Whether you’re doing a video or audio podcast (or vlog), the importance of good quality audio remains throughout. Your production value is absolutely determined by the ability of the audience to hear and understand the message conveyed in your content. Here are top 5 audio mistakes frequently made by podcasters.
Lack of Normalization and/or Compression
Microphones (at least quality ones) are designed to pick up audio within a specific range and avoid background noise. Unfortunately, this means that if your voice picks up and drops during the course of your speech, you may notice things become drastically uneven. The best solution for this is normalization and compression, which are two mastering processes available on most audio and video editing programs to some degree. Doing this will also keep shouts and screams from blowing out your audience’s eardrums and create an even listening experience throughout the production. Good normalization will increase audio in a way that doesn’t increase noise levels, while compression will make your subject sound more consistent and increase their perceived presence throughout the recording.
Bad Microphone Placement
Too many audio podcasters are under the false assumption that microphones need to be placed directly in front of your mouth to pick up your words. This is not only untrue, but highly discouraged. Unless you are using a serious pop filter and adequate spacing, this can be very counter-productive to your overall production quality. In fact, the pops and breathing noise can ruin an otherwise stellar production. Microphones, even those equipped on headsets, should be placed to the side of the speaker’s mouth out of range of their breath. A good way to test microphone placement is by putting your hand up where you believe the microphone should go. Take one good breath out of your mouth, and another from your nose. If you feel a breeze on your hand, move your hand until you don’t.
Checking your levels is more than just seeing if the lights on your audio monitor reach a certain point. Before you record a lengthy broadcast, do a test run speaking at different volumes that you might reach during a normal recording session. Listen to the test and make sure everything is in place. While monitors and gauges are handy, they are no substitute for your own ears. While DB levels vary by country and region, your goal should be to reach a step or two below obviously loud. Music is typically tracked much louder than speech, so you could try to seek out an audiobook or other vocal recording as a guide.
While it would be impractical to believe that amateur productions (the very nature of podcasting) would have the finances to invest in good sound proofing, there are some steps you can take to avoid background noise showing up on your broadcast. If you’re doing a pure audio podcast, consider recording 10 seconds where no one is speaking. You can use that to create a background noise profile in Audition or Audacity and have the program adjust from there. You can also take steps like turning off your AC (Yes, a pain, but worth it) prior to turning on the microphones. Setting your computer’s fan speed down can also decrease overall background noise. Most importantly, never ever put a fan near your microphone. Air cuts through a recording faster than anything else could.
Using Speakers During Interviews
When you’re interviewing someone on your podcast, it’s a good idea to have both them and yourself use headphones (or a single earbud) to kill echo that might present itself during the recording. Far too often, someone will feed back a few seconds of audio to the speaker after they have spoken. This is not only distracting for you, but the audience will quickly become tired of it. Some podcasts go so far as to require guests to have a headset (if they lack a professional audio setup) prior to appearing on the podcast.
These are just my suggestions, what are yours?