Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

By Request: Dreams of iOS podcasting

iOS podcasting
iOS podcasting

You may have noticed that I do a lot of podcasting. Subscriber Aaron certainly noticed, because he asked me about some of the stuff I use to do podcasting on iOS. Most recently, I traveled to visit my mother in Arizona and didn’t bring my MacBook Air with me—meaning that both of the podcasts I recorded down there were done entirely on iOS devices.

So here’s a sketch of the iOS podcast production process as of now, keeping in mind that there are still a bunch of issues to be worked out before iOS is the perfect vehicle for recording and editing a podcast.

For my trip to Arizona, I brought my mobile recording rig, which includes a Shure XLR microphone and the Sound Devices USBPre 2 mixer that’s usually velcroed to the underside of my desk here at home. Thanks to the new Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter, I can use a USB mixer or microphone with my iPad or iPhone while powering both devices simultaneously.

I recorded my audio on my iPhone 6S in Ferrite Recording Studio, an excellent iOS audio editing app. Separately, I plugged my headphones into my iPad Pro and used Skype to talk to the other people on my podcast while also looking at our show outline in Google Docs and even checking on the live chat room with the Colloquy IRC client app. (I have to use two devices because iOS doesn’t currently support two apps accessing the microphone simultaneously—the moment I started a Skype call, Ferrite’s recording would stop.)

In both cases in Arizona, someone else edited the podcasts. So all I had to do when we were done was stop my recording in Ferrite and use the Share command to save the file to a shared folder in my Dropbox account. The files showed up instantly in the Dropbox folders of my co-hosts, and my job was done.

However, I could have also edited those podcasts—and have edited other podcasts on my iPad, using Ferrite. Ferrite supports importing audio files from Dropbox, and I’ve got a Dropbox file submission set up so that people can upload files directly into my Dropbox account. Once I’ve got all the files I need, I can edit using Ferrite, which I find roughly as efficient as editing in Logic on my Mac.

The last stage in the process is generating an MP3 file—and iOS has some issues here. The MP3 format is patented, and the most relevant patents don’t expire until late 2017—as a result, most iOS apps (including Ferrite) don’t include MP3 encoders. To get around this, I actually save an AAC file of my final edit to Dropbox, and then use the web app Auphonic to suck in the file from Dropbox, process the audio, add chapter markers if necessary, and upload the final MP3 to my server for distribution. I’d rather do all of that stuff from my iPad, but Auphonic does the job, and does it well.

All in all, it was a successful experiment. I was able to travel without a third device to go with my iPhone and iPad, and still do my job as a podcaster. iOS keeps improving in this area, and I’m hopeful that we might see more improvement when iOS 10 comes out this fall. Crossing fingers!

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