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Recording Podcasts on Your iPod

Many people use their iPods to record class lectures. Others use them professionally, to record interviews for broadcast or background. Still others use their iPods to surreptitiously record live music at concerts.

All this is great, but there's one more use for your iPod as an audio recorder. If you're at all into podcasts, you can use your iPod as a storage device for any podcasts you record.

Recording in the Field

One advantage to recording podcasts on your iPod is that if you use a compact iPod microphone, such as the MicroMemo or iTalk Pro, you can record your podcasts in the field; recording can take place anywhere you can carry your iPod. (Although, to be fair, you probably want to use a better-quality mic than the ones built in to the snap-on iPod microphones. Look for a good external mic with a mini-jack plug to connect to the snap-on mic accessories.)

When you have finished recording your podcast, just dock your iPod to your PC and transfer the audio files to your computer. Once loaded on your computer, the podcast files can be edited (if you like) and then uploaded to your podcast hosting site.

Recording with TuneStudio

Whether you're recording in the field or at home, you should check out Belkin's TuneStudio, an all-in-one podcast recording/editing workstation that uses the iPod as the host storage device. As you can see in Figure 16.5, you dock the iPod into the TuneStudio, connect your microphone(s), and then start mixing and recording. As a mixer, it's relatively small and lightweight; carry it with you or set it up in your home studio.

Figure 16.5

Figure 16.5 Belkin's TuneStudio, an all-in-one mixing/recording console.

The TuneStudio is a four-channel mixer. You can connect up to four microphones or instruments; two of the mics can use either 1/4-inch jacks or balanced XLR connectors (with phantom power for up to 60dB gain). Each channel in the mixer has a three-band EQ and recording level and stereo pan controls. There's also a knob for on-the-fly audio compression, and LEDs to indicate master audio level, recoding peak, compression, and recording status.

The audio you mix is fed directly to the iPod for recording and storage. Recording is to a 16-bit, 44kHz-quality WAV file.

And here's something else neat about the TuneStudio. You can connect it to your computer via USB and have it function as an external sound card. This lets you feed the audio from the TuneStudio to your PC for hard disk recording—or the audio from your PC to the TuneStudio be mixed with other inputs.

The TuneStudio sells for a quite-affordable $179.99 from www.belkin.com. It comes bundled with Ableton Live Lite digital audio workstation software for your Windows or Mac computer.

Editing Podcasts on Your Computer

Whether you record your podcasts on your iPod or on your computer, chances are you'll want to do a little editing from time to time. Maybe you want to edit out hemming and hawing or dead space, or add some background music, or even combine two or more separate recordings into a single podcast. Fortunately, you can use just about any audio recording program to perform these editing tasks.

Although really serious podcasters use professional recording/mixing software—such as Cakewalk, Cubase, or even ProTools—this can be overkill when you're talking about low-fidelity voice recordings that will be distributed in compressed MP3 format. Anything too fancy gets lost in the mix.

That said, there are some affordable and easy-to-use audio-editing programs available:

Any podcast you record on your iPod should be saved in uncompressed WAV format, at the highest possible sample rate, and you should stay in the WAV format throughout the editing process. However, you don't distribute your podcasts in WAV format. Instead, most podcasts are distributed in MP3 (or, for iTunes Store distribution, AAC) format. So after you have your podcast in its final form, you then export the file into MP3 or AAC format. If the podcast is voice only, which most are, a relatively low bit rate (32 or 64kbps) is fine. If the podcast has a lot of music, consider a higher bit rate, up to 128kbps. Make sure you add the appropriate meta tags for all the podcast info, and it's ready for distribution.

Distributing Your Podcast via iTunes

After you've saved your podcast (in MP3 or AAC format), you have to get it out on the Internet. And the best place to publish your podcast is via Apple's iTunes Store.

The first step to distributing your podcast is to upload the podcast MP3 file to a server. If you have your own personal website, you can use that server to store your podcasts. You need a fair amount of storage space because audio files can get rather large, depending on the recording quality and length. For example, a 30-minute podcast saved at 64kbps will be about 8MB in size. Use a higher bit rate and the file size goes up accordingly.

If you don't have your own server, consider using an audio blog hosting service, such as Hipcast (www.hipcast.com), Liberated Syndication (www.libsyn.com), Podbus.com (www.podbus.com), or Podcast Spot (www.podcastspot.com). You'll typically pay $5 to $10 per month for file storage, and most of these sites will also help you with the RSS syndication of your podcasts.

Which leads us to the second step of the process, the RSS syndication. This is how you make people aware of your podcasts, and will typically be accomplished via your podcast hosting service. Most blogging software and services can also generate an RSS feed, or you can use FeedBurner (www.feedburner.com) to do the work for you (for free). If you use FeedBurner, you must create a link on your website to the FeedBurner file so that people can find the feed.

Finally, we come to the fun part: sharing your podcast with users of the iTunes Store. To do this, launch the iTunes software, go to the iTunes Store, go to the Podcasts page, scroll to the Learn More box at the bottom of the page, and then click Submit a Podcast. This opens the page shown in Figure 16.7.

Figure 16.7

Figure 16.7 Submitting your podcast to the iTunes Store.

As prompted, enter the URL for your podcast's RSS feed. Click the Continue button and you'll be prompted to provide additional information about your podcast. Once submitted, Apple reviews your request and (assuming your podcast adheres to the site's rules and regulations) adds your podcast to the iTunes Podcast Directory.

And that's that. All you have to do now is wait for users to find your podcasts and subscribe to your feed—then your voice will be heard across the Web!

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