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Making the Show!

We often get asked, “How to you make Astronomy Cast?”

The quick answer: Very carefully, with a lot of fiddling with wires :-)

Here is the real answer:

Pre-Show: We collect all your show ideas and questions into a Google notebook (along with our own, far less numerous ideas). About 24 hours before we record, we select that week’s topic from this collection. Pamela then collects thoughts and notes (especially the numbers she doesn’t store in her head), and puts them in the notebook as well.

Recording: Pamela and Fraser talk to each other over a live Google+ Hangout during recording sessions. Pamela records her track on an iMac using Garageband and an M-Audio Podcast Factory with its default microphone. Fraser, uses a Blue Snowball mic. He records in Audacity onto a MacBook Air. After an insane amount of audio switching, Fraser has finally found the audio setup that makes him happy.

By recording both of our audio locally, we create a final product that makes it sound like we’re in the same room.

Post Production: Fraser and Pamela transfer their locally recorded audio into a shared Dropbox account. Then our engineer Preston takes Pamela and Fraser’s separate tracks and mixes them in Garageband, removing the gaffs, sneezes, telephone rings, and moments of stupidity. The mixed tracks (without music) are then output without compression and the volume levels are fixed using The Levelator. The leveled audio is mixed with our intro and outro music, and output to iTunes where it is converted to a 64kbps mono mp3 with proper headers and album art.

When we travel, our recording apparatus varies. For simple interviews with groups around a table, or with schools, we use a Roland Edirol R-09. We also have an M-Audio Fast Track Pro and a pair of SHURE 8900 mics (this setup belongs to StarStryder.com, but Pamela plays and shares well with others). This is good for a 2 person dialogue when you want both people to have their own audio track.

All in all, we are happy with what we have, with the caveat that the Podcast Factory tends to be less sensitive than we’d wish, or introduces a background hiss when the gain is turned up.

If anyone has suggestions, please let us know in the comments!

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