Podcast PerspectivePodcast Perspective | The podcast about everything podcasting and new media with ...

By Steve Riekeberg

About this podcast   English    United States

Podcast Perspective is the podcast about everything podcasting and new media, featuring tools, tricks, and techniques to take your production to the next level! Whether you're a veteran, or a beginner yet to publish your first episode, learn how to make your show reach its full potential.
In this podcast




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Oct. 17, 2011
Who said there’s no money in podcasting? Whether your audience is large or small, learn five different strategies that you can use to make money from producing your podcast. Get paid to do what you love! How To Make Money From Your Podcast Don’t start podcasting expecting to strike it rich and be able to quit your day job–If you’re seeing dollar signs, there are much easier and less stressful ways to try to get rich than through podcasting. While there have been podcasting success stories, including Leo Laporte, Adam Carolla, and many others, they are the exception, not the rule. While it can happen, there’s certainly no such thing as an overnight success, it can take years of hard work. Podcast because you want to, because you have to–not for money! However, there’s certainly nothing wrong with monetizing your production, even just to make your show self supporting to pay for equipment, hosting, and any other associated production costs. Myth: “You have to have a large audience to be able to make money.” Having a large audience can help, but it is by no means a necessity; there are multiple ways to monetize (not just advertising), and having a loyal, engaged audience can be more important–quality over quantity. 1. Donations There’s nothing wrong with asking for donations–you won’t get what you don’t ask for, and some people will be more than willing to pitch in to support the continued production of a show they love and want to see continue. Just don’t be constantly nagging your audience begging for their money. One way to encourage donations is to give them a shout out thanking them for their contribution, or maybe allowing them to “sponsor” an episode to get a short message read–“this episode is brought to you in part by the generous donation from Joe Schmoe.” For some, hearing their name on your show can be a huge incentive. You can accept donations through PayPal, which offers tools to create both one-time amount and recurring “subscription” donations. For an example, here are custom donation buttons from Geek Cred: $2 / Month One-Time While this is referred to as a donation, unless you are a registered non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, it is not tax deductible! 2. Advertising There are multiple types of advertising: Cost Per Thousand (CPM) Cost Per Action (CPA)/Cost Per Conversion (CPC) Flat Rate An advertising campaign is usually limited to a monthly or quarterly time period, and sometimes the impressions may be limited geographically to a target demographic the advertiser is trying to reach, such as people in the United States. Many advertisers prefer a host-read endorsement, instead of the traditional commercial break playing that slick pre-produced, but impersonal advertising spot, allowing you more creative freedom in your delivery as long as you get the advertiser’s message across. On a CPM campaign, if you produce a weekly show (4 episodes per month) with 1,000 subscribers, and an at a CPM rate of $25, you will earn $100 per month. But, if your advertiser is trying only trying to reach people in the United States, if only 500 subscribers are located within the target demographic, you might only earn $50 per month. CPM advertising does better with larger audiences, but doesn’t require your subscribers to do anything. On a CPA or CPC campaign, you only get paid per lead of sale you generate when your audience does something, such as signing up for a service using a unique discount code that tells the advertiser that you referred them. This requires your audience to actually do something for you to get paid, but you don’t need a large audience, but a loyal, engaged audience. Advertising networks negotiate with advertisers to get their message on many different shows: Blubrry Podtrac Mevio If you are on a CPM campaign, the advertiser will want verifiable, third-party download statistics. Remember: When you join an advertising campaign you are (usually) signing a contract! You need to produce your normal number of episodes. 3. Premium/”Freemium” Content Much like subscribing to a newspaper or magazine, this requires people to pay a subscription fee for full access. You have to have great–not just good–in demand content. However, most people aren’t willing to pay without a sample–before paying, they want to know that it is worth it. This is where the “freemium” model comes in, where there’s both a free version, to get people hooked, and a premium version where people can pay to get the full experience. For example, premium members might have access to exclusive bonus or behind the scenes content, or maybe only some episodes are released for free, while other episodes are restricted to premium members. Don’t make every free episodes seem like a commercial for the premium membership. Only a small percentage of the most hardcore fans (usually 10-20% or less) will pay for a premium membership. 4. Affiliate Links When someone buys something through your affiliate link, you will receive a small affiliate income, usually a percentage or flat rate. For example, if you click a link in the show notes to buy equipment (such as a microphone or headphones), you are helping support Podcast Perspective. A specially formatted link with a unique identifier tells the vendor (such as Amazon.com) that I sent you. You don’t have to be a corporate shill, but if you’re already talking about a certain product (for example, the latest video game or the hotest new gadget) include an affiliate link in the show notes, so that when people go to check out that product (or service) you can get an affiliate income. Popular places for affiliate links: Amazon.com Commission Junction e-Junkie ShareASale eSellerate Chances are, if it’s an online business, they have some sort of an affiliate program! Use PrettyLink for WordPress to create an easily memorable short code–for example, podcastperspective.com/dreamhost for $25 off a year or more of hosting with DreamHost. Just remember, full disclosure isn’t just ethical, it’s the law–visit CMP.LY  for more information 5. Self-Promotion The show itself is a tool to promote your own products or services and grown your personal brand. Products would include something you sell, whether physical, such as a book or t-shirt, or digital, such as an ebook or tutorial video. Services would include something you do, such as photography, consulting, etc. Podcast Perspective is itself promotional tool to get out the word about me and my services, including podcast consulting, podcast evaluation, audio production, and voice overs. Share Your Thoughts! Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to [email protected] or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below! Podcast Consulting: I am available for one on one podcast consulting, podcast evaluation, audio production, and voice over work. I’d love to work with you to make your podcasting dreams a reality. If you’re interested, please contact me! Subscribe to Podcast Perspective:
Aug. 28, 2011
“Content is king” in new media–but you have to actually produce content! Podcasting doesn’t have to require a lot of money. Learn about the software and services to use to make your voice heard and get your show online, regardless of your budget. Steve will be at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA, September 2nd-5th, 2011, and participating in one panel at the podcasting track: “Podcasting 201 – The Tech Stuff” at 4 PM on Friday, in the Hilton Room 204. If you’re at Dragon*Con, come by and say hello! Are We In A Post-“Podcast” World? There’s been a discussion recently that really struck a chord. Someone posited a question: Are we still podcasters? That is, in the age of live streaming, is it really still a “podcast”? In the strictest definition, a podcast is rich media downloaded automatically via syndication–inherently time shifted, the opposite of live. The words “live” and “podcast” are mutually exclusive; a “live podcast” is technically incorrect. Podcast is really the delivery method, not the media itself. Many people identify simply as “podcasters,” but a show is a show–no matter what the media or delivery method, whether podcast, live, or something else. You want your show to be available for people to tune in in as many ways as possible. The term podcast has made major progress in penetrating the mainstream consciousness, it’s still shrouded in mystique for many people. First and foremost, you are a content creator, the host or producer of a show–no matter how people listen to or watch it. Think beyond podcasting! Podcasting on a Budget–For (Almost) Free You don’t have to spend a lot of money–or sometimes any money at all–to produce and distribute a podcast. I also don’t recommend going out and spending a lot of money on equipment and services when you’re first getting started, as this is a lot of work, and might not be for you. You can start of simple and build your way up. Microphone: USB Headset (~$20-30) One way or another you’re going to need some sort of microphone to record your voice. One of the best options is with a USB headset, with a microphone on a boom near your mouth, which you might already own, and if you don’t, can cost as little as $20 to $30 at most electronics or big box stores. Another option is the microphone built to your laptop or notebook computer, but beware–this will also pick up room ambience, echo, and background noise, even noise generated by the computer itself. Software: Audacity or GarageBand You’re going to need some sort of software to record and edit your episode on your computer. One option for owners of Mac computers is GarageBand, which comes pre-loaded on every machine as part of the iLife suite. Another option that’s open source and cross-platform is Audacity, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Audacity has a fairly significant user base, which means there are a lot of tutorials and resources online to help you get started. Be sure to download the newer 1.3 “Beta” version, as it has many improvements over the older 1.2 “Stable” version. Don’t let the “beta” tag scare you away; while it’s not perfect, it’s probably as stable (or even more so) than 1.2. Web Hosting: WordPress.com WordPress has grown from a simple blogging platform to a full-blown content management system, and is what powers the web site of most podcasts. There are two variants of WordPress: There’s WordPress.org, which you download and install on your own web hosting; and WordPress.com, which is a hosted service. WordPress.com has the advantage of being totally free, with a <yoursite.wordpress.com> domain, but isn’t as flexible or customizable with plugins or themes as WordPress.org. If you choose to upgrade from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, you can export your data in a format that you can then import in to your new site. Media Hosting: Archive.org You can’t just post your episodes (e.g. MP3 files) directly to your WordPress.com site–or that, I reccomend Archive.org, who’s tagline is ”We would like to host your digital artifacts.” Sign up for a free account and upload your media, and then link to it from your post on your WordPress.com site. RSS Feed: Feedburner WordPress.com will automatically create an enclosure, or attachment, when you link to a rich media file, but this RSS feed is “naked” without extra information, such as metadata for iTunes–Feedburner to the rescue! Sign up with your Google account, and you will get a feeds.feedburner.com/YourPodcast address, which is the RSS feed that people will use to subscribe, and tell Feedburner to use your WordPress.com site’s “naked” RSS feed as its source. With the SmartCast feature, Feedburner can add the appropriate metadata necessary to have your podcast listed in the iTunes directory. Additionally, Feedburner has useful tracking information to for your audience size, and you can change the source of your RSS feed, so that people don’t have to resubscribe if you change your web site. Share Your Thoughts! Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to [email protected] or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below! Podcast Consulting: I am available for one on one podcast consulting, podcast evaluation, audio production, and voice over work. I’d love to work with you to make your podcasting dreams a reality. If you’re interested, please contact me! Subscribe to Podcast Perspective:
Aug. 11, 2011
It’s easy to get caught up in the technology, and the technical aspects of production—certainly for me!—but even more important is what you do before you hit the “record” button! The time you put in to planning and preparation has a huge impact on the quality of your show. Whether you’re a veteran, or you’re just getting started, it’s important think critically to help your podcast reach it’s full potential! Planning Your Podcast Don’t go in without a plan. Especially when you’re just getting started, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, and during that honeymoon period, to go all-in. Alternately, you’ve decided that you want to do a podcast–now what?! Having a plan can be crucial for long-term success. Topic Not sure what your topic should be? Podcast your passion! Podcast what you know, what you would talk about anyway, what you love so much you can’t stop talking about it! When it becomes a grind, you need that passion to push through. Don’t be tempted to fall in to the trap of covering a topic you’re not passionate about–if you don’t have the passion it will show through, and it won’t be fun for you to produce, or for people to listen to. You don’t have to be an expert, but you have to be passionate about your topic! One of the strengths of podcasting and new media is is being able to focus on niche topics–but what do you do if your niche is already saturated? How do you put a unique spin on it? At the very least, your own personality, you’re own perspective, is unique! Format Format is the structure of your show, and lacking the rigid rules of traditional media, it can mean as much or as little as you want it too–you don’t have to break at specific times for commercials. Many podcasts follow a standard structure of segmented content. For example, for Podcast Perspective, you have the identification–“You’re listening to Podcast Perspective Episode 7…” which is very useful to help people know what they’re listening to when flipping through their MP3 players–the standard introduction, then two to three in-depth segments about a specific topic. Alternately, you might have an introduction, top news stories, an interview, and then more in-depth news discussion. Having a consistent format can be very advantageous. Even if your show is freeform, then the format is that there is no specific format! Length As podcasters, we’re not subject to the strict limitations of radio and television, but just because you can have your show be as long as you want doesn’t mean you should! A good rule of thumb is to keep your show around or shorter than most people’s average commute time: 30-40 minutes. If your show is longer, or an hour or more, unless it’s packed to the gills with can’t miss content–in which case you might want to consider breaking it up in to two more shorter episodes–it can become a chore to listen to. Having longer podcast isn’t inherently bad, but all too often it’s because the content has gone off the rails. Try to keep it as short ascan be, so you’re not wasting people’s time, while still being natural and faithful to your vision! Frequency How often are you going to release new episodes: Every week? (Weekly) Every other week? (Bi-Weekly) Every month? (Monthly?) Ever weekday? (Daily?) Give yourself enough time between episodes to avoid burnout, while being frequent enough to build a routine and build an audience–for example, every week. Production Don’t forget to factor in production time, usually two to four times more the running time of the finished episode. If you have a thirty minute show, expect to spend up to two hours or more between planning and preparation, recording, and editing and post-production–plan accordingly! “Freshness” Some content or topics are “evergreen”, and can remain relevant after time has passed, while others–such as news or current events–can be very time sensitive. Make sure that your content is still fresh by the time you release a new episode–people don’t want to hear weeks old news. Show Preperation How much preperation do you do, how detailed are your show notes? There are two common extremes: Unprepared Totally off the cuff, stream of consciousness, just throwing it out there with little to know preperation–why? Is it some objection to beingg “too polished”? Very few people can talk intelligently on the fly. Most of the time when you hear people, especially on radio or television talk, they might sound like it’s just off the top of their head, but they do a lot of preperation and have a lot of practice. Without preperation, most people tend to ramble or rely on verbal crutches such as “um” and “err”–a little preperation never hurt anybody! Scripted Some might want to script out their show, to write it down every last word, leaving nothing to chance. Sometimes, especially for very short, compact shows, this is appropriate, but it’s very rare to be able to read from a script and not sound like you’re reading, and we usually don’t write the way we tend to speak–in starts and stops and incomplete sentences. Scripting can sound unnatural and removes energy and spontaneity? If you’re concerned about sounding intelligent and professional, remember that editing is your friend! Happy Medium Find that happy medium that gives you sufficient notes and preparation while still giving you room to breathe! A bulleted list or outline format might work best, to include all the points you want to cover, as detailed or general as you want it to be. You might realize you barely need to reference these notes–the act of writing can help internalize information, and point out any flaws or gaps that you might want to add. One exception to the “no scripting” rule is your intro and outro, for which it can be very advantageous to be consistent for every episode. Find what works best for you! Share Your Thoughts! Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to [email protected] or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below! Podcast Consulting: I am available for one on one podcast consulting, podcast evaluation, audio production, and voice over work. I’d love to work with you to make your podcasting dreams a reality. If you’re interested, please contact me! Subscribe to Podcast Perspective:
July 21, 2011
Have you started podcasting yet? What are you waiting for? Don’t get me wrong, you have to be fearless, but don’t fall in to the trap of waiting until you get everything perfect, or you’ll never even start. Eventually you just have to take the plunge and do it! The best way to learn is by doing, to learn what works, and what doesn’t, so you can improve with each episode. ”Content is king”–you have to actually produce content. Don’t let the technology become a distraction. Let your passion drive you! Podcasting is incredibly fun and rewarding, but also inevitably requires more time and effort than you thought. Many would-be podcasters don’t make it past the first few episodes. If you’re just starting out, don’t start actively promoting your show until you’ve established yourself and settled on a format that works. This episode has to do with branding, and promotion–in that order. First impressions are important! Making an Impression Artwork/Logo What message does your logo, your artwork, your web site say to potential listeners? Does it stand out from the crowd? As important as it is, “Presentation is queen” doesn’t just refer to audio production–aesthetics are important. You want to attract people to click the “Play” button in the first place! Make sure you give your logo and artwork the same attention you give to production quality. If you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on quality equipment to get that professional sound, don’t use a logo that looks like you whipped it up in five minutes. If you can afford it, hiring a graphic designer is worth it. Two talented artists who understand podcaster’s needs (because they are themselves!):  D. Joseph Design Draw You A Picture.com Other options: Logo Tournament 99 Designs You want album art that is 600×600 in JPEG or PNG format, and ideally in a high-quality format suitable not only for the screen but for printing for business cards, etc. Music Even if your podcast is all talk, you probably have some sort of intro or outro with theme music. You want music that’s unique, that when people hear it, they instantly know that they’re listening to your show. Don’t use that same music that everyone else is using! This is most common among Mac podcasters who too often use the jingles bundled with GarageBand, but they are so overused that not only is it poor branding, it’s even an annoyance–especially when there are so many other options! Be careful not to use any copyrighted music without permission or a license. Thanks to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, in the United States, there is no such thing as Fair Use, in the eye of the law–using any amount, even “just a clip” makes you open to a devastating lawsuit. It is a myth that it’s okay to use a clip as long as it’s 30 seconds or less! Where do you find music for your show? 1. “PodSafe” There is a lot of music out there that’s free to use, with few restrictions–usually attribution, and sometimes, only for non-commercial use. If you take the time to look, you can find some real gems! Music Alley (Formerly PodSafe Music Network) ccMixter (Creative Commons) Incompetech Alternatively, if you come across an independent artist (for example on MySpace or Facebook) who’s music you like, just ask! Many will gladly allow you to use their music, and welcome the free promotion. 2. Royalty-Free “Royalty-Free” doesn’t mean that it’s free of charge, it means that you don’t have to pay royalties–once you’ve purchased it, you can use it forever. A variety of companies offer production elements and royalty-free music, available either on a track basis, or in collections, for a variety of budgets: Digital Juice SmartSound Music Bakery Jewel Beat (99¢) There is usually high-quality music in a variety of genres to fit anyone’s taste easy to find. Some royalty-free options give additional options, such as different versions, the ability to enable/disable certain instruments, or the ability to edit a customized version. 3. Create Your Own! If you or know of a friend who is musically inclined, why not try to create your own? Even if you don’t consider yourself a musician, the tools are getting easier to use for those less talented. With a little time and creativity, by using loops and software instruments, you’d be surprised what you can come up with. If you’ve got a Mac, you’ve already got GarageBand, which should have everything you need to get started! Crafting a Promo It’s only natural to want to see your show’s audience grow. Promotion isn’t something to be ashamed of. Purely as a listener, if there’s a great podcast that I would love, I want to know about it so I can tune in! However, the old adage “You build it, they will come” does not apply to podcasting. There are a lot of other voices on the Internet–how do you make sure it’s yours that gets heard? First, conversely, if you don’t build it, they will not come! It is important to consistently be producing new episodes for the maximum impact. Releasing a podcast every week is a lot harder than it looks! Make it part of your routine. Be discoverable! Be in all the major directories–there’s more to podcasting than just iTunes! iTunes Zune Miro BlackBerry A great tool to get the word out is through a promo–a commercial for your podcast. On the Internet, there is no limit to the number of stations, and due to time-shifting, even shows on a similar topic are no longer direct competitors. There is great camaraderie among podcasters, many would be happy to play your promo! (Especially if you play theirs!) Include: Show Name Web Site Address (Spell out if necessary to avoid confusion!) Elevator pitch Call to action What goes in your pitch? What is your show’s, topic, what is it all about? What makes it unique? Why do I have to tune in? Clarity and brevity wins over cleverness. While humor can work extremely well (when done right), beware of using clips from your show or any inside jokes that not everyone will understand. Keep it short: 60 seconds or less! If it’s a minute and a half, two minutes long, many podcasters (including me!) will not play it–by around a minute, people get bored and tune out. If you can’t deliver your pitch in a minute, it’s not ready. For example: Geek Cred–“In-depth, behind the scenes interviews about everything geek–from tech, to sci-fi, to games!” It is important to continue to promote; you can’t be passive. Network and cross-promote with other podcasters, and other websites–especially outside your niche. Put a link in your email or forum signature. Hand out flyers or CD’s at events or conventions. Remember, your potential audience is hundreds of millions of people on the Internet. Be creative! Share Your Thoughts! Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to [email protected] or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below! Podcast Consulting: I am available for one on one podcast consulting, audio production, and voice over work. I’d love to work with you to make your podcasting dreams a reality. If you’re interested, please contact me! Subscribe to Podcast Perspective:
May 27, 2011
The “dark art” of audio processing is a powerful tool to that you can use to help your podcast sound its best. Don’t be “that guy” who sounds like he’s recording with tin cans and string in a cave. No matter your equipment, a little magic can go a long way. Learn the concepts behind compression, limiting, expansion, gating, and equalization, and how to use them to your advantage. Audio Processing Audio processing refers to any intentional alteration of sound. There are a variety of types of processing, but the ones of interest to us that we are covering are compression/expansion/limiting/gating and equalization.. Remember: Garbage In/Garbage Out–make sure your raw audio is the best quality it can be. For more information, go back to Podcast Perspective Episode #2. Additionally, some elements covered build upon fundamental audio concepts from Podcast Perspective #1. The biggest pitfall is that it’s easy to go nuts; it’s a useful tool, but don’t over do it. No amount of processing can turn you in to James Earl Jones. Audio processing can be a very complex subject–It’s an art, not a science. There are no one size fits all settings to use; it’s all dependent on your environment, equipment, personal taste, and goals. This is to teach you the concepts and give you the tools to go out there and find what works best for you. Dynamic Range Compression, limiting, expansion, and gating–all various forms of the same fundamental concept, collectively referred to as dynamic range processing. In audio, dynamics, or more specifically, dynamic range, means the difference between the loudest and softest sounds. The human voice is extremely dynamic–not only can we talk extremely soft or extremely loud, but there are rhythmic variations in volume from word to word, from each syllable to the next. Dynamics processing helps even out these changes in volume to keep your podcast at a comfortable listening level. If you’ve ever been listening to something at a comfortable volume, until you have to turn it up to hear, and then you are suddenly being blasted as it becomes super loud, you’ve experienced dynamics first hand. Even when the volume setting never changed, the percieved volume could be quite different. You may have peak normalized your podcast to 100%, or 0 db, so that you can’t turn up the gain, you can’t increase the volume without clipping and introducing distortion. Peak level doesn’t mean actual loudness, it’s simply the highest single peak; average level (RMS) has more to do with perceived loudness–think density. If all of this sounds a little complicated, or too much work, you’re in luck. There’s a free, cross-platform tool called The Levelator from the Conversations Network, which is free and runs on Windows and Mac, that will get your audio to a consistent, comfortable level. There’s no confusing options or settings–give it your raw audio, and it outputs a “levelated” version. Levelator is designed for voice, so if you use it, be sure to use it only on your vocal track, before you add any production elements such as music, which may result in unpredictable undesirable artifacts. I do recommend Levelator–it works well for what it does. But “one size fits all” won’t be perfect. You may get better results by delving in processing the file yourself. Compression is kind of like automatic volume control–when the volume goes above the threshold, the gain is turned down, determined by the ratio. If my threshold is set to -9 db, and I’m talking, but I get excited and briefly go up to -6 db, you went over the threshold by 3 db. The ratio determines how much it is turned down in relation to how much you went over the threshold, indicating the difference between the input coming in and the output. If my ratio is 3:1, and I went over the threshold 3 db, it turns it down so that it is only 1 db, so instead of peaking at -6 db, I peak at -7 db. A compressor and limiter are effectively the same thing–a limiter is a compressor with a high ratio, such as 10:1 or higher. For example, a brick wall limiter has a an effective ratio is infinity, all but preventing levels from going above the threshold entirely, but doesn’t sound as natural and can introduce distortion. Attack and release provide control over how quickly the compressor acts. Attack time is how long the compressor waits when the threshold has been reached before it starts working, and release is how long it waits after the signal has fallen below the threshold, both in milliseconds (ms), where 1000 ms equals 1 second. If your attack and release are too slow, the compressor will constantly be switching on and off. An expander or gate are the same concept, but in reverse, turning down the audio when it goes below the threshold, such as background noise when you pause speaking. A gate is to an expander what a limiter is to a compressor–a gate is an expander with a very high ratio. Using a gate may result in an audible click as it switches on and off, especially if the threshold is set too high; using a modest expander instead may give a more transparent sound. Example Settings: Compressor Threshold: – 9db Ratio: 2:1 Attack: 100 ms Release: 300 ms Expander Threshold:  -48 db Ratio: 2:1 Attack: 100 ms Release: 300 ms The maximum ratio I’d recommend using is 4:1, which is a substantial amount, and higher values will sound unnatural. You can also probably use decimal numbers, such as a ratio of 2.5 or 1.5:1 for more subtle control. Remember that the key is subtlety–if used too aggressive, it can be distracting and make things sound worse. Equalization Equalization is the process of adjusting frequencies in an electronic signal for balance, or in our case, adjusting audio frequencies for aesthetic reason or to reduce unwanted sounds. Equalization can give fine, surgical control over individual frequencies. Pitch is determined by frequency–the higher the frequency the higher the pitch, and the lower the frequency the lower the pitch. The range of human hearing is approximately 20 Hz – 20 kHz, though those lowest frequencies we more feel than hear, and we lose the ability to hear those highest frequencies as we age, so this is a best case. The range of the human voice is approximately 60 Hz to 16 Hz, depending on your individual voice–male voices are usually lower and deeper than female voices, which tend to be slightly higher. If you are using a 44.1 kHz sample rate–as you should be–the frequency range goes up to 22.05 kHz. The frequency range is not linear, logarithmic–for example, the “mids” are not around 10 kHz, but around 3.5 kHz, and highs are above 10 kHz. The simplest type of equalization is the high pass/low cut and low pass/high cut filter. A high pass/low cut filter “passes over” frequencies frequencies higher and turns down frequencies below. A high pass filter and low cut filter are two different terms for the same thing. A low cut filter is useful for reducing bass frequencies below the human voice where unwanted noise such as microphone rumble is common; for example, 80 Hz. Similarly, a low pass/high cut filter is useful for reducing frequencies above the human voice, such as anything above 16 kHz. Equalization is truly an art form that requires experimentation and practice, and a discerning ear, but here are some possible “trouble frequencies”: Sub-Bass/Rumble: Below 60 Hz Boomyness: 200-400 Hz–reducing may increase intelligiblity Sibilance: harsh “s” sounds: 3-5 kHz Plosives: popped “p” and “b”: can be fixed by selecting just the pop and applying a low cut, for example 150 Hz Presence: 2-4 Hz–subtle boost can make the voice sound more “forward” (All frequencies approximate) It might sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes, instead of turning up certain frequencies (where audio may clip), it might be better to turn other ones down. For example, if you want to give it that little extra punch, instead of boosting the lows and the highs, cut some of the mids. Equalization is a powerful tool that is often misused. (Ever hear a podcast where it sounds like someone turned the “bass boost” up to 11?) It’s important to use subtly. It’s important to remember that unless you have professional studio monitors, your speakers or headphones are designed to sound aesthetically pleasing, not necessarily accurate. What sounds good on your speakers might sound horrible on someone else’s headphones, so it’s important to listen critically. If there aren’t any apparent problems, no fine adjustment may be necessary. Real-Time (Hardware) vs. Post-Production (Software) There are two different philosophies for how to apply audio processing, both with their own inherent strengths and weaknesses: real-time, using external hardware, or in post-production, in software. Hardware is quicker, because you don’t have to do any processing in post-production, and is especially great for “live to hard drive” productions or if you stream your show over the Internet to a live audience, but it is a destructive process, so if your settings aren’t right, there’s no way to fix it. However, if you’re applying processing in post-production, and you’re unhappy with the settings you chose, you can just hit “undo” to restore your raw audio. Hardware can be quite expensive, and requires a mixer with channel inserts, while any audio editing application, even Audacity, comes with the necessary effects or plugins to this kind of processing. Share Your Thoughts! Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to [email protected] or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below! Podcast Consulting: I am available for one on one podcast consulting, audio production, and voice over work. I’d love to work with you to make your podcasting dreams a reality. If you’re interested, please contact me! Subscribe to Podcast Perspective:
April 26, 2011
Interviews are a great way to mix things up, to break out of your usual format and to talk to new and interesting people. Interviews are powerful, people love stories! Learn some tried and true techniques learned that I learned the hard way to get the most out of your interviews, including getting guests, preparing questions, interview flow, and more. Returning listeners may remember that I teased the art of the interview and audio processing last time, but during production, I realized that to go in-depth and due both topics justice, they were just too much for one episode! The Art of the Interview I titled this segment “The Art of the Interview” because it really is an art–not a science. There is not necessarily a “right” or “wrong” way. It depends on your personality, your show’s format and topic, and what your goals are. Your mileage may vary. For over for years I’ve been podcasting Geek Cred, which is all about conversational and informal long-form behind the scenes interviews to give people the inside scoop on everything geek, and interviews are almost always done remotely via Skype. This is the perspective that I’m coming from, so keep that in mind and adjust as necessary to find what works best for you. Getting Guests People often ask me: “How did you interview X on your show?” There really isn’t a special secret for how to book high-profile guests–just ask! Be fearless. In the words of Nike: “Just do it!” You can’t have what you don’t ask for! At worst, your inquiry will fall on deaf ears, and you’ve wasted a few minutes writing an email or making a phone call, but if they say yes, you’re in business! Interview Request Inquiry: Show Name Show Topic/Description Method: Phone? Skype? In-Person? etc. Time Required: e.g., 30 Minutes Contact Information: Email, Phone Scheduling Availability, with Time Zone! Why are you interested in interviewing them? What would you like to talk about? Example: “I’m Steve Riekeberg, the host and producer of Geek Cred, the podcast that delivers in-depth, behind the scenes interviews on everything geek. If you have about 45 minutes in your schedule, I’d love to talk to you about your new project, the inspiration, production process, and what it means to you. If you’re interested, please contact me at your earliest convenience at…” It’s okay to give some general topics, but unless they demand it, never include specific interview questions ahead of time! If guests can prepare questions ahead of time, it loses its authenticity. Preparation Great interviewers are always great researchers–know your guest! If you’re interviewing someone to promote their latest project–such as a book, movie, or television show–and it hasn’t been released yet, ask for an advanced review copy or screener. I like to always have at least 5-10 questions prepared for every interview–it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared!. Know what topics you want to cover; stay focused to a few specific areas. Don’t be afraid to ask; even if it seems stupid, if you’re wondering, your audience probably is too, and solicit them to submit their own questions! Make sure that you have open-ended questions, not yes or no questions. Phrasing is important. DON’T: “Did you enjoy playing this character?” DO: “What did you like about playing this character, and why?” It’s all about stories! “What captured your interest and lead you to become a filmmaker?” “What is it about the genere that appeals to you as a writer?” “Tell me about your experience with quitting your day job to podcast full-time.” Interview Always be on-time, being respectful of your guests, and leave yourself a few minutes before to do a sound check. If you’re using Skype, do a test call (call “echo123″) to ensure there are no technical problems and that you and your guest will be able to hear each other properly. Record everything–sometimes the greatest material will be when you least expect it. I hit the record button before we start talking to make sure I don’t miss anything. While permission is arguably implied by having scheduled an interview, it is important to receive permission on the record, as recording someone without their permission can be illegal. “This is being recorded. By continuing, you are giving me permission to use this as I see fit, do you agree?” When in doubt, consult a lawyer, but this should cover you down the road. Before you get started, establish the ground rules. Re-state the topics you intend to cover, and allow them to voice potential objections. If you edit, let your guest know that they can relax and not to worry about having to sound perfect. What your policy on language? If you edit or bleep out cursing, let your guests know what is appropriate so they can act accordingly. When in doubt, verify the proper pronunciation of your guest’s name. If interviewing multiple guests at the same time, introduce them individually so that the listener can mentally associate the sound of each voice with each person, and start with easier “softball” questions to help your guests get warmed up before diving in to more difficult, in-depth topics. Stay out of the way and let your guest talk! Remember that they are the star. However, it’s a conversation, so still stay engaged; make comments and ask follow-up questions. It is a fine line, and you will have to find the happy medium between the two extremes. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your list of prepared questions. Use your list as a guide, what you ask isn’t set in stone. Sometimes the greatest questions are spontaneous, on the fly. A useful technique is when your guest finishes talking, stay quiet, leaving dead air. Our natural tendency is to fill this uncomfortable silence, and they will likely respond to this nonverbal cue by continuing to talk, and you can edit out this pause. If necessary, ask them to “tell me more!” Don’t be satisfied; you cannot be a passive interviewer. Most of all, be yourself, and have fun! Audience Question How did you first discover and become interesting in podcasting? When did you decide to become a podcast producer? Tell me your story… Share Your Thoughts! Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to [email protected] or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below! Podcast Consulting: I am available for one on one podcast consulting, audio production, and voice over work. I’d love to work with you to make your podcasting dreams a reality. If you’re interested, please contact me! Subscribe to Podcast Perspective:
March 27, 2011
MP3 is the universal audio format for podcasts, but not all MP3’s are made equal–how you encode matters! Learn how to get the highest quality out of your MP3’s and the best settings to use. It is also important that your MP3’s are properly tagged with meta data identifies and describes the audio file, and to know what information to include in your podcasts. Skype is an incredibly powerful tool for podcasters, allowing us to communicate regardless of boundaries at a very low cost (free, or nearly free), and at very high audio quality, but there are some special tricks to get the most out of Skype. Encoding Quality MP3’s: The MP3 file format is a “lossy” data compression format that uses psychoacoustics to discard or reduce the accuracy of parts of sound, throwing away data that you hopefully won’t miss too much. How you encode, and what encoder you use to encode matters.  There are two major MP3 encoders available: The free, open source LAME encoder, used with Audacity, and the commercial Fraunhofer encoder, from the inventor of MP3. Sadly, the LAME encoder consistently falls flat when compared to the Fraunhofer encoder, requiring a higher bit rate to achieve comparable quality. However, there is a free application that includes the Fraunhofer encoder, iTunes! Export your finished, edited podcasts to an uncompressed WAV or AIFF file, and import it in to iTunes. Go in to the iTunes Preferences, under the General tab, and click on Import Settings. Under Import Using, select MP3 encoder, and under Setting, select Custom. Recommended Encoding Setting: Bit Rate: 128 kbps (So-called “CD quality”) Use Variable Bit Rate: No! Sample Rate: 44.1kHz (Important) Channels: Stereo Stereo Mode: Joint Stereo AAC is an alternative format, most notably backed by Apple, which can achieve higher audio quality, as well as Enhanced Podcast features such as chapters, images, and links, but AAC is not widely supported, while the MP3 format is universally supported. If you wish to take advantage of the strengths of the AAC format, still release your podcast in the standard MP3 format, creating a separate, secondary feed for the AAC version. ID3 Tagging/Meta Data: After you’ve exported that quality MP3 file, you need to gag it with meta data that describes and identifies the files. There are a variety of applications available to tag MP3’s, including iTunes, which has robust support, but not all other application’s support all recommended fields. One recommended alternative to tagging in iTunes is the shareware and cross-platform ID3 Editor. Essentials: Title: Episode Title Album: Show Name Artist: Your Name/Co-Host(s) Names Important: Year: Year Released Track: Episode Number URL: Web Site Address Genre: “Podcast” Artwork: Must embed album art image in to the actual file! Bonus: Lyrics: Show Notes/Contact Information Beware of using the “Media Kind” field, as it can cause some unexpected results. Quick Tip: While recording, stay hydrated! Your voice is one of your best assets; be kind to it! It’s easy for your mouth to become dry during those long recording sessions; be sure to keep plenty of water nearby. Room temperature water may be advisable compared to ice water or caffeine, as they can cause the vocal chords to constrict. If you find lip smacking and mouth noises to be problematic, add a squeeze of lemon. Listener Question: Podcasting for Dummies, 2nd Edition “What would you consider recommended reading on podcasting , and considering the explosion of podcasting, what would you see podcasting doing in five years?” –Oliver It’s hard to name some “recommended reading” on podcasting, such as a book, because it’s such a quickly evolving medium. Advanced Podcasting Practices for Dummies Writing and publishing can be such a long process that by the time a book hits shelves, some things have changed and information can already be out of date. Still, take a look at Podcasting for Dummies, 2nd Edition and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, which were written by my friends Tee Morris, Evo Terra, and Chuck Tomasi. Neither is there any definitive online resource on podcasting, and I admit that not all the information about podcasting I entirely agree with. As what I see podcasting doing in five years, I see it becoming more and more a transparent behind the scenes method for delivering rich media content. It’s not about the medium, it’s about the content; it will not be a podcast, it will simply be a show, that may happen to be delivered as a podcast. It will be less about how we consume the content than about the quality of the content itself. Podcasting With Skype: Skype is a powerful tool for podcasters, allowing us to have a co-host or guest across the room, or across the world at a very low cost and at very high audio quality. With the right conditions, the sound quality of a Skype-to-Skype call can rival that of a studio recording. First off, like most things audio, it’s garbage in/garbage out–to get the best results out of Skype, you’re going to need to be giving it the best audio quality you can. Avoid using your computer’s built-in microphone, and you must wear headphones to prevent bleed from your speakers of your caller speaking being picked up by your microphone. Be sure that you are both running the same current, up-to-date version of Skype for best reliability–this can really make a difference. Having an Internet connection with stable, reliable latency and bandwidth is key for Skype, so be sure to turn off any background processes on your network, such as BitTorrent and peer-to-peer services. Additionally, if you are on Wi-Fi, if at all possible, plug in to a wired connection, as wireless is subject to fluctuations in radio frequency interference–if your neighbor turns on their microwave, you don’t want it to affect your Skype call. Before you start recording, be sure to do a sound check to ensure that your caller’s levels are set appropriately in addition to your own, and have them adjust if necessary. Be sure to uncheck the option in Skype’s preferences to allow Skype to automatically adjust your recording levels. To verify that your settings are working and that everything is sounding as it should, you can use the Skype Test Call services by calling “echo123″, which will play your voice back to you. Most people have multiple computers on their network using one Internet connection with a router, using network address translation, which acts as a firewall. Skype works best with a direct point to point connection, and a firewall requires that your call be relayed through a third party supernode to get around your firewall, increasing latency and lowering quality. You want to give Skype an access point through your router’s firewall by forwarding a port for Skype. You can find step-by-step instructions for how to port forward a variety of routers at PortForward.com. There is a technique known as the “Double Ender”, where both parties record their audio locally, and then they can be edited together. This can be time-consuming, but results in the best audio, making your Skype caller sound like they are in studio with you. Doing a countdown resulting in a clap generates a visual spike in the audio that can be helpful to sync the different tracks in post-production. Audio Software: Soundflower (Free: Mac) Audio Hijack Pro (Shareware: Mac) WireTap Studio (Shareware: Mac) Skype Recording Software: Pamela Professional (Shareware: Windows) MX Skype Recorder (Shareware: Windows) Call Recorder (Shareware: Mac) Share Your Thoughts! Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to [email protected] or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below! Podcast Consulting: I am available for one on one podcast consulting, audio production, and voice over work. I’d love to work with you to make your podcasting dreams a reality. If you’re interested, please contact me! Subscribe to Podcast Perspective:
March 20, 2011
First impressions are very important! Content is king… but presentation is definitely queen! First impressions are important. If someone takes the time to tune in to your show, you’ve already done the hard the hard part—you’ve hooked them, you’ve attracted their interest. Far too often, my first impression is, “What were they thinking?!” Knowledge is power: It’s not about having the greatest equipment–though that helps–it’s about being smart, and making the most of what you have. Don’t be “that guy”! This episode features an overview of microphone mechanics, including a comparison of condenser and dynamic microphones and pickup patterns, microphone techniques for getting the best sound, a review of secret budget-conscious podcasting microphone, and how to best deal with ever present background noise. Microphone Mechanics: All microphones work by picking up sound vibrations and converting them to an electrical signal, but before you go and pick up the latest and greatest microphone you can afford, understand how they work. There are two principal microphone technologies, condenser and dynamic, each with their own inherent strengths and weaknesses. Condenser microphones active and rely on phantom power, or a 48 volt electrical signal, which can be provided by a battery or from the mixer or audio interface, and are relatively fragile and used in controlled recording studios. They are highly sensitive, precisely capturing sounds, so they will pick up your voice great, but can also pick up all kinds of unwanted background noise if you have a less than ideal recording environment, like most podcasters’ home studios. Dynamic microphones are passive and utilize a moving coil, and are used in live sound (e.g., concerts) and in radio broadcasting due to their durability and noise rejection. They are generally less sensitive than condenser microphones, but as such are less susceptible to picking up unwanted background noise, but usually have a lower output, requiring more gain at the possibly noisy preamp stage. Far too often, when someone’s looking to improve their sound, I see well-intentioned people recommending a condenser microphone (such as the MXL 990), and then they struggle with background noise ranging from their computer’s fan, their air conditioner or heater, squeaking chair, or their neighbor’s barking dog! You can get great sound out of a condenser mic, but it’s important to be aware that there can be pitfalls. It doesn’t matter how high-end a condenser microphone is, if your recording is cluttered with background noise, it will sound worse than a (relatively) inexpensive handheld dynamic microphone. The best way to eliminate background noise might be to change your microphone! That’s how microphones pick up sound, no where microphones pick up sound, which is determined by their pickup pattern. Omnidirectional microphones pick up sound from everywhere, in all directions equally. Directional microphones, such as cardioid microphones–so named because their graph looks like an upside down heart shape–pick up sounds at the front of the microphone, but attenuate sounds behind it, which is desirable for podcasters. Finally, a stereo mic is a lot less useful than you might think–You only have one mouth, one set of vocal chords! Stereo mics are really just two microphone elements in one assembly. Microphone Techniques: Regardless of what make, model, or type of microphone you have, there are some universal techniques to get the most out of it. First, while it might sound obvious, it’s important to make sure that you’re talking in to the “business end” of the microphone. Some microphones are side address, while others are end address, and if you talk in to the side of an end address microphone, you will get far from desirable results. You can’t  be afraid to of the mic; you want your mouth to be approximately 4-6 inches away from the microphone, or approximately the distance between your outstretched thumb and pinky finger. The farther away you are from the microphone, the more you will have to compensate by increasing the gain, bringing up the noise floor. Additionally, many microphones have a “proximity effect” which boosts bass frequencies when you get close, which may be desirable on some voices. Plosives are bursts of air from your mouth, most commonly from “p”-sounds, that hit the microphone and cause a big rumbling spike, or “pop”. Talking “across” the microphone at an angle can help, but nobody’s perfect. Use a pop filter (or at least a foam windscreen) to dissipate plosives, which can also help maintain the correct distance from the microphone. Headset users, position the boom mic slightly away from your mouth, such as above, by your nose, or below, by your chin. Handling noise is rumbling caused by vibrations from the body of the microphone from being moved and handled being transferred to the element itself. This might seem obvious, but even if it’s a handheld microphone, unless you’re doing a man on the street style interview, don’t hold the mic, put it on a stand! Not only will this eliminate handling noise, it will help ensure consistent voice pickup with the microphone being at a fixed distance. Even if it’s on a stand, some microphones, especially large diaphragm studio microphones can still be prone to picking up vibrations, so using a spider-style suspension “shock mount” may be advisable. Finally, when at all possible, do not share microphones between individuals, you want one microphone per voice! Quick Tip: If at all possible, always monitor with headphones while you’re recording. (On some USB microphones, this may not be possible, such as ones with no headphone output.) This isn’t to hear your dulcet tones, it’s to hear what’s being recorded, as the microphone hears it. This can save you from many issues, allowing you to fix potential issues before they become a problem, potentially ruining a recording. Ideally, you want headphones that are designed for monitoring, to faithfully reproduce a sound, instead of “hi-fi” headphones, which are designed for pleasurable listening, as well as headphones that are closed so that they don’t have sound “leak” that can be picked up by the mic. Recommendations: Sennheiser HD 202 (~$25) Sony MDR-7506 ($99) Sennheiser HD 280 Pro ($99) Dealing With Background Noise: I’ve all the questions I’m asked, “How do I get rid of background noise?” has to be one of the most frequent. What’s the secret? Well, there is no secret. It’s all about your environment. Garbage in, garbage out–you can’t polish a turd! No amount of post-processing can automagically remove background noise from your recording; stop noise before it’s captured by the microphone! Keep your cell phone away from the microphone, or better yet, turn it off (or at least put it in airplane mode), or your microphone might pick up some electromagnetic interference, especially if it’s a GSM phone. Eliminate all sources of noise that you can control: turn off unnecessary computers to eliminate fan noise, and if you record using a computer, try recording on a quiet laptop instead of a noisy desktop; turn off your air conditioner or heater; and try recording at a different time of day (or night), when there are less outside sound sources that you can’t control. Monitor with headphones, and listen critically for any potential culprits. If you’ve done everything that you can, and there’s still noise in your recording, and you have to use post-processing, it is important to remember that “noise reduction” is not “noise removal”–to reduce background noise, it’s reducing audio information, including your voice! You must use noise reduction with subtlety–it’s a scalpel, instead of a sledgehammer. Overusing or abusing noise reduction will result in a warbly, underwater effect. Another type of processing that can be used is an expander or gate. More advanced processing techniques will be covered in a future episode, but using an expander/gate will not reduce or eliminate background noise, it will only lower the noise floor when you’re not speaking, when the gate closes. When you speak, and the gate opens again, any background noise that was originally present will still be audible, and there can be an audible “click” on and off as the gate opens and closes. Sometimes, aggressively trying to eliminate background noise can actually make things worse, but making things sound worse and more distracting. A constant low background noise is preferable to artifacts or it going on and off, as we can tune it out. Review: When people ask me what equipment I use when they’re looking to improve their sound, I’m hesitant to answer, because I’ve gradually built-up my studio over the years and have accumulated some quality, professional-level gear–audio is what I do. When I first started podcasting, I was using a $30 USB headset, and it got the job done! When you’re first getting started, unless you’ve got money to burn, I usually don’t recommend plunking down the big bucks for equipment to build a professional studio. The harsh reality is, most would-be podcasters don’t make it past their fifth episode. The legendary Shure SM-58 handheld dynamic microphone has been the gold standard across the world for decades, What’s the catch? The SM-58 is priced at $99 (USD), and if you’re on a budget, that can be a tough pill to swallow. There are countless lower-priced alternatives that imitate the SM-58, but with little success–it’s still a standard after all these years for good reason. Enter the GLS Audio ES-58, an imitation SM-58 with a much more friendly $30 price tag Does it sound as good, or better, than the SM-58? Probably not. Does it sound good enough? Sure. Does the SM-58 sound more than three times better, with its higher cost? Definitely not. As a dynamic microphone, it is much less prone to picking up unwanted background noise as competing condenser microphones. It does suffer from some handling noise, so it might not be the best choice if you’re planning on using it for handheld use, such as “man on the street” style interviews, but in most cases, you should be using it on a stand anyway, so this shouldn’t be a problem. I know full well what it’s like to be on a tight budget. At such a low price, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better sounding microphone for less. I use it as a secondary microphone and I love it, and recommend it. Bottom Line: The GLS Audio ES-58 is a great microphone for podcasters on a tight budget. Buy: Without On/Off Switch – $29.99 (Three Pack – $79.95) With On/Off Switch – $29.99 (Three Pack – $79.95) (Compare versus $99 for one Shure SM-58!) Share Your Thoughts! Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to [email protected] or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below! Podcast Consulting: I am available for one on one podcast consulting, audio production, and voice over work. I’d love to work with you to make your podcasting dreams a reality. If you’re interested, please contact me! Subscribe to Podcast Perspective:
Feb. 25, 2011
Welcome to the very first episode, the premiere of Podcast Perspective! Podcast Perspective is the podcast about everything podcasting and new media! Whether you’re an experienced podcaster, or you’re just starting out, this is the show to learn about the practical tools, tricks, and techniques for the new media revolution. The Internet has broken down the barriers, and removed the gatekeepers, giving anyone passionate the ability to make their message heard across the world. Content is king… but then quality, presentation is definitely queen! I want to help make your message stand out from the crowd and get great audio. Especially if you’re just looking to get started, there’s a paralyzing amount of information out there, and in this ever evolving medium, much of it out of date, or, in my opinion, some less than great advice. I’ve been there, “in the trenches” as an independent content creator for years now… and I’m here to help! This episode features an overview of what is a podcast, and what makes this new medium so revolutionary, some fundamental audio concepts, and more… Explaining Podcasting What exactly is podcasting? Regardless of your level of technical expertise, or whether you’re just getting started, or you’ve been involved with podcasting since its infancy, take a moment to step back and look at the bigger picture. To successfully produce a podcast, you not only need a clear understanding of what a podcast is, you’ll need to be able to explain it to the uninitiated. These days, podcasting has become a buzz word that gets casually thrown around. People hear it all the time, but not knows what it means—how often have you heard people someone respond with “but I don’t have an iPod” in regards to podcasting? The term podcasting does date back to February of 2004, when it was coined by British Journalist Ben Hammersley, a combination of the words “iPod” and “broadcast”—but has come to mean so much more. Technically speaking, a “podcast” is little more than rich media content—such as audio or video files—that can be automatically downloaded via syndication. However, downloadable media from a web site is not a podcast. The syndication element, done via RSS, is the “secret sauce” that lowers technical boundaries by automating the delivery of new episodes. A podcatcher program—such as iTunes—can regularly check this specially formatted RSS “feed” and easily see if there is a new entry, and will automatically download the associated attachment—in the case of audio podcasts, usually an MP3 file. Subscribing to automatically download new episodes of a podcast isn’t unlike subscribing to a print magazine or newspaper—except that podcasts are (usually) free. Instead of having to go to the newsstand every time there is a new issue, you subscribe to get it delivered to your automatically. Similarly, when you are subscribed, the latest episode of your favorite podcast will be automatically downloaded to your computer, ready to be listened to on demand at your convenience—all without having to lift a finger. In traditional media, there can only be a finite number of terrestrial radio or television stations, which means they must “broadcast” to the broadest possible audience, catering to the lowest common denominator.  By contrast, there is no limit to the number of podcasts there c can be on the Internet, and there can be specialized content “narrowcast” to a specific audience. With no traditional transmitter, unlike radio and television, podcasting is not limited by geographic boundaries, or limited by corporate media gatekeepers. Podcasting is democratized media, where you are in control. Anyone with something to say can make their message heard! Quick Tip When you’re producing your podcast, even if you do it “live to hard drive,” always record to an uncompressed format—such as WAV (Windows) or AIFF (Mac). MP3 format should only be used for distribution, after you’ve completed recording and post-production, because it is a “lossy” compression format which discards less essential audio information while hoping the listener won’t notice too much. While recording directly to MP3, there is a chance of encoding errors, and and this process of discarding information happens every time you save to MP3. Once that audio information is gone, it’s gone forever, there’s no way to get it back! Only once you’ve recorded, edited, and mastered your podcast, then export the finished product to MP3 for tagging and uploading. Audio Fundamentals Before diving in to some of the fun stuff, it’s important to establish some fundamental audio concepts. Content may be king, but then presentation is definitely queen—and having good audio is very important. You might already have an intuitive grasp, if not an intellectual understanding, of some of these concepts, but rather than spew a bunch of technical advice, without any foundation, and tell you what you should do, without any justification, I’d rather teach what it means, and why it’s important. You just might learn something! It’s something most of us take for granted every day—but what is sound? Sound is created in waves from air molecules vibrating against each other, and when those vibrations reach our ears, they are converted to electrical signals, which our brains interpret as sound. Similarly, when a microphone element vibrates, it is converted in to an electrical signal. There are a few fundamental terms that describe sound. Remember that sound is a wave? Amplitude (think amplify, as in amplifier) describes how tall an individual wave is, and the taller it is, the more sound energy it holds. Frequency, measured in Hertz (Hz) is the interval between the sound waves, and the higher the frequency, the higher the pitch, and the lower the frequency, the lower the pitch. Lower frequencies also contain more energy than higher frequencies. The human ear has a hearing range of approximately 20 Hz to 20 kHz (20,000 Hz), though extremely low-frequency sounds are more felt than heard, and with age, we lose the ability to hear some of those highest frequencies. For comparison, the human voice’s main frequencies are in the range of 80 Hz-12 kHz, though this varies by individual, such as men with that big deep bassy voice. How does that translate in the realm of 1’s and 0’s? Digital audio is an approximate representation of an analog sound wave, and the higher the resolution, the more detailed and more-life-like. “CD quality” audio is the baseline for today, and is 16 bit, 44.1 kHz—but what does that mean? A digital recording is a series of snapshots, or samples, of what the amplitude is at that specific time. This frequency of these snapshots is the sample rate, such as 44.1 kHz (or 44,100 times per second). The bit depth refers to a range of possible values for each sample, a higher bit depth allowing higher numbers, and a larger dynamic range between loud and soft sounds. The bottom line: record at 16 bit and 44.1 kHz, or CD quality. Finally, there’s the sound level, which describes the intensity, represented by negative decibels (or db’s) in relation to zero, or infinite energy. You want to make sure your levels aren’t set too high, so that you don’t go over 0 db. You can’t have more than infinity, so any audio over 0 db is thrown away (usually causing nasty distortion, or clipping), and is gone forever. However, don’t simply set your levels too low, because then you will have to artificially amplify your recording in post-production, which will not only bring up your voice, but any unwanted background noise and room tone as well. It is important to properly set your levels so that when you’re speaking at a normal volume, your audio is peaking between -12 db to -6 db, which is high enough but allowing enough headroom that you shouldn’t have to worry about hitting that 0 db ceiling. Now with these fundamental concepts, next time we can get to the more fun stuff, including how to get the best sound quality possible! Share Your Thoughts! Questions? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions? I welcome your feedback! Send your written text or recorded audio to [email protected] or call 424-254-9763, or leave a comment below! 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