Recording a podcast
In creating a podcast, first of all you will need a headset with microphone to make and check the quality of recordings. Alternatively, use a dedicated portable recording device such as a digital dictaphone, recordable MP3 player, or PDA. You may already have some of this equipment but if not your institution's computing services or learning technology unit probably has equipment they can loan. If they do not, write a short teaching and learning proposal to cover set up costs and submit this to your head of department without delay. NB: You may need to get permission to make recordings of teaching sessions and students.
There are many means of recording audio and video for podcasts, with varying levels of expense and complexity. At the basic level, to create a podcast you would need:
- A relatively modern computer with speakers and internet connection.
- A microphone. Some computers have an in-built mic, but a more expensive external mic will create better quality audio recordings.
- Digital recording software (such as Audacity) to create the audio files. However, there are software packages (such as ProfCast on the Apple Mac) designed specifically for audio and video podcasting that may now be more suitable.
Audio podcasts (usually MP3 files) are easier to create and the filesize is more manageable for upload and download. Nevertheless, it is now simple to create video podcasts using podcasting software. In addition to the requirements above, video requires a video camera. This can be a simple USB webcam or a more expensive digital video camera connected to the computer.
It is possible to record audio podcasts into portable media players (such as an iPod with a mic attachment) but these are not necessarily high quality. By far the simplest method is to record directly into a computer using its own internal mic, but the audio quality will not be exceptional and the mic is likely to pick up background noise (from the computer's fan, for example).
Regardless of the means by which podcasts are recorded, to publish them it is usually required to transfer the recording from the recording device to a computer with access to the internet. In general, the fewer steps required to generate the final podcast file on a computer, the better.
Other options for recording include:
- An iPod, with Apple’s proprietary mic attachment plugged into the top. There are different microphone products with varying performance, some examples can be seen here: 
- A portable recorder, such as a Fostex FR-2LE or a Marantz PMD660 Solid State Recorder can be a relatively inexpensive and yet high quality option for audio recording. Many of these portable recorders make use of CompactFlash cards and other modern storage cards.
- Expensive external USB (not analogue) microphones (such as a Samson CO1U USB mic) can be plugged directly into a computer and provide very high quality audio recordings. Additional attachments to isolate background noise can increase the quality.
- Digital video cameras can be used for audio and video input for use in podcasts, and these can record onto DV tape (which would then have to be transferred to the computer using a separate piece of hardware) or can be plugged directly into a computer (commonly via FireWire). These usually provide high-quality audio and video recordings.
- High-end audio mixing equipment (such as M-Audio’s NRV 10 FireWire Mixer) is expensive but can be plugged directly into a computer and handle high-quality audio input from multiple wire or wireless transmission microphones. Such mixers provide the expert with a greater degree of configuration for eliminating unwanted sound and more.
- Tape recorders of various levels of expense can provide a safe means of long-term storage of audio and video files, but the added steps required to transfer them to a computer and the more modern means of recording call into question their immediate value.
Prior to recording a podcast, like any lecture or public speech, preparation of the content is necessary. It is also vital to test the recording equipment prior to recording the final podcast; a few trial runs of recording the audio and video through the mic or the mic and camera setup. These trials will give an indication of the level of quality of the final podcast and allow these settings to be adjusted accordingly.
During the trial stage, it is wise to check the system volume of the computer to ensure the microphone is the selected audio input device, and that its input level is set appropriately.
- For audio voice recording the suggested quality is 44.1KHz and 16-bit sampling which should produce a clear, crisp sound. Higher quality settings may be required if the podcast contains music, or for more professional / commercial requirements, such as an important public lecture.
Always ensure that the audio is set to capture at sufficiently high quality and that you have enough file storage space on the device when you start. Audio quality can always be reduced later to make the podcast file size smaller but it is much harder to improve the quality of recordings at a later date.
Some important considerations when recording audio:
- Ensure there is limited background noise because many mics will pick these up. It is worth considering a noise-reduction attachment for more expensive microphones.
- Position the mic accordingly, so that the voice is clear but unwanted sound (computer fans, a person’s breathing) is minimal.