Get started podcasting and producing video on Linux

The best hardware and software to produce podcasts and videos on a Linux-powered computer

Get started podcasting and producing video on Linux

Interested in producing your own podcast or video series entirely from a free software-fueled, Linux-powered computer? Here’s how I accomplish that task.

Feel free to copy my exact setup for your own use. Or take some of my recommendations. Or ignore everything I say here and do things better than I do. Either way, hopefully this proves useful in your Linux-fueled media production endeavors.

Podcasting and video hardware

The hardware setup for my daily recording is fairly simple. More often than not, I utilize a Blue USB Yeti microphone. It has exceptionally good sound (especially for the roughly $100 price tag) and functions as a sound device on every modern Linux distribution I’ve encountered.

No configuration needed. Just plug in the Yeti, select it as your audio source, and you’re good to go.

There most certainly are better microphones out there. I have one Shure (the SM7B) mic that produces a glorious sound, but the Yeti remains my go-to mic even when I travel (as it folds up to a nice travel size and doesn’t require a tube amplifier or USB audio box). 

For the camera front, there are a boatload of options. Technically any USB webcam will do the trick. And, at least up until now, that’s how I’ve recorded the video for my shows (with the Logitech C920).

But even a great webcam (such as the Logitech one I utilize) isn’t going to look the best. It’s budget conscious and adequate, but not amazing. Once you are ready to step up to a better quality video (which is the position I’m in), getting an HDMI capture device and using it with either a DSLR or a dedicated video camera (with HDMI out) will really improve the video quality.

As for specifications of your computer, that’s going to matter quite a lot. If you’re just doing audio, you can probably get away with a lower-end PC. Even an old Core 2 Duo or a high-end Intel Atom-powered rig will likely do the trick. 

Looking to do video (especially HD video)? You’re going to want to spring for something a bit beefier. A good i7 CPU with 16 gigs of RAM will go a long ways towards helping you keep your sanity while either encoding large video clips or live streaming video. And don’t skimp on the hard drive. Having a fast SSD to work with video will help dramatically. 

Podcasting and video software

Which distribution of Linux you select isn’t going to make a big difference. Use what you’re comfortable with. I use openSUSE Leap—nice and stable and consistent. It’s great for a production rig. But, realistically, a number of others would be also well suited to this sort of work—Debian, Fedora, Arch—pick the one you are most comfortable with.

Likewise, your choice of desktop environment isn’t that critical. I use MATE (the fork of GNOME 2) because it is fairly lightweight, extremely stable and fairly minimalist. For me, it’s just right for a video production environment. 

The real magic comes in the software you choose to record everything. 

I recommend, and use, Open Broadcaster Software. It’s open source and cross platform. The learning curve isn’t terribly steep—you can likely get up and running in an afternoon.

With Open Broadcaster Software, I am able to composite in real time two video sources (a camera on me and a window capture of a video conference application), two audio sources (my microphone and the desktop audio, which I can adjust the levels on individually), along with graphic and text overlays.

The end result is a complete video that requires no compositing (adding of “lower third” graphic elements, etc.) after the recording is complete. 

That is good. Because I am a fundamentally lazy person.

I can even simultaneously live stream (to Twitch or YouTube, for example) and save a local recording. The darn thing even has customizable hot-keys, making it easy to set up unique “shots” and “scenes” that I can toggle between live as I am recording a show.

My daily show, “The Lunduke Hour,” is recorded exactly this way. For most episodes, I don’t even need to edit or re-encode the episode after I have finished recording it. Hit a key to start recording -> tap various keys to switch between “shots” as the show progresses -> hit another key to stop the recording.

The show complete and ready to be uploaded.

A lazy video producers dream.

Here are a couple tips related to using Open Broadcaster Software.

  1. The team behind this excellent piece of software tends to be a little late getting releases out for Linux. And as of this writing, the released version has a memory leak that can cause the entire software to crash after recording (at least with my settings) for roughly 30 minutes. This, for obvious reasons, is less than ideal. Luckily the development team has already fixed this issue—you just might need to build yourself from the latest source. That’s not easy for everyone, I know, but at least there’s a solution.
  2. If you plan to record or stream at a full 1080p resolution, be prepared with a powerful computer. If things get herky-jerky and stuttery, try pulling your resolution down to 720p. That’s far less taxing on your CPU.

For video editing—because, no matter what you do or how well you plan, at some point you’ll need to crack open a traditional video editor—I recommend Kdenlive. It’s mature, powerful enough to get most of what you need accomplished, and significantly less crash-y than it (and than many other free and open source video editing suites) used to be. 

On the audio front, Audacity is the standard. It’s small and lightweight but powerful enough to do most of what you’ll need. Ardour is a far more powerful option, which comes with a bit steeper learning curve. Once you get comfortable with all other aspects of video and audio production, I recommend at least dipping your toes into the Ardour pool. It’s a joy to use once you learn the ropes.

Enough to get started

As you progress, you’ll undoubtedly want to make changes to my recommendations—and likely invest in some microphone or camera upgrades here and there. But this should be enough to get started on your podcasting/videocasting journey entirely based on free software and Linux.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)