That other distracting echo

For a couple of weeks now, an acquaintance in Great Britain and I have been doing some foundation work for an across the Atlantic podcast. Part of this preparation was the exploration and cost analysis of various methods, the eventual downloading of Skype and Call Burner, and the playing around with those same programs.

The 5 hour time difference has been an obstacle to getting a test run going so far, so this afternoon I decided to see what I could do with my son, Jay.  Jay was home sick from school today, so we had plenty of time to get it all hooked up. We normally share a single microphone in a tripod, but I figured we’d use usb headset mics like I’ll use on Skype.  This was an adventure and a half, but a fun one.

So first, came the epiphany that you can’t really use two usb microphones plugged into one PC.  I should have known that, and as I read the reasons why online I gave myself a virtual kick. I used to be one of the more tech savvy people you’d meet.  However, time and circumstances have me simply more knowledgable than your average joe these days… I can follow most explanations and problem solve a lot of things.  But, I’m falling behind.  Anyway, I thought I could… I should have known I couldn’t.

So, I quickly set up a second Skype account on my laptop and had Jay sitting next to me plugged into the laptop as I called him from my desktop.  Not exactly New Jersey to London, but for all I know the signals going between our computers may very well have travelled the world to get from one PC to the machine 2 feet away.

After some minor tweaking (and Jay figuring out how to call me… which he did several times during the “tweaking” process) we were able to communicate via Skype.

So, the plan was to do a Mystery Science Theater 3000 type thing.  Now that we were on different PC’s, Jay couldn’t hear the sound from mine (simple fix?  I’ll have to look into it.) So we decided to go to the mythbusters website and simultaneously watch an episode and comment.  I did manage to get it all synched nicely, but the episode was a bit of a clunker.  We wanted to see a full episode and instead we got… “here’s a myth, it’s busted… here’s another myth, it’s sort of true… ,” no actual testing.

And that’s when we realized, Call Burner showed the phrase “Not Recording.”  Ooops.  Let’s see what happens when we click “Record’ (again?  didn’t we click it before?).  Wow… sound meters come to life, the clock starts moving… yep, we just missed 15 minutes of “quality content.”  Ha, well.. luckily we didn’t lose much, and Jay was still interested.

However, I wasn’t going to risk losing him completely and test the sound quality, so we went on and recorded 5 minutes or so.  Mainly about, but casual conversation in general.  Jay’s got a real charm… if he ends up wanting to do this more seriously one day, he could be a very popular web personality.

Anyway, so we wrapped it up, and it was time to check the audio.  Typically Jay’s volume vacilates a lot during the recording (he fidgets and moves closer and farther from the mic, plus he gets louder when he’s excited), and we had some of that here – but less than usual with the mic fixed 2 inches from his face. What we did have was a dramatic difference in signal strength.  Jay’s mic had a slight hum and seemed to be picking me up, as my voice echos in the recording.

Again, for a former deejay, I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about how to mix audio as I wish I was.  And I just don’t have the time to invest in learning right now, but I think I’m going to soon because I’m fairly sure I could’ve made some edits and improved the quality.  It’s not awful, espcially for a Jay and Dad podcast, but I’ve got some work to do before I can make a ready for prime time quality podcast with Skype.

Let me qualify that I do fully understand and agree that using a mixer and non-usb mics would be much easier. In fact, that’s where my skill set leads me…. that’s what I’m familiar with.  But I’m looking to go budget here, so for now… I’m going to try to make Skype work. Luckily there are many excellent resources available to help me figure this all out. And then if it is the right thing to do, I’ll make the investment in the “proper” hardware.

So Jay and Dad’s Podcast episode 004 is going up later tonight, with a slight echo, and like I said to Jay a few minutes ago – it may not be perfect, but we’ll learn from it and the next one will be that much better.

Contributed by: Scott Copperman (Guest Author)


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