Decipher SciFi recording setup

How we produce our podcast on Linux at Decipher SciFi

You may be a Linux podcasting person looking for some ideas after a couple of years of Linux podcast production. You may be a fan of Decipher SciFi who wants to see what it looks like on the back end. In either case, welcome!

This is not meant to be the guide to doing it right, but just a record of the hackey way that we do it for reference. It’s like looking at someone’s Vim config; you don’t just copy the thing, but take what is useful.

Our usual recording setup is the two of us in the same room with sporadic remote guest appearances via Skype. This is the stuff we use and how (links to products on Amazon may include an affiliate code ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Recording in the studio with guest co-host Jolene Creighton

Recording at the “studio” with Jolene Creighton for our Star Trek Beyond episode



Microphones (ATR-2100)

ATR-2100 microphone

The ATR-2100 microphone can use both USB and XLR

My partner and I both use ATR-2100 microphones. We settled on these for a few reasons:

  • Each has both XLR and USB interfaces, so we were able to continue to use them when graduatingย  from computer to dedicated recorder.
  • They’re not overly sensitive so they work well when recording two people in the same room.
  • They’re affordable!

But, there is another. Since our mics and the system output from the Skype machine both go directly into the recorder, we need to have another microphone for our guests to hear us. We keep a Blue Yeti (which we do not recommend for the actual podcast recording) sitting in the middle of the table for this purpose, but whatever you have will probably do.

Recorder (Zoom H5)

We started out recording directly into the computer with Audacity which proved to ultimately be less than reliable. Maybe this could be a fine enough affordable option for one person, I suppose, but if you’re recording two people in the same room you have a lot of pain-in-the-ass fiddling with audio configurations to look forward to, iirc (to aggregate separate USB audio sources). After a while and a few disastrous software failures in this mode, we finally got a dedicated recorder. In fact, I would actually recommend a dedicated recorder no matter what platform you’re on.

Zoom H5 recorder

Zoom H5 recorder

So, this thing. This thing is pretty great! It can record four channels – two single-channel XLR inputs on the bottom, and a combined stereo input from whatever “capsule” is plugged into the top. With the X/Y capsule (it ships with this one) on top we are able to plug in remote guests from a Skype session on the nearest computer and record all three tracks separately.

Decipher SciFi recording setup

Our recording setup



Okay, finally on to some software stuff.


The H5 records in WAV, and can basically only record input from the capsule (Skype) in stereo. So I want to get these tracks into mono FLAC files because it is lossless without being huge.

Here is how I do this conversion (the current “production” version of this script can be found in my dotfiles).


Then I import the tracks into Audacity and go to town.

editing in Audacity

Here is my Audacity configuration and here are the plugins I use.

Post production

With the edit done, I can then run it through a final set of filters and cut in some intro and outro music (generously provided by Caelum Rale). Final export to 112kbps mono CBR LAME MP3 (plenty good enough for voice) with our id3 tags, add the thumbnail (Audacity doesn’t support this), and we’re done.

Final filters

We use Levelator because it works, still, and is at least free as in beer. It’s super old and out of support but it works just fine for us, so here it stays. You can get Levelator here, but the link to the Linux version is broken. The Windows version works superbly in Wine though!

using Levelator

Levelator is pretty easy to use

The alternative these days seems to be Auphonic, a web-based service that gives you a few free sessions per month or somesuch and is reasonably priced for more. It seems popular and I hear good things.

Thumbnail/cover art

Audacity doesn’t know how to write the cover art id3 tags, but it’s easily done on the cli anyway. eyeD3 is a good tool for this.

It’s not a big deal, but it’s nice to have.


File Hosting

Our finalized MP3s get uploaded to Libsyn. Another good option I am happy to recommend is Blubrry. Either way, as an enterprising Linux nerd, you’d only be using it for file hosting because you’ll control the RSS feed itself from your own site? Right?

All kidding aside, people in the space continue to fight over whether you should control the feed from your own domain or relinquish control to the hosting service itself. You do you, but I prefer the former. And there’s a great WordPress plugin for that too mentioned below!

Website hosting

Our post for the episode then goes up on Decipher Scifi. The one good option here is WordPress(.org), really. How and where you do this is up to you but we run a multisite WordPress install on Linux on AWS and manage it ourselves. I do have a couple of tips re link shortening and Let’s Encrypt though if you’re into that sort of thing.

And then within WordPress, we use the only (and really good!) plugin for serving up podcast RSS feeds, Blubrry PowerPress. It’s never done us wrong.


Yeah don’t forget these! Both the audio and the website.

Audio backups

When the episode is up and out, we back up the raw tracks and the separate final edits of the tracks in FLAC, and the final cut in MP3. They go to Dropbox, Google Drive, S3, whatever, and a portable hard drive or two. The idea is to have both a local and remote copy if you value your backups.

podcast final edit files

The final edit files for one of our episodes

Website backups

I wrote a small hacky BASH script that does my WordPress backups. It tars and gzips both the entire WordPress directory and the database dump and then moves it around with Rsync. One day I’ll do the work of finding/creating a better, more robust solution. Let me know if you can recommend one?



We have social channels! Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Creating posts

Simple text posts are one thing, but I like to use images or video when possible. I use the following tools to help me with this.

GIMP. Here is my GIMP config, if you’re interested. As of writing, It is set to behave mostly sorta roughly like Photoshop, but I still haven’t tuned this up as much as I’d like. Caveat emptor.

Instagif is a script I wrote to convert GIF (from local or the web) to MP4 for Instagram. Facebook and Twitter both support GIF (though iirc they ultimately convert to MP4 anyway), but you need to handle Instagram differently and make the GIF into an MP4 that meets with Instagram’s length and color encoding requirements. Thus, the script. ๐Ÿ™‚

Maybe I should just skip straight from GIF to MP4 for all the platforms? I’ll need to test to see if the viewing experience is diminished by this switch on Facebook and Twitter. Will report back.

Posting posts


The free tier of this wonderful service allows for scheduling up to 30 posts, which is more than I ever do at one time. And now it can even take advantage of Instagram’s direct-posting feature for business accounts, if you have one.




  • Zoom H5 Recorder with a fast SD card
  • ATR-2100
  • Neewer NW-35 table-mounting mic arm. Super cheap and has been serving us with various heavy microphones for a good long while. It even holds up the super-heavy Blue Yeti which we used for a minute.



Decipher SciFi Bill & Ted selfie with Brandon Rollins

podcast on, dudes!

So there you have it. Amazon product links include our affiliate code, if you don’t mind helping us out a bit. Happy Linux podcasting! ๐Ÿ˜€

gif to mp4

Convert GIF to MP4 for Instagram with FFmpeg

I made a script to account for Instagram’s idiosynchracies when converting a GIF to MP4 using FFmpeg. Here it is:

And now the details…

Doing a conversion of GIF to MP4 with ffmpeg seems like it should be simple enough:

But it isn’t! This can be insufficient in a couple of ways..

Problem 1: Video too short

instagram "video too short" notification

Solution: Use a filter to loop the input enough times to meet the 3s minimum time requirement

Problem 2: Wrong color encoding

Instagram blank video preview

Given a color encoding that it doesn’t understand, Instagram just kinda poops out

Solution: By default, my ffmpeg used yuv444p, which Instagram wasn’t happy with. I haven’t done an exhaustive survey of the color encoding that Instagram will accept, but here is one: yuv420p.

In addition, the conversion requires the file’s height to be divisible by 2, so we need yet another filter:


Now since so many GIFs that I wish to post to Instagram are actually shorter than 3s, I automated everything above and here is the script. To see if I made any changes since posting this, check the version I’m currently using in my dotfiles.


To convert yup.gif to yup.mp4

To convert yup.gif into yup.insta.mp4

To create an insta.mp4 directly from a remote GIF

Happy giffing! ๐Ÿ˜€