So You Wanna Podcast? Part III: Recording & Production
You’ve done the initial development of your podcast. Now it’s time to record.
We’re into the nuts & bolts of our podcasting series here. This post gets right into the mechanics of production, but part 1 and part 2 give you important strategic insights and guide you on the steps that need to happen before production begins, so read them first if you haven’t already.
Done with the first parts? OK. You’ve gone through your initial development phase, and now you want to actually make the thing. Here are the broad strokes of what you’ll need to do next.
Six steps to produce, launch & promote your podcast
Here are the six broad strokes you will have to execute to launch your podcast.
1. Script and Record
Edit, mix to create the final mp3 file that is your final podcast episode.
3. Create Key Art, Metadata
Among other items, you’ll need a name for your podcast, a description, and a 3000x3000px image that’ll be used to represent your show everywhere, including iTunes.
Get an RSS feed from your podcast host and submit it to iTunes. Wait for Apple to review and release the podcast.
Get your podcast onto the podcast listing directories, use social media to get subscribers.
The first three steps are covered in this post, and part four will get into the next three. The goal here isn’t to go in depth into all possibilities. Everything presented is only one of the many ways to do things, but this will get you well on your way.
Before you begin recording, write an outline or a script. Narratively speaking, poignant silences can be gold. But a long stretch of silence or stammering as you figure out what to say is a bad experience for the listener. Don’t wing it. Even if you are comfortable riffing, make yourself a clear outline of topics to keep the show flowing.
Tool Tips: I use Notes to write the episode script, upload it to the iCloud, copy it into the iCue teleprompter app on my iPad, and control the scroll speed using my iPhone as a remote control.
Build the best recording environment you can afford. Note that gear for podcasting could be its own article, so consider joining the Podcast Gear Group to do some research on what’s available and what you need. Keep in mind that your recording goals are the following:
Record rich, full vocals
- Buy/borrow a good microphone that can plug into XLR or USB (only use USB if on a tight budget). Blue Microphones Yeti is well-regarded in the podcast space.
- Ideally, use an external recorder with a great pre-amp (Tascam/Zoom). If on a tighter budget, record from the USB microphone straight into your computer.
- Reduce all the ambient noise that you can, just like on a film set. Turn off that AC, refrigerator, send the kids away, turn off all phones, etc.
- Plosives are the “p” popping sounds that are hard to remove in post.
- Buy/borrow a nylon pop filter to place between your and the mic.
- Position the mic so you speak slightly off-axis into it.
Reduce sound reflections
- Sound reflecting from the walls in your space will create echoes.
- Buy/borrow/build a reflection filter like the Auray RF-CPB-18 Reflection Filter Desktop Stand Kit below:
Set this all up and test, test, test! When you are ready to record, make sure you have enough power in your recorder if running off batteries, that the audio meters look good, and that there’s enough space on your data cards.
Get yourself a glass of water, settle down, and hit RECORD.
What if my show format includes onsite or remote guests?
Guests equal extra expense, so prepare to spend a bit of money.
- Must have: Buy/borrow a second microphone.
- Nice-to-have: Buy/borrow a small mixer to ride the levels during the recording.
- Technically-capable guests can record their audio using Quicktime Player (Mac) or Audacity (PC) and send you the files over Dropbox.
- Use a Skype plugin called Call Recorder for Skype (free trial available here.)
- Explore other options like Ringr (one month trial available here.)
Since you will edit this stuff, don’t hesitate to ask the guest to repeat something that may not have been recorded properly. Remember not to talk on top of them when possible; take a breath between their sentence and your response. It’ll help during the edit.
With off-site guests, you will be relying on the quality of the guest’s microphone, and on them to manage the microphone placement. Professional podcasts send out a local sound recordist to an off-site guest’s location, who will record their side of the audio on professional equipment and send that file over to you. This is called “tape syncing.”
Here are the basic steps to making your post-production high quality, and the tools you can use to do so. Note that you can take a wide variety of audio editing/software courses online at lynda.com.
- Edit the audio for narrative drive and clarity (ProTools, Adobe Audition, Hindenburg)
- Clean the dialog track (iZotope RX 5’s dialogue de-noiser)
- Enhance the dialog track with music and sound design (Audioblocks, freesound)
- Mix the dialog, music, sound design, sound effects (ProTools, Hindenburg)
- Export the dialog, music, sound design/fx tracks as separate wav/aiff files
- Final Mastering to ensure your episode meets loudness specifications (Auphonic)
Upload the exported tracks to Auphonic.com as a multitrack project, follow the instructions, and it’ll spit back out your final podcast episode mp3
Test this mp3 on different devices and speaker types to make sure the mix works well across the spectrum of devices your audience will use.
Creating Key Art and Metadata
If a listener doesn’t find your key art and podcast metadata (such as title, description) interesting enough to click, it won’t matter how great your episode is. They will never hear it. So make sure to create compelling key art, land on a memorable and relevant podcast title, and write punchy metadata.
- Title of the Show: I picked Sinema Story. I could grab the domain, twitter and Facebook handles for this, which is always a factor for me. The title should give a good idea of what the show is about. Does “Sinema Story” as a title work for you?
- Description of the show: Use this to explain what value you are bringing to the table. Why should listeners listen to your podcast? Answer that question here.
- Episode Titles: Highlight the unique selling points of each specific episode.
- You need one good graphic that represents the show, with the specs 3000x3000 px at 72 DPI, PNG or JPG.
- The show title should be part of this graphic. Make sure it’s big enough to be read when the graphic is reduced to a thumbnail size.
- The graphic should stand out next to other key art from other shows. Do a test where you ask people to scan a page full of such thumbnails from the iTunes store. Ask them to pick one that stands out. Understand what they pick and why, and why they didn’t pick yours.
- iTunes requires you to add your show to at least one category, and up to three. Add to all three categories if it makes sense, for more chances of getting discovered.
- Sinema Story belongs to the “Film/TV” and “Society and Culture” iTunes categories. I broke my own recommendation as there was no third category that made sense.
If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations! In the next and final chapter, we’ll go ahead and get your podcast onto iTunes and out into the world.