Sunday, March 17, 2013

Production Notes For Recording Nerds

The first 44 episodes (with the exception of #14 which was pre-taped) were broadcast live from the Raw Radio X studio with the stream recorded and trimmed into podcast form.

Beginning with Episode #45, we switched to pre-taping the show, usually two days before air date. The upside was more control of the audio quality and pace of recording (i.e. rushing to the bathroom down the hall during a song break wasn't fun); the downside is it takes much longer to produce the show when rendering and breaks are included. Whereas a two-hour live show took two hours to record, 45 minutes travel time to the studio and 15 minutes editing and saving to podcast (so ~3 hours total), a typical two-hour episode involves three hours of recording/setup/teardown/break time, 25 minutes travel and a half-hour to mix and render; so basically up to twice as long as the finished episode length, but the results are worth the extra time.

We used Audio-Technica AT2020USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphones (referral links) with Dragonpad® Studio Microphone Mic Wind Screen Pop Filter Swivel Mount 360 Flexible Gooseneck Holder (cheap, but effective; don't overpay!) to tame the plosives. Recording software is Reaper, a inexpensive ($60) but powerful DAW program.

Episodes #45-71 and #75-77 were recorded on a Mid-2009 model 13" MacBook Pro upgraded to 8GB RAM and a SSD drive. Mixing and rendering is done on DIRK V, a self-built gaming/media creation PC (Core i7-920 @ 3.6GHz/12GB RAM), which can render the final broadcast episode in less than half-the time of the MBP (UPDATED August 2015) DIRKALINE® (Core i7-5820K @ 4.3 Ghz/16 GB RAM) which grinds out the renders at ~30X real speed, so a 90 minute episode takes about 3 minutes to finish.

With Episode #72, we switched to a Toshiba Satellite E45T-B4300 (Core i5-4210U/8GB RAM) running Windows 8.1 and it's fast enough to render shows without moving to another computer. Nice! Unfortunately, a weird crackling sound that didn't record kept cropping up during sessions which required frequent stops. Extensive troubleshooting finally pinned the problem down as being one of the mics causing the clicking after ~20 minutes only in Reaper with ASIO4ALL. While we shopped for alternatives, we reverted to the MBP.

With Episode #78, we moved back to the Toshiba with a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 preamp/USB interface, Audio-Technica AT2035 condenser mics (hosts), Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser mics (guest) purchased from Sweetwater rep Dave Walent. We don't get any kickback if you shop at Sweetwater, but Dave's a fellow gamer (likes the Battlefield series), an all-around cool dude and guitarist and has a young family to support (UPDATED our current rep is Patrick Weaver), so ping if you need musical gear, please drop him a line at the link and tell him the Culture Vultures sent you!

Podcast version is compressed with Sound Forge to 40kpbs/22.1kHz for some shows and 64kbps for most. Hosting is via PodOMatic.

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