Inside The Studio

by Cliff Ravenscraft on November 2, 2010

When it comes to podcasting equipment and actual podcast production, I’ve come a long way. Back in December of 2005, I started podcasting, as a hobby, with a cheap (less than $40) Logitech headset with microphone off to the side and free recording software running on my laptop computer. Back then it took me hours to produce a single podcast.

More often than not, I was plagued by improper audio levels, hums and hisses in the background, or hours of lost content due to software issues.

Today, I’ve produced well over 2,400 of my own podcast episodes and I am happy to announce that out of the last 2,300, I’ve only lost one single episode. Not only that, but I’ve learned how to get perfect audio levels 100% of the time.

Here’s My Current Studio Setup
The following images show the latest redesign on my studio as of October 2010. This redesign actually took three days to complete. Just below these images, you will see a time lapse video that I put together. If you pay close attention, you’ll see where it’s night, daylight, and then night again.
gspn.tv Studio October 2010

This video is a time lapse of my latest studio redesign:

Here Are Some Photos From My Podcasting Journey
In the following photo, you will notice three computers. Back in the corner to the left was an old windows desktop that was used for recording only. The laptop to the right of that computer, up against the wall, was dedicated to Skype for our very first show with Skype co-hosts. We had five co-hosts from around the world. On the table you see my laptop that I used to queue up audio clips.

If you look even closer, you’ll see my Sharp MiniDisk recorder that I used as a backup audio recording device. Oh how I cringe to see those MXL 990 condenser microphones. If you don’t know this about me already, I hate condenser microphones for studio recording!


 
Oh my goodness. I remember the night shown in this photo (early 2006) as if it were yesterday. As you can see, I didn’t always have a room in my home dedicated to studio space. Would you believe it took me three hours to get everything set up and sound checked before I could go live with this broadcast. It was my very first ever live show where we had a live internet audience. We recorded for about two hours and had a two hour post show discussion. I am very close friends, today, with people I met, for the first time, the very night this photo was taken.


 

This next photo was my first dedicated studio space. I was given one corner of the family room. I did a lot of podcasting in that little corner.


 
Okay, so by the time this photo was taken, it was obvious that podcasting was becoming more than a just a hobby for me. I had convinced Stephanie that I needed to take over 50% of our downstairs family room.


 

See the wall behind my desk chair? That was when I convinced Stephanie that the studio needed it’s own room in the house. The only problem is that there was not an extra room in the house to devote to podcasting. The only logical step was to create one. We took our family room, which took up the entire length of our home, and cut it in half by putting up this wall.


 
The week this wall went up, I knew that there was no turning back. At this point, I knew that I eventually wanted to go into podcasting full-time as my career. And well, here I am today, sitting in front of that wall making more money than I’ve ever made before in my life. Every day I wake up and sit in front of this wall and do what I love for a living! And I try to remember to thank God every single day for this blessing!


 

For those of you who enjoyed the time lapse video above, here’s the video I did back in December of 2008. As you can see, I’ve made the complete switch from Windows to Mac in the past two years.


 
Well that was fun, going down memory lane. I hope this page helps people understand that my journey into podcasting as my career didn’t happen over night. As I write this, it’s been five years. An amazing five years. The best part is that I have all this experience to share with my clients. If you would like to avoid all the costly mistakes that I’ve made and teach you what I’ve learned, check out my various podcast tutorials by clicking here.

  • Thanks so much Chris. I also appreciate the Twitter Message you sent out linking back to this post!

  • Glad you enjoyed it Carla! Thanks for the comment!

  • Since the studio is just me most of the time, I only featured that aspect. You’ll see where the co-host in the studio sits on Thursday’s live show(s). As for the camera, not sure yet. It’s still not found a home “YET”. ūüôā

  • Exactly. If you have the funds, it’s great to skip the low quality stuff. However, if you don’t you can build it as you grow. Thanks for the comment.

  • The Mighty Quin

    Cliff,

    Easily….hands down, the best post you have ever made! It pays to be a winner!

    Cheers! Quin

    PS.. Where did you list the breakdown of all your latest equipment?

  • Thank you so much. Check out http://PodcastAnswerMan.com/equipment

  • The Law Dawg

    Cliff,

    You surely have come a long way since the early days. It is so good to see how you have made it work in what are very hard times. You might recall, though we haven’t talked in forever that I stepped out into the consulting world right before you did and am also still kicking. Hope you keep going long int0 the future.

    Travis Deem
    AKA – The Law Dawg

  • Travis, Long time no talk my friend! Great to hear from you! It’s been quite the journey. Glad to hear that you are still making it in your business pursuits! Thanks for the comment on the post here.

  • Paul

    great look to the casa there. How did you keep the dust down while building the wall or did you just relocate until the room was done? Best of luck for the up and coming year

  • When the wall was being built, I re-located the studio to the upstairs of our home until it was completed. The good news is that it only took a few short days to get the wall completed. ūüėČ

  • RadioNimbaNimba

    Hello, sir. I am starting an online radio to have live call-ins. What all do I need to purchase from you to make this possible? I am operating on a tight budget so a list of the equipments is what I need before buying the video.

  • NKEllison

    Omg this is freaky, totally off topic but freaky.. (I came here because you were mentioned over on the hubze blog by the way) … Anyway, in that old picture of you on the floor there is a Chinese table yeah? About 25 years ago we were in Florida on holiday from England and my parents purchased that exact table, it was supposed to be totally unique!!! Hand carve and everything. #stitchedup Haha We brought it through customs as luggage!! It was so funny, it came down the baggage escalator thingy with all 6 stools, everyone thought we were nuts.. Don’t think you’de get away with that today!

  • LarryVaughn

    Hi Cliff. I happen to have an ElectroVoice Re-27 and I was wondering if you could recommend a good boom arm for it. I also have the ElectroVoice shock mount. Thanks in advance.

  • @LarryVaughn¬†I would imaging that the Heil PL2T would work just fine.

  • New to podcasting and I am trying to make a direct landline phone connection into computer. ¬†I would rather not use Skype. ¬†I tried Call Recorder through Skype and the quality is not good. ¬†Any suggestions?

  • @andyman¬†You could go with the JK Audio Broadcast Host. ¬†However, such a unit will introduce a bit of static/line noise into your recording. You can minimize this with the use of a compressor/limiter/gate. ¬† My Inside The Studio Tutorial goes over this.

  • KirkMoore

    I need some help. I’m new to this and have watched your videos for guidance. ¬†I/m having issues with my digital recorder capturing sounds coming from my laptop (Macbook Pro 13″). I have a Behringer 802 mixer, shure microphone and a tascam digital recorder. The recorder is picking up my voice from the microphone but not the sound from my laptop. Frustrated. ūüôĀ

  • @KirkMoore¬†You need to connect a cable from the Speaker Jack of Your computer to the a line in input on your mixer. ¬†You’ll need to make sure that your audio settings for the audio playback software is set to send audio out of that 1/8″ speaker jack. ¬†
     
    A Hosa CMP-159 cable Link: http://gspn.tv/cmp159  would be the perfect cable to use.  
     
    Next, make sure you are able to hear the audio from the computer in your headphones hooked up to the mixer.
     
    Next, I recommend a Hosa CMR-210 cable from the TAPE OUT of the mixer to the LINE IN of the recorder.  Link: http://gspn.tv/cmr210
     
    Then you simply start the recording.  
     
    If this doesn’t work, you could have any of the following issues.
     
    * Could be be a bad cable from computer to mixer
    * Could be a bad cable from mixer to recorder
    * Could be a bad channel on your mixer
    * Could be misconfigured audio settings in your computer

  • KirkMoore

    @Cliff [email protected] Cliff,
    Thank You for replying. 
     
    I have the mixer plugged in – with the XLR Shure microphone plugged into “1”, then I have my headphones plugged in, I have my macbook pro 1/8 from laptop to “2” XLR cable (Guitar Center recommended this because of the same issue of not being able record sounds from laptop, they said try the XLR connection from the laptop). I swithced out the digital recorder for another laptop to record, thinking it may be the digital recorder, but no luck.
     
    I’m able to hear both my voice and the you tube video I’m playing on my lap top through my headphones, but only my voice is being recorded. I checked the sound output on my laptop and it has headphones selected.

  • @KirkMoore¬†YIKES, 1/8″ line level plugged into XLR pre-amp? ¬†I can’t believe that they suggested this. ¬†It sounds like you need some help¬†troubleshooting, and you may have some bad gear in theere somewhere. ¬†My first call would be the the manufacturer of the mixer. ¬†Their support department should be able to offer some troubleshooting help.

  • Puukani

    Hello Cliff, I’m so glad I came across your site,¬†extremely valuable information here especially for a newbie like me.¬† I seek advice with the following:¬† I’m using the JK Audio Podcast Host and have a Mackie VLZ3 mixer.¬† I have the Podcast Host connected according to these instructions: http://www.bswusa.com/assets/pdf/BSW_HowTo_BroadcastHost.pdf¬† For some reason the caller can’t hear me, but I can hear them.¬† I reviewed Step 4 just to make sure that my config was correct and that the Send 1 Jack was in the Line Position (button up) as stated and it was.¬† Still they cant hear me, but what I did notice is when the button was clicked to “mic” they could hear me, but¬†that made¬†the¬†recorded audio completely distorted.¬† Hope that makes sense.¬† Is there any setting you can suggest I change so they can hear me like I can hear them?¬† Thank you in advance.¬† hotmail.com

  • Puukani¬†hotmail.com¬†Sounds like you are sending too much aux out volume to the Broadcast Host. ¬†If this small bit of advice here does not help, please know that it would take a some specific one-on-one help to troubleshoot your issue. ¬† My own one-on-one schedule is booked for the next few months. ¬† However, you could call JK Audio Tech Support and they will help you right over the phone. ¬†They are GREAT PEOPLE there and their number is¬†800-552-8346. ¬†I hope this helps

  • Puukani

    Cliff Ravenscraft I will call them.  Thanks for getting back.

  • Puukani¬†My pleasure. They are great! ¬†I hope they get you taken care of right out of the gate!

  • josephmargolis

    Hi Cliff:
    Thanks for your valuable info. I’m having trouble with the Skype minus setup. I configured everything exactly as you said to do but am getting no sound from the Compressor/limiter/Gate to my head phones. I direct connected sound card to both headphones and the mixer with success. The only time I get no sound for Skype minus is when it’s streaming from the the Compressor. Mic set up to compressor works fine. Do you have ideas on what to do?

  • josephmargolis¬†Joseph, which of my digital training products have your purchased? ¬†Are you using the MDX-4600? ¬†
    If the Mix-Minus works without the Compressor/Limiter/Gate, then it is not an issue with your mix minus.   If the problem only occurs when you add the gate, then you could have a bad cable or bad settings on that piece of equipment.   My MDX-4600 tutorial shows the settings that I use on my MDX-4600.  It can be found at http://PodcastAnswerMan.com/products.  However, if you have a different Compressor/Limiter/Gate, this tutorial would be of little help to you.
    Judging by the way that you are communicating the setup issues you have mentioned above, there could be a large number possible causes for your Skype audio to not come through.  Unfortunately, there is not an easy solution to troubleshoot something like this in the comments section of a post on a page.

    If you continue to have issues, I have a referral network of consultants who may be able to help you troubleshoot and diagnose what is going on with your setup. ¬†Personally, I would first double check the cables that are being used. ¬†I would then consider contacting the tech support department for the Compressor, as they can often offer you free support for your equipment. ¬†If that doesn’t work, then you can email me at [email protected] and I can refer you to someone who may be able to help you get this resolved.

  • c21williammay¬†William, ¬†I am honored that James referred you to my content. ¬†I am going to provide two very short answers to your questions.
    1) The only way to get good at something is practice. ¬†Many of clients and students have a difficult time “finding their voice.” However, those who are serious and passionate about what they want to say have all made it to where they are very comfortable and competent speakers.
    You don’t have to be “perfect.” ¬†Listen to my episodes closer. You’ll hear my “umm”s in there. ¬†Now they are fewer and further between. ¬†However, if you look at http://gspn.tv/episodeguide you will see that I have recorded over 3,100 hours of podcast content. ¬†

    2) I am not a copyright attorney.  But if you simply read and article or watch a new story and provide your own commentary, in your own words, I believe you will be just fine.   Check out http://PodcastAnswerMan.com/322 where I talk about a USA Today Article on Podcasting.

  • Wow.
    I’m experiencing serious studio-envy from this post. ¬†The setup I use for recording my http://www.chasingproduct.com podcast is more like your 2006 photo than anything else. ¬†I just record the show n my office, with all the hard, flat, scho-producing surfaces that you’d expect to find in the workplace.
    For gear, I’m using a Blue Snowball with a pop filter. ¬†It’s on a desktop mic stand that telescopes up to 15″ tall. ¬†I raise my GeekDesk to almost-maximum height so that the mic is right at mouth-level, and then use Call Graph to record my Skype calls. ¬†Intro/prologues/epilogues are recorded afterward in Audacity.
    It is such a starter setup, and yet it allows me to get the job done, and have a good time doing it.
    Eventually I’m hoping the podcast justifies a setup like your more recent picture. ¬†Once I’m more practiced in the fundamentals, better tools will be a big help.

  • Christopher Hawkins¬†As you can see above, I didn’t start out with what I have now. ūüôā ¬†Just keep taking things to the “next level.”

  • Cliff Ravenscraft¬†Christopher Hawkins¬†
    I hear you. ¬†It would be really easy for a beginning podcaster like me to get completely blinded by all the gear possibilities, and just start cutting checks until there’s a dream studio set up. ¬†But, that wouldn’t help me produce a better podcast, necessarily. ¬†Like I said, I’m dedicated to getting the fundamentals right – and I’m still making a fair amount of newbie mistakes, as you’ll hear if you check out my show.
    But yes, I will keep taking things up a notch as I go along.
    Thanks again for all the great content, it really helped get me over my fear of launching a show.

  • Chris_Pilon

    Cliff, I’m just starting out and trying to get everything together for my podcast. I listen to everything you have to say and read everything you write. I believe I have a passion for podcasting but obviously won’t know until I try it out. That being said, I have started off small, buying just a small Behringer Mixer (Xenyx 1002FX) and Audio Technica microphone. My question is, will your “Inside the Studio” videos help me figure out how to set it all up with my iMac, including how to use Skype for guests? ¬†I’m sure there are YouTube videos that can show me that but I want to learn from you. ¬†By the way, I’m sorry I can’t afford Podcasting A-Z right now but I’m hoping it’s in my future. ¬†

    Thanks for all you do!

    Chris Pilon
    http://www.dadrenaline.com
    [email protected]

  • Chris_Pilon¬†Yep, this tutorial would cover those things. ¬† In fact, if you purchase it, send me and email and I’ll send you a special something.

  • Hey Cliff, Thanks a ton for the tip about using the tape out to record straight to another computer.¬† I am going to the podcast movement and am looking forward to meeting you.¬† What is a good set up for recording at conferences?¬† I was thinking two rode smart lavs into a zoom or roland recorder?¬† Any thoughts?¬†

    Thanks

  • gavin welch ¬†Episode 228 talks about what I take with me to conferences. ¬†http://podcastanswerman.com/digitalrecorder. ¬†Look forward to seeing you in Dallas.

  • AlanKlima

    Hi there, I was wondering if you have updates available on the equipment recommendations. The tutorial is from a long time ago– in tech years. For example, The digital hybrid rec in one of your samples is no longer available, but has been replaced with a couple similar models. I think the basics must be about the same so I am thinking of getting your tutorial.

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