A functional setup for a US $100 and half a day’s investment.
I am the co-founder of a startup that is essentially a podcast production company, and so far, I was using a 9 year old Dell Latitude D520 laptop running on Linux as our workhorse. I used it for recording, basic editing, etc. for the podcasts that I host or co-host (three shows and counting). Half of the episodes are edited by a professional editor, I edited the rest because I wanted to learn the process. (There are some reasons behind that, D-I-Y is not one of them). Given the hardware limitations of the laptop, it was time to give the recording setup an upgrade.
On May 3rd, we reached a milestone- episode Number 50 of MyKitaab Podcast, a podcast on book publishing in India. To mark this occasion, my wife and I thought of getting a Macbook Pro, or even a Lenovo Thinkpad with similar specs. But I was not really in favor of spending too much on setting up the recording studio just yet, for two reasons. First of all, we are moving to a new apartment end of May, and I have plans to set up a dedicated space for recordings. Secondly, I wanted to keep the costs low, till the business was able to support the cost of a new computer. When my wife asked how much would an equipment upgrade cost, I jokingly told her 10,000 Rupees or about $ 140. She refused to believe me. I obviously took up the challenge.
Two weeks later, this is what I came up with. I researched online, and also talked to my uncle- he is the tech Guru in the family. My uncle learnt programming at the age of 60 after spending 35 years in Oil and Gas. His recommendation based on our requirements: get a Raspberry Pi3.
All set to start podcasting on a $ 100 setup
Lets’ look at the Time and Cost for the Entire Setup
A Raspberry Pi3,
A case for the Pi
HDMI to VGA cable for connecting to the monitor
USB Keyboard and cables
16 GB USB card
Re-use existing hardware:
ATR USB Microphone, pop filter
DELL monitor that is 8 years old
Total Cost — Approx. $ 95 (converting 1 U S Dollar = 67 Indian Rupees)
Total Setup Time- 6 hours. This was longer than anticipated because of a “chewing incident” mentioned below. (If you get a Micro SD card with a pre-installed operating system, you can be up and running in 1 hour or less)
Learning from the experience — Priceless
I also would like to mention that our dog Buddy chewed up the case for the computer, once the initial setup was ready. He also dropped it from our workdesk. Height: 3 feet above floor. And yet, the system survived. Note the bite marks on the plastic case.
Case for Raspberry Pi with by dog Buddy’s bite marks
I am also adding a link to an audio sample that I recorded using audacity, and the only editing done is noise removal: we have a fan running in the background. Link to audio
For those who think that this is a geeky setup, rest assured,all I did was to follow the instructions found online.
a.Once we get the USB Keyboard, the clutter of cables will reduce a bit.
b. At this time, I am still figuring out whether it can be a “Production grade” system or not. Recording and editing works great, Web browsing (including Facebook) is a little slow. Not 100% convinced that audacity can be used for recording just yet. Editing- yes, recording- maybe.
c. The setup works very well on a flatscreen TV as well. Once we move to our new home, our 50" TV will become the monitor for our system. Since we hardly watch TV anymore, thought of putting the screen to use.
d. Skype does not work (atleast yet), but Zencastr, Google Hangouts, do- so I am all set for now.
You can visit www.mykitaab.in/podcasts1 to listen to the latest episodes that I have recorded and edited using this setup.
To Wrap up:
I am quite impressed by the functionality of the Pi3 setup, I am planning to see if we can push the enveolpe further with it. More on that in a follow up post.