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Producing a Podcast

January 26th, 2011
Originally published October 28th, 2010
Will Voorhees

I’m responsible for all the post production editing work on the podcast. This kind of thing is usually a black box, so I wanted to sit down and give our viewers a little insight into how we produce and edit the podcast.

The first step in creating a podcast is to come up with some ideas for content.  Ben really leads the charge on this front and has come up with some great discussion topics.  We’ve also had a few shows that were inspired (or stolen right from) suggestions by listeners.  We’ve got that nice poll up too and have been getting feedback through that.  We’ve still got a ton of show ideas, but we want the listeners to guide the show, so drop us an email/comment and let us know what you want to hear!  (We’d probably take video suggestions too.)

Once we have some topic picked out, Ben creates show notes that give us some structure to follow. The initial worry with show notes was that we’d be too scripted, but that turned out to not be a problem. Check out The Meta Show for an example! :D We get some bullet points down on points we want to make, then fill in the gaps. This usually takes the entire week between recordings.  Sometimes we’re crazy and do all our show prep in a day.  It’s super intense and leads to some interesting results.

We record the podcast over Skype on Wednesday mornings, generally. This varies if we have a guest. Ben is employed, so we need to get it done before he has to leave for work! We both record our audio and the others audio. This gives us a nice backup in case one person’s recording doesn’t work. It also allows us to use high quality recordings done locally, essentially eliminating any poor audio because of a bad internet connection. We use different programs for this. Ben uses Audio Hijack Pro, and I use Call Recorder.  Lately I’ve been recording my end directly into GarageBand too, saving myself an import.

Way back when we started, we were just using some headset mics we had laying around.  Ben splurged on Yeti mics from Blue Microphone.  Oh man, the sound quality improvement was insane.  We both suddenly started sounding bearable!  This also made editing so much easier because I didn’t need to worry about pops and breath sounds, both of which were a major pain with the headset mics.

Once we’ve got everything recorded, I sit down and do the editing. I have a Mac, so we’ve been using Garageband for the editing. Back when we started the podcast, I found some Creative Commons music and a few sound effects to throw in. I created a form with tracks for Ben, Me, sound effects, and music. When I got to edit a new podcast, I make a copy of the form, fill out the episode name and description, and import the recorded audio.

Step one is to get Ben’s locally recorded audio and my locally recorded audio in sync. That’s actually pretty easy. After that, I trim off the stuff we said before the show and after the show. Don’t worry, we keep the original audio, so we could conceivably do a “left on the editing room floor” segment down the road. We’re pretty boring though when we’re not recording, so it might take a few years to save up enough scraps!

Once that’s done, I go through and find our opening quote. Sometime this is easy, sometimes it isn’t. I pull that out and bring a copy to the front of the podcast. I arrange it with the music and get the fade ins and fade outs set. I then find the break point where we talk about helping out with the show and get the music all set there. Finally, I do the end with close out music. That gives me the basic podcast. We also started taking a more active approach at removing silences and “um”s.  We found that we can trim off nearly 5 minutes by doing that.  Who knew?

With all that done, I add markers for the fancy AAC version of the podcast. The markers display in some players (like iTunes) and let you know what’s going on in the podcast. I export the podcast as both and AAC file with a .m4a extension and an mp3 file. I upload them to the server, and we’re done editing.

In the mean time, Ben sits down and uses a form we created to get a post together. I add the total run time and size of the files to the post, and we’re set to post. It generally takes me less than a day to do all this, so we normally are ready to put the podcast up on Fridays, even though Saturday is our “official” release day.

As for a few more nerdy pieces of information, we keep the final podcast files sync’ed between us with Dropbox.  The final audio files are about 50MB each. The Garageband files are stored on my laptop and backed up to an external drive. They also get pushed back home to the States.  They are the biggest space eater at around 1GB per podcast. Some balloon to nearly 2GB.  Crazy Garageband.

So there you have it. That’s how we go from nothing to a finished podcast. If you want further details, just leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

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