Saturday, April 10, 2010

Creating a Podcast or My Introduction to the H4 Handy Recorder by Zoom

On March 17th, I started writing the following blog post. At the time I was sitting on the couch in the NiCHE room on the first floor of the Social Science Centre at UWO like I have almost every Wednesday afternoon since January. I had just retrieved a box containing the H4 Handy Recorder, its various cords, power adapters, and a rather large navy blue and white manual. I was completely convinced that I needed to know all of the ins and outs of the recorder in order to do a good job recording and totally overwhelmed by that glued together mound of paper. The following passage is what came of that:
  As part of one of my interactive exhibit design projects I’m learning how to record a podcast. Specifically, how to record a podcast with the H4 Handy Recorder from Zoom. I think its going to be a lot of fun- once I finally get there. At the moment, however, I’ve barely hit page 12 of the manual and I’ve already encountered a concept that Zoom seems to think I should understand but I’ve never heard of. 
What on earth is the difference between on-mic and off-mic recording? As far as I can tell from the diagram I’ve been given it might be the difference between recording one instrument instead of the whole band. Another option is that it is the difference between recording instruments that are mic-ed or amped over acoustic. One way or the other I figure we’ll be recording our interviews between 30-50 cm from the mic. Next step, making sure it actually sounds good. The H4 Handy Recorder has A LOT of options. On the front there are the track buttons. Apparently this thing can record up to four tracks at a time and this would allow me to interact with the tracks on the recorder. I’m assuming this is to change the recording properties on each track though who knows I might correct myself before the end of this class. One way or the other I don’t need multitrack recording, so, its interesting but totally beyond my scope. There are also several indicator lights and a menu button with playback controls. For me, this may be all I need to worry about. I’m a little concerned however about the jog dial and the three gain switches.  I need to check what exactly mic gain is. On a positive note, it doesn’t matter what it is as long as I follow Zoom’s suggestion that I adjust gain so that the display reads just below zero. I’m assuming this means that the input will be loud enough.
There is an almost funny feeling of panic through that. I guess I was feeling a bit of pressure. I’d just scheduled my six classmates into 30 minute interview slots starting the following Friday and I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. 
Thankfully, recording my podcast was one of the easiest things I’ve done in awhile. Part of the ease I think came from the fact that my MacBook Pro comes, like most do, with iLife and GarageBand preinstalled and earlier in the semester I decided I wanted a section of the Fraggle Rock theme for my ringtone so I’d played a bit and was generally familiar with the program. The Handy Recorder is designed to not only function as a portable/handheld recorder but also it can be connected as a peripheral mic to a computer using a Digital Audio Workstation like GarageBand. Later on the evening of the 17th I was able to figure out how to connect the recorder to my computer by browsing the manual for a minute or two (its on page 80 if you’re looking) and then through trial and error managed to figure out how to use it with GarageBand. Over the course of the next week or so I recorded interviews ranging from nine to seventeen minutes long which I’m hoping to put up on my website after I’ve edited them- written a jingle (if I’m feeling creative though thats unlikely to happen this late in the semester) and added my own brief introduction to them. I’ll post as soon as they’re available.

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