Friday, March 08, 2013

Remote podcasting with Google+ Hangouts

My remote podcasting setup
In my previous post, I discussed some of the ways that I record podcasts, but didn't get to my current preferred setup for recording a podcast with a remote guest. The post was already pretty long and my current setup is admittedly a little involved.

Let me first describe my equipment setup. It may sound premium, but we're not actually talking about a lot of money here—well under $200 (excluding the laptop of course)—and you can likely do even better if you have the patience to comb through Ebay and Craigslist.
Now do the following to get all the hardware wired together properly.
  1. Plug the microphone into the #1 XLR input on mixer.
  2. Connect the USB connection from the mixer to the computer.
  3. Plug your headphones into the mixer's headphone jack
  4. Press the Tape/USB to Mix button
  5. Power on the mixer
  6. After twiddling with the #1 input level and gain controls and the master level, you should be able to hear yourself speaking into the microphone through the headphones. (Here's a YouTube video to get you started.)
 Now, go to your computer system's sound control. On the Mac, this is the logically named "Sound" within System Preferences. Choose the Output tab. You should see an option labeled USB Audio Codec. Select it. Now choose the Input tab and do the same thing.

If you go to your favorite noise making website or application, you should hear it in your headphones. You adjust the volume with the system volume control. Now both the microphone and your system's outputs are being mixed. You're ready to proceed for real.

Start Audacity. Set the microphone input to USB Audio Codec. (If you don't see this, quit Audacity fully and restart it. At least on the Mac, Audacity doesn't seem to dynamically add USB devices after the program has started.) If you start recording, you should see Audacity recording both your voice coming in through the microphone and any sound coming from your browser or other source.

Start a Hangout with your guest. You both need to belong to Google+ and have added each other to your circles. Go to Google+ Hangouts and start a hangout with your guest. If all goes according to plan, you should be able to see and hear each other. (They should be using a microphone and headphones—or a headset—or it sort of defeats the purpose of the whole high fidelity exercise that we're involved in.)

Do some sound checks. You control the master volume with the slider on the mixer. Audacity should show a strong signal without clipping. You control the relative volumes of local and remote with the level/gain dials and the computer volume control respectively. (For normal spoken voice, I find that I dial things up fairly high for the local microphone.)

You should also consider turning off the video. I've been told that you're less likely to run into glitches in the stream that way.
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