Podcasts are now a BIG THING and with more and more companies, brands, and institutions turning to podcasts to tell their story, so are schools, classrooms, and students. In this workshop, we are going to overview the basics of podcasting from types of podcast to recording equipment and techniques.
Learning Objective: Discover together the origins, relevance, and process of podcasting, including a basic knowledge of audio recording equipment, software, and recording techniques. Class will break into groups and record and edit an audio podcast introduction.
Prework: Listen to any podcast of your choice and be ready to discuss.
What's a Podcast?
Once you’ve planned out your project, you can begin recording audio.
Audio recording can be done with a cell phone with a built-in microphone, but you will produce a much higher quality recording if you use better recording equipment.
One option is to record in an audio studio, like the one located in The Media Lab. Studios are generally well sound-proofed and the audio booth in The Media Lab has the equipment for a professional quality recording. To use the audio booth, reserve the audio studio in advance through Libcal.
Another option is to borrow equipment from The Media Lab. This is a good option if you want to record interviews at an event or record sounds that you can’t get in the studio. Equipment is available first come, first served basis. Click here to view and reserve audio equipment from The Media Lab.
Brainstorm a name, topic and format
Prepare interview questions or audio script
Assemble your equipment
Record all original audio
Record or download additional assets
Upload audio to a hosting platform or sharing service
|Choose a quiet setting
Ideally you want to be in a quiet, secluded, and sound-proof room. If you have to be outside, stay away from roads, dogs, mowers, etc. Record all audio in the same room - elements in rooms like carpet, ceiling height, and windows will make each room sound unique.
Headphones help isolate the audio, helping you catch any problems in your narration or audio.
|Place your microphone strategically
Don't be too close or too far away from the microphone. The appropriate distance between your mouth and the microphone is 6 to 12 inches. This prevents "popping" noises and heavy breathing in your recording. If you sound thin and distant, get closer to the microphone.
|Check your levels
Your microphone levels should never peak into the red during your test. The optimal point for your microphone levels is just below the red.
Speak clearly and articulate your words
Listen to the audio playback
Record high audio quality
You've written your scripts, done your recording and you're ready to put it all together. But exactly how do you do that? This process of cutting and assembling your final project from all your components is called editing.
You should start by compiling your assets, which are all of the components of your audio project like music and sound effects. Then you'll bring your assets into an editing program. When you've completed your project, export it as a .wav and upload to a sharing platform.
The art of audio editing takes time and practice to improve. Some general tips to get started include:
|Know your audio: Listen to what you've recorded, take notes, and know how you're going to shape the story|
|Making cuts: Don't worry too much about cutting out filler words (uhms and ahs). Do pay attention to where breaths lie between sentences. It can be easy to cut breaths in unnatural ways and cause a "hiccup" or double-breath effect. Don't cut off the beginning of a word (words starting with soft beginnings - "F", "H", "S" - are especially easy to accidentally cut)|
|Use fades and crossfades: Abrupt starts and stops sound unnatural. Use crossfades between sections of audio or use room tone to mask the edits.|
|Add music and sound effects: Find music that fits your tone and sound effects that enhance your sense of location.|
Background noise: steady, constant background noises like fans and hums can be taken out in Adobe Audition. It is much harder to take out random noises like other people talking or sirens.
NPR created an ear training guide for audio producers with examples of common editing and recording problems.
Many podcasts include music at the beginning and end, as well as during transitions. Music can also be added into the background of a noisy interview clip to mask the noise.
Royalty free music allows you to purchase a license for a piece of music that entitles you to use it for the duration of the license.
For free music, search for creative commons licensed music, which generally allow you to use a piece of music for free and without permission, as long as you credit the artist. Some creative commons licensed music is restricted to non-commercial uses. Always make sure you have permission to use a piece of music. You can also search for music that is in the public domain, in which the copyright has expired. Websites to browse through include:
|Free Sound||A collaborative database of CC-licensed sound. Freesound focusses on sound and sound effects, not music|
|Archive.org||Non-profit digital library with collections of digitized free movies, music, images, websites and more|
|Free Music Archive||CC-licensed music grouped by genre||||
|ccMixter||CC-licensed music for film, video and games||||
|CCTrax||CC-licensed music grouped by genre||||
|Incompetech||CC-licensed and royalty-free music from one composer||||
|Soundcloud||Audio-sharing site with a decent amount of CC-licensed music||||
|mobygratis||Electronic musician Moby has released many of his songs to use for free in educational projects||||
If you have a musical friend, consider asking them if you can use their music or if they’d like to partner with you to create sounds specifically for your project.
Audio mixing generally refers to the processes that make your audio sound better. The most important points below are fixing your levels and exporting properly. The other mixing tips are a higher difficulty level, but they are common processes run on most high-quality podcasts, which will make your podcast sound more professional.
|Fix your levels: Try to get the gain of each of your clips around the same loudness - try -6dB. Use normalization or amplify.|
|Equalizer: Boost or cut the level of specific frequency bands. Parametric equalizers allow precise adjustments for a range of frequencies. High-pass filters let through only high frequencies and reduce signal beneath a certain frequency range. This can be good for reducing rumble or hum. Low-pass filters reduce high frequencies, which can be good for a reducing a hiss.|
|Compression: Reduces the overall dynamic range of your audio, meaning the difference between the quiet and loud sounds will not be as great. Voices generally benefit from some small compression, which makes it easier to listen to. For compressing a vocal track, try starting with a 3:1 ratio and adjust the threshold so that 4-5 dB of gain-reduction occurs between peaks, then tweak.|
|Limiter: a limiter is like a wall that won't let you audio go past a certain loudness point. It's good practice to put a limiter on at -3dB.|
|Export: Export your project as a .wav and as a .mp3 file. .wav files are not compressed so they are higher quality but you might need to submit .mp3, as they are smaller.|
The Media Lab computers are equipped with audio recording and editing software. Feel free to visit Moody Library to use any workstation to complete your audio project.
Recommended software includes:
For web designers, HTML5 includes an <audio> element, a method of standardizing how audio files can be embedded on a web page. Web design tools such as Dreamweaver or Wordpress also allow for audio uploading and sharing, though audio sharing necessitates a space upgrade within Wordpress.
Social audio sharing sites provide an increasingly popular forum for uploading and distributing original audio content. SoundCloud offers a way to upload music and share via popular social networks such as Twitter or Facebook, as well as within the SoundCloud system. A SoundCloud widget enables users to create their own embeddable audio player for use on websites as well.
For sending original audio files privately to specific people, consider using a cloud-based service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. With these services, control exactly which collaborators receive the files.
When your podcast is completed, you need a place to host your episodes. Media hosts are services that store your audio and allow your listeners to listen, download and subscribe. These services host your audio files and then generate an RSS feed, which is a "Rich Site Summary" that allows applications to get updates on new content.
Once you’ve uploaded your podcast to a service, you can submit them to be listed in various directories, where listeners can discover, subscribe, and download it. If you want to reach the largest possible audience, submit your podcast to iTunes. iTunes has strict submission guidelines regarding copyright, artwork, rss feeds, etc, that you should review closely before submitting. After your podcast is on iTunes, it's easier to get accepted into new directories.
The Media Lab contains two audio booths equipped with sophisticated microphones and software.
For help setting up and using the equipment in the audio studio, schedule a consultation with Media Lab Staff.
The Audio Booths are sound isolation studios designed for professional audio capture. We provide all the gear you need, but you can easily plug in your own instruments or laptop.
Studio equipment includes:
The Media Lab has a variety of microphones and recorders available to help record an audio project on the go. Equipment is available to anyone in the Baylor community and is checked out from the Garden Level of the Moody library.
Recommended setup is an USB Blue Snowball microphone plugged into a laptop due to its simplicity in setup.
The Media Lab, located in Moody Library, has staff available to help for all aspects of multimedia projects. Faculty, staff, and students who need help during project creation should schedule an appointment and visit Moody Library to get assistance from our experienced Creative Labs staff.
There are many amazing podcasts being produced. Some of our favorites include:
A radio show and podcast weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries.
Short, surprising historical narratives concerning such subjects as the Cardiff Giant and the CIA project Acoustic Kitty.
A tour of medical history with Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Jason.
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