Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Recording the Upgrade in-car podcast

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

On Monday afternoon I recorded this week’s episode of Upgrade live from Interstate 280, driving home from the Apple event in Cupertino. It was an experiment—I thought it might be fun to do something different for our post-event podcast, and on a day absolutely packed with work, it also allowed me to do something productive with the long drive between Apple and my home north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’m pretty happy with the final result, though I wouldn’t recommend recording every episode of your podcast in a moving car. I’m impressed that we only seem to have received one complaint about the danger of podcasting while driving—if you’re opposed to all in-car phone calls, then we’ll just have to disagree—and happy to have heard from numerous people who were entertained by the sound of my turn signals, the beep of the Automatic connected to my car, and the sound of the sudden downpour that happened in the vicinity of San Francisco International Airport.

A few people were wondering what equipment we used to make the podcast, so here’s the scoop:

My microphone was a Sony ECM-77B, which is a small clip-on design that I usually use for recording videos. With it clipped to my shirt, I was able to record without taking my hands off the wheel of my 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid. I attached it to my Zoom H6 portable recorder, which I bought last year. It’s capable of recording six microphones at once, but in this case I was only recording the one.

Myke Hurley and I tried to chat via Skype, but that connection wasn’t stable, so we switched to the telephone. Myke loaded some credits into his Skype account and called my iPhone from Skype, and I kept one earbud in my ear (you can’t cover both ears while driving in California) and talked to Myke during my drive. Listeners to the live stream heard me sound like I was on the telephone, because I was.

Once the drive was over, I ran the file through the automatic dialogue denoiser plug-in in iZotope RX 5, and then sent it off to Myke so he could use it to replace the audio he had recorded of me talking via the telephone. He imported the file into Logic and manually ducked the audio when I wasn’t talking, so the sound would seem consistent—if we cut it off entirely when I wasn’t talking, the change in sound was really distracting. This was a lot of extra work on Myke’s part, but I think it made the end product sound that much better.

I left Apple in the early afternoon, and there was almost no traffic on my return home, so the podcast literally covers every moment I was driving from Cupertino to my house. We wrapped up the podcast with me sitting in my chair at home as I usually do! I leave the calculation of my average driving speed across the trip as an exercise to the listeners.

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