There are some constraints around the iPad that make it harder to do certain tasks (Just as you could argue that a PC or laptop has constraints with their keyboards and OS decisions). For some people this makes them an unsuitable choice, for others, it provides a fun challenge to get around these issues, but I suspect many people think that the iPad (or other tablets for that matter) aren’t suitable for them, and the never check if it is. One of these tasks might be recording a podcast via an online chat. Something which is pretty easy on a windows machine, not impossible on a mac, but very difficult on a mobile device.
Luckily, there is a service (and a couple more on the way) which promise to make podcasting on an iPad (AND on a desktop) easier for everyone, regardless of what device they use. Recently I tested RINGR when I recorded the ChurchMag podcast episode with Mike Rhode so I’m going to look at that.
What is Ringr?
Ringr is a long distance podcast recording service. It provides a voice channel for you to chat on, AND records your audio locally. Once the call has finished, the audio is uploaded to Ringr service online from all the guests, then you can download the audio and edit it. They offer a mobile app for use on iOS and Android as well as the option to use Chrome or Firefox web browsers. That should cover most people or give them an option to download a compatible browser.
Ringr costs $7.99 a month for the basic version (Unlimited calls and storage but only one guest and mono output with all participants recorded on one channel) or $18.99 a month for premium which adds stereo and more users). There is also a free 30-day trial (which is what I used)
How Ringr Works
After you have signed up for an account on their home page, you can schedule a call. I did this on my iPad via the mobile app. I simply entered my contacts email account, and then wrote a message informing him of the service. This sends an email with a link the participant can open (it will open in the mobile app as well as the desktop, at least on iOS. I haven’t tested on Android).
[Video via Vimeo]
Once you are in the call, everything starts getting recorded on your end and then will later be uploaded. At the same time, you can hear your guest (I noticed no lag between the UK and US on a decent internet connection). You can mute your microphone but other than that, your only other control is to end the call or log off. This is lacking compared to something like Google Hangouts on air (which can also record video) where you can have a video channel going so you can see your guest, or a chat screen so you can type a message with a relevant link, question or prompt (“we need to hurry up” for example). However, for a first version, the service works well.
There are plenty of warning messages that you shouldn’t close the app until the upload is complete, so once you end your call, you need to keep the app open. This made me slightly nervous over the app crashing, battery running out or accidentally pressing the wrong button but nothing went wrong for me.
The Ups and Downs of Ringr
The setup was stupidly easy. I was originally thinking of using a different service and work around with my iPad (I also debated taking my MacBook Pro on this trip, but I really didn’t want the extra weight, worse battery life, nor the greater difficulties using on the plane and only for the benefit of recording a podcast) but after hearing about a similar alternative (I’m coming to that) and doing a bit of research, I thought ringer was worth a try (and I could default back to my backup plan if it failed). Mike Rohde also found it very easy to use and I imagine it would be extremely easy for a non-tech-savvy guest to use as well, they don’t have to worry about recording their end of the audio, it gets done for them. So we get greater audio quality without any fears of sound dropping out and it’s easier for everyone.
However, the final audio mix that came through had my audio at a much lower volume. Luckily I had also recorded my audio separately on my iPhone with an external microphone just to be safe and that helped Eric with editing the audio (after all, it’s easier to cut someone out of a track and boost a single audio track then constantly edit the volume up and down in a single track.) Using the premium solution would have solved this but I was only on the 30-day trial.
I had initially heard of a different service sometime last year called Cast which lead me to investigate and eventually choose Ringr. However, I think it is worth mentioning both Cast and Zencastr as they have some features that may suit you better (Ultimately I think I may choose one of these alternative services).
Cast presents itself as an end to end podcast solution. It has tools to record, edit and publish a podcast (unlike Rringr which only lets you record) All of which is done online. Like Ringr you can have multiple guests (up to four) and you get separate audio tracks. ALSO, your audio is recorded in the cloud simultaneously, so if it crashes, you only lose a small cache of data and seconds of audio.
They offer two price plans of hobby (for $10 a month with 10 hours of recording and one RSS feed) and pro ( for $30 a month with 100 hours of recording and unlimited RSS feeds).
The big reason I didn’t use cast is that it is only available on Chrome for a desktop with currently no mobile apps. Apparently, they are working on adding mobile apps which would make it a very compelling solution personally.
Zencastr looks like the best budget option, but it also has some very compelling features as well. Zencastr’s free plan gives you 8 hours of recording a month with up to two guests. For someone who is doing a weekly podcast with a friend, that could well be perfect.
Zencastr offers some extra sound editing features for its paid plan ($20 a month) including automatic post-production audio enhancements and a live soundboard to use during the recordings. A really nice touch from Zencastr is that it will automatically save the finished audio to your Dropbox account (Google Drive coming soon) so you can then share the file with an editor or work on it from whatever device.
They have also promised a mobile app (huzzah) and have plans for a network plan that would add in some advertising features.
Which Is Best?
Looking at the feature sets, these different but similar services clearly cater for different people.
- use Ringr if you need a mobile app today!
- use cast if you want a solution that will also publish your podcasts
- use Zencastr if you want a cheap version OR you want a live soundboard.
Ringr really helped me simplify the audio recording element of the ChurchMag Podcast and do something simply for which I would otherwise have had to do some complicated workaround. I don’t think it’s the perfect solution for anyone but If you are interested in doing a distance recorded podcast, you really ought to check these three solutions out.