Tech Advice

This section is for more advanced users who want to get the very best from the group and how they sound.

What would I need to take part?

This is what we use and recommend. But often what you have built in is enough.

 

Microphones and Headsets
A headset or Microphone and headphones – as a last resort use your built in mic and speakers but these can cause problems as it can create a loop back echo making your call difficult to understand.

We recommend the Microsoft LifeChat LX 3000 Headset Black as it is USB and has its own built in sound card, plus it is very cheap). The PCs built in sound cards are often the biggest culprits for noise and hiss. This USB headset bypass this issue.

If you have a little more money then you can go for a microphone and earbuds. But you may need  something to connect that to a computer, the mic in socket is usually not good enough for pro spec gear.

Professional Budget
Shure X2U – XLR To USB Signal Adapter
or the Blue Microphones Icicle Sound card they both convert a normal microphone with an XLR socket into a PC USB. To hear we recommend either Sony MDR V150 (very cheap for the quality) or if you prefer to have ‘in ear’ sound then Sennheiser CX 300-II Precision.

Webcams

And we recommend Logitech c510 or Microsoft Lifecam Cinema webcams – see our shop here for some ideas.

Lighting is essential, if you have access to a daylight balanced bulb in a desklamp that is ideal as they run cool and you can place some diffusing material over them. Never cover hot lights!
There are special diffusing sheets made for this purpose but they are quite expensive. Another option is to use an LED worklamp that is mains powered. Then place a piece of diffusing material (like a thin cotton Shirt or net curtain material over the light which is usually cold (but again do check). LEDs are safer and very bright and daylight balanced and cheap to run! Worklamps are cheap. Here is a good example.

This can be laid across the top of your screen horizontally.


Skype

You would need Skype and a headset and or you can use headphones or earbuds and a microphone if you are more advanced, but use your speakers with caution as if they are too loud they will echo other speakers voices and this may cause feedback problems. If we see your name added to the skype group call list we would then simply invite you to call.

There are two strands to what we do.

One is the Skype group and this is private.
Two is ‘Podcasting’, Podcasting is where we interview somone and record it and place it on Itunes and Youtube. If you are calling the group friends, you are not going to be on Youtube 🙂 Recordings take a lot of preparation and you would have to be prepared and have pre chats before this happened. If you are an activist then we would explain exactly what will happen to the recordings.

The Telephone

Of course for those in the UK we maybe able to call you and arrange to record the interview with a telephone hybrid recording device in our case the comrex dh22. The telephone is sometimes the only solution for those that may not have access to a skype equipped PC – say at work for example or using a public PC. However we would only be able to call UK BT landlines (off-peak for now) from a purely cost/audio quality viewpoint. Although we do have googletalk, live messenger and yahoo messenger by prior arrangement :).

Equipment

To take part in our podcasts you only need skype for the most part (free to download) and a headset – we will do the rest. Regulars use video (webcams) but you don’t have to – audio is fine until you feel more confident you don’t even need to brush your hair – no video link or camera will be needed.

If you would like to know more about the podcast equipment we use click here and visit our tech page.

Interviewing and co hosting

You can take part via the phone or via skype, we maybe able to call you so you can take part, or we can arrange one to one interviews phone to phone for those uncomfortable with using skype. If you can get to use skype of course it is totally free for all.

In the studio we will take care of all the audio levels for the entire group inc telephone lines and record the podcast. We then send back all the audio to each guest from every other guest except their own audio so they do not get feedback. All you have to do is sit back and relax and chat away.

[important]TOP TIPS BEFORE YOU BEGIN[/important]

1. Always use a landline not a mobile phone unless there is no other possible way you can call. Do not use hands free speaker phones.

2. If you use skype try to avoid using your PC speakers to listen to the sound always try to use a headset, earbuds/headphones and a separate mic, always make a test call so you can hear yourself back before you begin. You may find you hair is rubbing the mic or you have a beard scratching the mouthpiece or jewelery rattling and adding unwanted noise to the recording.

3. If you use Skype try and shut down other processes happening on your PC at the same time right click icons and close – for example if you have outlook requesting emails every 30 seconds this can add load to your connection so avoid downloading or doing other bandwidth intensive operations whilst you are using skype.

4. Mic position is important. No matter how close you are to a mic for most mics the background does not change so get close to microphones without distortion and try and make the room as quiet as you can before you begin. Turn tvs off, make sure the kids are not going to bother you, don’t use cups and saucers if you drink tea, turn the washing machine off etc. Draw the curtains in the room it helps prevent echo.

These little things all add up.

5. If you use noisecancelling microphones make sure they are really close to your mouth. If you can’t kiss it its too far away from your mouth 😉 Remember noise canceling microphones are best suited to noisy environments.

6. Biggest Problems if you plan on recording yourself – mic is too far away, mic levels set to high and clip (distort).

7. Always have a drink of water and any other items you may need near you before you begin so as to not interupt the program by having to leave your post.