iMore and Mobile Nations podcasts: Behind the scenes!

One of the most frequent questions I've been getting lately, both here and on Twitter, is — how do we run podcasts on iMore and Mobile Nations? So, we grabbed some video gear, hit the studio, and knocked out this quick behind-the-scenes tour of all the equipment I use, and how I currently use it. Check it out!

What I do now is very different than what I did last year. The main reason for that is because we switched away from a Skype-asaurus to Google Hangouts. Not only does that prevent crashes from wiping out entire shows (!!!), it's free, easy to use, and available to just about everyone. Switching to Hangouts also allowed me to pull out the complicated mix-minus audio setup, which involved 6 PC laptops, a mixer, a pre-amp, a compressor, and more. So many boxes gone. So many cables. So much cleaner! So what's left?

The heart of my setup is a first generation Nehalem Mac Pro. That's right, an old-school cheese-grator! Ethernet comes into it from my cable modem, and that's important because Wi-Fi is just never reliable enough for podcasting.

Yes, my keyboard and trackpad really do sit on top of an old Xbox 360 box right now. I haven't found anything aesthetically pleasing to do the job properly, and its the right hight. If you have a better idea, let me know! As for the Magic Trackpad (opens in new tab) itself, I use a MacBook most of the time and multitouch is muscle memory for me now, which makes trackpads simply a better and more consistent interface for me than a mouse.

headphones and earbuds

headphones and earbuds (Image credit: iMore)

I use two different headsets, one for audio podcasting, one for video. The AKG K240 (opens in new tab) don't look great but they're super comfortable and sound terrific. The Ultimate Ears 600vi (opens in new tab) all but disappear, and include a very convenient shirt clip that helps prevent them falling out, even when I move around a bit.

For a microphone, I use the Heil PR-40 (opens in new tab) because, Leo Laporte. My voice isn't great, so I can use all the help I can get, and once you go Heil, there's no going back. Because it's an XLR mic, and because I dumped all the audio boxes from my setup, I now use an Apogee One (opens in new tab) as my USB interface. It's compact and convenient.

The primary screen on my Mac Pro is a 27-inch Apple Cinema Display. It's the predecessor of the Thunderbolt Display (opens in new tab), but for computers like my old-school Mac Pro that have mini-DisplayPort instead of Thunderbolt out. Instead of the built-in iSight camera, however, I use a Logitech 920 because, Alex Lindsay. Along with the Webcam Settings (opens in new tab) app, it provides for amazing HD video out and an incredible level of control.

The Mac Pro and display are both connected to separate universal power supplies (UPS), as is the modem and Airport Extreme Time Capsule router (opens in new tab). I get a lot of power failures, but the internet connection almost never fails. This way, even if the lights go out, the show goes on.

I also have a 46-inch Samsung TV behind me so I can vary up the background during shows. It's connected via DVI to HDMI out from the Mac Pro, and also has an Apple TV setup so I can AirPlay apps to it in a pinch.

Everything is currently lit by Phillips Hue lightbulbs (opens in new tab), which I can control via my iPhone or iPad. I'm looking at getting some LED panels because I think, ultimately, they'd be a better solution.

As mentioned, we use Google Hangouts for the video shows. Google is always screwing around with how to start Hangouts on Air, and it's incredibly annoying, but the technology itself is amazing. I've heard through the grapevine that Google is beginning to understand how broadcasters work, and the consistency they need, so hopefully it'll be improving for the better — and staying that way — soon. After a show, I download the video from YouTube in MP4 format, edit it in Final Cut Pro X (opens in new tab), and re-upload it to YouTube for distribution.

For the audio shows, we use Skype and capture it with Audio Hijack Pro. I save the file in AIFF, run each channel through The Levalator, and then edit it in GarageBand.

The Mac Pro has a — now old — Intel SSD as the boot disk, and a WD caviar black internal drive as backup. Everything gets saved to the SSD for speed, and the HD mirrors it via SuperDuper! as a backup. As soon as a show finishes, the file gets put in Dropbox, so there's an offsite backup as well. Lastly, the good folks at Synology sent over a NAS for us to review, and I'm currently testing that out as a networked backup for additional security.

I'm continually evolving what I use and how I use it, and always looking for better, more efficient gear and workflows, so if you have any suggestions or recommendations, please let me know. And if you have any questions, fire away!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I'm so glad you did this. I always wondered what your setup looked like. And I love how you had the TV background that changed. I felt like it added a lot to your video podcasts. I guess I'm just a fan of when video hosts have aesthetically pleasing backgrounds (with Tom Merritt's being an absolute favorite of mine).
  • Thanks! Tom is awesome in every way. I'm looking to make a big upgrade to the layout soon, so we'll see how that goes.
  • Hi Rene, maybe you want to take a look at this:
    Many of the german podcasters are using this for their Podcasts, maybe you can get something useful out of it ;)
    Other than that, thanks for sharing, always was interested in your setup!
  • Thanks, I'll check it out!
  • Interesting setup. Do you keep your old devices or just the boxes? If you keep them, what do you do with them?
  • If it's old devices I bought myself, I typically pass them down to family members. I do keep a few for future use, like one of each design iteration so I can do comparative photos and stuff.
  • That keyboard and case look like they've never been near a cleaning cloth.
  • Grab one and come over! Much appreciated! =]
  • This. Is. Awesome. This kind of reporting bad to fans is what makes us feel like we're part of the club/family/clan... It reminds me of going over to a friend's house to check out their comic/baseball card/cassette/game collection. Lots of fun! Curiously, though, you never mentioned any camera person/device assistance you use while you host these kinds of videos.
    Also, does iMore produce the music in the videos in house or are they sound bites from external source(s)?
    ...And how long does it usually take you to edit and produce an average pod cast? Thank you again for this cool glimpse into the iMore world. You guys are my kind of people... Only smarter and better behaved!
  • I just showed the podcasting stuff, not the video production stuff. We can do a separate behind the scenes on that. The music is typically from creative commons sources, or from legacy stuff that was made for us a few years ago. It can take anywhere from 60 minutes to 180 minutes to edit, depending on what went wrong :)
  • I gotta say I download macbreak every week and you always have one of the Nice's setups.
  • Thank you!
  • Rene, for a standing desk solution I have this TV stand from Walmart with a shelf screwed to the front legs 1/2 way up. It was about $35USD all in. I got the idea from somewhere online, I'd give credit if I could remember where. I'm happy to post a picture if you'd like to see. It's a bit heavy to switch in and out, but I deal with it. It fits in a normal sized closet when I stand it on end. Mike
  • Thanks, I'll check it out!
  • I'd like to see a pic of it. Looking to try a standing desk before jumping all in.
  • I posted a pic of my desk in standing formation here: here is the original article that inspired me:
  • You are totally awesome Rene. It has been great seeing your podcast setup and I enjoy watching, when time allows, you on TWiT's MacBreak Weekly. The fact that you are from Montreal, QB is also cool since I also have relatives from Quebec also. Keep up the good work :-)
  • Hey, thanks for doing this. I'm completely fascinated by audio and video production, especailly podcasts. While it must be crazy and hectic to keep up with all the different podcast you are doing these days, but I would love to be a part of something as great as the work you and your friends do week in and week out. My only question about your setup though is this, any particular reason you stand rather than sit while recording? All of the podcasts you do aren't short. Do you not get tired from standing so long?
  • I wish I could stand all the time! Check this out:
  • Sweet setup! I also liked how you still keep the boxes of your old devices. And from the looks of it, you've had a LOT.
  • Wow! I watch you every week on MacBreak Weekly...and, it is great to the other side. Thanks! --Zip
  • What mic arm is your Heil on? I use the PL-2T from Heil, and it wears out really fast (spings). I'm looking for something different.
  • It's the one that came with the Heil, I'll check out and see if I can find the number. It's okay, not great. The shock mount has gone to pieces already though....
  • Great little video. I watch Macbreak Weekly religiously, so great to see your setup from the other side of the camera!
  • Awesome set up. Never knew you stood up the entire time you did a podcast. The xbox 360 box set up was unique. Not sure what else could be used to get the height you want. Thanks for showing us Rene!
  • Great setup Rene, thanks for sharing! I'm interested in the LED panels. Considering Philips Hue too. Maybe with a ring light. This standing desk solution looks awesome: Ergotron WorkFit-A, Sit-Stand Workstation - for Apple.
    Haven't personally been able to try it yet, but it looks perfect for standing behind the computer, with the option to sit if needed. As a file backup system that may improve your 'backup workflow', have a look at Space Monkey. It's basically a local external drive that syncs with the p2p cloud, it combines your Synology and your Dropbox into one easy to work with solution.
    Totally optional, but if you 'pin' certain directories on your other Macs and/or iOS devices, you'd have even more local backups (in addition to the p2p cloud backups of course). If you'd want a microphone for video recording that isn't visible during the shot, a shotgun mic may be a nice option. A resource with great suggestions for mics at
    They have resources on lighting and camera usage too.
  • "A resource with great suggestions for mics at" Don't do what I just did, and listen to the version of the video recorded off the camera mic first, and wonder why the sound wasn't changing!
  • lol :)
  • I've thought about lavs or even the mics we used at CESlive but the Heil just sounds so good!
  • Nice setup. Now if you can just get rid of the clicking, clipping, and random noise like was on last week's iMore Show, your podcasts will be more bearable to listen to.
  • This is freaking awesome! Between this, the iPad home screens, what's in my bag - I'm loving every article! Looking forward to your review if the Synology. Have it listed on my Amazon wish list - just waiting to pull the trigger after I read your review! Sent from the iMore App
  • Super Cool!!!
  • Wow, This is the best behind the scenes!
  • I can only imagine your electric bill Rene!!! You mentioned you live in a condo in Zen & Tech. Where do you plug all this stuff in?!?!?! I don't know if there is enough power running to my condo to power all this Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • Its a great moment for me to be a member of the Apple family. I will surely propagate this wonderful product across Africa.