The coming of Ubercaster

David Holloway
11 March, 2008
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Podcasting is really the 21st century version of mix tapes. Remember those? I spent many hours producing compilations of music on a 90-minute cassette and I even dabbled in recording some spoken word creations (don’t ask). What was exciting about mix tapes is also what’s exciting about podcasts: direct control over your listening experience. Of course, podcasting gives you so many more creative options but the principle is unchanged. GarageBand covers the bases pretty well for the beginner podcaster although any of the AMW team will vouch for the initial challenges one can face in producing podcasts — particularly when it’s a group effort.

Take Episode 11 of the Australian Macworld Weekend Edition. I sound like I’ve broadcast from my toilet even though I use a Rode Podcaster microphone with a high-end isolation panel. The reason I sound so bad is that even though I’d confirmed my audio input settings, my Mac’s built-in Mic was capturing my voice, not the Podcaster mic. Add to that the fact I was sitting at a 90-degree angle to my Mac and you have the toilet ambience now on show in Episode 11. This is all a long-winded way of saying that there remains enough complexity in podcasting to put a lot of people off.

That’s where Pleasant Software’s Ubercaster comes in — it’s a dedicated podcasting application that covers the whole podcasting workflow of preparation, recording and release. Some of the main features include: The ability to record directly from any chat application with audio capability such as Skype and iChat; Full chapter and ID3 tag functionality — important if you’re going to submit your finished product to the iTunes podcast directory; An Autopilot feature that feeds you any notes you’ve made for each section whilst you’re recording — think of it like an autocue; The media browser used so successfully in the iLife applications is integrated into Ubercaster; A stealth mode enabled by pointing your mouse at the recording panel — a great way of avoiding unwanted background noise like mouse clicks or typing.

The real strength of Ubercaster is in its capability to automate some of the more tedious aspects of podcasting. The media browser is an obvious plus but the encoding, uploading and archiving functons are impressive. Using a slot-based system you can specify multiple destination points with one click. For example I set up a slot that allowed the finished podcast to be uploaded to my FTP server in AAC format whilst saving a copy to my backup drive in AIFF format. The archiving function brings all your project’s files together in one location — this is a common function in the higher-end audio applications and it’s a godsend for more extensive projects.

On the downside, I have to challenge Pleasant Software on its claim that Ubercaster’s interface allows you to "jump right in and record your episode". I spent a good thirty minutes doodling around with it before turning to the (admittedly excellent) help files to learn how to use the thing. Ubercaster’s breadth of features means there’s a significant learning curve, which is fair enough, but don’t expect to be up and running in five minutes. At $US79.95 it’s a reasonable price for its feature set and there’s a fully functional demo version available for you to check out. You even get five "Full Monty" attempts — which means nothing is limited in the demo, there’s just a short jingle placed at the end of your completed podcast.

After a couple of hours of playing with Ubercaster, I’m hooked enough on it that I’m already thinking of excuses to make more podcasts. The ease with which you can add media, tweak audio and add graphical elements make the whole process so much more interesting and tedium-free. once you’ve overcome that initial learning curve. Ubercaster would have to be the most impressive podcasting application I’ve seen and it’s one I’ll be trialling heavily in the coming weeks. If I get my mic settings right I may just avoid cementing my reputation as The Toilet Podcaster.

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