A while back, I wrote a post about how to use an iPhone 3GS, Garage Band, and Posterous to do "quick and easy" podcasting. While that method has the desired results -- your podcast has a feed that can be subscribed to, and it actually sounds pretty good -- it forces you to stick with one website on Posterous to create the feed. Many podcasts are associated with a website, so it's important in many cases to have the ability to upload a podcast file to an FTP server.
That, and my continuing quest to make my podcasting as easy as possible, is what got me interested in iPodcaStudio from Vault Multimedia. iPodcaStudio [$0.99, iTunes Link] is an iPhone app for recording, editing, and uploading your podcasts easily. While it isn't as full-featured as it could eventually be, iPodcaStudio is a good start at a complete podcast studio on your iPhone or iPod touch running iPhone OS 3.0 or greater.
Upon launching the app, you see a very basic and easy-to-understand user interface. There's a spot to put in a title for your recording, an elapsed time counter, a sound level meter, and a large red button along with the words "Press Record to Start." At the bottom of the display are smaller buttons for Rec / Play, Edit, Upload, Files, and Settings. While the user interface is pretty easy, yours truly thought he needed to press the Rec / Play button. Nope, it was the big red button. <facepalm>
As recording begins, a pause button appears next to the red recording button and, if you haven't entered a title for the recording, the time and date of the recording is entered. When the recording is complete or if you need to pause temporarily, you tap the pause button. A message appears on the display saying "Paused: Continue or Save." Considering that there were two large buttons on the screen in front of me, I correctly surmised that tapping the pause button would start up the recording again. That made me believe that tapping the red button again would stop and save the recording. Nope, it starts recording again. This is confusing and unnecessary -- the developers should hide any buttons that are not going to be used during the recording process.
The real "Save" button is hidden up in a bar at the top of the display. When I mean hidden, it's because the Cancel and Save buttons are both the same shade of red as the bar that they're on. That's another UI issue that should be easy to fix, unless the developer is red/green colorblind. Recordings may be made in either uncompressed (AIFF) or compressed (AIFC) file formats, and the quality is adjusted in the app settings.
When the recording has been saved, it can be added to by pressing a black +Record button at the top of the screen which is unfortunately also colored black. I honestly wish the developer would use a slightly different color for buttons in order to make them stand out a bit more. The screen now features a green play button and the words "Click to Play." Tapping the play button makes a few other buttons appear -- one that jumps back 15 seconds in the recording each time it is tapped, a pause button, and a speed button that provides 1X, 2X, and .5X playback on subsequent taps.
Once you've had the opportunity to listen to your work, you can do some editing. A tap on the edit button at the bottom of the screen flips the display to landscape mode and then brings up a sound level diagram for the recording. The editor has a few function -- Undo, Delete, and Mark. The Mark is helpful for determining where items need to be edited out. As an example, while I was recording a sample piece, I coughed and then sneezed (probably catching a cold just in time for Macworld Expo). To edit that and other errors out, I listened to the full recording and tapped the Mark button each time I found a mistake. That adds a yellow vertical line to the recording profile, so I could go back and edit out the coughing and hacking. The markers are easily removed by shaking the iPhone.
You can zoom in and out on the recording by using the standard iPhone spread and pinch gestures, and double tap the recording to select a spot. A blue editing tool with a circle at the top and bottom appears, and the area to be edited (most likely by deletion) can be expanded by moving the circles left or right.
There are a number of ways to share your recorded files. First, the file can be transferred to a Mac or PC via Wi-Fi. In this method, a URL is displayed on the iPhone and you use a web browser to access the file from the phone. It works well, and just takes a right-click or control-click on the file name to download the file. The second method is to transfer the file through standard FTP to a server. While it took me a while to get the proper settings entered, the FTP upload was fast and accurate. The third method is only possible with very short podcasts, and uses Mail to send the podcast to someone. This only works with files that are less than 5 MB in size. Finally, there's a way to email the URL for a file that has been uploaded through FTP.
So, does the app stack up as a podcasting tool? I thought iPodcaStudio did a great job in terms of recording, doing an initial edit, and uploading sound files. That's a start, and with the current price of the app, it's well worth using to grab sounds and send them up to a server. I would like to see iPodcaStudio evolve into a full podcast... studio. How? There needs to be a way to add other sound files for intros, transitions, and outros. It would be nice to be able to lay two tracks side by side for a podcast. And any podcasting tool worth its price needs to be able to allow the addition and editing of tags.
The app also needs a bit of work on the user interface, but could easily be updated to make it a full-fledged, powerful, and easy to use podcasting tool. Check out the gallery below to see how iPodcaStudio looks and works.