Starting a podcast at your church

Church Podcasting: Starting a Podcast at Your Church

Ready for church podcasting? Are you starting a podcast at your church? Where do you start? Hopefully, this will help.

In my last post, I discussed some of the reasons your church should be thinking about podcasting. I also shared some ideas for ways to use podcasting to reach new people and help the people you already know grow in their faith.

But, where do you start? That is where I left off in my last post. The first step is figuring out what you want to do, at least at first. When making decisions on the technical end, your choices will depend on what you are trying to do. For instance, the technical needs of a podcast with one host and no guests are much different from a podcast with two hosts and multiple guests. Or, a podcast that will be recorded in an office as opposed to one recorded at various locations every week.

Once you have a basic idea of what you are trying to do, it is time to start inventorying what equipment you may already have and considering what you will need to purchase, repurpose, or borrow.

Let’s look at some of the decisions you will need to make.

Church Podcasting Decision 1 – Computer vs. Standalone Recorder.

Access to a computer is a necessary part of creating a podcast, but it is one of two options for recording the audio. In addition to recording directly to a computer, there are also standalone recorders that can capture your sound. Which direction you go will depend on what you are trying to do.

Many podcasters, just getting started, find using a computer a more budget-friendly recording option. No matter which option you choose, you are going to need a microphone. If you have a decent computer, you may get away without buying anything else. Even though standalone recorders start at around $100, that might not be in the budget right now. However, if portability is an issue, standalone recorders are a great choice.

Church Podcasting Decision 2 – USB vs. Analog Microphone

You will see that, as we move down the list, your decisions may become more limited by your previous choices. For instance, one of the options here is not available if you are going to use a standalone recorder.

USB Microphones for Church Podcasting

Microphones are simple devices. They convert the sound waves in the air to electrical impulses that can be sent over a wire. Things get more complicated when a computer comes into the mix. To get the sound into a computer, the electrical impulses need to be converted to digital signals that can be understood by the Mac or PC. There are a couple of ways to do this. With the USB microphone, the analog to digital converter (DSP) is built into the microphone itself. That means you can plug the mic into a USB port, the computer will recognize it, and you can record into the machine’s software.

Pros and Cons of USB Microphones for Church Podcasting:

Pros:

Inexpensive – You can get a decent one for around $50.

Portable – Analog microphones can be quite portable as well, but the USB mic’s one-piece design makes it easy to move around.

Easy – If the world of audio recording is new to you, modern USB mics make things simple.

Cons:

Quality – Most USB microphones don’t match the quality of more expensive analog microphones.

Flexibility – If you want to use a stand-alone recorder or plug one of these into a mixing console, you are out of luck.

Analog Microphones for Church Podcasting

Shure SM-58 for church podcasting.
Shure SM-58

This can be confusing because, technically, a USB mic is an analog mic as well, it just has a built-in digital signal processor (DSP). When we talk about analog microphones, we are talking about mics with no built-in DSP.

So, how do you get the audio? If you are using a stand-alone recorder, you can plug one of these in. You will need to make sure you have the right connection and the right cable but more on that later. If you are using a computer, you will need to add another piece, a digital signal processor or USB interface. I will go into these later.

Pros and Cons of Analog Mics for Church Podcasting

Pros:

Options – There are way more analog mics on the market than USB, so you have a lot more choices.

Flexibility – You don’t need a computer to use one of these. They can plug into DSPs, field-recorders, mixing boards, etc. Again, you need to make sure you have the right connections.

Cons:

Cost – You can certainly purchase an analog mic cheaper than a USB mics. But, if you are using a computer to record, you need to take into account the price of the DSP. Also, once you enter into the world of analog mics, you will find that you can find inexpensive products but, if you want quality, it will cost you.

Complexity – Again, unless you are plugging into a stand-alone recorder, you will need to purchase and set up a separate signal processor or USB interface. It is not that hard to do, but it may scare some people off.

Church Podcasting Decision 3 – Condenser vs. Dynamic Microphones

Sennheiser MK4 Condenser Microphone
Sennheiser MK4 Condenser Microphone

In case you thought the microphone decisions were over, sorry. You have another decision to make: condenser vs. dynamic.

I am not going to go into the technical differences between the two. If you want to know, check out this article from Shure Microphones: http://www.shure.com/americas/support/find-an-answer/difference-between-a-dynamic-and-condenser-microphone

In case you didn’t read that whole article, let me explain four things you need to know about the differences between the two. It comes down to sensitivity, power, durability, and price.

Sensitivity – Condenser microphones are much more sensitive than dynamic mics. That means that they pick up more sound. This is great if you are trying to capture every nuance of a voice. This is less great if you are recording in a noisy location or if your room acoustics aren’t great. Condenser mics will tend to pick up a lot of echo in a room that isn’t sound treated.

Power – Condensor microphones require something called phantom power. Most digital signal processors or USB interfaces and stand-alone recorders will include this. It travels over the microphone cable to power the mic. If you are considering a USB microphone, this won’t be an issue.

Durability – Dynamic microphones tend to be a lot sturdier than their condenser counterparts. Results will vary but, if you are in a situation where a mic might get dropped, the dynamic unit has a better chance of survival.

Price – Microphone prices vary wildly. It is difficult to compare in an “apples to apples” sort of way but, due to their construction, dynamic microphones tend to be less expensive.

What Should I Choose?

As you can see, there is a lot to think about. However, once you consider what you are going to be doing and how much you have to spend, the choices get a little narrower. Perhaps it would be helpful to look more closely at some setup options. Check out these pages dedicated to podcasting equipment:

Church Podcasting Microphones

Church Podcasting Stand-Alone Recorders

Church Podcasting Digital Signal Processors

In my next post, I will compare some of the popular options for software. Whether you are recording directly to a computer or using a stand-alone recorder, you will need a way to edit, process, and encode your files.

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