You have decided on a topic. You have decided on who will participate in creating your podcast. By yourself or with others, the next step is the same. You need a space to create, record and produce. They take many forms, and mine is not the be all and end all. In fact, it’s very much in a state of flux at the moment, but that’s perfect. It means I can show you bare bones techniques as well as hint at future enhancements.

Making the most of a loft bed’s space.

Monitor, microphone, laptop, and always something to drink nearby.
Yes, that is Neville Longbottom’s wand. Why do you ask ;)?

A motley assortment of pillows, blankets, towels, and a fold-out sleep pad.
Sound deadening?
Now you’re catching on ;). 

For starters, here’s a look at my “creative space”. I have a small bedroom/office that’s what we lovingly refer to as “the island of misfit toys room” in that it has an odd shape due to being over a stairwell. It’s a small room, and space comes at a premium, so recently I invested in a simple loft bed with an under-the-bed desk. This particular version comes courtesy of Ikea (their Sväta Loft Bed and Desk). The bed is helpful for being a crash point during late nights or early mornings when I either need to be up very late or very early and don’t want to disturb the rest of the house. The bed also offers another interesting benefit; the pillows, blankets, and towels on top of it are actively used when I record a show. Curious? I was hoping you might be :).
If you own a MacBookPro, you may be surprised to learn that it has a good quality built in microphone. You could record with it, but you’d need to be extra careful to isolate the laptop, and then invest in a separate wireless keyboard and mouse so as to not disturb it or make any sudden movements. For short work, such as recording intro and outro messages, or very short spoken clips, this is doable. I do it on occasion when I’m outside of my home setup and I don’t want to drag everything with me. Likewise, at times like that, I use the microphone and voice recorder app on my iPhone, but that’s way down there on my personal preference. To get the best sound, I prefer a dedicated microphone. More to the point, I prefer a microphone that I can move or reposition as I see fit. To that end I use a combination of the following:
Depending on the room that you are in, you may have a lot of natural reverb, or you may have carpet and drapes that help to muffle ambient sounds. I like to go a couple of steps further in that I take several pillows and a fold out sleeping pad to make a much more “acoustically dead” space for when I speak. I also take a large towel and I put it over my hands when I use the keyboard and mouse. It doesn’t muffle all sound, but it quiets those movements down a lot. Remember, the fewer artifacts that you record, the less tinkering you will have to do later with silencing or trying to even out the sound recording.
A few strategically placed pillows, a sleeping pad and a towel, and we are off to the races!
Another very important piece of equipment to have, at least to me, is a good full ear set of studio monitors (or you can be normal and just call them headphones 😉 ). I’ve been using the same pair for many years (Audio-Technica ATH-M40fs Studiophones), and I hope they never break. They cup the ear and they are great at preventing sound leakage. That’s important when you get up close to a microphone, as you don’t want other people’s conversations to be invading your recording. I also like this particular model because it has a long cord, so if I need to get up to move something, I don’t have to take them off mid recording.
Blue Snowball ice, Ringer Shock Mount, Audio-Technica Studiophones and a pop filter, all mounted to a Rode Swing Arm.
GEEK TRICK: There are two enhancements that are on the horizon for me. First is that, while the pillows and pad are effective and cheap options, they take up a fair amount of space and are not very customizable. To that end, a project I have in the works is to make a set of hanging “gobos”, or pieces of sound deadening material that I can position exactly where I need them to provide optimum sound isolation. The second is to get something larger than my iPhone that I can use when doing on-air fact checks or reference checks. The keyboard works, as does the mouse, but again, noisy. What is much less so? An iPad or Android tablet. Plenty of room to see what I need to direct questions or comments, but very little noise to pick up on the microphone.
So there you have it. In case you have ever wondered what my current recording space looks like, at the moment, it looks like this. I hope to soon show some improvements and enhancements, but for a new podcaster, this method is effective, inexpensive, and takes up little space. Plus, you get to sleep on it later :). Three cheers for multitasking!
Do you like the approach? Do you think it’s silly? Can you suggest improvements? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave comments below. Next time, we’ll talk about what you do after you’ve recorded your masterpiece.