Behind The Scenes of The Daily Byte

Recording a podcast is hard. Recording a daily podcast is even harder. I started The Daily Byte  back in January and 80 episodes later, it’s still a hobby, but it’s recorded way more efficiently than before.I’ve worked to piece a few pieces of gear and hack some things along the way to make fast, easy, and get every episode out in a timely manner and as high quality as possible. Here’s how I do it.

Why Daily?

I honestly don’t know. I’ve always loved the idea of doing a tech news podcast and the daily part of it just sounded like a challenge I had to try. I’ve always been a news junkie and especially into tech news, so I knew this is something I always wanted to try. There’s really no good reason for it, other than the fact that now that I’m doing it, there’s no turning back.

The Gear

At the heart of any podcast is the microphone. There are tons of options at lots of different price points. I’ve used lots of different mics: the Samson C01U, Audio Technica AT2020, and then for many years, I settled on the Sterling ST-51. It’s a condenser mic that cost me about $100 when I bought it from a local audio shop and I have loved it ever since. I’ve seen it used to record both vocals and instruments but my time with it has been strictly for voice recording for podcasts. It has been an awesome mic, and if you listened to the first dozen or so episodes, that’s the mic you heard.

Recently I got a big of an upgrade, moving to the RODE Procaster. I love the way this mic sounds, and with a bit of processing, it has that nice “warm radio” sound I’ve always wanted. I have the mic mounted on a RODE PSA-1 mic arm so I can have it easily accessible when I want to record, and out of the way when I don’t. I’ve also used one from Heil Sound in the past before I got this one. Both do the same, though I do prefer the Heil model since it has a little strip that hides the XLR cable. Either way, doing a daily podcast requires lots of prep besides getting gear setup, so the less I have to do, like building a mic stand every day, the better. Having the mic arm keeps thing clean and keeps the microphone always in reach.

A microphone is only as good as the interface it plugs into and this is an area where extreme penny pinching may hurt you. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used this $35 USB interface for months and it worked out just fine, but it was way less reliable than interfaces that cost a bit more. I used a Scarlet Focusrite for four years and I absolutely loved that interface. It had high-quality pre-amps and was very reliable and rugged. Though it did end up breaking on me going into year #5….

Recently, I moved up with another piece of gear from RODE that is admittedly very overkill for my little one-man podcast but has made post-production much easier. The RODECaster Pro is the ultimate all-in-one podcast machine. With 4 XLR inputs, you can mix 4 microphones, plus USB audio, and the ability to take phone calls over Bluetooth or a TTRS connection. If none of that makes sense, that’s okay, but for those looking to podcast with a few-cohosts, this thing is perfect.The RODECaster pro not only has great built-in preamps but also has onboard processing that gives my microphone that little extra oomph when recording.

The board also has 8 sound effect buttons that can fire off an audio jingle or sound effect with the press of a button. Since the podcast is one take, I use this feature to play the music bed and then mix it under my microphone. This saves me time from having to go in after the fact, add the audio to the recording, adjust levels, etc.

There’s a lot more this thing can do, including multi-track recording, auto mix minus, and recording to SD just to name a few, but this isn’t a review of the board. This piece is instrumental in mixing, processing, and recording the audio every day.

Do it live….

I hate editing. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I don’t hate editing, but video editing is my full-time job. I don’t want to edit when I don’t have to and I do everything I can to make this podcast recording podcast as simple as possible. Though the podcast isn’t recorded live, it is recorded live-to-tape, or in this case, live-to-recording. There are no edits, there are no level adjustments after the fact. The entire podcast is done, for better or worse, in one take. Of course, the exception to this is that I do have the ability to re-record, which I often do, but what you hear as the final episode was recorded in one take.

When I first started recording this podcast, I would cut and edit and fix any errors. It was much easier just to be able to re-do sentences when I flubbed, but where’s the fun in that? I also found that it just took up too much time, and if I could just get it (mostly) right in one take, I wouldn’t have to edit. Being able to mix the music track with my mic from the RODECaster Pro also helps makes all of this much easier. I don’t have to do any editing after I stop recording. All I have to do is export and upload.

The Post Production

Once that red record light goes off, I’m almost done. As far as the podcast goes, a simple export from GarageBand and an upload to Anchor is all that’s needed. After writing a few sentences for the description and an ad-insert, if needed, the podcast is pushed live immediately or scheduled to go live at 5 PM Pacific. But I’m not yet…

A few weeks ago I started posting a written version of the show here on my website. It’s definitely an experiment, partly because I wanted to see if it would have any effect on downloads, and also because I just wanted to make this site more dynamic and add some new content. Though there haven’t been any apparent effects, it has been good for my discipline.  Typically the basis of the post is the script of the recording, but publishing them has forced me to tighten up my writing and work to make this website accessible. On a side note: SquareSpace is pretty awful for blogging, but being able to turn this site from a portfolio to a dynamically updating daily blog while maintaining the ability to show off my other work has been great.

A quick copy and paste, a bit of formatting,  and I’m ready to hit publish on the article. Once the podcast is live, I can pull the live link and embed it at the top of the post.