If you’ve followed some of our other posts on the subject, you’ll know that we use a internet-based remote podcasting setup to make our podcasts Interrupted Tales and Parasitecology. In the couple years since we wrote the original posts, our setup hasn’t changed all that much (except, HELLO new XLR high-end mics like our EV RE-20!)
What’s Changed: CAST
First – the recording service we use. While we originally had very positive experiences with Zencastr, at a certain point we started receiving popping noises on our tracks that we couldn’t hear while recording. After testing local recording, we identified the problem as coming from the Zencastr end. To their credit, their customer support kept working on the issue and the product keep rolling out updates, but the problem never really went away. So, for the past year we’ve been using the remarkably-hard-to-find-by-search-term Cast. Cast has been ROCK SOLID for us, and the corresponding plan we use from them is a bit cheaper than the nearest equivalent Zencastr plan. From a technological standpoint, they do the same thing: multi-track “double-ender” recordings where each person’s track is recorded in high-end quality locally in their web browser while a lower quality “live” version is mixed immediately in the service for very low latency communication.
It’s pretty fabulous. Is it perfect? No. While Cast includes a cool integrated mixing interface and directly publishing without needing an external RSS host, we don’t actually use that functionality – and while the raw tracks are available to us, you have to manually push a button and wait for a bit — sometimes up to ten minutes or so — for the tracks to be made available and downloadable — unless you use their Dropbox sync. Plus, it’s in mp3 quality, not WAV, so pure audiophile engineers may not be entirely satisfied with quality. But for us, it’s just right.
What’s Changed: Elgato Stream Deck
Fortunately, the Elgato Stream Deck has only changed for the better since we got ours. Over the last year, Elgato has added the ability to play (AND stop AND loop) soundboard clips! Unfortunately, the feature is still a bit limited in terms of fade-in/fade-out, and using it to push sound to an audio device other than the OS default is a bit of a pain — but I’m hopeful that one day it will be fully-featured enough I can totally ditch having an additional layer of sound playing software triggered by hotkey like I currently do with Soundplant.
Of course, the Stream Deck is pretty criminally underutilized as just a soundboard trigger. It’s streaming integration functionality has ballooned with every update and a SDK just recently got integrated in the latest version which promises to unlock even more potential for this cool device.
What’s Changed: Sound Editors to DAWs
I’ll admit it, it took me a long time to let go of Audacity. I understood how it worked; I had gotten my effects chains all worked out perfectly; and I had a workflow that could edit extremely quickly.
And then, in addition to our regular podcast, we decided to produce an audiodrama.
I’m sure you can produce an audiodrama with 14+ tracks of vocals, foley work, ambient atmosphere, and music tracks — all in Audacity. But for me, I couldn’t imagine doing that complex a set of tasks in an “destructive” editor that made iterative and irreversible adjustments to the tracks. I NEEDED to be able to revert just about any idiotic decision I had made during a 10 hour editing session. So I finally learned how to use Reaper, a full digital audio workstation.
And Ableton Live, for composing music — not for editing and mixing the podcast, which of course it is also capable of.
Both of these products had a major learning curve and resulted in significant workflow changes. And they are not free, like Audacity is. While you can nagware your way out of paying for Reaper, it is still commercial software. And I use a copy of Ableton Live 10 that I got with my Scarlett 4i2 interface, but normally that’d be $99 (you probably don’t want me to tell you how much the full Ableton Studio costs).