Checklist: Prepare Your Computer for Podcasting or Being a Guest on a Podcast
Got an email from a user saying they had a problem with their show when they streamed it. Everything would start fine but then the stream would freeze and their shows were ruined. I have actually had that happen to me several times over the years. Especially if you use one computer for everything (which most people do).
There are many different ways to make sure your show doesn’t stall when recording or streaming. I put together a checklist you should run to prepare for your best (audio or video) foot forward.
Even if you are a guest on a podcast. Last week I watched a show where the guest was on Skype. His connection was going from high-to-low quality and back. Some people just write it off, but what if the guest could have one thing to fix that?
Pre-Checklist Before You Begin Podcasting
- Reboot your Computer – I own a Macs and PCs. I use them all excessively. At the end of the day, I don’t shut them down. I close the lid or put the computer to sleep. Some of you just walk away and let the computer figure it out.I have found when I reopen a Mac, the programs work harder. Chrome – for example – will start maxing out the processor at times. I have to quit Chrome altogether, then go back in and process will normalize.Rebooting the computer will close all programs and open them up properly. It might even kick out any programs that are stuck (and you didn’t even know it).
- Close Programs – Close email. Close Facetime. Go in your task bar and even close programs like Dropbox or Evernote. I had a situation where a client put a large file in my Dropbox during a podcast. It started downloading the file – on all three of my computers (with Dropbox installed). Imagine what happened to my podcast when a 800 MB file was downloading in three locations on one Internet connection…Even Podcasting on iPad or Android – Both platforms let you close out other programs completely so you can podcast from your mobile device. For iOS, you must upgrade to iOS7 first – then double-tap the home button and swipe away other programs. For Android, hold down the home button and swipe away.
- Check Your Activity Monitors – In Mac it’s Activity Monitor, in Windows its Task Manager. Either way, open the program up and see what processes are running. Like I said before – programs like Dropbox can be closed. There are other programs you don’t see that you can close. These are mostly update programs – Adobe Updater, Google Chrome Updater and iTunes Update are three great examples.If you have printer software installed, they might have a wakeup program you could turn off. All of these tasks can kick in at any time and spike your processor. When that happens, you get stutters in your audio or video.
- Plug Into a Land Line – Internet routers are getting better, but still have limits. Older routers can handle so many devices at one time. My router table shows I have 5 computers (3 being used regularly), 3 mobile phones, 2 tablets, a Roku, Apple TV, XBox360 and a Pogo Plug (cloud device) on my Internet connection. If any of these devices decide to update an application or download user data, that can cause skips in your stream.
- Make Sure No One Else is on Your Internet Connection – This is especially important if you are pushing any video streams. Ask family to refrain from major Internet usage like streaming a movie, Skype or another bandwidth-intense usage. Have them turn off their Dropbox connections.
Other Considerations: Podcast time – Podcasting on Off-hours
I do my show “Geek Smack!” at 2 PM EST on Tuesdays. I know at that time, 80% of people are at work or school. Therefore, Internet traffic from my local node is going to be less busy. Although your cable company can handle higher bandwidth requests, you still have a better chance of less problems during non-peak hours.
Podcasting late at night might be another option, but I’ve found that ISPs usually plan work around the witching hours. There was one month where I couldn’t use the Internet from 1 – 3 AM because they were upgrading networks.
I know some of you have jobs where this is not possible. There are some weekend hours that also accomodate lower traffic times. Saturday and Sunday mornings, for example.
Using an older computer or mobile device that can take some of your process away from the podcast machine can help. For example, I call up all my articles on a separate computer, then close my browsers on the podcast machine. I can use my iPad as a soundboard to recall effects and music if needed.
I created a video that I’ve been using for about a year and a half. That video would always skip during streaming. I talked to the folks at Wirecast, they suggested I re-encode the video.
Codecs on video have changed, so older versions of programs could cause hiccups. Believe it or not, I used iMovie to re-encode the video. The apple-created codecs actually made the video work smother on the live show.
Same thing with audio. A 128 kbps mp3 will take less process than a 64kbps mp3 – especially if you are podcasting via iPad.
Most important, the longer the podcast, the harder the computer might work. If your computer cannot get through a show without pauses or skips, check to see if that machine can handle it. Even if you are a guest on another show, these suggestions might give you a better audio or video signal to the host recorder. The end result – a better experience with your show.