One thing that I always wanted to see when looking at how to create something like this, was to see the thought process, or steps someone else took, as it's very far removed when you're just reading instructional text. So each step is going to have a section that details what we did. If you don't care about this aspect, skip it.
Several months ago ShadyLogic and I began working out the details on creating our own podcast. Five weeks ago we built our website and started producing episodes. Every week we find out some new technique we didn't know of previously and incorporate that into our website or podcast.
It is my goal that if you're here because you've been thinking about creating a podcast, by the time you finish looking through this, you'll know exactly what's going to be involved.
Step 1: Forward...
So...this instructable was started and written over three years ago. Going through my drafts, I realized that it was mostly complete. I kept meaning to get back to it, edit it, provide more information...but at this point, I don't think that's going to happen. So instead...I think I'm just going to publish it as is. Hopefully it has some useful information in it...it looks like there was a lot of work that went into it...and I have no desire to go though all of it again. The podcast I was doing ended quite a while ago do to the little amount of time my friend and I had to spend on it.
If there are questions, I can try to answer them...but hopefully...this is actually a finished project (which I'm pretty sure it is).
Step 2: Picking a Topic
There are a lot of things that go into making a podcast, but most importantly is what you decide to talk about. This is your voice, and something you're going to be talking about a lot, you should spend some time thinking about this and pick something you're interested in.
There are many techniques to figuring out a topic, from brainstorming to throwing darts at a board. Use whatever technique works for you!
ShadyLogic and I have thought about doing a podcast since we met in college. Our instructors, random people in Costco, and people we walked past on the street would tell us that we sounded like we should host a show together. We thought it would be fun, and threw ideas back and forth occasionally about what would make a fun podcast, but nothing ever really stuck. We did get together every week to work on whatever crazy projects we had going on at the time, and to screw off or speculate about things we could build, when we weren't making things like fire tornadoes. Last year I moved out of the country, and we haven't had our build time so we started putting some more thought into what could make a good podcast. One day it dawned on us that we both really liked to brainstorm project ideas and different directions you could take them. We decided this was the best idea. Slightly behind though was the idea that we could do a short video cast where we watched and critiqued really bad music videos. We still do this second item for fun, but we figured it probably wouldn't translate well to an internet full of strangers.
Step 3: Research
It's important to know what's already out there, so you don't just repeat what someone else is doing.
When initially thinking of podcasts we thought would be fun, there were a lot of ideas related to how technologies worked. Those ideas were tossed away pretty quickly due to the oeuvre of podcasts over at HowStuffWorks, and more recently with Make Presents, a series of videos devoted to detailing how basic electronics work.
Once we settled on brainstorming projects, I went out and tried by best to find podcasts that were similar to what I wanted to do. Most of the podcasts I found had nothing to do with the niche I wanted, a couple were kind of there. The ones that were close, I absolutely hated. The announcers sounded fake (they had thick radio voice and everything sounded rehearsed), the random audio felt cluttered (it sounded like they stole the sound board from a morning radio show and didn't know how to work it), and it was just all around terrible. The projects they talked about they didn't even go into, they just mentioned them, and then talked off topic about a ton of other things.
Step 4: Style
Audio versus video is also an important choice, and will help determine where you disseminate your podcast. Video is something that people need to be sitting in front of a computer, tablet or phone screen to watch. The important thing to remember about video is that the audience needs to be actively engaged in what you're doing. If what you're doing doesn't require people looking at you, audio might be a better choice. This is something people can listen to on their way to work, in the shower, or where ever else. It doesn't require extra effort on your audiences part.
Both of these choices are going to affect how you record yourself, so keep them in mind. If you have 5 different people, are you all around one table or in different locations?
I've always preferred back and forth in podcasts, with two to three people. When it's just one person it always sounds a bit dry to me, like they're reading from a script, and with more then three it tends to sound a bit jumbled like people don't know when to talk. Jake and I knew we were going to do something together, but we threw around the idea of having call in guests on occasion if we ever had a questions we didn't know the answer too. By giving ourselves this option, we could travel between two and three people if the need ever arose, or we were just stumped on an idea.
We also always knew we were going to do audio. Although, when we considered doing a show making fun of music videos, we knew that that medium would require a way to show his reaction, my reaction, and the music video itself. I looked into Google Talk and Skype and their video sharing options, but none of it really worked. If I were going to try to make that video now, I'd probably just video record Jake and I watching it at the same time (with each of us having to click the play button at the same time on our own computers). I'd then download the video from whatever service it was being streamed from and splice the three videos together. It's a lot of work, but the only way that particular video cast could happen.
Step 5: Figure Out a Schedule
You also need to schedule a time to record. For us, the time to record turned out to be more important then when we wanted to upload. If you're meeting up with other people to podcast with, find a time during the week everyone is free, and block it out on your calendars.
I heard somewhere (I think some comedian who podcasts) that in a business environment, people are just getting back to work on Monday so they have a lot of catching up to do from the weekend (the backlog of weekend emails), and tend to be a bit swamped. Starting Tuesday, their email load goes down a little bit and they don't have to concentrate so hard on forming coherent sentences.
With this in my head, our initial goal was to record over the weekend, at any point we were both free, and then upload the files on Tuesday. We failed at this the first week. The idea that anytime on the weekend would work when nothing else was going on, ensured that we both scheduled things at totally different times on the weekend and were never able to meet. We decided to find a day we new we could both meet to chat every week, record that day and upload a day or two later. The day we found that would work best: Wednesday evening. I then take the next day to edit the podcast and prepare the resources and forum topic, then I upload everything first thing Friday morning.
Step 6: Materials
If you want to have a more complicated set up, you should check out some of these sites. Our goal was to keep things as simple and cheap as possible. We didn't want this to become a job or a burden. If it turned into something we didn't enjoy doing, we were going to stop, and we don't want to do that.
My quick, simple and cheap materials list is as follows:
Blue Snowball Microphone - $70.00
Skype - Free (we're located in separate countries, so VOIP software made more sense then a plane flight every week)
Skype Call Recorder - $19.95
Lots of Blankets - Free (dragged out of the closet and off the bed)
Audacity - Free
GarageBand - Free with my Mac (everything I use GarageBand for, I can do in Audacity, I just choose not to)
Headphones - Free (seriously, whatever is laying around)
Everything on this list can be substituted with something else. The microphone should be a condenser mic. It was brought up to us by someone who used to work a lot with recording audio that the Snowball mic is one of the most affordable, and decent at doing what it does. You can easily spend five hundred dollars on a good mic, we thought this was an acceptable compromise. Jake had a USB condenser mic sitting around his house for a project he'd worked on previously. It wasn't a Snowball, but if you take a listen to the podcast, you'll see it works pretty well. The key here is not to use your computers internal mic, or crappy little mics you plug in. They aren't capable of getting decent quality recordings. You're going to be speaking directly into peoples ears for an hour every week, you want to make your voice sound as nice as possible.
There are a ton of free and pay for skype recorders. I chose the one I did for two reasons. First, it works on a mac, and that's the computer I use when I record the calls. Second, it records both audio streams as separate channels. When editing, this is very important. If you don't plan on editing your podcast, get a free call recorder, but I wouldn't recommend this.
Each person who is going to take part in your podcast needs their own dedicated Microphone. When you're editing things, you don't want one big blob of audio. You want to be able to separate people out, cut people off when there's ambient noise, and have general control of what your podcast sounds like.
This is something both of us did on a budget. Yes, we spent money on important items, but we tried to spend the least amount of money that we could. I purchased the mic and the audio recording software. Jake had his own mic and got his own recording software to ensure there was a backup of the podcast just in case. So far, we've only used the recording from my side of the conversation, which occasionally cuts out Jakes mic, but not enough that it affects the overall content.
Step 7: Set Up
You need to set your mic up in front of you. Plug it into your computer, open up your system settings and check the levels. Once everything is to your liking, open up Audacity and select record.
There's two things to look for here:
First, check audio levels while no audio is being recorded. If you have a good mic, it'll pick up quite a bit. See how much noise is in the recording and adjust the mic levels up a little bit to minimize the noise levels. With the Snowball mic, there's a switch on the back that applies -10dB to the audio levels. This is helpful if you have a noise problem.
Second, check audio levels while talking. Try to talk how you would in the podcast, move around and watch the levels and see what causes you to peak out, and what might be too quiet. If you find yourself peaking a lot, turn your mic levels up. Another technique to raise your audio levels is to bring the mic closer to your mouth (it's simple, but it works).
If you're able to record and test your hardware, it should be working. You should also do a short test recording for your podcast to ensure everything is working as it should. If you're using Skype, call who you'll be talking to in Skype, record the two of you talking for 30 seconds, and play it back. You can try to edit it and see what the audio looks like. See if you can edit each of the tracks individually. Do a mock up start to finish just to ensure everything is working.
Bonus tips and tricks:
There's quite a few things you can do to keep noise levels down. First, sound proof your room. Sounds expensive, right? It's isn't. Thumb tacks and blankets are my technique of choice. The goal isn't to make a professional sound booth, but try to limit rough audio. Blankets on the walls will dampen echo's which microphones are excellent at picking up. For blanket walls, you want blankets behind your microphone, where you're talking towards, and behind you. By placing blankets in these two places you can severely limit echoing.
Another problem some people have when recording is popping sounds on p's and b's. Pop filters are made to combat this. They're not incredibly expensive if you need one, and they're even cheaper if you build them yourself. Also, it's very important to have proper microphone placement to limit any of these sounds even further.
ShadyLogic and I recorded a few test episodes to work out schedules and techniques. We worked on fake questions we made up, and a couple of questions that some friends provided us. When we finally worked out what we thought would work, we cut out he questions that we felt spoke best to what we wanted to do, sent a test to instructables HQ and posted it onto the forums to ask the community for feedback. This original recording was done with even more unprofessional mics then we use now. The most useful piece of advice we received was to upgrade our recording software.
When editing audio in GarageBand, the first couple of times I worked on podcasts, the "echo" filter was automatically selected. It provided a terrible echo effect to the podcast. After changing all of the editing software so that no effects were being applied to any of the audio, everything worked fine.
Step 8: Recording
So yeah, start recording. When you're finished, stop the recording and make sure it saved onto your computer.
See, a lot of lead up for something incredibly simple to do.
Points of Interest:
-Try not to clear your throat or cough too often
-If you're recording with other people, try to find a rhythm so you're not constantly talking over each other.
Just about every recording I've done with ShadyLogic to date, I've felt were terrible right after we've finished them. I wait a day to do all of the edits to give myself time to reflect and relax. When I get back to them the next day, they always sound (so far), much better then I remember them going in my head. I think this is pretty normal, and if you feel like you've done a bad job, give it a day and listen to it again. A fresh set of ears can make all the difference.
One thing we decided to do with our podcast was to have a Q&A dialogue between the audience. We wanted to help people out with projects, and we felt an advice column style of show, similar to a Dear Abby column but about things that are trying to be built instead of personal problems would be a lot of fun. We knew it would be difficult at first when we didn't have that many listeners so we created a backup plan. We would scour the internet forums for questions that haven't received any answers and try to help those people out. mikeasaurus made a suggestion that both of us kicked ourselves for not thinking about. He suggested commenting on the forum topics and letting those people know we answered their question. Since the questions sometimes went back three years, I wasn't too sure of doing that at first, but if you're trying to let people know about what you're doing, you need to be willing to put yourself out there.
Step 9: Editing - Stage 1 (cutting and Muting)
Now, I just know the bare minimum about editing audio files, but it's all I really need to know in order to do what I need to do to them. If you want a more in depth look at how to get the full power out of your audio editor, there's a ton of resources on the internet to be found if you just search.
For my purposes, I just needed to know how to delete, and silence audio. These are two very different functions and be sure you don't mix them up. Depending on the audio program you're in, when you delete audio, the section you delete is removed, placing just before the begging of the delete and just after the end together. This is similar to a word document and selecting a series of words. If I select and delete quick brown from the sentence "The quick brown fox." I'm left with "The fox." Which is fine and makes sense. When you have two different audio streams though, and you only delete a section in one, they no longer match up.
This is why silencing audio is useful. If I were to silence the same words in the sentence above, I'd be left with "The fox." The area where quick brown used to be is still there, and the sentence still takes up the same amount of space of a page, but the words you wanted to remove are still gone. by silencing audio, you ensure the timing stays coherent between people talking. If you delete a bunch of coughs from one person, and listen to the audio file and realize that one person is answering questions before they're asked, it's not a good thing.
So keep those two things straight, and you should be fine. The images on this step have over-text to point out where the controls are and what's going on.
Tips and Tricks:
-Don't take out too much audio between words. Remember, even the recorded you should pretend it's breathing on occasion
-Figure out what people say a lot, and tell them to stop saying it. It takes work to get out of the habit of saying Ummm, or smacking your lips right before you speak. There are a lot of bad audio recording habits people have that no one notices, because no one has a microphone pointed right at their mouth in daily conversation.
-Don't go overboard in your edits! Get rid of long silence, bodily noises, and other offensive sounds, but don't try to get rid of everything, it's not worth your time, or the energy required. You'll notice more then anyone else, and even then, you wouldn't really notice if you weren't listening with such a critical ear.
When I edit the podcast, I actively listen to the whole track. There are a lot of long pauses where we're both processing a questions, or thinking of how best to respond. There's two routes you can take on this, if you don't want to edit your track, you can fill that in with noise and always talk, or you can do what I do, and cut it out later. After I'm done with editing the track, instead of sounding very thoughtful and pensive on each question, we sound like we jump into the discussion straight away without thinking, and have a rapid fire back and forth. While this is our conversation, it's a slightly sped up by limiting the pauses right after the start of the questions.
On occasion I've deleted whole questions because we just did a horrible job at answering them. There's nothing wrong with this, but it makes it difficult to sync things up in two very different parts of the audio stream. The tone of our voice changes with each question, and if I tried to get things to sound perfect, I'd end up deleting the entire audio file, one sound at a time. Having a few weird cuts is fine, and remember, it's either a weird cut, or 10 minutes of a back and forth conversation that goes absolutely no where. Think which one you'd rather listen to, and provide that to your audience.
Step 10: Editing - Stage 2 (adding Music)
I choose to use GarageBand to add the music portion, but this is only because I figured out how to do it in GarageBand first. You can do it just as easily in Audicity and I may at some point, but for now I have a workflow that works for me.
The first thing I do here is export an uncompressed audio file (usually .wav) of the talking portion of the podcast. I think that even if I did everything in Audacity I would still do this. When editing the podcast there's two streams that I'm editing, my audio and Shady's. By exporting the file, I have one track that I know I don't need to edit.
After I have the wav file, I import that and the intro and outro music into Garage Band. I do some minor edits on the tracks (Fade the music into the talking, and ensure that no track is seen as more important) and when everything is to my liking, I export the file in an compressed audio format (I choose mp3 as it's the most used).
You'll find more details in the image notes, please see them for more details.
Tips and Tricks:
-If you're just speaking in your podcast, you do not need high quality audio. When you export the mp3, from whatever program you decide to use, remember that 128kbps is probably too high for voice only.
If you're playing music in your podcast (aside from your intro), you might think of using a higher bit rate (like 128kbps)
One of the reasons my workflow includes GarageBand is because I didn't know what music I wanted to use for our intro. We didn't have any and that felt wrong. Shady toyed with the idea of making some for us, and if he ever does our music will be getting updated. Audacity doesn't have any loops or music instruments (it's not that kind of software), but GarageBand is. In addition to giving you instruments to make songs, GarageBand gives you a host of loops. I didn't feel like scouring the internet when I had our first podcast ready to upload. I had a few hours to finish and upload, so instead of spending the entire time listening to free music online to see what might work best, I just did a quick run through of everything GarageBand had in their loops section. I was quite happy with the one I selected, and several others I've heard in other podcasts. If you have some free time before you're planning on releasing your podcast, I would suggest checking out some of these sites, as they're full of audio resources for you.
Step 11: Editing - Stage 3 (id3 Tags)
ID3 tags are the bits on your mp3's that store all of the secondary data after the audio (being the artist, title, track number, album, etc). ID3 tags are important for several reasons. If someone just happens across your file, you want them to know where to find more. If someone downloads your file to listen to, you don't want it to appear in their music players as my_cool_podcast_ep-01.mp3 with absolutely no other information about it. Plus, branding! Branding is super important and you want to get your brand out there. You're making a podcast for people to listen to. You need to let all of those people know that you know what you're doing, or at least make it seem like you know what's going on.
Because I like to make things as difficult as possible for myself, I edit files back and forth on a Mac and Linux computer (the Windows computer is hooked up to the TV for video games, so it keeps out of most work functions). There are plenty of programs that will edit your ID3 tags for you, on Linux both EasyTAG and Puddletag work great. You can find editors on whatever system you're using and you can choose to pay or find a free version, they'll both accomplish the same thing. You can also edit ID3 tags in a lot of music programs, like iTunes. One of the reasons I use multiple computers in my editing though is to ensure changes take place. When editing ID3 tags in certain programs (iTunes), the changes don't always seem to stick. iTunes always remembers, but it seems to only be within it's internal memory. Sometimes it works great too, but I stopped using it a while ago for that reason. By taking the file to another computer, you can ensure the tags work fine. It doesn't need to be a different operating system, just a different computer. Don't have a different computer? Send the file to a friend and ask them to verify it worked for you.
Whatever ID3 editor you chose to use, I would highly recommend you fill in at a minimum the following items:
URL and Track Number if you want.
The album cover should be 300 x 300 pixels. Do you want to stand out in someone's music program? Then make a catchy album cover. It's simple to just crop your logo into the correct area, branding, remember?
There's image notes again!
Our podcast files have gone through several iterations. The nice thing about having access to your files, is if you decide to change something (say your album art), you can go to earlier mp3's and change them all in a batch function. Try to get all your artwork set up before you get too far in, so as not to give yourself too much extra work.
Step 12: Upload and Post
There are a few things to be aware of here. First, you need a place to host your audio file. You can host it on your servers, there's nothing wrong with that, but if you start to get a lot of listeners, your server probably won't be able to handle it. I know, you have unlimited bandwidth with your hosting package, and I realize that seems like it means you should be able to have unlimited bandwidth, but that's not the whole truth. So with that in mind, I would highly recommend letting someone else host it.
Now, you can either put it to a site to host for you, and not make your own, or, put it somewhere to host, and also create your own site to promote it. I've chosen the second of these options. You're limited with what you can do on sites that host your content for you (unless they give you full range of the html, css, and php on your upload pages).
You'll also need to choose who you want to host through. There are plenty of options, you should research them and choose one that supports your values. I chose the Internet Archive for ours since they felt the most open source and I support what they do.
Once you've chosen your audio host platform, upload your mp3. You should be given the option to add keywords, descriptions and other things. Provide as much content as possible. You want people to be able to find this later.
With your mp3 online, you're either done with this step, or you still need to make your blog post (there is a very good reason to do this which I'll get to in the next step). Before I post to any site, I prepare in a text program exactly what I'm going to write for each blog post. Internet Archive automatically enters carriage returns into the html, so I save a file for them with no breaks in the code, then I save a text file for my own blog, and a text file for the instructables forums (this last one I stopped doing since I felt like I was clogging up the recent feed in the forums).
Copy and paste the text to your blog, post it and enjoy!
So I really didn't want to use WordPress. I'm not sure that I have a really good reason, I just didn't want to use it. I have used WordPress with the ComicPress theme that I completely customized in the past, but I just didn't enjoy the interaction. I've tried Drupal in the past as well, and while I really want to like that CMS, I just can't bring myself to understand it. Several years ago though, I happened across something called TextPattern, and it seemed quite interesting. I decided I would finally try to use it for this blog, and I'm esthetic I did. It can be a little more complicated in some aspects then WordPress, but the blog I have is pretty much the default that TextPattern comes with. There's not many themes, and if you want to really change things, you're going to have to get into the code, but if you just want a basic blog, and you weren't planning on getting too into the code anyway, it works quite well. I'm pretty sure there was a reason I started telling you all of that, but let's just assume it's to set up story time in the next step!
Step 13: Get the Word Out!
Let's move beyond social media though. There are quite a few podcast directories that you can add your feed to. Some people even recommend paying for a press release, which will work to get your podcast to new listeners, but I've never been a fan of this method.
There only two other podcast directories that you should also try to get into. iTunes, because everyone has a iPod, and the Zune Marketplace, because there are plenty of people who have a Zune. If you're podcast can be uploaded to iTunes, it's formatted correctly for Zune. The instructions to upload your podcast to the iTunes market place is an instructable in itself. Every blog software is going to have slightly different requirements. It's important to know what the iTunes requirements are for your feed, and to adhere to them. iTunes requires special tags for the rss (xml) feed you give to them.
Depending on how you've decided to upload your files, there's different options to creating the proper xml file (which is why this is so complicated. Some hosting sites will provide this function to you. If you're publishing your own blog, you'll have to figure out how to change the rss feed being distributed by the blog feed, whether you're using TextPattern, Drupal, or Wordpress. There are also stand alone options that will work quite well. Finally, using Feedburner with Blogger is quite popular. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should provide a good starting point of where to go to get more information.
Think about all of the information you want to be associated with your feed, and see if the service you're using allows you to edit all of the categories that are important to you.
Now that iTunes is all taken care of, how hard do you think submitting to the Zune Marketplace is going to be? Well, you can hop over to this page and scroll all the way to the bottom. Now scroll up just a little bit to the "How to Submit a Podcast" section. It turns out there's two options. One requires you have Zune software, which I don't, and didn't really want. Thankfully, the second option is to send them an email, which seems really simple. I emailed them the link and got an email a day later letting me know everything was in order.
One of the reasons I'm very happy with TextPattern, is when something needs updated, most of the time the way to update it is to go into the code and change it yourself (I realize this isn't for everyone). There are plugins, and if you see the link above you'll see how I published my iTunes feed (if it's just words, select view page source to see the code). It took quite a while to figure out all of the details, and a little bit longer to figure out how to get some of the new items I didn't want off of my homepage, but once I squared everything away, it all worked beautifully. I'm a fan of having as much control over what I do as I can, but don't have the skills or probably the time to code my own php website from scratch. Using a CMS that does that for me is incredibly useful, and finding one that I can have a lot of control over is even better.