Podcast Live Interview Recording Test

Well, it was time to do a quick and dirty test of theory. How hard (or easy) is it, really, to record an iChat audio chat session into GarageBand so you can create a Podcast.

Dan Ross was kind enough to participate in a 10 minute experiment to see just what one Podcast newbie (me) can do with iChat and Garageband.

After hooking up the mic in my home office/studio, I figured out how to tell iChat how to connect, and I rang up Dan from my buddy list.

To my pleasant surprise, it worked first time and I managed to record (with Dan's permission) our chat. I'm not suggesting this is how to go about creating or setting a real podcast, but it was interesting to test a theory. As time permits I might drop a post or two here as to what specifically was done in terms of setup and configuration but for now it's important to note:

  • The theory works: it really is dead easy to record an iChat audio or video session
  • Who can record: the person who initiates the iChat audio or video session records the content (you might hear some confusion between Dan and I as we ramble on about what we're trying to do
  • Export quality: you can control the export quality but it must be set in the GarageBand Preferences dialog first (Apple should fix that)

Other than that, it really boils down to playing around and a few things I noted:

Garageband inserts a chapter mark and head shot as each person speaks
Frankly I found this to be a pain in the butt as there were too many chapter marks and head shots. It became confusing to try and use them. I didn't delete them all for this test, but in production I'd nuke'm and insert my own

Graphic Quality
By default Garageband wants to scale all graphics to 300x300 (see pref's to modify that). It's a good approach and makes sense -- BUT -- the head shot that is captured from iChat to Garageband is at best 64x64 pixels and it looks HORRIBLE when scaled to 300x300. That scaling problem is no surprise, but as you'll see if you run the attached sample file, it's looks a lot better if you swap out for a higher quality image. Lesson: get a decent head shot from your guest before publishing the podcast (sorry Dan, I left yours in to illustrate that point). I can see myself wanting to spend a pretty large chunk of time to get just the right images to help supplement the story for a real podcast. For example, if you listen to the demo you'll see dialog box graphics that are empty -- in fact they should be the true screen capture of what we are discussing but I forgot to take that screen shot when we were recording! (proof a story board is a helpful tool!)

Post Editing
Like so many things, post editing is where the real fun is. I had a blast just playing around with sound effects and adding graphics. It's possible to create a really great sequence of images that help tell your audio story. I believe this method of communication can really help make a podcast much more interesting if the subject matter merits that approach. As so many things, it's easy to spend hours post editing just because one want's to fiddle. Garageband made it dead easy and fun! By the way, if you run the sample file here, you'll see some fun graphics. That's just me playing around -- but this is NOT a VIDEO podcast --- keep that mind, it's all still graphics at the start and end of the segment

Filei Downloads
In the interest of playing with the different export settings, I wrote out the file 4 different ways to test quality and file size. The overall segment run time is just under 10 minutes. In all cases the settings were adjust in the Preferences > Export panel in Garageband. I never modified the video settings (always high quality) but they have no effect when making Podcasts (they only come into play with Video Podcasts).

Playback Hint: if you play these back in iTunes, set the equalizer setting to Spoken Word; that trick will likely work with other spoken type podcasts you might subscribe to as well. Remember when you click on these links, the file may playback in your browser since they are all quicktime files. Played in the browser, the movie window is smaller than 300x300. You can Right + Click (Control + Click) on the links below to download the files to your hard drive. Double clicking the file on your hard drive will play the item back iTunes where the preview movie is larger.

MonoPodcastQuality quicktime movie file size 4.5MB
SpokenPodcastQuality quicktime movie file size 6.7 MB
MusicalPodcastQuality quicktime movie file size 11 MB
HighestPodcastQuality quicktime movie file size 15.3 MB

What did I learn?
Well, aside from what I've already pointed out ... I found this is FUN and a PRACTICAL business and family entertainment tool. My next 'real' podcast project (likely with the help of Doug Brown and Dan Ross) should prove to be something of much more substance. We'll be spending time creating a real story board, questions, and putting some thought to format and the like; translation is it won't be blind ramblings like the test sessions.

The simple truth is the best way to learn is to just try it. I'm a podcast newbie, I had never used GarabeBand for this before and I had never used iChat audio until the day I tried this test Laughing out loud If I can do it, you can too!

So, I hope others might find the sample files helpful --


Brian Huculak

A great experience

I think this was a great way to really find out how well this could be used to do a multi-chat podcast with Garageband 3. I really was impressed with how well it worked. I think when users start messing with it like we were that morning everyone gets into it a lot and really starts to enjoy and be inspired to do very creative things with it. Perhaps we can do it again.