TechDrops Podcast on Anchor

The TechDrops podcast is in it’s second season and features all manner of topics related to technology, including the maker culture and DIY movement.

TechDrops began as a collaboration between Maker Devin and Timbot while teaching design and computer programming at a Toronto college. Devin would clip audio from the livestream of the class, then combine it with thoughts and commentary. Season one followed Devin’s progress getting into web development, combined with notes about the industry and what it takes to become a developer from Timbot.

Season Two of Techdrops dove deep into maker culture and was joined by Maker Bryan, one of the instructors in the Junior Worldbuilders program at the TTLMakerspace. A graduate of New Media at Ryerson, Bryan brings a signature flair to season two, equally informative and entertaining to season one.

Techdrops is a great place to hear about local maker events, get information on new technology, and listen in on conversations about everything from shared workspace culture to the space program.

So How Do You Podcast?

Setting up a podcast can be as simple as recording into your phone and distributing it. One platform that makes it very easy to do is anchor.fm - the platform of choice for the Techdrops podcast. Anchor has some nice community features. For example, listeners to your podcast can use the Anchor app to record a question or comment and submit it to you. You can then play that question/comment back as part of your next recording to give your reply, and so achieve something very interactive, almost like a radio call-in show. This can help you build engagement with your audience.

If you’ve been podcasting for a little while and you’re enjoying it, you might consider investing in some gear that will up the quality of your production.

As a note - it is NOT necessary to have the most expensive gear for podcasting. There is definitely a steep curve related to what you spend and the difference you’ll hear in the final production. For that reason, look for a price-point that isn’t going to break you, and focus instead on establishing good production practices that you can realistically meet.

Almost any external microphone is going to do a better job than the microphone built into your laptop, or even your phone. And you have a lot of options these days. At one time wireless microphones, and particularly bluetooth microphones, were considered to be too poor for serious audio recording but they keep getting better. If wireless helps you to actually get in and produce your podcast, go for it.

For the Techdrops podcast, we use XLR based microphones, specifically Audio Technica AT2020. This are a good, dependable cardioid condenser microphones. It is a side-address microphone, which means that you direct your voice into the side of it rather than from the top. This style of microphone is great for a podcast, but obviously isn’t so useful for recording video because the microphone sits in front of the speaker’s face (so if you’re also going to be shooting video you might consider something like a shotgun microphone, or even lavalier microphones)

The word “cardioid” refers to the sensitivity pattern of the microphone - basically the direction it will pick up sound from. Cardioid describes a heart-shaped pattern that is fairly unidirectional. In other words it is fairly focussed in one direction, but not so much so as a shotgun microphone. This means you get fairly good elimination of background noise, but you and your guest still have a bit of range to move around in without having the audio drop off significantly.

Note that cardioid microphones do pick up some sound from immediately behind them, which is why it is good to have you and your guest placed a little bit apart and angled away from each other at about 45 degrees.

XLR refers to how the microphone connects to a recording device. It is a thick, heavy cable used in everything from stage-shows to television production. To use it you need a mixer or audio adapter than can handle an XLR connection. If you’re just getting started, you honestly don’t need XLR connectors. There are very good USB based options, but just be aware that both USB and wireless (via bluetooth) can sometimes suffer from a bit of noise due to electrical interference - random RF activity caused by electrical devices in your recording area - including your computer. This may cause trouble from time to time, but the decent quality and convenience of USB may make it worth it - no mixer needed, you can record straight into the computer.

For example, maker Devin mentioned above from season one records her podcast “Camera Eats First” using Marantz USB based microphones. They are simple to set up, good quality, come with a mounting arm, and plug straight into her macbook. All of this adds up to being able to consistently put out high-quality content week-after-week. That consistency is more important than any technical consideration.

Thinking About It? Do It.

If you’ve been thinking about trying your hand at podcasting, why not do it? The barier to entry has never been lower with many good quality inexpensive solutions for recording, and awesome platforms like Anchor to work with. Go for it!

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