*We’ll get the footnote out of the way. The Mac that you buy is not free, but once you have it, GarageBand is a part of the iLife suite that comes with every Apple Macintosh purchase. The other software that will allow us to record a Skype call to GarageBand is free.
GarageBand on the Mac is a great program that allows you to produce some very professional podcasts. That includes enhanced podcasts, which essentially are slides timed with the audio and are displayed on the iPod that you’re listening to the podcast on. Setting up a recording of multiple people is a matter of using an audio mixer and giving everyone their own microphone and recording it in GarageBand. However, if you can’t get the people all into one space, how do you record them? One way is to use the free voice-over-Internet (VOIP) service called Skype. Skype allows anyone with an Internet connection and a microphone to talk to anyone else on the Internet. You can talk to multiple people at a time.
There are two ways that a group of people can record a podcast using Skype. One is to have everyone involved use their own copy of GarageBand (or other recording software), and then edit all of the audio files (after emailing or uploading to a common space) together as one. There are many advantages to this method. Generally the recording quality will be better as you won’t have to rely on the quality of the Internet connection, which in turn affects the Skype call quality. You also have more editing control over each individual. The disadvantages are the editing after the fact. You need to receive all of the individual audio files and assemble them in GarageBand and make sure the conversation is synchronized. A very detailed overview of this method is written up at the Hivelogic website.
The other way to record a Skype conversation is the method we outline on our Digital Media Cookbook site. Essentially one person does the recording of all of the participants. One person serves as the recorder and editor. The other people just have to worry about getting connected to the Internet and be heard by the person responsible for doing the recording. Each participant will only need the Skype software. The editor will need GarageBand to do the recording, along with the Skype software. In addition, two other free programs are used to re-route and pass through system audio to GarageBand. Soundflower simply allows software to pass sound on to other applications. LineIn allows sound input devices (microphones or other line-in devices) to be passed through to recording software. The combination of GarageBand, Soundflower and LineIn allow the mixing of system sounds and live microphone input to easily be recorded without complicated hardware setups.
The recipe called Recording a Skype Call Using GarageBand, SoundFlower, and LineIn outlines the setup. This procedure was inspired by a post by Ahmad Humeid’s. Go to the recipe page to see the programs and links to get the software, as well as the screencast showing how to set the preferences for each program. Below we’ll quickly outline the settings.
System Preferences Input and Output
GarageBand Audio Settings
Skype Audio Settings
LineIn Audio Settings
Note the the “Pass Thru” button is enabled.
I’m still not sure about this Internet time thing, but I think it was yesterday morning that Patrick asked me if I saw Cole’s post about mobile podcasting in regards to Penn State’s iTunesU setup. Since then I’ve gone from light-bulb going off, to frustration and the cursing of Atom feeds, to scaring Jim Groom that FeedWordPress was being broken (more about FWP later), to jubilation that the complete instant mobile blogging solution exists with an iPhone and UMW Blogs!
Sound intriguing? I think it’s a pretty big deal. As Cole says the “iTunes ecosystem” is coming together nicely, however, we at UMW do things in a “small pieces loosely joined” kind of way. This “ecosystem” is no exception. The epicenter of this instant mobile blogging system is a service called AudioBoo. They host the audio files, which are up to 5 minutes in length (so complete hour-long lectures are not feasible here). The other component of the AudioBoo service is the iPhone App (link is to the iTunes store). Essentially you start the app, hit the record button then hit Start, record your audio then hit Pause and then Publish. You have the option to include a single picture and the app will also geo-locate where you are recording from. After a short wait you have a page in your My Boos page that contains all those elements – recording, picture, and map.
Now we could just call it a day right here, because anyone can subscribe to the iTunes feed by clicking the button on the page where the recording lives. There is also an RSS feed button (actually an Atom feed) associated with the recordings as well. Now I need to do some additional research to see how many podcatchers out there support Atom feeds, or at least AudioBoo’s Atom feed, but I could not get it to work with Juice, nor could I get it to work with my favorite podcatcher on the iPhone, RSS Player ($0.99 from the iPhone App store). There are then several reasons to press on. One reason is that it would be nice to get a feed working with the RSS Player app because it will allow you to subscribe, with your iPhone, to a podcast feed that isn’t already in the iTunes universe. Yes, the regular desktop version of iTunes lets you subscribe to a podcast by clicking an icon, or pasting in a feed manually. However, the iPhone version of iTunes does not let you do this. Safari on the iPhone does not recognize URLs that begin with itpc:// and there is no place you can paste in a manual feed. RSS Player allows you to enter a feed manually, and if you create a feed with the prefix rssplayer:// you can create a link (or a linked image/button) to start the RSS Player app automatically from the iPhone’s Safari web browser.
The other reason we want to go a bit further is to re-publish the audio files in a space (or spaces) of our choosing, like say UMW Blogs. This is where Mr. Groom’s bestest, most favoritest WordPress plugin, FeedWordPress comes in. What we do with FeedWordPress is syndicate the Atom feed from AudioBoo into a WordPress blog. That will pass to the blog the author information, the picture, and the audio file. A nice Flash audio player allows the visitor to play the file from the blog. Setting FeedWordPress to publish “automatically” and “ASAP” allows us instantaneous (or virtually instant) podcasting. There is also a link to the nice AudioBoo page where you can see the map associated with the recording.
Now we take the RSS feed from the blog and plug that into the RSS Player app, and viola, we again have virtually instantaneous podcast publishing AND receiving. The great thing about the RSS Player approach is that there is no iTunes sync-with-your-desktop step to worry about. Once you refresh RSS Player, the file begins to download directly to the iPhone.
Now is where the imagining begins. For example imagine a class that goes out in the field (Geology, Geography, Biology, History, Historic Preservation, etc.,etc.) and does several recordings, and by the time they get back to class their podcasts are uploaded, published (in two, or more, places), and about to be/already received. This has the obvious side benefit of being drop-dead EASY. There isn’t much of a learning curve here, as long as you don’t need additional editing of the audio files. If you do there are several other audio recording programs available to the iPhone. I’ll be putting some screencasts together of all this stuff, but for now you can enter your weekend knowing that it all works right now, and it’s all very exciting thinking about the possibilities. Stay tuned!
UPDATE: The screencast, Produce an Instant Podcast from an iPhone, is up!