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December 20, 2006

Podcasting Resources 2: New Equipment & Online Training Videos

Follow-up to Podcasting. Equipment and Associated Advice from Kinoeye

Update on Equipment and Links to Training Videos

The use of podcasting / audio equipment for educational and other communication purposes looks set to grow as the technical barriers are overcome with simpler more effective, less fiddly products.

Below I round up a couple of the latest products on the market which can link straight into your computer with a USB connection without the need for much equipment. You will need some sort of microphone stand for a stand alone mike and of course some shielded cable to reduce potential interference.

As the equipment gets simpler more people are likely to start doing thier own audio recording. Most of us just want to get going rather than turn into equipment junkies circumnavigating large amounts of technical information.

The Rode Podcaster site below is also offering a service of publishing your podcasts on the web if you are one of their clients.

The growth of USB connected podcasting equipment

For very basic equipment to get started, what seems to be a very popular product is the Beyerdynamic MMX-1 headset. By ‘headset’ I mean integrated headphones with a microphone. I have just ordered one of these (Xmas 2006) and there seems to be a wait. I need a headset to complete a course I’m taking on ‘innovations in educational technology’.

The fact that I need them for a course is indicative of the way things are going. I will now be asking my students to consider making podcasts. These may be discussions about particular directors or reviews of films.

I’ve owned a set of hi-fi Beyer headphones in the past and I loved the quality. They were over £40-00 at the end of the 1970s (a lot then). The MMX-1s are ordered via the internet – with packaging about £65-00. RRP in shops is a lot more. Loigitech make cheaper ones but inevitably quality will be compromised. ‘Good value’ isn’t always the cheapest!

I’m certainly expecting pretty decent quality although the microphone isn’t going to be great at this kind of price. What makes this particular headset very special is the fact that it has a
USB connection. This means that it can plug straight into the USB ports on my computer.

Beyer USB MMX-1 Headset

Something that will be interesting to experiment with is linking three or 4 of these to a computer via a powered USB Hub. In theory at least it should be possible to hold a conversation, interview or record a play very cheaply. Whilst the sound quality is unlikely to be great it is a good way of starting to familiarise yourself with the technology. clearly there would need to be plenty of post production editing but for educational purposes this new type of equipment maximises what individual or mainstream institutions will already have.

*The Rode Podcaster Microphone

The Rode Podcaster in Action

Rode is an Australian electronics firm with a good range of microphones and a good reputation. Making a move from the headset to a proper microphone plus a set of headphones which eliminate outside sound is the next big step.

Rode have just introduced a microphone aimed specifically at podcasters. In the UK it appears to be retailing at around £150 on the internet. This is another piece of equipment which has a USB connection straight into your computer. This avoids having microphone preamps and things like that. Another advantage is that it has an high quality (XLR) socket on the side of the microphone body to which you can attach your headphones.

As you can see from the images above you can get going with a very straightforward set of equipment. Listening to the Rode broadcast on their marketing site with a professional broadcaster using the microphone shows that this mike delivers very good quality sound. (Listened to on my computer through a set of Sennheiser £30-00 headphones for iPods).

As an aside one shouldn’t get too hung up about superlative quality. The whole point of iPods is that they are listened to in mobile situations quite frequently and the MP3 file format is a compressed sound so is by its very nature of limited quality. A good voice microphone should nevertheless impart a warm natural quality to the voice. Institutions such as the BBC Radio 3 renowned for their quality will be using very expensive Neumann microphones for example, but aiming for the highest possible sound quality isn’t the point here. It should be natural, comfortable to listen to, and distortion free otherwise people won’t bother listening.

A quick scan of the blogs on podcasting it isn’t registering much yet however it looks set to become very popular.

Here is a link to the Rode posdcaster marketing
. There is a well known Australian broadcaster giving some sound advice (gerrit) on how to use microphones effectively. This is well worth watching and listening to even if you decide not to go for this product.

Choosing microphones requires a little time to think about what sort of applications you want it for. It you are going to want to recors a range of different activities in a wide rangfe internal an external conditions you will probably end up with a collection of them.

Here is a link to Sound on Sound Magazine guide to microphones.

Here is link to the Audio Technica guide to microphones which gives you some useful ideas.

Here is a link to a microphone terms glossary from MixGuides keep it open when you are browsing through products with lots of teccie terms.

December 16, 2006

Podcasting. Equipment and Associated Advice

Links for Podcasting Equipment and Associated Advice


Please note that this site takes no responsbility for any of the advice given on any of the blogs which are connected here. It is strongly suggested that you use all normal caution when proceeding with advice from any one blog and double check.

There is a similar warning with equipment. In independent research I have read that the latest Marantz digital recorder is very good. I am aware that the educational users from one large well established leading intitution were going to upgrade their current recorders to Marantz ones although they cost twice as much as the ones currently being used.

My understanding is that the quality of recording and ease of use makes them far more productive and the build quality makes them far more rugged and reliable in the field. This would suggest that educational institutions or media companies would do well to use the Marantz straight away as it is likely to save money over the longer term. (I have just discovered a very detailed review of the Marantz).

At the time of writing (December 2006) this is appears to be the benchmark recorder to measure other ones against including Marantz’s own more expensive ones.There are a number of blogs below which review this machine and compare it with alternatives. Any final analysis needs to consider how often the machines will be used and under what conditions being wieghed agaianst the available budget.

For individuals there are a range of MP3 players out there which can do recording. If you are on a limited personal budget one of these may be the most sensible place to start. this is not least because it is worth you gaining experience before committing yourself to a big outlay.

The old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ is usually a good rule of thumb. I usually find with most products that the mid market level is the bst place to start. You usually get very disatisfied with the limitations of the cheapest equipment whilst the most expensive often has little used bells and whistles on which may be useful for full-time professionals but for the average user provides little benefit for the extra cost. when it comes to practical media equipment build quality and reliability are worth more than extra tweaks.

The equipment sites and blogs were collected at the beginning of December. As web 2 is very dynamic this is by no means a comprehensive list but provides you with a portal into the world of podcasting. Now enjoy yourselves :-)

Various Equipment Sites and Blogs

Please note there is no order of priority here it was just how I followed up the searches adding links along the way. Some are blogs and some are equipment suppliers.

Robert Toole’s comment below alerted me to this supplier: Solid State Sound. This is a useful supplier as the items are annoted in a non-tech comprehensible way with clear advice where one item might be more appropriate than another. The link takes you to the edible looking Nagra Recorder. More budget ones are in the sidebar. (Please note this comment should not be taken as a recommendation of either product or supplier).

For a view of the Marantz PMD 600 Digital Audio Recorder
Podcast Audio Equipment « Jeffrey Daniel Frey’s
Podcasting Equipment Collected
Creating a Podcast > Equipment
Home: K&M – König & Meyer GmbH & Co.KG
Microphone Stands: K&M – König & Meyer GmbH & Co.KG

Broadcast & Podcast gadgets
Podcast – We only list the very best podcasts
MIXERS / POWERED MIXERSUB SERIES MIXERSEURORACK UB802 : Ultra Low-Noise Design 8-Input 2-Bus Mixer with Premium Mic Preamplifiers
Podcasting Equipment –
It’s time to listen to the internet |
Podcasting Equipment – drupal
Portable Recording Equipment for Your Audio Podcast « Jeffrey Daniel Frey’s Blog
Podcasting Offers New Avenue for Reaching Students, Alumni « Jeffrey Daniel Frey’s Blog
Roland U.S. – R-09: WAVE/MP3 Recorder
Successful Podcasting in Education at the University Level « Jeffrey Daniel Frey’s Blog – information on
MediaWiki – MediaWiki
John Bristowe’s Weblog : The Podcasting Equipment Has Arrived…
Ed-Tech Insider: Podcasting equipment roundup

November 30, 2006

Podcasting and New Media. Resources Section 1

Podcasting: Useful informational sources mainly from the BBC


Podcasting is becoming an increasingly important New Media Technology. Below are some useful links relating to new media including podcasting. There is another page which provides practical links to equipment and blogs about how to do it yourself. Some links are also in the sidebat to this blog in the New Media Technologies Section.

Useful Starter Links

Here is the BBC press office release announcing their recent podcasting trial.

Another foray into the world of new media from the BBC is the BBC Radio Player which allows a live online feed and older programmes to be accessed from a personal computer.

Digital Radio and the BBC

BBC Programmes direct to handheld devices.

Really Simple Syndication or RSS Feeds.

BBC Pods & Blogs also introduces the concept of Citizen Media

BBC Technology News

BBC The Future of TV

BBC Click Online Videos. This page links to a large number of downloadable videos

BBC Click Online Home Page

What is High Definition TV (HDTV)?

Video on Demand. European opportunities & threats.

November 21, 2006

Educational Technologies: The Podcast

What is Podcasting?

Podcasting is yet another digital technology which has erupted on the scene and which is so hard for adults to keep up with in the ‘digital deluge’. Podcasting is only a couple of years old at the time of writing but it is rapidly developing into an important part of ‘new media’.

In essence the Podcast is the equivalent of being able to take a radio programme around on a tape and listen to it on your personal stereo (Walkman). It is in a computer file format which can be played on many different devices.

How to listen

Increasingly you will be able to play them on your car sound system, your sound system at home including portable digital radios as well as on iPod or MP3 players and also mobile phones which can store the MP3 file format. You can also play them on your laptop computer. With a set of headphones it is possible to lsiten and work on the train for example.

The iPod or MP3 player are the normal way of listening to these. These devices are becoming cheaper and more sophisticated all the time with many mobile phones having the facility to download and play MP3 sound files. The latest of these devices are able to store the content of dozens of CDs with hard drive memories larger than the average household computer of a few years ago.

The file format thus allows for what are sometimes described in media terms as place-shifting and time-shifting. Or ‘when you want it, how you want it, where you want it’ in plain English.

How do you get Podcasts?

Its all very well talking about them – and I’m writing this pretty much as I learn- but its another thing getting all the technology sorted out and wondering if it will all work together and then will it really be worth it when you’ve done all this when reading a good book in the garden might be more pleauarable.

I think the answer is yes or this article wouldn’t be here. The first thing is that you will neeed the correct software loaded onto your computer. The best software to use is “iTunes” from the Apple website. This also comes with the latest version of “Quicktime” which you will be able to download at the same time. The process is quite painless and you will end up with a couple of nice little extra icons on your desktop.

For cinema a good place to go to start the process is the Moviemail podcasts page
The site gives some explanation of podcasts and also gives you some options. You can listen to a choice of podcasts without actually keeping them or else you can follow the link which says ‘subscribe via iTunes’. This will take you to the Apple site. (It is a busy site and sometimes seems to get stuck as it did with me when writing this. Just go back later if this happens). once you are into the site followthe instructions for getting iTunes / Quicktime. You can then ‘subscribe’ to the Moviemail podcast lists. You will see a list of what is available and you can choose which ones to download. there is a button to click saying get this (or something like that I can’t check at the moment). The software gives you one of those annoying lists saying “customers who subscribed to this also ….” . Well actually it was quite useful as it took me to some useful podcasts from the Guardian and the Times / BFI London Film Festival.

Now the files are in your computer and can be downloded to other devices in the usual ways.

When I find more useful podcasts I will stick in links to the Podcastography (or whatever these lists are going to get called eventually).

Future usage on my courses

For the current Open Studies course on “Weimar and Nazi Cinema” I don’t expect us to be making our own podcasts but this is going to be increasingly possible as better recording equipment becomes cheaper.

If you are reading this as an A level media student I’m currently thinking
about converging podcast making into the coursework of making websites and radio. Rather than radio ‘broadcasts’ being made available for two weeks on a limited licence podcasts will be availbale on the network.

Potential Technophobia

The great cultural critic Raymond Williams once described the Walkman as ‘mobile privatisation’, however this is a pessimistic view which doesn’t allow for the possibilities of being in communication in a different mental space form the physical space. This form of communication can be at any intellectual level. In reality people on tubes and trains can be remarkably private and locked into their own thoughts without any technology. one always needs to ask the question whther there is some sort of nostalgia present for a ‘golden age ’ of interpersonal communication based on ‘community’ which never quite existed in reality.

What is on the Way?

This weekend (Nov 18 / 06) The Financial Times ‘How to Spend it’ (Wish I had their problems :-) ) on the gadgets for Xmas page announced the world’s first digitally recording microphone mentioning that it will be good for podcasters. – It happens to be British – expect that some sort of device like this will be on all up-market mobile ‘phones’ (Multi communication devices might be a beter name) in about 18 months and in three years time they will be common. Anyway it’s called FlashMic

The Rather Expensive FlashMic

The point is that we will all reasonably soon be able to use a digital recording device in a commonly used file format and put it onto the web.
This means that there are good educational uses developing as well as the possibility of narrowscasting acoss the world.

A more reasonably priced but obviously bulkier item is the Marantz flash memory digital recorder. This means that you can record whatever on the same cards which you will be using for a digital camera. There is a customer review on there as well.

The Marantz Digital Recorder

New Educational Paradigms?

From the perspective of education it is likely to be very useful in recording small group discussions in workshops and seminars. It will be useful in interviewing people and it will also be useful in recording research projects such as focus groups and semi-structured interviews.

The actual recordings can be used in a variety of different ways and for different target audiences. Already some university lecturers are making their lectures available as podcasts (Check this link). This means that peole can listen or re-listen to the lecture at their convenience. It may even mean that lectures become more infrequent to be replaced by other formes of delivery and learning techniques.

Supervisors and tutors will be able to listen to the focus group dicusssions and evaluate them, or else listen to small group discussions and give appropriate feedback. Furthermore all the small group discussions could be collected and a greater range of ideas made available to all course participants.

Furthermore all participants will be able to access and download these discussions. This will encourage a far better system of peer group assessment combined with tutor input. If the podcast recordings of say five discussion groups are uploaded to webspace the following day, a typical student formative student task would be to generate feedback upon other discussions. These could be discussed at the next workshop and also uploaded to a forum either in text or as a podcast as well.

The job of a tutor will be to give the criteria expected in an evaluative podcast for example. The criteria could include evidence of listening to all the other podcasts, synthesising and summarising the arguments and making an evaluative judgemnt about these arguments. This could be done in the more traditional text format or else delivered as a podcast. Thus there is no reason why much of the student work and tutor assessment cannot become aural.

From an educational perspective this is developing a range of skills which are much used in quality radio for example but little recognised. Much of the debate within media and cultural studies focuses upon the visual versus the written text. The rise of the podcast could have quite far reaching implications. One big advantage underlying the potential of the podcast is its flexibility. The contents are easily listened to while travelling for example at times when reading and notetaking may awkward.

Other Useful Links on Podcasting

Creating and Broadcasting a Podcast

This is a link to Warwick Podcasts where a number of interviews with academics discuss a broad range of issues. These show what can be done.

This is a link to BBC Podcasts
arts discussions.

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