Connect with us

Tech News

The best gear for that friend who wants to start a podcast – TechCrunch

Published

on

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2018 Holiday Gift Guide! Need more gift ideas? Check out our Gift Guide Hub.

“How do I start a podcast?”

As the producer of the TechCrunch podcast Equity, I get this question all the time. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to get your voice out there, even on a shoestring budget.

As interest sky rockets, the barrier to entry is getting lower, with more microphones, gadgets and services hitting the market all the time. But unless you have an audio engineering degree, it can all be a bit overwhelming.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching, testing and breaking podcasting gear so you don’t have to. We all have that friend who always talks about starting their very own podcast. Want to help them (or you) get the ball rolling this holiday season? Here’s where I’d start.


[inline-ad]


Microphones

Never let the gear get in the way of getting your voice heard. First you’ll need a microphone. For better or worse, there are microphones in everything these days — and some of them are actually pretty decent. If all you have is your phone, your phone is all you need. Get that voice memo application out and hit record.

While the built-in microphone will do in a pinch, a few bucks can go a long way to improve the sound quality that you can capture with your phone. Pop on this Rode VideoMic Me ($50 on Amazon) and the audio captured by your phone will be greatly improved (pro tip: you’ll need a dongle if your phone, like many these days, doesn’t have a headphone jack.)

If you want those sexy ASMR sounds, though, you will have to invest in a bigger microphone.

In the mid-level range, the microphone I most often recommend is the Blue Yeti Pro ($250 on Amazon). It’s simple and sounds great, and is the closest thing to a plug-and-play solution that I have found. It supports both USB and XLR, which makes it way more flexible (and makes it play friendly with audio interfaces, which I’ll talk about next.) Blue Mics also sells a cheaper alternative with the non-pro Yeti ($130 on Amazon), the downside being that there’s no XLR support there.

If you are looking for something on the higher end, here at TC we run our podcasts off of four Neumann KMS 105 Handheld Condenser Microphones ($699 on Amazon). They sound amazing — but if you’re just getting started, it’s almost certainly not a big enough improvement from the Yeti to justify the price.


Audio Interfaces

Macs are unable to run two of the same USB mics at the same time. When you need more than one mic at one time, you’ll need an interface that lets you funnel and control multiple mics into one computer. This is one of the places where that aforementioned XLR support on the Yeti Pro comes in handy.

We use the Tascam US-4×4 4-Channel USB Audio Interface ($200 on Amazon). It’s simple and does its job well, handling up to 4 four mics at once. Tascam also sells a 2-mic version ($150 on Amazon) if you don’t need as many mics simultaneously — but at only $50 cheaper, you might want to spend the cash now for the sake of future flexibility.


Handheld devices

You can’t always be in the studio, but podcasting on-the-go can be a pain in the ass. Imagine having to lug around a bunch of mics and interfaces and tangled-up wires just to shoot an episode from the road.

One solution to this problem is to use a smaller recording device. Again, here, your phone works. But when I need higher fidelity when recording remotely, I tap one of the portable recorders put out by Zoom.

My go-to is the Zoom H4N ($220 on Amazon). This thing is an audio beast with the ability to capture stereo audio with the built-in microphones on the top in addition to being able to connect two external mics. I see a ton of reporters running around with this recorder.

Smaller and less robust than the H4N, but still able to capture that crisp juicy audio, is the Zoom H1N ($120 on Amazon). It doesn’t have the ability to connect external mics and can’t act as an audio interface like the more capable H4N — but for getting audio on the fly, this small package is what you are looking for.


[inline-ad]


Remote recording software

In addition to hardware, any fledgling podcaster will need some software to get the job done. A common situation that many podcasters come across is how to record an interview or conversation with multiple people when all of those people are in different locations.

Zencastr is essentially a conference call service that has a bunch of extra features specifically designed for podcasters. It records your audio and the audio of your guest locally. That greatly improves the audio quality of your guest, making sure their side of the conversation doesn’t sound like a Skype call. They have a free option (two guests, 8 hours of recording per month) to get you started, but $20 a month bumps you up to unlimited guests and unlimited recordings.

Another neat feature Zencastr offers is automatic post-production; just select the tracks from your recording session and in a few minutes Zencastr spits out a track that has perfectly leveled sound. Zencastr also allows you to input your intro music, sound effects or anything else you’ve got pre-recorded to cut down on the things you need to add in post-production. Zencastr is the only service out there that I have found that incorporates all these essentials — it’s not perfect, but it’s the best thing I’ve seen out there.

If you didn’t want to spend the money on a subscription service, you can always patchwork it together with Skype, the ECAMM recorder plug-in, Soundflower, and Linein. To explain how to rig all of these together would require a separate post that I hope to never write, but Googling those keywords should get you started.


Editing Software

Unless you’re a one take wonder, you’re going to need to get yourself some editing software. You might get away with posting raw audio at first, but eventually you’ll want to edit out those umms and uhhs and trim out any random background noise.

These editing programs can get complicated and expensive, and it’s easy to find yourself in the editing deep end. My suggestion? Start with the free stuff.

The first podcasts I ever edited were done on GarageBand. It was free and simple enough for me to learn quickly, with the catch that it’s Mac/iOS only. Another option for simple/free is Audacity. Unlike GarageBand, it’s available on Windows/Linux — and it does a lot more than you might expect from the price tag.

Once you reach the point where you find yourself needing to spend money, you have all sorts of options to pick from. Ask five editors what to use and each will give you a different answer. Most will just recommend the program that they learned on. The big three are Audition by Adobe, Pro Tools by Avid, and Logic Pro X by Apple. The first two have free trials, so start there and figure out what you like best.

Hosting

Where is your podcast going to live?

Before it can make it onto iTunes, your podcast needs to be hosted somewhere. There are many ways to do this from building your pod a website on services like Squarespace or Wix. Another option is to use to use the music / audio sharing service Soundcloud.

My favorite option for hosting is a service called Simplecast. Simplecast makes uploading and distributing your podcast… well, simple. For about 10 bucks a month Simplecast will host as many episodes as you can make, provides you with an RSS feed to submit to iTunes, and provides you with nifty perks like embeddedable players for social media.

But by far one of the best features of Simplecast is their analytics. They provide you with how many downloads each episode gets, where those downloads are coming from, and what service your audience is listening on (whether it be Pocketcast, Apple’s podcasting app, or the embedded player you just tweeted out).

I hope that helps you on your podcasting journey. Now get out there and start making content!

TechCrunch Gift Guide 2018 banner


[inline-ad]

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tech News

This is the real voice behind Google Assistant

Published

on

When using Google Assistant, most of us don’t even consider who the voice is coming from — after all, it’s artificial intelligence, not a real person. Our virtual assistants, be it Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, are always at our beck and call, but we (for the most part) remain well-aware of the fact that they’re just lines of code and intricate algorithms. But how would you feel if you knew that Google Assistant has a very human backstory?

Tada Images/Shutterstock

In an interview with The Atlantic, James Giangola, the lead conversation and persona designer at Google, spoke about the Assistant at great length. When the team set out to create its AI-based assistant, they knew that the line between a cool, futuristic feature and a mildly creepy if uncanny voice bot is very, very thin. Google Assistant was never meant to seem human — that would just be disturbing — but she was meant to be just human enough to make us feel comfortable. To achieve that elusive feeling of somewhat reserved comfort, Giangola and his team went to great lengths to perfect the Assistant.

You’d think that just hiring a skilled voice actor would be enough, but there was much more to consider than just finding a pleasant voice. James Giangola set out on a quest to make the Google Assistant sound normal and to hide that alien feeling of speaking to a robot. In order to do this, he made up a lengthy backstory for the Assistant.

A robot with an extensive backstory

Yasin Hasan/Shutterstock

When searching for the right voice actress and then training her later on, The Atlantic notes that James Giangola came up with a very specific backstory for the AI. He did so because he wanted Google Assistant to appear real, and in order to give it a distinct personality, he gave the voice actress a lengthy background on the Assistant. First and foremost, the Assistant comes from Colorado, which gives her a neutral accent.

She comes from a well-read family and is the youngest daughter of a physics professor (who has a B.A. in art history from Northwestern University, no less) and a research librarian. She once worked for “a very popular late-night-TV satirical pundit” as a personal assistant. She was always a smart kid, she won $100,000 on the Kids Edition of “Jeopardy.” Oh, and she also likes kayaking. Let’s not forget: She’s not real.

The need to create such a specific backstory may seem questionable, and it actually was questioned by James Giangola’s colleagues. However, Giangola was able to prove his point during the audition process. When a colleague asked him how does anyone even sound like they’re into kayaking, Giangola fired back: “The candidate who just gave an audition — do you think she sounded energetic, like she’s up for kayaking?” And she didn’t, which to Giangola meant that she wasn’t the right voice.

Google aimed for ‘upbeat geekiness’

Phone with Google Assistant

sdx15/Shutterstock

Aside from nailing the exact tone of her voice, which The Atlantic described as “upbeat geekiness,” the Assistant had to be trained to sound human not just by voice, but also by speech patterns and rhythms. In the interview, James Giangola talks about some of the different small changes that were made to take the Assistant from robotic to almost natural.

To illustrate the example, Giangola played a recording in which the AI had to contradict a user who wanted to book something on June 31. It had to be done in a delicate, natural-sounding manner that still delivers the required information. When prompted, the Assistant replied: “Actually, June has only 30 days,” achieving the level of vocal realism Giangola was looking for.

Although the Assistant’s intricate backstory may seem overkill, it seems to have helped Google find the right voice actress. According to Tech Bezeer, the main voice of the Assistant is Antonia Flynn, who was cast back in 2016. However, Google is not very forthcoming with information about who exactly voices each version of the Assistant, so this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The information originates from Reddit, where a user was able to track Flynn down based on her voice, but only Google knows whether she really is the friendly AI inside our mobile devices.

Continue Reading

Tech News

Microsoft’s post-Windows Phone vision leaks, but don’t get your hopes up

Published

on

While Microsoft’s Windows Phone ambitions are well and truly dead at this point, there was a time when the company was plotting a follow-up to the ill-fated mobile operating system. That follow-up was known internally as Andromeda OS, and it was being developed as the operating system for the Surface Duo. Sadly, Microsoft’s plan to create a version of Windows for dual-screen devices never saw the light of day, but today we’re getting a look at an internal build of Andromeda OS and what could have been.

Image: Microsoft

That look comes from Zac Bowden at Windows Central, who managed to get a build of Andromeda OS up and running on a Lumia 950. Even though Andromeda OS was intended for the Surface Duo, Microsoft apparently conducted internal testing on Lumia 950 devices, making it a solid choice for this hands-on.

In both his write-up and the video you see embedded below, Bowden is very clear that this is not some leak of a work-in-progress mobile operating system. Andromeda OS is dead and not in active development, so there’s no real hope of seeing a more fully-featured version launch on Microsoft’s mobile hardware at any point in the future. Despite that rather grim reality, this is a good look at the progress Microsoft made before it ultimately decided to ship the Surface Duo with Android.

Though the hands-on shows us an operating system that is very rough-around-the-edges and somewhat clunky, it’s immediately obvious that Microsoft planned Andromeda OS with inking capabilities at the center. For instance, the lock screen doubles as an inking space, allowing users to jot quick notes down on it that persist until they’re erased or the lock screen is cleared entirely.

Just as well, unlocking the device takes you to a home screen that also doubles as a journal. As with the lock screen, you can use this page to take notes, but you can also do things like paste stuff from the clipboard or insert an image for markup. Having the phone unlock to what is essentially a blank canvas instead of a home screen full of app icons is an interesting idea and one that we’re probably never going to see on other devices.

Andromeda OS also features a Start menu reminiscent of Windows Phone, which means that it has those familiar Live Tiles. Bowden also shows off the various gesture controls included in Andromeda OS, swiping from the left to summon the aforementioned Start menu and from the right to bring up Cortana and notifications. Swiping down pulls up the Control Center, which will look familiar to those who are currently using Windows 11.

Image: Windows Central

We’re also given a brief demo of what Andromeda OS might have looked like on an actual dual-screen device, but since that demo is also on a Lumia 950, we sadly don’t get the full experience. Still, it’s interesting to see what might have been before Microsoft decided to can Andromeda OS entirely and switch to Android for the Surface Duo.

While there’s no chance we’ll see this project revived for future Microsoft hardware, there is always the chance that some individual features could make their way to the Surface Duo. Even then, it’s probably best to appreciate this as a relic of the past rather than something that might inform Microsoft’s future efforts, as disappointing as that may be for those who miss Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile.

Continue Reading

Tech News

Google just got terrible news in Europe – and it could get much worse

Published

on

Google was just hit by some very bad news coming from Europe, but the news may be even worse for website owners than for Google itself. In an unprecedented case, the court in Austria has just ruled that Google Analytics is in violation with the European data protection laws. As a result, Google Analytics has been made illegal in Austria.

Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

It all comes back to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) observed in Europe. Implemented in 2018, GDPR was created to give European citizens more control over their personal data, both online and offline. Unfortunately, the GDPR and US surveillance laws just do not mix.

According to a decision made in 2020 by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU,) policies that force website providers in the US to provide personal user data to authorities are against the GDPR. While this may not seem that related to Google Analytics at the first glance, it very much is. Some of the information readily collected by US providers is in direct violation with the GDPR, which in theory means that these websites would have to stop collecting private information in order to legally operate within Europe. In practice, it seems that not much has changed since 2018.

Google Analytics is now completely illegal in Austria

Prior to 2020, a law called the Privacy Shield was in place that allowed European data to be transferred to the United States. However, the shield was invalidated by the CJEU on July 16, 2020. Since then, US-based websites were not allowed to transfer the data of European citizens to the US. Of course, this only applies to data that falls under the GDPR, which only includes identifiable information about any given person. However, according to FieldFisher, this also includes IP addresses, as that is regarded as an “online identifier.”

Regardless of the 2020 ruling made by the CJEU, many providers continued to send personal data to the US — including Google Analytics. As stated by Max Schrems, honorary chair of NOYB, an European non-profit focused on digital rights, “Instead of actually adapting services to be GDPR compliant, US companies have tried to simply add some text to their privacy policies and ignore the Court of Justice. Many EU companies have followed the lead instead of switching to legal options.”

The Austrian Data Protection Authority has now followed up on what the CJEU ruled back in 2020 and made the use of Google Analytics completely illegal. The ruling comes into effect immediately, so all the websites that service Austrian citizens need to act quickly in order to not be fined for violating the local laws.

What will the new court ruling change?

SB_photos/Shutterstock

Many companies that operate in Europe will now have to decide between continuing to use Google Analytics and swapping to an alternative website traffic tool. Refusing to comply may result in hefty fines. However, it could be that providers will continue to ignore the European laws and risk the fines: After all, not every such business will be caught or reported. If caught, the price could be high: NOYB has described a case where the Irish Data Protection Commission issued a fine of 225 million euro on WhatsApp for violating data protection laws.

Ultimately, US-based companies will have to think of workarounds for European privacy laws. Simply hosting customer data in Europe would be helpful, although this would of course limit the type of data that can be freely collected and distributed. For the time being, websites that continue to use Google Analytics will need to obtain consent from each visitor prior to collecting any data.

The choice to ban Google Analytics in Austria may be the first step in a larger revolution. Other countries in the European Union are likely to follow, so while Austria may be the first bit of bad news for Google, there is likely much more to come.

Continue Reading

Trending