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How to Make Your Podcast Sound Great

Lesson 2 of 10

Optimize Your Recording Environment

Ray Ortega

How to Make Your Podcast Sound Great

Ray Ortega

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Lesson Info

2. Optimize Your Recording Environment

Lesson Info

Optimize Your Recording Environment

So your recording environment, wherever you decided to record your podcast. As I mentioned, I did one in the car. If you go into a car it's pretty quiet. Actually, I have, like, not the most expensive car, so on the road it's not quiet, but when you shut the doors it's pretty good. There's soft stuff inside there. It works okay. It's gonna have a boxy sound, but in a pinch it can work. But wherever it is you're recording, probably your home office, maybe at your office at work. You've picked a spot. So if you walk into any room, we're in a pretty big room here, but it's treated. I see acoustic panels on the windows. This floor is kind of soft, so it's not completely hard. But if you walk into a room, it's filled with hard surfaces. If you went into your kitchen, you would hear reverb, most likely. Which is just your voice hitting these flat surfaces and it's coming back into the microphone a little bit later. So we're hearing it. It sounds like an echo, and that's the reverb. We wanna ...

reduce this. So if you can pick a room that is not giant, a smaller room, not something that has giant ceilings, that it takes even longer for your voice to travel and it takes longer to come back into the mic. That reverb is just getting worse. So relatively small room, but the key is to fill it with soft stuff, right? So couches, chairs with pillows, drapes, rugs on the floor. You know, people sometimes they even just take pillows off the bed and they put it right next to them as they record. It's kind of a do what you have to. I think NPR is famous, I think there's a meme probably on Twitter or something where you've got all these field reporters in hotel rooms and they got blankets over their heads. I mean, this is their studio. They're reducing that reverb. They're reducing their environment to this tiny space where it's being absorbed by all this soft stuff. So that's really the first level of rehabbing a space that's not an ideal recording space. So just filling it with stuff. Even hard stuff that is different shaped. Bookshelves and cabinets, also then it's not a flat surface, so it'll deflect your audio into a different direction. So all of these things break up the room and absorb sound. On top of that I went one level further. I hung these blankets right in front of my recording area and then one over my giant double doors. They're acoustic blankets. They have grommets in them, but they're really just packing blankets you could get at any moving supplier. That feels a little extreme. I have a dedicated space. My wife wouldn't want me hanging blankets all over the living room or something. So that might not be it. But if you have a space, it worked perfectly. I got the exact sound I wanted, but it was, I had a ladder in my space where I'd get up and hang these things. So that's not ideal. But it worked. I took it beyond that and I built my own acoustic panels. So just big rectangle panels filled with insulation. And I have a space that I can permanently mount them to the wall. So I built my own. I have a YouTube video about that if you want to build your own too. Really it's all about sweat equity, because they're pretty affordable, but they do take time to build. And I think you don't have to go to those extremes. You probably don't have a space where you can do that. You can build them and set them next to you and then put them away. You can buy portable ones. But those are just some issues. If you go into a space and it's just really echoey and we're gonna hear a sample of that so you kind of know what does that sound like? But our mic type. So in my previous class I talked about how this is a dynamic mic. It's less sensitive. We need to be close, and the cardioid puller pattern only picks up here so it helps reject some of that stuff that's going on into the microphone. So our mic is gonna help a lot with that. So between having soft surfaces and the right mic, those two things are gonna do most of what you need them to do even in a pretty bad space. Okay, so this video. No one looks good on pause, by the way. I don't know why I put it there. (audience laughing) This is my space. So I converted my garage into my studio. I work from home, so it's also my office. There's not much in here right now. I got in there as soon as I could to start recording. And I don't know how well you'll hear it here, but see if you can catch the reverb. It's absolutely terrible in this space, because everything in there is just a hard surface. The reverb in this room's gonna be really bad because it's untreated. I'm gonna put in some, maybe build my own DIY acoustic panels. Definitely some carpets. I don't have, well, not carpet rugs. I don't have any rugs down, so I'm gonna put some rugs down. Maybe even panels on the ceiling. I did not put panels on the ceiling, by the way. So this next clip is when I actually filled it with stuff. There's stuff you can't see. There's a chair, there is a rug down, and that helped quite a bit. And then I built the panels. And so let's see if we can hear a difference. So remember what we heard before. And now we have a couple panels on the wall. It sounds to my ear like it's making some difference. That's because there's panels right here in front of me. So that should definitely help. So that's the difference, and then I'm gonna run the two next to each other, so it's a little hard to tell here in the room but if you're listening at home you can probably, you put some headphones you'll tell a big difference, but let's put them next to each other. The reverb in this room's gonna be really and now we have a couple panels on the wall. I'm gonna put in DIY acoustic panels, so that should definitely help and the rest of this space still needs to be treated. So we start hearing what these issues are. So, you know, I'm telling you reverb and sound bouncing. What's that actually sound like? So that's what the reverb is like. We wanna control that, but we don't need to kill it. So the good news is we're not trying to get rid of all of it. Get ridiculous with putting panels everywhere. You'll hear people say, hey, go record in the closet. Small space filled with clothes. They'll do that. If you have a recorder and microphone, take your phone, go in the closet and listen to how dead it is. It almost hurts when the audio is too dead. So we're a podcast. We're not doing voiceover for a commercial or something. Those guys and gals, they need that kind of environment. We want a little life. A little reverb brings life to your audio, so we wanna bring that out. So a little reverb is a good thing. So you don't have to get carried away. It's just if it's excessive, then try to fill your space with something. So external noise is anything that is outside your studio. So this one's a harder one for us who record at home, or basically any of us that record in a non-actual soundproof studio. We're not gonna do that. That would be ridiculous, completely expensive, and we don't need to. But dealing with this one, the external noise, most likely you probably need to shift your time of day. So go into your space, listen, go for a whole week and learn the schedule. What goes on outside? Any time of day during the week at my house, there is lawn care happening. I guarantee as soon as I'm like, oh, record, oh, leaf blower is starting, dog barking, neighbor wants to pound a hammer and do something. Something is going to happen, so it does not work in the middle of the day. Wednesday is trash day. What do we have? Trash, recycle, and yard waste, so the truck's always gonna come. So for me, night time. Things settle down at night so I'm gonna record pretty late. So maybe just shifting your time of day. Knowing the schedule of what goes on around the outside. Our mics, again, are gonna help with that. There can be some noise that you hear. Listen to what the mic hears. Plug in your headphones, turn on your interface. In fact, actually, turn it on too loud. Don't hurt your ears. Make the mic more sensitive than you need it for your voice and you'll start to hear stuff that you can't hear with your ears and it may even key you off to internal issues. You're like, oh, there's a buzzing sound coming from the lights which I don't hear with my ears, but the mic does. So then you can address it. That's one way to sleuth out some sounds that are hiding in your space that the mic might hear. But with external noise, again, you might have a really big house. I don't, but maybe you can go to the other side of the house. Maybe you have a basement. Downstairs to upstairs. So just move. See if you can move away from the space. You might have to move the spot that you're thinking you might record. That just might not be the best place. Internal noise. That is anything inside your studio. I just talked about listening with, like, extra superpower ears by turning up your microphone. And it may be as simple as moving the microphone further away from the computer. You get that microphone close to the computer, the computer makes noise. It's got fans, hard drives. It can pick up the buzzing that comes off the electronics of that. Get the mic as far away from the computer as you can. Everything is flash storage on this MacBook over here, so there's no fans; that one makes no noise. It's kind of nice. You can still get interference, so I try to put the computer away from my microphone when possible. Heating and air conditioning. Turn it off. That's going to come into your audio as hiss. It's gonna sound like this hiss. It feels great. I mean, if it's the summer and it's super hot. What I like to do is an hour before I record, I pump that thing full blast and then when I get into record, I shut everything down and I coast. So we're artists. We suffer for our art, right? So you're gonna be sweaty. Every episode I record, I have headphones that are over the ears. They're earmuffs and I'm in a hot room with no AC on. So you're gonna finish, you're a little sweaty. It's okay. The fluorescent lighting, if you have that, it can buzz. I have these LED lights. I got them changed, but they were on a dimmer, and as soon as you turn them on that dimmer made it buzz. It was like, what is that sound? Sounds like a gnat in my room. Turn that off, put a lamp in the room. That's my light. Or record in the dark. It's intimate. It's nice. Spray that chair with some WD40. The most thing I hear all the time is creaking chairs, right? And that just sounds kind of amateur. I mean, I could be listening to an awesome podcast. We're deep in World War II and we're getting the story, and all the sudden I hear a chair creak and now I'm just ripped out of the story and all I'm thinking about is some dude in his basement moving around in a chair. So you've pulled me out of the story completely. These are simple fixes. So go in your space, find all the things that make noise, and then just fix them. All these things will help. So you could also establish a quiet time with family. Maybe 7:00 is iPad hour for the kids. They put headphones on and you go to record. You can try it. That's why you might have to go out to the car. So do what you can to eliminate the noise that is anything but your voice.

Class Description

So you’ve bought, borrowed, or bartered all of your podcasting gear. Congratulations! Now it’s time to figure out how to use it. In this comprehensive technical course, Ray Ortega will show you the ins and outs of how to record audio and process it for publication.

You’ll learn everything from how to connect your equipment to how to speak into the microphone to how to record the cleanest audio possible. By the end of this course, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence you need to embark on your podcasting journey and create a high-quality recording.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Record audio that’s clear and free of noise.
  • Connect your gear.
  • Use your microphone correctly.
  • Set recording levels.
  • Identify audio issues.
  • Add in recording effects.


Julio Lemmen Meyer

Great detailed information and technical best practices for the new podcaster. Ray is a great teacher. He explains complicated technical stuff in an easy to follow way. I got a lot of value from this class. I am sure that it will allow me to avoid and headaches and some time consuming mistakes in the future. Thanks Ray!

Chrissy Gabelman Dunham

Such a Great Course! Wish I would have had this before I started my podcast and bought the wrong equipment, twice, LOL! SO Good!

Michelle MartinF

Ray had a lot of information to cover in a short amount of time and he was generous with his hard-earned insights, well-organized and offered detailed information on hardware. He did a great job talking about the must-haves as well as the great-to-have-when-you're-ready items.