July 10, 2005

A technical question.

Let's say you had a thrillingly exciting podcasting project in the works. You have three persons having a dialogue. How should you mike them? Should there be one microphone that can pick up all three? (If so, be specific if you can and recommend one.) Or should each person have a separate mike? (And if so, what would you recommend, both for the mike and for the way to feed them into one track?)


Jeff Harrell said...

Ideally, each participant should be on a different mike, mostly isolated from the other participants. That way you can bring each track into an editing workstation separately, then sync them up for the final mixdown. You can put participant A in the left channel, participant C in the right channel and participant B in the center, for example.

But that might be WAY more work than you're looking to do. I'm saying if you wanted to really blow it out, that's how I would do it.

Mark said...

If it's three people sitting around the table, I'd first blow $25 on a single omnidirectional mike such as Audio-Technica ATR97 (on Amazon) to see if that's good enough. There won't be any sense of spatial separation of speakers though since it's mono. (Make sure the jack is the same size as the recorder's input)

3-plus separate channels of recording and mixing could be a headache.

Mark said...

Better yet, email Lileks. I bet he'd have some good advice.

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark said...

Another idea: Get two omni tabletop mikes like the one above for spatial separation, then combine the two mono jacks into one stereo jack with an adapter from Radio Shack or AudioGear.com.

Timothy K. Morris said...

It's been a long time since I did any of this stuff, but I'd have to say one mike per person (There ae some really good, cheap "tie clip" mikes out there) and an inexpensive mixer, like this one:


And someone who is not participating in the discussion with a good set of headphones to monitor the recording and adjust levels.

Dave! said...

There are three approaches you can take:

The Easy Approach

Pic up a decent PZM microphone and plop it on the table. Have your subjects all sit around the table and talk. You can plug the microphone into your laptop/PC, iPod, mini-disc, etc. and record directly to it.

The result should be fairly decent audio, you can play with speaking levels and seating arrangements to get a decent mix. But you are very limited in what you can do in post. If someone is quiet, you can't bump their levels up... you are pretty much stuck with what you record.

Pros: Easy, least expensive, As Good as 90% of the Podcasts out there.

Cons: Doesn't sound as good; Editing/post production is not as easy

The Mid-Level Approach

The mid-level approach would be to mic each speaker with a decent lavaliere microphone. You can run those into an inexpensive mixer, and then take that into your recording device. That will give you better isolation for each speaker, and the mixer will let you adjust individual levels.

You still have one track of the recording, but the mixer will give you more control while you are recording, and you can do a lot of tweaking that way.

Pros: Better production values than the easy approach

Cons: A little more effort and cost

The Complicated Approach

Give each speaker a really good, vibration isolated condenser mic, run into a multi-track recorder. This will allow you to get a good, clean track for each speaker, and then import each track into your post-production software for the final mix. The result will be (well, can be) studio quality sound... very high production values.

It's also a pain in the butt if you aren't a recording engineer. The home technology has gotten very good, but you're still looking at three faily expensive microphones, and a recorder... Not too mention, more work in post.

Pros: Best production values; most editing/post production flexibility

Cons: Requires a lot of effort and expense.

No matter what approach, I highly recommend Audacity for post-production. Not only is it a cross-platform, robust tool, it's also free.

Transom also has some really excellent production resources:

Audacity Tutorial
Choosing a Microphone
Voice Processing

Okay, that's probably way more information than you wanted, but I was going insane working on my case note and needed a break. :)