Producing a Podcast - Part II

I covered everything to think about, plan, and get in order to produce a podcast in Part I a number of blog posts ago. I'll cover the actual recording and post-production in this post. The recording setup is a little different for the case of recording a podcast with only me speaking versus the case when I have one or more guests. I use Audacity for the former and Pamela for the latter. Audacity is an amazing Open Source tool for recording and editing audio. It is also free. You can get it at Pamela is a call management tool for Skype which also does an amazing job of recording one or more Skype calls. Pamela isn't free but isn't very expensive.

When I record a podcast with just myself using Audacity, I ensure that my microphone is appropriately selected as the capture device in the operating system as well as in Audacity
itself by selecting Edit, then Preferences, and selecting the Audio I/O tab. I set the recording volume level as high as possible without distorting which for me is about the seven mark on the gauge. I also watch the visualization of the recording to ensure that levels don't get to high or too low. If I make a mistake, I simply leave a pause and then start again. I look for pauses during post-production in order to remove the sections with any errors.

When I'm doing a podcast with guests, I get them all to download and register with Skype. Computer to computer Skype is free and provides the best possible recording quality. I also have Skype-out which allows me to call a land line or cell phone from my computer but I try not to use that option too often because it lowers the quality of the sound. I get the sound levels right by recording my guests and I while we talk informally before the call about planning and logistics. That type of discussion is normally important anyway but also provides the ability to adjust the Pamela and Skype recording levels. I also send out the following checklist to my podcast guests a week or more prior to the actual recording.

Please take a few minutes to go over these instructions and
guidelines well before the scheduled podcast recording.
  • Install Skype if you don't already have it or if you already have it installed, make sure you have the latest version (via Help -> Latest Updates)
  • Search for and connect with Skype userid "******" - that's the account that will call you on Skype just prior to the recording session
  • Use a wired internet connection if possible although wireless will work if fast enough
  • Make sure there are no other computers in the house (if you're recording from home) that are using the internet during the recording session
  • Stop all resource intensive applications running on your computer
  • Use a good quality headset and test it with the "Echo/Sound Test Service" in your Skype contacts list - (the computer mic is of insufficient quality)
  • Make sure to participate on the podcast in a quiet setting with no background noise or distractions
  • Please turn off all messaging clients (Sametime, MSN, etc.)
  • Turn the ringer off on a phones and cell phones within earshot - even vibrate can be heard on the recording
  • Keep a 3-6 inch distance of the microphone from your mouth and do not touch the microphone while we're recording
  • If you need to adjust the microphone or headset during the call or cough, use the mute button on Skype, and remember to turn it off before talking
  • Podcasts are quite informal so feel free to speak naturally in the way you would normally have a conversation with someone at a conference
  • Make sure to sign-in to your Skype account a few minutes before the scheduled recording
I go over this checklist with my guests prior to the recording session to ensure that phones are turned off in particular.

At the conclusion of the recording, I save the session in Pamela as a wave file.
Whereas the two types of podcasts are recorded using different technologies, I edit both using Audacity with the same techniques. I first delete any discussion before and after the actual recording. I next look for any mistakes, obvious undesirable sounds (lip smacks, pops, ums and ahs), and long pauses. I select them and delete them, often first listening to them while selected to ensure I'm getting the right section.

After the editing is complete, I run the full audio through several filters by selecting All on the Edit menu and then selecting the filters from the Effects menu. I first Compress, then Normalize, and finally Amplify. This ensures that I'll have a reduced file size with consistent quality and volume of audio. I next put in the introductory music segment via the Project menu and Import Audio. I position the two audio tracks by using the Time Shift Tool. I next generate the mp3 file by selecting Export as mp3 from the File menu.

Now I've got the full mp3 file but need to add album art and text to the file so that visual identifier
for the particular podcast shows on the iPhone or iPod and that the information about the podcast shows when the screen is tapped. I mentioned the Apple products but I actually try to make my podcasts available to as wide as audience as possible and use the mp3 format for that purpose. Apple's own aac format has the advantage of being able to include multiple images throughout the podcast but acc files can only be used on Apple products. The mp3 format is much more pervasive and can be played on virtually all systems. I use iTunes to add the album art and text by copying the mp3 file into iTunes and then right mouse clicking on the entry, selecting Get info, and then using the Artwork tab and the Lyrics tab to add the album art and text respectively.


The last stage involves uploading the file using FileZilla, another great free Open Source program. I use Podbean for my podcast hosting. They have a free version to get started. I use Podbean to create the requisite rss tags. I first had to submit my podcasts to iTunes (and the Zune Marketplace is available to do that too) but after that, the podcast episodes automatically appear in iTunes and are delivered directly to subscribers as well.


I've tried to be detailed in my description but if any of this wasn't clear or you'd like to contribute your own experiences and recommendations, please feel free to use the commenting facility below to continue the discussion. Happy podcasting!