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Recording and producing audio clips has gotten easier in recent years, so easy that it’s probably one of the reasons that so many people these days have decided to launch their own podcasts.
Technically speaking, a podcast is just an audio recording that is delivered periodically through distribution channels (RSS). Your podcast can be anything: music, storytelling, interviews, various talks, etc..
More than that, today we can easily share our recordings with everyone (via iTunes and other directories). All of this makes podcasting a great thing if you have the desire to get some work done and aren’t afraid to listen to your recorded voice.
But how can you do this effectively? Well, we are here to help.
The sound quality problem
The most important characteristic of a good podcast is the quality of the audio. It’s not the quality of the content; audio quality.
No matter how good your content is, no one will listen to it unless the experience itself is pleasant. Really it would be a huge loss if your great content was obscured by poor audio. Makes the whole process useless.
Some of the things you have to handle are:
- background sounds,
- dynamic, and
- nice mix.
Equipment and software
It is important that you have decent recording equipment. For podcasters, the ‘good enough’ package is usually just a good USB mic (like Samson C01U).
Basically the general rule is spend more than $ 60 on your mic; Please note that this excludes all types of headphone microphones.
As for the software, there are professional applications such as Sonar X1 or Studio One, but using them is a big learning curve. You need to spend time learning how to solve them.
These apps are only necessary if you are a musician who is recording multiple tracks, using multiple effects, and processing audio for a CD release.
If not, then I advise you to use Audacity, which is free, easy to use, and good enough. You can record a track, process it, save it, or distribute it to podcast directories. Alternatively, you can use live streaming.
If you prefer recordings, skip the next section.
Live broadcasts are not difficult and to be honest they involve a lot less actual hour-by-hour work.
When you’re streaming your podcast live, you don’t have to handle any post-processing. Everything is immediately broadcast over the Internet to your listeners. The only part that is actually more challenging is getting the audience to tune in.
From a technical standpoint, you can podcast live from your own computer, but this can drain your bandwidth and the experience may not be optimal for your audience.
Doing it through an external server is a better idea, as it gives you the confidence that your live program can be delivered to all listeners in the world.
You can try various streaming audio servers like this IceCast hosting or other platforms running on IceCast technology.
These live streaming services also provide software that makes connecting to your server and sending your live stream a breeze.
Podcasting the traditional way begins with a recording session. Before you begin, make sure that the environment you are in allows you to record a relatively noise-free track.
Unless you are recording in a dedicated studio room, some ground rules are:
- choose a room with a lot of furniture (it will consume the echo effect)
- close all windows and doors
- turn off your TV, radio and any other sound emitting device
- and place your microphone away from the computer so you don’t pick up computer noise
Recording with Audacity
Recording with Audacity is pretty basic. Start by setting your microphone to Preferences> Devices. Create a new track and press Registry.
Start by making a test recording. Just record for a few seconds and see if everything went well. This is done for make sure the recording is working. Better to find out now than after you’ve completed the entire podcast.
If you have any problems during the actual recording, you don’t have to stop the session. Just keep talking and then take care of the troublesome parts of the editing process.
Most podcasts are typically 20-40 minutes long. I’m not saying it’s mandatory, but you probably shouldn’t make yours longer than necessary.
Who has time to listen to someone speak for a full 30 minutes? Plan what you have to say.
The reality is that no matter what you do, your microphone will always pick up some noise if you are recording in home conditions. This is another reason why I love Audacity. It allows you to get rid of white noise.
It’s a two-step process: select a blank space on your track (like a long pause). To go Effect> Noise Removal and click Get profile. This creates the noise profile of your track. Then select the entire track, go to Effect> Noise Removal and click okay. This will eliminate the noise.
In the second step, you can play around with the settings if the results you get are not satisfactory.
Audacity usually does a great job on the first try, but in some cases some adjustments may be necessary.
Here’s the full tutorial on noise reduction in Audacity if you’re interested.
Equalization is usually the first step to standard speech processing. Basically, it makes your voice sound much more interesting and attractive to the listener.
In most situations, you will find that the raw recording of your voice is not deep or clear enough. Both problems can be solved with an equalizer.
Select your entire track and go to Effect> Equalization. This is what you will see:
To make your voice sound deeper, take the line on the left and turn it up a bit (see picture).
To make everything sound “crisp”, do the same with the line to the far right. In most cases, the midrange needs no adjustment.
Here is an example output:
You can experiment with this to find the perfect place for your voice. The above was how it worked for me.
Compression is when reduce the volume of loud sounds or amplify soft, hard-to-hear sounds. Compresses the dynamic range of the track.
This process makes your audio that much more enjoyable to listen to. Compression is important because it is impossible to speak at the same volume during the entire recording.
There are always parts that are louder and others that are quieter.
To apply compression, select the entire track and go to Effect> Compressor.
The most important parameter is the threshold. You can start setting it somewhere between -10dB and -14dB. Preview your changes, see if you like them (have all the loud sounds been reduced?), And adjust if necessary.
This is the final step in this process. When it comes to publishing your work, export your recording as an MP3 file (File> Export). MP3 will make your podcast accessible to everyone.
Hosting your MP3 file (and your podcast) is something you can still do on your standard server, but it can create a lot of problems with data delivery and bandwidth.
File sizes for audio, although smaller than video, can consume your bandwidth quite quickly. It is much better to send it to Amazon EC2, or some other cloud service, or to publish everything live as I described above.
So what is your experience with podcasting? Planning to release one soon?
Final words: Beginners Guide to Starting Your Own Podcast
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