The Problem with Transcontinental Podcasting

RSS HeadphonesI am not sure if anyone else has to manage audio files that have been .mp3 encoded prior to editing but for the podcast it has been causing some issues. This week however, I made a few changes to the encoding and it appears to have made a significant difference. Here is what I have done and if anyone has any further suggestions I would appreciate it.

The background of this whole saga is that I used to record the podcast using Hot Recorder. Since the release of Skype 3.0+ this has failed to record anything but silence. Although he website claims it does work with 3.0. So we had to look to an alternative. Knightwise has a Mac so that made it a lot easier for us to decide what to do but our decision then presented a few things we had to work around.

For some reason recording Skype on a Mac is relatively easy compared to a Windows based machine. Not sure why. It might be the way that Mac handles audio or that there has been more development on the Mac in this regard. So we decided to record the show on Knightwise’s Mac. He uses Call Recorder to record Skype, which by the way has excellent results. Far superior to what I was getting with Hot Recorder. But now we had a great recording of the show in .wav which is generally about 1GB in size… +2.4GB but it was on the other side of the world! We needed to get it to Oz in one piece and in good enough quality to work with.

A great supporter of the podcast donated a server which has excellent speed and storage in addition to as many FTP accounts as we needed. However sending a 1GB file across the world is out of the question, even zipped up it would be huge! The only answer that we could see was to encode the .wav as an .mp3 in as high a quality as possible. So Knightwise encodes the file raw as a 192 kbps, CD quality. The result is about 100MB, which is very manageable. He then sends the file to me via FTP.

I download the file and convert it to a .wav and edit the show as per usual. When finished the file would be encoded as an .mp3 at 64 kbps at 44100 khz. We dropped the bps a while back to give us a smaller file size, which we thought would be appreciated. However since we swapped to Knightwise recording the show the 64 bit quality has been giving us poor results. I have tried to optimize for quality in the encode but it has made no difference.

The problem is that .wav files loose certain frequencies when they are encoded to .mp3. You can’t get them back they are gone forever. Sure I do everything that I can to get the best results. But the 64 bit rate was stripping more of those frequencies out of the final file than I would like. This resulted in some rather strange sounding ambient sounds and hissing when there was talking in addition to making the music tracks terrible. There was only one thing for it.

This week I increased the bit rate. Although in the beginning the show was encoded at 96 kpbs; I thought I would take the intermediate step of 80 kpbs. The result was a file that was only about 4-5 MB larger but the pay off in quality I think was worth it.

The conclusion is that when we changed the way the show is recorded and then encoded before transfer, we should have decided to increase the bit rate. The 16 bit increase in quality has compensated for the lost frequencies the first time it was encoded as an .mp3 making the file resilient to being decoded to .wav and then back to a .mp3. A few further tweaks at the recording end will give us some further head room as far as quality.

I would remind all podcasters out there of one of the golden rules of editing, never edit a .mp3, always convert it to a .wav. I hope this hack helps anyone else faced with the same problem of transcontinental podcasting and file transfer. Check out this weeks show and compare the difference.

UPDATE: Hot Recorder has been updated to version 2.14, which I am told does work with Skype 3.0+. I am yet to test it but I will let you know the results. Thanks to mswiczar for the tip in the comments.

Want to Know How to Podcast?

GGP Album Art SmallThe latest Global Geek went up today. Knightwise and myself put a lot of hard work into this one. It is the first special edition for the show. We were asked to do a show about how we put the show together. So we did.

This episode is a real behind the scenes look at the podcast. We cover all the on-line and off line applications that we use. The technology behind podcasting. Audio editing and hardware also get a look in. For a budding podcaster it is a valuable insight into podcasting and what it takes. Although I will bracket that with the fact that our show has been going a while now and we have upgraded most software and hardware from the “basics” to more advanced and powerful. So this is not a basic show in terms of what would be the minimum requirements.

Technically the show is a valuable resource for anyone including us. But it was created for many other reasons. We want to connect with our listeners. We genuinely appreciate them and the effort they make to listen to the show. We love hearing from them. Hopefully they will connect with us and feel that they are as much a part of the show and the community as we are.

Added to the complexities of the podcast is the fact that my co-host is literally a world away in Belgium. So we cover just what we do and how to overcome difficulties that arise due to the distance. Not to mention the time space continuum. But as you will hear it feels like Knightwise is next door.

There are some great sound clips included in the podcast. There is a snippet from the very first Global Geek. Wow what a difference in sound quality! It felt great to know that the show had developed and matured as much as it has. You also get a ear in on our pre-production meeting for the show and our sound check. Plus we have pictures on Flickr that we are going to add to through the week and we also made available our unedited show notes for the episode.

One of the coolest things we did for the show was to include a special surprise for the end. I am not going to give it away, just to say that it is a real laugh. I did not even tell Knightwise the secret, he found out just like you can. He had this to say about the show:

“I have tears streaming down my  face as a drive to work!!!!!! Tears with laughter!
You F*%kwitt must have spent all day editing that last bit together!!! It is bloody brilliant!!!!
The rest of the show is awesome! Fantastic job Dave, I absolutely love this podcast!!!
I can see our listeners bubbling with laughter at the end!”

We are our harshest critics. Seriously.

Most of all I think that Knightwise and I have realized that through this journey of podcasting together that we are more friends than co-hosts. I value his friendship over the podcast. I am truly grateful of his friendship and that he joined the show.

Knightwise is a true friend, you don’t get many of them in life. Life is fickle, fleeting and crap at playing fair. Friends tip the balance.

So waste no time have a listen. Head over to the Global Geek Podcast Blog for the Show Notes and subscription details. The music that was used on the show is also available for free download from the Show Notes on the blog. DRM free and legal.

But you can also listen here, please vist the blog and be a part of the show with us!

Nine News Video Podcast

I am enjoying iTunes and I have subscribed to a fair few podcasts and got all my feeds organised. Since I have had the iPod I have been utilizing the video capability a lot more and I have been liking it. I have small children and when the news is on we are sorting the kids out and I miss it all the time. So the answer is that Channel Nine actually both podcast audio and video the news week days. I am subscribed!

The news is an abridged version of the headlines which is all that I want. The video version in my opinion is better because the audio version is based on the video so you get the audio version only with that one, not so good. I had been subscribed to the video podcast about a week ago and it suddenly stopped. No explanation given. It turned up again today. So we have a professional television network doing a video podcast which if you want the content is great, but I have one major criticism.

You would think that the basics are all covered with this video podcast. Professional video equipment, yeah the video is excellent. Professional studio, yeah the audio is great. It is a shame given the professional set up they have they can not synchronize both the audio and the video! About five to eight minutes into it the audio goes all out of sync with the video. Most indie videos casts seem to be able to accomplish this yet a professional one fails.

If they want to be competitive in this space they had better get with the program. I’ll put up with it because I am after the content. However, as this space becomes more competitive and Channel 7 start offering similar type services for example then I will consider the alternative.

So indie podcasters kick arse and the pros are crap at the moment. I am not sure if we should congratulate the indie’s or really rubbish the pros because this is what I would call a basic requirement. The basic requirement is that they should take notice of what the 15 year old kid can accomplish using their home PC and less than $1000 bucks!

Subscribe to the Channel Nine News:

In iTunes

Video Version

Audio Version Only

Streaming from NineMSN: Note you will need to use IE Tab If you are using Firefox to view this streaming content.

iTunes Screenshot

Free Photoshop Plugins

I personally don’t use Photoshop, but it seems to be the most popular. I have been thinking that I would like to try it at some stage. Yup, I’ll just slot that in… Anyway for those of you that do have Photoshop and use it a lot and are always looking for plugins and custom effects, borders, filters and manipulations then you will be interested in what is on offer.

The Plugin Site offers plugins for Photoshop under three main categories. There are ones for both Mac and Windows. All of the offerings are rated as to their usefullness and free. There are 111 in total. The descriptions are good and make it easy to see if it is what you are after. The good descriptions make using the “find on this page” feature of your browser a useful tool if you are in a hurry.

The homepage also has other offerings of tools and some links to tutorials. Simple site but looks very useful. Who said you have to pay for everything, free is good. I can not speak as to the quality of these plugins, but if you happen to use them drop a comment on the post.

I’ll have to get a copy of Photoshop someday and see what I might be missing out on. But I must admit that these days the main things that I use my photo editing software for is optimising images for the web. Such as converting them to .png and resizing/scaling etc. Maybe there is a market for a photo and image editing client that is specifically made to accommodate such a user? I know I would appreciate a small footprint program that did the things that I have just mentioned, it would be very useful. Perhaps one that uploaded it to your hosting server as well, now that would be cool! Does anyone know of such an application?

Global Geek Podcast is Posted

Global Geek Podcast CoverArtVery pleased with this show. I just finished editing and writing up the show notes last night. It really is a great show and I enjoyed editing it and putting it up there. Every show is not without problems though!

So the part of the show that is usually hard, the editing, was a breeze. The hard part was the encoding of the file as an MP3! I wanted to drop the bit rate down to 64kbps, which I did. It was great, I had a show that was about 22MB, went for 50 minutes and still sounded great! But for some reason Audacity decided to change the sample rate to 24khz. The “project” was a 44khz project. So it should not have changed on the encode. So I ended up chatting to a few people and I got some advice and I tried it.

I exported the project as a wav file. So then the whole audio was mixed down in one continuous track at 44khz. This was done because it was speculated that perhaps some of the tracks that were added were influencing the output on the encode (for some reason). Anyway, I have this giganormous file and I open it up in Audacity and check all the bit and sample rates and I have everything set to encode the MP3 at 64kbps and the sample rate of 44khz. I encode the MP3 and the same bloody thing happens. On the encode the sample rate gets changed from 44 to 24khz. This can be a real problem for some web based flash players, they don’t like it and it speeds up the audio making it sound like chipmunks. Think of it like changing the RPM on the old vinyl.

So I do battle with Audacity for over two hours and get nowhere. I read forums and web pages to try to find out what was going on. Most web pages were an explanation of the difference between bit rates and sample rates, which is a difficult concept. But that was not my problem! So I gave up and decided that I was thinking about getting some commercial software anyway.

So if anyone out there uses Audacity and encodes their podcast at 64kbps could they please let me know what I am doing wrong? Thanks in advance.

But that did not ruin the show, the show was great and we had heaps of fun with it. If you have not listened to the show before then head on over to the homepage at The Podcast Network and check it out. You can even listen to the show off the web-page on the embeded player. I would prefer it if you were to subscribe though.

We have some great guests coming up as well, so stay tuned for that; it should be good. We have left it a bit before we got guests and interviews going for the show. We wanted to get comfortable with the show and getting it right as far as the audio and the editing.

So go get some geek over at The Global Geek Podcast. Remember to send us some feedback and let us know how we are doing with the show, but be nice. We do not mind honest but just saying it is shit because you think it is; is not nice.

This is supposed to be fun after all, thanks to our friends and supporters your positive comments have made the world of difference.