Friday, March 20, 2015

Dave's Thoughts of the Day: March 20th -- A technical blog item.

It's been over a month and ten days since I last blogged.   I have been simply deluged with work and vacations, and I'm making new improvements to the DITCOW podcast which have proven quite fruitful so far.

Back in February, the podcast returned to YouTube for live video streaming.  In addition, we developed some new tools for improving the sound of the podcast on our iTunes feed.

PLUS, we are now adding thumbnail graphics to more easily identify the individual episodes.  It brings some color to the shows.  Here are some examples:

So now to the reason I started this blog post:  after years of dealing with this lousy buzzing noise that's haunted my podcast quality, I finally isolated the problem!   When I started using the laptop as a sound source for my mixer, we started to hear electronic interference, a buzzing noise which I could not for the life of me figure out.   All I knew is that the source was at the laptop or the external sound card that connected to the laptop.    Here's what that interference sounds like:

It sounded just like that video above and it is awful!  Many of you won't hear it unless you listen really carefully but even at low volume it's nonetheless present, and it has been since at least 2011.  However, it was at low enough levels to tolerate.   Last week, I started to use compression via Audacity through the use of a very advanced new compressor plug in.   The problem was, the interference now was brought back up to loud levels.  Yesterday I was incredibly frustrated, spending much of the night working on where the sound came from.  I removed  cables, swapped out one external sound card for another, and kept working at it UNTIL...

...I read online that someone had the same problem and isolated the problem to ground loop noise, which is precisely what it is.  I added the term "Laptop" to my search and realized the power adapter had terrible grounding issues.  The online forums recommended to run the laptop on battery to reduce noise, so I tried it... would you believe it, the noise FINALLY went away!

So, at last, the podcast will now be noise free after 6 years on the air.  Better late than never.   I still have to work on why the output levels to hangouts were so hot last week.  Hangouts is a little too sensitive with its audio transmission and if you have the levels too high the audio starts soft-clipping... but you'd have to have the levels at about half the volume you'd use for audacity or Skype.  Very strange but I had it working beforehand when I sent audio through the Behringer UCA222 interface.  Now we have the SoundBlaster Audigy SE PCI card moved over from the departed production computer to our new Hangouts computer.

One other note, I now am using my Galaxy S4 phone to play audio and actualities.   The original production computer died last week for good, and I copied the files to the Hangouts PC.  Thus I needed an alternate device, but my phone can use a soundboard app now to play back audio clips.  Unfortunately, YouTube is incredibly picky about playing even portions of copyrighted music on the show, and I think that's really really poor.  Loosen up a little!

Hope you're enjoying the show!  Despite YouTube's tough music restrictions, the show is finding a new audience on YouTube and our video ratings have been very good this month.   I hope to return to the blog with non-tech thoughts soon.  'Til then, have a great weekend!

No comments: