How to Create a Mobile Podcast Studio
Have you ever thought about taking your podcast on the road? Have you wondered how you could record an episode somewhere other than your studio?
Podcasting is such an incredible way to share the stories of inspiring people. However, getting world travelers into your home-office, or onto a Skype call, can be difficult.
When I first started the Empowered Podcast I wanted to do things at the lowest-possible cost. My show started as a hobby, and I didn't want to sink a ton of money into something I wasn't sure about.
But, over time, my interests and abilities began to change. I transitioned from in-studio recording to a desire to get out and meet people in the world.
When I had dinner with Chris Cerrone a few months ago, I got inspired. Chris showed me how easy it could be to get quality audio on the go, outside of the studio.
After dinner, he and I headed out to the parking lot to record an episode for his show.
I was so inspired by the setup Chris had, I began my pursuit of creating a Podcasting Studio in a Bag. If you've been in search for the essentials for podcasting, you've come to the right place.
- Recording Device
- Windscreens and Pop Filters
- Microphone protection
- Video equipment
- Extra memory card
When it comes to creating a Podcasting Studio in a Bag, there are really only two things you need, a way to capture sound, and a way to record it.
Each of these microphones will cost you around $60. What makes them the best deal for the price is the accessories the Audio-Technica ATR2100s come with:
- 1 shock stand
- 1 XLR Cable
- 1 USB Cable
When I went to my local Guitar Center, I found microphones in the $40-$50 range, however, they included none of those accessories. Plus, a 20′ XLR cable would cost me an extra $15.
I've always been biased toward the ATR2100 for the quality and everything that comes with it. If you'd like a comparison and other in-studio recommendations, check out my ebook.
If you buy two ATR2100s, you can plug them both into the bottom of your recording device and get high-quality audio on the go.
In my article, How to Create a Mobile Video Production Studio in a Bag, I suggested you could record from a lapel mic into your phone if necessary.
I tried to apply this same philosophy to my podcasting studio and it just doesn't work. There is no way to record from two microphones into one cell phone. At least not without expensive add-ons.
Additionally, when you record from two mics into two separate devices you have to mix them together later. When you do that, the chances of getting them out of sync are high.
To make things worse, you're starting with less-than-perfect audio in the first place.
After months of research and testing different methods, I came to buy and recommend the Zoom H4n.
The Zoom H4n is a fantastic recorder. It has the ability to record from two external microphones as well as the two internal ones.
While the H4n does way more than I need it to do, it's a perfect fit for your mobile studio.
The two XLR inputs on the bottom of the H4n allow you to plug your two ATR2100s directly into the device. By plugging both mics into a single recording device, you don't have to worry about the audio getting out of sync and trying to fix it later. This is one of the biggest advantages of the H4n.
A competitor to the H4n, the Roland R-05 (which costs the same) does not allow you to connect XLR microphones to it directly. For that reason, I bought the Zoom H4n.
With two Audio-Technica ATR2100s and a Zoom H4n, you can have (almost) studio-quality audio on the go for around $320. While it's a little more than the $200 price point I advocated here, the mobile setup allows you to record in-person interviews.
You can download my Mobile Podcast Studio Checklist below
When setting up your mobile podcasting studio, go with the simplest solution. I recommend connecting your microphones directly to the recorder via the two XLR inputs on the bottom similar to how it's shown above.
There are multiple ways to configure the H4n as well. Under Menu and Mode, you'll be able to select one of the options below.
In Stereo Mode, the H4n will record via either the onboard mics or the inputs on the bottom; not both. Once you plug-in via the XLR inputs, the mics will turn off. You can toggle between the two inputs using the input selector buttons on the front.
In 4CH Mode, you can record up to 4 channels. Essentially, you can connect two ATR2100s via XLR, plus record via the two built-in microphones. I'd use this to record two XLR microphones and a guest or two via the built-in mics. Since holding a mic and speaking into it takes practice, better you do it than your guests.
The MTR Mode, or multi-track mode, allows you to mix and overlay tracks. I've never used this and you should only use it if you know what you're getting into.
Before you start recording, press the record button once. When it starts blinking, you can see the sound levels of each microphone on the screen. Each mic should show its own channel.
Have each person talk into the mic for a sound check. If one of your mics is picking up more audio or needs less input volume (ie gain) you can adjust it on the right side panel. When everyone's levels are about the same, hit “Record” again and you're recording your podcast!
In the end, you'll have something that looks like the picture below. Here's a picture of how I bring in my studio.
Stands – If you're sitting at a table for your live interview, you may want to bring along the stands that come with the ATR2100s. The rubber feet on the tripod help buffer against table bumps. The included stands are plastic and won't add too much weight to your bag.
Windscreens & Pop Filters – Whether you're recording outside or not, you're going to need to bring along a windscreen. These foam covers add almost no weight and help reduce unwanted noise. You can grab these for a few bucks on Amazon.
Microphone Protection – You just dropped $120 on microphones and you want to protect them, right? While I'd love to show you a great protective case to transport them in, I'd use a kitchen rag or an old t-shirt. Either should do the trick just fine and keep your costs low.
Video Equipment – While technically not part of your podcast studio, adding a video recording would be really cool as well. For more details on creating a mobile video production studio, read my post here.
Extra Memory Card(s) – Don't put yourself in the position of having to delete an existing recording to do your new interview. Get an extra memory card so you don't run out of space! You can grab a 16GB SD card that will hold several hours worth of podcast recordings for less than $20 on Amazon.
Now that you have all of the equipment, go out there and record your next episode! There's something uniquely awesome about recording live and in-person. You now have the gear to make it happen.
Need more than 2 XLR inputs?
Check out the Zoom H6! It has 4.
Question: What would you add to this list? What's in your mobile podcast studio? Share about your podcasting experience in the comments below!
You can download my Mobile Podcast Studio Checklist below