  Well, having spent a good portion of the year doing The Skiffy and Fanty Show, I have a good idea what would make the perfect podcasting gift for any author, editor, or blogger.  And the best thing about the Podcasting Kit below is that it can all be used for a variety of things other than podcasting.

So, without further delay, here is my podcasting kit for authors and other creative individuals:
The Hardware
If you’re going to buy any headset on the low end of the price scale, this is the one to get.  I’ve been using it for months and the audio quality is fantastic.  It’s easy to use (plug’n’play via USB) and, in my opinion, the best low-cost headset out there.

I look cute in black…

Pro:  Easy to use and great audio quality.
Con:  It is limited by your computer and ports.  Some computers will create some barely audible fuzz, which can be cut out in post-production.

Tip:  Don’t put the microphone too close to your mouth or nose.  Keep it above and away from your face.  Why?  Because when you make certain kinds of sounds (like hard Ss and Ps), your microphone will pick it up and leave an annoying breathing “pah” on your audio recording.  Keeping it away from your face limits the impact of these sounds and makes it so you don’t have to buy or make your own pop filter (which professionals use).

Cost:  $29.88 + shipping (sometimes it’s on sale)
2.  A Computer (Optional)
If you’re a writer, you probably already have a computer.  Depending on the computer you have, however, you might need to get a new one.  Most desktops are pretty cheap these days, depending on what you want them to do.  For podcasting, you don’t need much more than a basic unit.  Every computer comes with USB ports, and you can get computers with any operating system you desire.  I prefer Windows (though I can’t speak to anything after Vista), but if you’re a Mac person, that works too.
Sexy computers are hard to come by.

Pro:  It’s a computer.  Take your pick.
Con:  Ditto.

Tip:  Avoid overpriced computers and useless software packages.  Do your research on the various brands.  I’ve had good experience with HPs (desktops and notebooks), but all of my computers are over 2 years old, and, thus, might not represent HP quality today.  Just do your research.

Cost:  $400-$1200 (depending on the specs and the type–notebook vs. desktop)
The Software
1.  Skype
The majority of podcasts use Skype for all of their recordings, even when they call you via phone.  Why?  Because Skype is free between users, and it’s cheap or everything else.  Plus, it’s a fantastic little piece of software that works almost perfectly almost all of the time, and because it’s common among podcasters, you absolutely need Skype if you want to do interviews.
There is a logical reason for the blue logo.  Liberals.

Pro:  Easy to use and good audio quality.
Con:  The program is limited by the Internet and PC power of the people using it.

Tip:  Turn off all non-essential programs that use the Internet, such as messenger programs, Tweetdeck, and even smaller programs that have automatic update checkups.  Leave antivirus programs and the like on, though.  The fewer Internet-using programs you have on, the greater your ability to avoid cylonifying yourself or others (i.e. when your voice or theirs goes crazy robot and comprehension drops to zero).

Cost:  Free (download at the link above)
If you’re planning to edit any recordings of your own, you’ll need Audacity to do so.  The newest beta is one of the best versions so far released, and includes everything from noise removal to voice manipulators (you know, for making your voice sound like an alien or a robot).  While Audacity takes a little time learning how to use, it does have a shallow learning curve compared to other kinds of audio editing software.
Apparently it put radioactive audio waves into your brain…

Pro:  Relatively easy to use for most tools and very effective.

Con:  It is notoriously difficult to use as a recording device for conversations.  It works great for recording yourself, though.
Tip:  Noise removal is a useful tool, but don’t go overboard.  Removing too much “noise” can actually warp your audio.  Try low pass and high pass filters, too (the latest beta comes with them pre-installed).
Cost:  Free (download at the link above)

While the name is obviously not all that original, it is a very useful little tool for recording Skype conversations.  It takes very little time to set up (you open it, you click the settings you want, and you press record) and usually only fails when you’ve done something wrong (like not pressing “record”).
It’s like a malformed Mickey Mouse.
Pro:  Easy to use.
Con:  It’s a little annoying to close, since clicking the “x” doesn’t actually shut the program down.
Tip:  You know it’s recording if a little window temporarily pops up and tells you so.
Cost:  Free (download at the link above)
  • $29.88 + shipping ($35, roughly) w/o new computer
  • $429.88 to $1229.88 + shipping (varies depending on where you get your computer) w/ computer
Likely cost?  $35.
Let’s face it:  if you’re a writer, you probably have a computer, and if you don’t, then you probably aren’t going to be doing audio interviews online anyway–in which case, this whole post is meaningless to you.  For the rest of you author types, you can see how easy it is to do podcast interviews for dirt cheap.  $35 is very little to ask for from Santa, after all.
Now I throw it out to all of you.  What little gizmos and gadgets would you recommend for authors wanted to do audio interviews and the like?  Feel free to leave a comment!

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Gifts For 2010: A Podcasting Kit For Authors/Editors/etc.

  1. Gotta love open source stuff! Thank for the comprehensive list. I've been toying with the idea of a low-cost way to podcast some short stories. Who knows, someone might even listen to them šŸ˜‰

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