This week I’ll walk you through why my Chit Chat Across the Pond recording with Doug Ingram didn’t have the audio quality I had hoped for. I’ll tell you about some reliable waterproof containers for your water adventures. I’ll answer a Dumb Question about whether iWork document passwords are secure. I’ll give you a tool to help you figure out whether you’ve got 32-bit applications to worry about before going to macOS Catalina. And believe it or not, I will tell you how I think my video streaming/CPU slowdown problems are finally over.
Hi, this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Apple Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Apple bias. Today is Sunday, September 15, 2019, and this is show number 749.
Chit Chat Across the Pond
Doug Ingram joins us to talk about what he calls Nightscape Photography, which is a combination of astral photography (photographing the stars) and photographing of the surrounding landscape. His photographs of the Milky Way with the landscape are absolutely breathtaking. Doug explains his gear, the settings on his camera and the surprisingly little he does to edit his photos after the shoot. He also talks to how far he’s willing to drive in a single night to capture these amazing shots.
You can find this episode in the Chit Chat Across the Pond or Chit Chat Across the Pond Lite feed in your podcatcher of choice, or you can listen right at podfeet.com episode #608.
Before you listen to this episode I want to explain something about the recording. I was in San Diego at Lindsay’s house, using my fancy, new setup for remote recording. I had my Zoom H4n Pro with my fancy, new SM-58 microphone. I bought this gear so I could have really good audio while on the road. But what you’re going to hear from me in this recording isn’t good at all.
Let’s walk through what I did right and at the end I’ll tell you what I missed.
The Zoom can be used as a mobile recorder, using an SD card to store the recording, but this only works if the other person is in the room with you. For recording someone in a separate location, I use the Zoom as a USB interface for the SM58 mic that has an XLR connector.
I plugged the SM58 into the Zoom on XLR connector 1 of 2. I then plugged the Zoom into my Mac using a mini-USB to USB-A cable and then a USB-A to USB-C adapter. As soon as you plug the Zoom into a powered USB port like the one on my Mac, the Zoom powers up.
The Zoom then shows on screen a cryptic little menu that you need to scroll through to tell it to connect as a USB interface. I remembered to do this properly.
Once I performed that connect dance, I was able to see the Zoom as a microphone in multiple places on my Mac. I could see it in Sound Preferences, in Loopback where I route my audio, and in Audio Hijack where I actually record. I correctly set the Zoom as the audio input device to Audio Hijack.
Another step I have to remember to do is to open Audio Midi Setup and tell it to set the Zoom to record at 44.1KHz instead of the 48KHz to which it defaults for some annoying reason. If I’d forgotten this step, you’d have heard me sound like high-pitched chipmunk. I did not forget this step and I set it correctly.
I am a firm believer in two more steps for every person making recordings of any type. I monitor my own voice as I’m talking so I can hear if I’m peaking, if I’m squeaking my chair, if playing with a pen top is coming through the recording, if the garage door opening just got recorded or the dog jingling her collar has been recorded. I also always always always make a test recording and I listen to it before proceeding with the recording.
I did monitor my voice and I did check my recording and it sounded awful. It sounded like I was coming from my internal mic. I went through every step again. I checked the physical connection. I checked Loopback. I checked Audio Hijack. I checked my input in System Preferences. I checked and rechecked and could not find the root cause.
I even asked Doug if he thought I sounded like I was coming through my good mic. That’s not a good test since the Doug was listening through a compressed, internet-streaming service, and he hasn’t ever heard my voice coming through either mic via this path. Bart would be able to tell the difference (and has often let me know if I’ve got it set wrong), but a first-time interviewee has no frame of reference.
I spent about 10 minutes doing all of these checks and rechecks and decided I must just be judging it harshly because I was listening with small earbuds instead of my over-the-ear headphones that I normally use at home.
One more fun part of this problem. It was 97°F outside (that’s 36°C) so the air conditioning was blasting away at Lindsay’s house. Even if I could have convinced the rest of the household to roast on my behalf, I couldn’t have stood to have it off.
While recording I could tell that the AC was coming through on the line because I was monitoring it. I use an Audio Unit Dynamics Processor in Audio Hijack which allows me to remove background noise when I’m not actually speaking. There’s nothing to be done to get rid of the AC while I was talking, but at least Doug would sound good. I rode that Dynamics Processor constantly but was still sad that the AC was so awful while I was talking.
After recording, I listened and I was convinced that my voice was coming through the internal mic but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how that could be! I had checked the inputs over and over again and I was positive I had it set to the Zoom H4n Pro.
I slept on it and in the morning figured out what I did wrong. I forgot one hardware setting. Remember I said that I’d plugged the SM58 into XLR input 1? Well, I never told the Zoom which input to listen to. By default the Zoom chooses its own internal mics, not the one or more mics plugged into its XLR inputs. There’s a little button I forgot to push to flip to the XLR input.
That explains why all of the software settings were happily reporting that I was using the Zoom as the input, because I was. I just hadn’t told the Zoom the right mic to use.
I bet a lot of you are wondering why I don’t just go back to using the ATR2100 USB mic I used to use. I have a few reasons and perhaps they wouldn’t be enough to make you go through this much trouble but they’re good enough for me. I am always trying to find ways to up my game in podcasting, especially in getting my audio as good as possible.
Of course this backfired on me for this particular recording, but I learned a lot in figuring this out. And learning tech is what the podcasts are all about at the Podfeet Podcasts, right? I think the learning new things part probably outweighs every other motivation when I’m creating the shows.
Support the Show
At the end of every Chit Chat Across the Pond, I ask the audience whether they’ve noticed that the shows don’t have any ads in them. That’s because the Podfeet Podcasts are supported by you, the listeners. If you find value in the content you get here, please consider one of the following options to give back a little.
You can become a patron by going to podfeet.com/patreon and donating a little bit each week to the show. You can go to podfeet.com/paypal and give a one-time donation if you’d rather. If you don’t have any extra cash lying around, consider using the Amazon Affiliate Links that are included whenever I talk about a product on the show. If you have some spare time and would like to give a review over on iTunes for the NosillaCast, Chit Chat Across the Pond, Chit Chat Across the Pond Lite or Programming By Stealth, that helps more people learn about the shows and more NosillaCastaways is always fun. Thank you all for your help in supporting the shows.
Clarify Beta 64-bit
Believe it or not, there’s a beta version of Clarify available now that’s 64-bit! Blue Mango Learning is not going to start selling it again or supporting but if you already own it, you can download it here:
Don’t click the blue button, that’s the 32-bit version. Click the link that says 64-bit beta!
That’s going to wind this up for this week. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on twitter @podfeet. Remember, everything good starts with podfeet.com/. podfeet.com/patreon, podfeet.com/facebook, podfeet.com/slack! And if you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.