From time to time, people ask me about how to produce the audio for a basic podcast. If you’re considering doing this, here’s a basic tutorial:
1) You’ll need a good recording device. The most cost-effective and technically simplest way to do it is to pick up a Zoom H2 recorder. It has gorgeous microphones that make almost anyone sound good, and can
operate as a USB mic, but it also records uncompressed audio straight to a SD card. I recommend the latter method for simplicity. Get the Zoom, a pop screen, and a basic mic stand (~$140 for the recorder + ~$30 for the pop screen + ~$20 for the stand) and set them up in a quiet, dead room. (Dead = no bare walls. You don’t want the echoes from your living room or bedroom walls. A library is the best environment that most authors have, as books provide excellent baffling. Otherwise, a closet hung with moving blankets can work, or a bedroom with blankets hung on the walls).
There are a lot of good reasons to pick the Zoom over most USB mics out there–they bear directly on sound quality.
2) Read your story. This may take some practice if you haven’t done voice work before. Your vocal technique, characterization, and intonation are what’s more important here. Don’t worry too much about
precision. If you flub, just snap your fingers and re-take the line. The snap is important–it’ll show up in editing and make your flubs easy to find. Aim for a reading pace of between 100 and 140 words per
minute–no faster. Enunciate clearly for the narration, as if you’re talking on the phone–most people’s normal speaking voices are pretty sloppy, and that can make your words sound muddled on a recording. Vary your pace, pitch, and volume for emphasis and mood.
While you’re doing this, be sure to record thirty seconds or more of room tone (silence in the room you’re recording in). You’ll need this for editing.
3) Copy the sound file (.wav or .aiff) to your hard drive (be sure to *copy*. Don’t delete your original until you’re done, just in case you make a mistake and have to start over). Open it up in Audacity (a free
program for all platforms–download from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ ). You’ll see a waveform. Start
listening from the beginning, and edit your file for pacing and performance. Use your room tone to create spaces–do not insert digital silence, it’ll sound clunky and distracting. Save your work as you go–nothing sucks more than a program crash where you lose an hour of work.
There are good ways to do noise reduction in post, but do NOT use Levelator. There are quicker, easier ways that sound better–if there’s sufficient interest I can do a post on noise reduction.
4) Once you’re satisfied, you’ll need to record an intro and an exit (like the title sequences on tv shows). These can be as short as three or four seconds, just enough to orient your listeners so they know what
podcast you’re listening to. Some people (like me) get elaborate, with fancy intros and then post-story chat where the author talks about how he came to write the story, his upcoming public appearances, responds to listener feedback, etc.
5) When that’s all done, export the open/close sequence to a wav file and import it to your original project, then put it in front of and behind the story. Export the whole thing to a 44.1khz joint-stereo
encoded MP3. Upload it to your website. Make a blog post, add a podcast enclosure, and hit publish.
6) If you want to release on podiobooks.com as well, follow the guide at www.podiobooks.com. It’s pretty easy stuff 🙂 You’ll also want to do id3 tags, but that’s another blog post (which I’m happy to do if you guys want me to).
7) Be sure NOT to export to mp3 until the very last step. Otherwise, you can introduce audio artifacts that sound tinny.
That’s it 🙂 Chime in with questions or corrections in the comments.
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