Way back in the dim and distant past (early 2010s…) I used to write posts for CyclingEurope.org based upon the questions that people had emailed me. I thought that others might appreciate my words of, err… ‘wisdom’ on topics such as where to go cycle touring, what to take with you, what tent to buy and then later, how to write a book. (I should be doing that right now rather than procrastinating writing this, but I digress…) This week I received an interesting (and lengthy) email from Mark Skidmore, a teacher from Cumbria and he was asking about the technical aspects of recording and editing the podcast. I responded with an equal amount of detail and it struck me that I should rekindle that habit from ten years ago and share my thoughts with the wider world, not just Mark. So here you go: how to record a podcast and then edit it!
“Making the podcasts – I recorded number 077 last night! – has been a long learning curve and I think that almost all the questions that you are now asking yourself about recording audio are ones that I have asked myself over the years. I’ve spent a fair amount of time online reading about how others do it but as with many things I think I have learnt the most from having a go myself and modifying my practices accordingly.
I’ll try and respond to your comments in the order that you raised them in your email.
I agree with your filmmaking thoughts. Having made a number of longer cycle touring films myself, they can be very time-consuming and you do need to think carefully about the variety of shots that you have to play with. During my 2022 ‘Grand Tour’ ride around France I had my iPhone, a GoPro and a drone. All were capable of filming in 4K HD and produce very high-quality images. The best piece of advice I was given regarding making films is that the editing process doesn’t start once you’ve finished filming, it starts before you start filming. You need to take time to think about how things are going to be edited together later. It can be very frustrating to be editing and not have available that shot that you really need.
I know you’ve asked about the podcast rather than the videos but there is a connection! I have always struggled to use the audio recorded by my iPhone or the GoPro as it’s inevitably so low quality compared to the images. Wind is the biggest problem and more often than not I’ve removed the audio from the videos that I have made and replaced them with music or, more recently, with a combination of music and audio from the podcasts.
My first podcasts were made either via my computer and a cheap USB plug-in microphone or using my iPhone and a Shure plug-in microphone attached to the end of the phone via the lightening port. There was no cable, just a little golf-ball (once the windshield had been attached) microphone stuck on the end of the phone. Recording discussions with people online I used the computer; when out and about I used the iPhone with this Shure microphone.
A while later I purchased a Zoom H4nPro to record interviews away from home. As you are aware, the quality from this is phenomenal and I still use it today. The most recent episode of the podcast – recorded at the Cycle Touring Festival – was recorded using the H4nPro. For two or three people sitting down and having a chat it’s great. Not so great, however, for recording short snippets of audio on the move. I did take it with me when I cycled up the Yorkshire coastline (episode 009) back in 2019 but got a little frustrated having to wait for the thing to switch on and off. It was a bit of a faff for just a few seconds / comments.
Around that time I met up with Andrew Edwards, a presenter from Radio Leeds (to discuss plans to create a local greenway from a disused railway line) and he was using his iPhone to record the audio. He had a plug in microphone and he explained that it was difficult to beat the digital audio quality recorded by the iPhone. Indeed he told me that he had made an entire documentary using his phone. If it was good enough for the BBC, it was good enough for my podcast. So I went back to the iPhone to start thinking about how I could use that again.
The problem with the little golf-ball plug-in microphone that I had been using was that the connection on the end wasn’t very stable and it would knock on the side of the phone. This resulted in regular knocks in the audio. Frustrating to say the least. I remembered that I had a Rode ‘Videomicro’ that I had bought to use with a digital SLR camera and I wondered if that would work. It did, rather well!. I did need to purchase an adapter to convert from the jack plug to the lightening socket of an iPhone (be careful doing this – you need one with three rings on the jack adapter, not two otherwise it won’t work). The Rode microphone also had a ’dead cat’ wind shield (see photo below) and I discovered that I could record audio very simply and quickly when plugging in the microphone and using the iPhone’s built in voice recorder. Even when cycling along and when there was some wind the sound quality was generally good (within limits – excessive wind speed still results in horrible interference). What’s more, it is very discrete. I can record audio without it being obvious and also at a moment’s notice. And this is the method that I have adopted more recently when cycling.
I also now have a better-quality microphone to use for the online interviews at home (a Shure – see photo).
- I use the Zoom H4nPro recorder for situations where I am sitting down with someone for a face-to-face chat. (I no longer take it with me when cycling – too heavy!)
- I use the Shure desktop microphone and an online service called Riverside.fm (that costs me about £15 a month to use) to record the audio (as it’s much better quality than recording via Zoom or Skype)
- I use the plug-in Rode Videomicro with dead cat and an adapter to insert into my iPhone. (Or rather I did! I’ve just realised that by upgrading my phone recently to the iPhone 15 I’ll have to get hold of a new adaptor as the lightening sockets have now been replaced with USB-Cs…)
These combined have produced some very good results. I have never mounted any microphone on the bike. Even when the iPhone is mounted on the bike, the Rode microphone is hand-held and as you can see it has a red coiled extendable cable which is very useful. I normally tuck the microphone in a small frame bag near to where the phone is mounted on the handlebars
As for editing… I use a product called Hindenburg. I think it’s excellent. It’s not free and I purchased it outright a few years ago. Very easy to use.
When I was travelling during 2022 on the ‘Grand Tour’ I wanted to record, edit and publish during the trip. Although there was a ‘light’ version of Hindenburg that I could have used on my phone or mini iPad, after a bit of experimenting, I chose to use a program called Ferrite. Again, it was excellent. One thing to note perhaps is that I didn’t do much ‘editing’ as such for those episodes of the podcast (numbers 052 to 059). I made every effort when recording not to make any mistakes so that all I needed to do with Ferrite was piece everything together. (There were often multiple ‘takes’ when I stumbled over my words.) This resulted in some very long podcasts (but no one has yet complained!!).
I’ve looked into using lavalier microphones but never have. I can see the attraction, especially as they are very discrete. One linked wirelessly to the iPhone would be great I imagine. Perhaps in the future.
Well you certainly got the full-works in that answer!! I may well publish the above to the website as others may also be interested.”
And that’s what I’ve just done!
Mark has actually already emailed back and he provides a little more detail about lavalier microphones:
“If you’re interested, the lavalier mic I’m using is a Sony ECM-LV1 and is very reasonably priced. Unlike most lav mics, it’s stereo, and it’s omnidirectional, so the recordings I get using it are similar to those from the Zoom (though not quite as high quality). It comes with a foam cover but I’ve added a couple of mini ‘dead kittens’ to help with wind issues. It’s still fairly discrete – like I’m wearing a furry broach. It works well plugged into the Zoom recorder but because it’s stereo, I haven’t yet worked out how to connect it to the usb-c port of my phone. There must be a suitable adapter out there somewhere!”Mark Skidmore
I also added in my email to Mark that if he was interested in recording something for the podcast whilst out cycling, I’d be happy to include it in a future episode of the podcast. That goes for anyone out there. You may even be interested in sending a monologue on a cycling-themed topic of your choice. You can find guidelines here.
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