Whatever space you use for podcasting might need a little work on the acoustics to help your podcasts sound better. Here are 6 tips to get you started improving your “studio” for audio.
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1. Move away from noise
The first issue you may need to solve in any “studio” space could be the noise from other items. It could be appliance, HVAC, outside noise, and such. If you can't turn these off, move as far away from them as possible. Also, have as many layers (walls, closed doors, curtains, etc.) between you and the noise as is practically possible. This may even mean using a different room that may be more ideal.
2. Move the noise away from you
Spinning-disk hard drives, computer fans, and speakers are common noisemakers that come with having a computer. If any of these are making noise, try to move them farther away from your microphone, or turn them off.
3. Stop using noisy things
Mice, keyboards, chairs, pens, and all kinds of other random objects can make noise as we use them. While you're recording, try to avoid these things.
That may mean being a little uncomfortable in a quiet chair, using a touchpad instead of your nice mouse, dressing differently, or not having the heater or air conditioner making your room more comfortable.
You may be surprised what noises do and don't get picked up my your microphones. But the best practice is to avoid being part of the problem yourself.
4. Point your microphone(s) away from noise
When you can't distance your microphone from noise, at least point your microphone away from the source of the noise. This works best with most end-fire, cardioid pickup pattern microphones (these generally capture what's in front of the microphone much more than what's around or behind it).
This is also an effective way to reduce audio crossover between multiple microphones. Try to point your microphones away from each other, which also places your cohosts in ideal positions to see each other.
But be aware of what new problems you might create by pointing the microphone at a reverberant surface.
5. Reduce reverb
While background noise is the biggest problem to reduce, the most common problem you'll face with a podcasting studio is reverberation (or “reverb”).
Reverb is when audio bounces off surrounding surfaces and mixes together but doesn't produce a distinct echo. For example, the sound of your voice in a bathroom is reverb. But shouting into a large space and hearing yourself back is an echo.
The first step to reducing reverb is to be closing to your mic, so that the mic picks up more of your source audio (your voice) than the reverberated audio.
For optimizing your podcasting space, try to reduce the flat surfaces in your room.
- Put carpet or rugs on the floor.
- Place soft furniture in the room.
- Hang things from the walls.
- Put a curtain over the window.
A cheap way to reduce reverb in a room is to hang blankets and open closet doors. The idea is to have as few flat surfaces and as many soft and angled surfaces as possible.
Depending on your microphone, you may even get some reverb from the computer monitor directly in front of you. To fix this, try slighting turning or tilting the monitor away.
6. Consider your in-studio cohosts
You might get your studio set up perfectly for your own workstation and microphone, but adding an in-studio cohost could complicate things. Their mic placement could result in more reverb or noise from their side.
An additional problem could occur, depending on your setup. If your cohost is next to you, it's easy to turn your head to talk to them and consequently turn away from your microphone. Learning to pivot around your mic can improve this, but that can sometimes also change the tone of your voice.
It would be more ideal to face your cohost(s) as directly as possible, and thus reduce or eliminate the need for turning heads.
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Hi Daniel. I’ve been a listener for a long time and really enjoy your show. This show’s topic grabbed me. Good suggestions on limiting extraneous background noise. As a podcaster, I know that trying to minimize distractions can be difficult and, sometimes, time consuming. I’ve come to realize that many listeners are very forgiving of audio quality as long as the subject of the show is interesting. Podcasts like ‘The Nerdist’ are shows that don’t always have great audio. In fact, usually Chris has a lot of background noise, distractions and reverb in the show. Typically, but not always, his topics are fun and interesting which trumps the audio. Even Leo Laporte’s TWiT has begun to have some distractions (someone moving the mic boom, or sliding something on the table). I’ve been asked a few times to help start a podcast. The one thing that everyone seems to get hung up on is: Why doesn’t my audio sound like (insert podcast)? My answer is always the same. Focus on your subject matter first, worry about the audio later. Thanks again for ‘The Audacity to Podcast’.
Funny-ish story. When you were doing the example of how the mic picks up from different angles and you were speaking behind the mic, I heard nothing. At the time I was typing, and then stopped because I was amazed that your microphone picks up absolutely no sound from the back.
I was then convinced that this Heil PR40 is one of the coolest things to get for my next mic……
Then I realised that through some random shortcut on my keyboard, I had paused the podcast exactly at the point after you turned your mic around! Oops!
Well, I’m sure the PR40 is still awesome! 😀
p.s. All the best with your new space! Sounds really exciting.
No, that’s the PR40’s power. Through an iReality iDistortion iField, the PR40 can reach across time and space and turn off your playback whenever I feel like it. 🙂
Wait… can it work on a mother-in-law??