I don't plan to look at technology particularly often in this blog- our main area of interest is strategy. But the tools of the trade do deserve a mention now and then, and I intend to do so today because a glut of new products and services has appeared on the market. These are all designed to make podcasting easier, and it proves to the aspiring corporate podcaster that equipment manufacturers are taking this medium seriously.
As well as giving us the tools to get the job done, in some cases better or more conveniently than before, there are also nifty online packages appearing which solve problems or allow us to do things we couldn't before. I'll briefly look at some of those here too.
On the equipment side, I heartily recommend a couple of chaps who work on a farm in Dorset, and are carving out quite a niche as specialists in solid-state recording. They're called Solid State Sound and even if you don't end up buying from them, they are on top of all the latest equipment.
Most interestingly, there seem to be two pricepoints for equipment suitable for podcasting. £250-£400 buys you an excellent, rugged recorder. In this bracket, the Zoom H4 is creating quite a storm. £800 or so will buy you onboard editing and professional spec functionality- try the Edirol R4 or Tascam HD-P2 as examples.
A similar price buys the inestimably good HHB Flashmic- a pocket microphone/recorder which is invaluable for field interviews: we have two of these for corporate work, and they're a joy to use, especially at conferences or exhibitions where mobility and flexibility are paramount. The latest software is also a great improvement.
To see where the technology is going, take a look at Maycom, whose shiny new N>Trans card turns the humble HP Ipaq PDA into a fully functional pocket-sized recorder.
None of these products are more than 8 months old, and all represent the sort of money that would have been prohibitive three to five years ago.
Of course, one problem which dogs audio production is the simple fact that interviews must be conducted, and that means travelling. Telephone interviews are OK, but wouldn't it be good if you could get broadcast quality audio (or as close as...) from the desktop? Received wisdom says the solution is ISDN, a service which BT maintains at prohibitively (and artificially) expensive rates, and which requires intervention at the third party's end. ISDN codecs are also pricey (and have a habit of not working very well with each other. If you do decide to invest in ISDN gear, try another lovely family company, Glensound).
But back to other solutions. Desktop broadcast audio is most definitely on the way. Let's start with the ubiquitous VOIP telephony service, Skype. On the rumour-mill, I have heard that Skype are working with the BBC to introduce broadcast quality Skype telephony. This is good news; and in the meantime you can always record a Skype conversation. This is a conundrum faced by many podcasters, (and most of the third-party Skype recording software is lousy). So here's the secret.
- Open a three-way Skype conversation: yourself, the third party, and a spare computer.
- On the spare computer (with a spare Skype account), record the conversation.
It's convoluted and counter-intuitive, but it works.
Another new software solution comes from the US; and I was turned onto this by my colleague, the impossibly-deep-voiced voiceover artist Randall Lee Rose. Source Connect from Source-elements links up VST-enabled software for direct-to-timeline recording across the globe. Don't worry if that makes no sense at all (we have to get techy sometimes...)- it's another example of the internet enabling voice recording in a useful way.
Finally, there's Talkshoe, which provides a host of tools for building subject-based talk shows. Pick a subject, invite the world, and record the results. It's a good one-stop solution, and whilst it hasn't attracted critical mass yet, it looks like a neat proposition. The corporate applications include making it very easy for meetings or internal sessions to become podcastable content.
That's only a very brief rundown of some of the new tools and technologies on offer, and you should take some time digging deeper if it's of interest, but my signoff is simple: if you're coming up against technical barriers, rest assured, someone somewhere is working on a solution right now.