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What the experts use: Andrew Marino’s podcasting gear

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Audio media has been an important part of our lives ever since the first news reporters crackled their way into homes in 1920. For a while, it was assumed that visual media and then the internet would be the death of audio-only entertainment, but it turned out that this obit was premature.

Podcasting has brought new popularity to audio. From book readings to investigative reporting to political opinion to interviews to theatrical productions, podcasts offer a wide range of entertainment and information.

And what’s even better: podcasting is a creative form available to anyone who has a computer, a microphone, and an internet connection. We spoke to Andrew Marino, audio engineer and producer at The Verge, to find out what he recommends for those who want to try this out as well.

What follows are Andrew’s thoughts about podcasting and the tools he prefers to use.

What you need

There have been a lot of different ways people have developed podcasts, since a lot of them start out at different levels. At its heart, it’s an independent DIY media platform, although more recently it has been co-opted by larger media companies coming from radio backgrounds.

What you need to start with is a microphone and an audio interface (a way to record your audio directly into your computer). Once your podcast is recorded, you’ll then need a digital audio workstation (DAW), which is the software you’ll use to edit, mix, and export your podcast. You should also have some knowledge of microphone tech, recording, editing, and mixing to make your show sound its best.

Microphone

Electro-Voice RE20
Electro-Voice RE20
Photo: Electro-Voice

You mostly want a microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. This means it’s a directional microphone that focuses on picking up what’s directly in front of it (your voice) and attempts to reject everything else (the rest of the sound of the world).

The digital-to-analog converter (DAC) built into USB mics is typically not as good as a standalone audio interface, so as a professional, I tend to stay away from USB mics when I can. It also limits you to one input, whereas a more professional microphone is not attached to a DAC, allowing you to plug it into any microphone input, from a USB interface to a sound board at a live venue.

I have an Electro-Voice RE20; there’s also the RE27. It’s a typical dynamic microphone — it pretty much carried over from radio to podcasting. It’s best for voice recording. I went to school for music, so we used it a lot for recording a drum set, but if you go into any radio studio, you’ll see either an RE27 or a Shure SM7B. A lot of podcasters use the SM7B, but it requires a preamplifier (like this one) for optimal signal level. The RE20 and RE27 don’t necessarily need that.

When I’m out in the field, I’ll use a shotgun microphone: a long condenser that can pick up sources from farther away. A lot of people use a large condenser mic for narration or vocals in songs and music, but it should only be used in a controlled environment like a studio.

Audio interface

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Photo: Focusrite

We’ve been giving our podcasters at Vox Media who record outside of our studios a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. It’s pretty affordable and durable, with a metal casing. This USB interface offers two microphone inputs as well as outputs for monitors; you can plug any analog mic into it. There are tons that do that, but the Focusrite has a good price for the quality.

Editing

Adobe Audition
Adobe Audition

The next step after recording your podcast is the editing phase. Even the most minimal podcast requires some editing to take out unnecessary space, add music, balance levels, and fix any other mishaps in the recording process. To do this, most people use software called digital application workspaces or DAWs.

There are many DAWs you can use to edit your podcast; in fact, you may have used a DAW to record your podcast. I still sometimes use a free, open-source software called Audacity to do quick audio edits, and it’s very popular among DIY podcasters.

Audacity was the first software that I used when I got into editing because it’s free and it’s very flexible. It has many built-in effects and controls that you can use just by downloading it, such as change pitch, compression, equalization (EQ), and multitrack editing. It’s not as flexible as other software, but you can still edit a whole podcast with it.

But while some DAWs are free, the ones you pay for tend to offer more detailed editing tools and better-sounding effects. I am able to work faster, more efficiently, and am more flexible when I’m using a more professional DAW like Avid Pro Tools or Adobe Audition.

I use Avid Pro Tools for recording, but for editing, I mostly use Adobe Audition. In my experience using both DAWs, the workflow is faster for importing and mixing clips, and editing is significantly more efficient. Pro Tools is based more on an analog system for music and preferred among a majority of my colleagues, but for long-form podcasting, I’m going to use Audition.

I would also recommend using some audio software plug-ins to help with the mixing process. A big part of podcast mixing is adjusting and controlling the levels of everyone’s microphones. The company Waves offers some affordable bundles and individual plug-ins for dynamic compression, equalization, reverb, pretty much any sort of modulation you want.

Something I’ve been using a lot this year is iZotope’s RX 7 audio repair software (they’re up to version RX 8 now). Since everyone — including the hosts on our shows — are recording at home, it’s sometimes hard to control the audio environment remotely. I do a lot of “de-noising” to take out air conditioning noise, street noise, etc. I also use “de-plosive” (watch your “P”s) and “de-clipping” (watch your levels), which have brought the quality of the recordings up to our standards.

Distribution

Feeder
Feeder
Photo: Reinvented Software

For the most part, podcasts can be distributed through the magical world of an RSS feed. It’s an older tech in internet terms, but one of the few mediums that still really takes advantage of the open web, which is why I love it. When a listener uses a podcast app, that app usually grabs the feed from your RSS, which contains audio files from your show as well as other data like your title, album art, description, etc.

For my personal podcast, I set up an Amazon S3 server and edit the feed through an RSS editor called Feeder, which is pretty bare-bones. I chose this simply because it was the cheapest option. You’re paying for server space, so if you’re starting a podcast and you don’t have a lot of listeners, you’re paying almost nothing to host the podcast. However, you have to be a little technical savvy and it’s not automatically secure. Podcast platforms like Spotify and Apple recommend your hosting server support SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which allows you to generate an HTTPS RSS feed.

If you want something more user-friendly, there are other services that operate servers for podcast RSS feeds and let you simply upload your audio and relevant information; your podcasts will be published to the various podcast platforms. They also offer services like analytics and monetization. Some popular hosting services include PodBean, Spreaker, Anchor, and Libsyn.

Final advice

Don’t be overwhelmed or intimidated by the rest of the industry. Podcasting is still in its infancy and was meant for the people. Anyone can make a show and that’s wonderful! Make your show about what you want to make it about and don’t worry about trying to sound like other shows. It’s a wonderfully creative medium and you should take advantage of it.

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Tech

Fall Guys’ adorable new Godzilla skin will let you become an actual bean-grappling monster

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Fall Guys is getting a Godzilla skin soon, and it’s adorable. Just look at it! I want to give it a big hug.

But I also have to admit that I want to use the Godzilla skin to channel my inner monster and annoy other players without regret. I am never that person who grapples players just inches from the finish line of a Fall Guys stage — that’s just rude. But dressed as Godzilla? Well, all bets are off.

Fall Guys has been one of the biggest hits of the year, and a number of brands have made their pitches for a themed skin in the game, including Konami, KFC, and even Chuck E. Cheese.

Developer Mediatonic has already added many video game-themed crossover skins, including Gordon Freeman (with a headcrab!), a Scout from Team Fortress 2, and Sonic the Hedgehog. And there’s a branded skin on the way from G2 Esports, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Aim Lab, and Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, who teamed up to win a charity bidding war for the opportunity to get a skin added to the game.

The Godzilla skin will be out on November 3rd to celebrate Godzilla’s birthday, but it will only be available for a limited time. It will cost 10 crowns, which you can earn through winning games or by leveling up the season pass.

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Ubisoft’s subscription service comes to Stadia and Luna

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Ubisoft originally announced its subscription service back in June. Today, the company is rebranding the service from UPlay+ to Ubisoft+. The service is also on its way to Amazon’s Luna and Google’s Stadia. Ubisoft is betting on a multi-platform subscription, which means that you’ll be able to subscribe once and play Ubisoft+ games on PC, Amazon Luna and Stadia.

Ubisoft+ is already available on PC. For $14.99 a month, you can download and play more than 100 games — the service includes both classics and newly released titles, such as games in the Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia franchises as well as the company’s upcoming releases. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs Legion and Immortals Fenyx Rising will be available in the Ubisoft+ library on their respective launch days.

Ubisoft is trying to include premium editions of the games so that you don’t have to pay for game passes to access additional content. For instance, you can play the ultimate editions of Rainbow Six Siege, The Division 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, etc.

On November 10, you’ll be able to access Ubisoft+ games on Amazon Luna is you’re beta testing Amazon’s cloud gaming service. And Google will also let you connect your Ubisoft+ account with Stadia by the end of the year. Interestingly, you don’t need to pay for Stadia Pro to access Ubisoft+ titles.

Ubisoft is working on cross-platform progression, starting with upcoming titles. It’s a subscription focused on content, not platforms.

As you can see, Microsoft and Sony don’t support Ubisoft+. It means that you won’t be able to subscribe and play on your Xbox or PlayStation. Console manufacturers take a cut on game purchases. That’s why negotiations between third-party game studios and console manufacturers are more complicated.

Image Credits: Ubisoft

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SpaceX launches Starlink app and provides pricing and service info to early beta testers

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SpaceX has debuted an official app for its Starlink satellite broadband internet service, for both iOS and Android devices. The Starlink app allows users to manage their connection – but to take part you’ll have to be part of the official beta program, and the initial public rollout of that is only just about to begin, according to emails SpaceX sent to potential beta testers this week.

The Starlink app provides guidance on how to install the Starlink receiver dish, as well as connection status (including signal quality), a device overview for seeing what’s connected to your network, and a speed test tool. It’s similar to other mobile apps for managing home wifi connections and routers. Meanwhile, the emails to potential testers that CNBC obtained detail what users can expect in terms of pricing, speeds and latency.

The initial Starlink public beta test is called the “Better than Nothing Beta Program,” SpaceX confirms in their app description, and will be rolled out across the U.S. and Canada before the end of the year – which matches up with earlier stated timelines. As per the name, SpaceX is hoping to set expectations for early customers, with speeds users can expect ranging from between 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, and latency of 20ms to 40ms according to the customer emails, with some periods including no connectivity at all. Even with expectations set low, if those values prove accurate, it should be a big improvement for users in some hard-to-reach areas where service is currently costly, unreliable and operating at roughly dial-up equivalent speeds.

Image Credits: SpaceX

In terms of pricing, SpaceX says in the emails that the cost for participants in this beta program will be $99 per moth, plus a one-time cost of $499 initially to pay for the hardware, which includes the mounting kit and receiver dish, as well as a router with wifi networking capabilities.

The goal eventually is offer reliably, low-latency broadband that provides consistent connection by handing off connectivity between a large constellation of small satellites circling the globe in low Earth orbit. Already, SpaceX has nearly 1,000 of those launched, but it hopes to launch many thousands more before it reaches global coverage and offers general availability of its services.

SpaceX has already announced some initial commercial partnerships and pilot programs for Starlink, too, including a team-up with Microsoft to connect that company’s mobile Azure data centers, and a project with an East Texas school board to connect the local community.

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