Podcasting 101

A podcast is a radio show for the web. Your podcasts can stand on their own or be part of a blog post. Compared to video production, creating a podcast can be much simpler. You can use one to inform and entertain (and hopefully a little of both). Here’s an example of the Practical Tech with Tony podcast produced at the Fountaindale Public Library.

Your podcast has two primary requirements: a voice (or several voices) and something to say. Since this is a technical blog post, I’ll leave developing the actual content for your podcast up to you. One suggestion: search around the web and listen to what others are doing with their podcasts. That just might provide the creative spark you need to develop your podcast.

Equipment list
USB microphoneAt its simplest you can create your first podcast with a microphone, computer (or tablet/phone), and audio software. Avoid the built-in mics that come standard on most hardware and instead opt for an external microphone. USB-based microphones are a fine choice to plug into a laptop and record away.

If multiple people will be part of your podcast, you’ll need to move beyond a single microphone setup. That means adding different mics and an audio interface that can accommodate them. At Studio 300 in the Fountaindale Public Library we use 2 and 8 channel audio interfaces from MOTU along with Electro-Voice RE-20 microphones (a radio standard).

Using microphones also requires a small desktop stand. Don’t forget the pop filter which is a must to tame those explosive ‘P’ and other sounds. Talk directly into the mic from about 6″ away for the best sound quality.

Headphones are not required for everybody, but you should have a good, closed back pair for the person doing the recording to use for monitoring and quality control.

Mics and headphones plug into the audio interface which then connects to the computer typically via USB. Your recording software then “sees” the mics allowing you to record your content.

Studio 300 uses Macs, so the built-in GarageBand software works well for podcast recording. PC users can consider the freeware Audacity program. I’m fond of the cross-platform Reaper audio software because of its ease of editing and more robust features, but some may find this choice a tad daunting.reaper1

Last on your list should be a location to record. Choose a place that is already quiet and free from echo (avoid the back stairwell). If the room sounds good already, your recordings will, too. The microphones are directional, so that helps make the recordings sound better, too.

Workflow Tips
podcastWith everything connected and working, turn your attention to presenting your content and ignore the technology. You’ll capture a more relaxed conversation that your audience will appreciate.

Record everything. If you or another person makes a mistake, just pick it up again. This keeps the conversation flowing more naturally. Once you’ve finished the recording, then you can focus on editing the raw content into an entertaining and informative podcast.

The same software that you use for recording will work to fix mistakes and otherwise tighten up the content. Editing audio is akin to word processing where you select and delete errors and move sentences around. The audio waveforms may not look like words, but the approach is similar. You can make simple edits and eliminate obvious errors or you can edit microscopically. The choice is up to you and your software comfort level.

Sweeten your podcast by adding theme music or other sounds. Royalty-free music can be yours for a small fee using a service such as audioblocks.com. You can even compose your own theme music using GarageBand.

Delivery
All audio software offers some way to save your finished work as one final file in .wav/.aif or MP3 format. Upload the completed podcast to a website such as Soundcloud and share the link. You can also embed the Soundcloud player with your podcast in a website or blog. The blog idea is handy because you can add links to the specific topics you mention during the show.

Now that you have a basic idea of how to create a podcast, it’s time to get started on this fun project. I’ll be listening.

Presented by Jeffrey P. Fisher, Fountaindale Public Library, Studio 300

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