How to Podcast

So, CB Wilkins and I have been podcasting for a few years with What’s a Podcast.  Occasionally, after listening to it, other folks ask me how precisely one produces a podcast.  When CB and I decided to try to podcast, we had a certain idea but we didn’t know what a podcast should be.  So, we titled it What’s a Podcast and decided to move on.  That being said, I’ve learned a lot.

Step 1.  Decide What Your Show Should Be

Decide what you want your podcast to be about and what to call it.  If you have thousands of dollars to support yourself already and have the time and brains to do fantastic journalism, you can create a podcast like Serial, This American Life or Radiolab.  Marc Maron has mastered the art of  interview.  There’s countless roundtable discussion podcasts.  What should yours be?  Do you want to just discuss current events?  Should your podcast have a local focus?  Perhaps you just want to present audio of your local event like we are able to do with Tell Me More.

You need to figure out a specific sort of content.  Bear in mind, if you decide to do a podcast about the adventures of antique glass bottle collecting, you might have a very narrow audience.  At the same time, if you just djscuss current events, there’s a ton of people who already do similar podcasts, how will yours stand out?

What’s a Podcast, in my mind, is part Opie and Anthony and part WTF Podcast with Marc Maron.  We do interview but also break each other’s balls.  To our detriment, we came up with what is probably the least Google-friendly podcast title possible.  The only worse titles for our podcast would have been Bing, Webcrawler or Lycos.

Step 2.  Purchase Equipment

This can be as costly or cheap as you want, but you ARE going to have to drop a certain amount of coin to get it done.  As technology progresses, people are in a position to produce audio with incredibly high production values for increasingly lower prices.  What’s a Podcast uses the Alesis MultiMix 4 USB, a four-channel desktop mixer with a USB digital audio interface built in.  I lucked out and found it in a pawn shop for about 39 dollars.

Into this mixer we use cheap mics that run around 20 dollars apiece from guitar center.  I believe the brand is Digital Reference.  They have enough low-end to give our voices a pleasant tone with enough mid-end to keep our voices clear and not muddy.  The mixer only accepts two inputs via xlr, thus if a third or fourth mic are necessary we use a splitter to add more mics to each channel.

Additionally we use mic stands (holding a mic produces a lot of noise  you wouldn’t think gets picked up but does) and I use a spit screen because I have a tendency to speak very loudly and thus the power of the air from my P’s an B’s (plosive sounds) cause spikes in the audio that are very hard to listen to and edit out.

This is not the only way to do it.  Many podcasters instead use portable audio recorders.  Zoom has produced a very compact and efficient unit called the H4 that allows its owner to have 2 compact microphones that allow for stereo recording and the addition of up to two other microphones via xlr input.  The quality is high, the space small, and file size is limited to the size of your SD cards.

One podcaster I know uses a barebones setup of a single usb mic.

Additionally you could buy 6 top quality condenser mics in your acoustically perfect studio into an 8 channel USB mixer with phantom power for every channel, run each mic through a compressor, run it on a mac with Pro Tools installed and use an H4 as a back up just in case your computer crashes… but then again you’re reading the beginner’s guide… you’re probably not going to do that.

Step 3.  Record

What’s a Podcast uses Audacity, but again it is not the only way. When recording, introduce yourself, introduce the show.  Produce your content.  Really, do what works.  But really, big things here:

1.  No dead air unless it’s for dramatic effect like Radiolab does.  That’s why it’s good to have two people on.

2.  Don’t talk over each other all the time.  Admittedly harder to do on a solo podcast.

3.  Have a plan.  Stick with it, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it so you can see where conversation wanders.  You can always fix it in post.

4.  Know when to end it.

Step 4.  Editing

Again, our podcast is edited in Audacity Depending on your desired production value, you may want to play lead in music or an introduction or something like a radio show would call a sweeper.  Or you may not.  You may want to cut out bits of audio that your guest wouldn’t want heard in a public forum such as a podcast.  A lot of that is personal choice. In the beginning of our podcast, we would record for 2 hours and cut it down to one.

For me, I like to play a pre-recorded introduction and then get right to it.  Beyond that, I do practice a few tricks to get my podcast sounding slightly better.

1.  Normalization.  This takes away your peaks without distorting the sound quality too much.

2.  Compression.  This makes some of the quieter sounds easier to hear and reduces the harshness of some of the louder sounds.  Hard to get a feel for.  If you do it wrong, any loud noise crashes to silence afterward and then fades back in or you get a loud background hum between a lull in conversation, but when you do it right, it makes the conversation seem to be at a steady constant volume.

3.  Leveling.  This is like compression but makes sure what should be quiet is quiet and what should be audible is.

4.  Equalization.  We usually drop a little tiny bit of the mid level tone and increase the bass so that the voices have a more pleasant richness.

5.  Normalize it again.  You did a lot of weird  stuff, this kind of helps makes sure it’s all balanced.

This takes a lot of practice to get where you’re comfortable with it, my process might not work for you or be necessary.

Step 5.  Posting it

You’ve created an awesome podcast!  You edited it for 3 hours and waited 30 minutes for a file to render… now what?  You might be thinking “well, Brendan, I get it on iTunes and then I’m famous!  To get your podcast to iTunes (which you will want to do.  iTunes allows users to subscribe to your podcast… it’s downloaded every single time automatically by your listeners as soon as you post it) you have to submit them an RSS feed.

If you’re really good with computers you can upload your podcast to your own hosting site, upload a few files, write the RSS coding and then submit that to iTunes.

But again, you’re reading this article, so you’re probably not.  Sites like Libsyn.com and Podbean take the work out of all this for you.  You simply upload your content to their site through their pre-made back end, submit your RSS feed link to iTunes and then you’re good to go.

 

Now share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, at YOUR comedy shows, and hope to God someone listens.

Again, check out What’s a Podcast (@WhatsAPodcast on Twitter) at http://www.whatisapodcast.libsyn.com to see more of how we try to do what we do.

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