Unit 8: Making a Podcast

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  • Microphones Microphones capture a weak signal and amplify it greatly. This also amplifies noise from anywhere in the signal chain (ie. sounds & component noise). Better equipment has less component noise and can take a higher input without distorting – i.e. the dynamic range is greater. Dynamic mics are ideal for general-purpose use. They use a simple design with few moving parts and so are sturdy. They are also better suited to handling high volume levels, such as from musical instruments or amplifiers. Condenser mics have internal amplifier increasing the strength of the audio signal. Tend to be more sensitive and responsive than dynamics, making them well-suited to capturing subtle nuances in a sound. Pickup patterns: omnidirectional mics pick up sound from all direction equally. Cardioid (heart shaped) pickup pattens preferentially pick up from one direction (the front), reducing sound from other directions. Bidirectional pickups are sensitive to the front and back, Inputs: XLR are professional mics that plug into a mixing desk. 1/8”. PC sound cards inputs are typically of very low quality and introduce a lot of noise (they’re also stereo and most mics are mono). Remember, ideally you’ll have mics and headphones for all presenters. Other equipment Monitor headphones - provide feedback on level and quality. This is essential as our ears are used to tuning out background noise, but mics aren’t! Mixer – for more than one mic. Also give good control over levels from each source and outputs for monitoring as well as recording.
  • Script provides details of what is in each section, but not necessarily exact dialogue to be read verbatim! Bearing in mind that listerners may stop listening at any point, it’s best to get the most important points across first. This is the basis of the inverted pyramid model used in journalism, which allows a story to be cut at any point without impacting on the preceding text. So start with your key point, then expand on it, before finishing with links to related information. As well as ‘front-loading’ the whole page, you can also apply this approach to paragraphs and even sentences. Another way journalists capture attention is through headlines. Cryptic headlines can entice users to read more, but take care not to be too cryptic! (Retire Rich; Super Caley go Ballistic, Celtic are Atrocious) Try to be natural - Act as if in conversation with just one listener. Don’t worry about the Erms and Ahhs, these can be edited out later. Publish your scripts as show notes
  • The Blues guitarist John Lee Hooker once said that the only way to get the sound he wanted was to record standing upside down in his bathroom. While most of us wouldn’t go that far, bear in mind that the acoustics of where you record will have a major impact on sound quality. Think of how it sounds when you sing in the shower, or talk in an empty lecture theatre. Ideally, you would have access to a dedicated studio, which will be setup for audio work. This should have all the equipment you need together with damping to reduce reflected sound. Most universities will have a central A/V facility, as will some schools. If you don’t have access to a studio, then you can take some simple practical measures to improve the environment. Choose a quiet location free from background noise. Place covers over hard surfaces, such as tablecloths Power down unnecessary equipment, such as computers and mobile phones. Let your colleagues know that you’re recording so they don’t interrupt you. That said, some background noise can give atmosphere and be very engaging, so use it where it helps, but use it wisely as too much tends to be distracting.
  • Mic technique Get to know your microphones. Work out where their sweet spots are (depends on pickup pattern) and stay in them. Positioning is also important. Place off to one side and raise up to reduce risk of pops and mouth sounds. The sound check confirms that all your equipment is working and correctly balanced. This doesn’t have to be anything too elaborate, but
  • Garbage in, garbage out Best to take the time to capture a good signal, as this will be easier to edit and enhance. Cleaning and amplifying a weak signal tends to be difficult. Signal Processing Can make the difference between a good and a professional quality podcast. May sound complicated and difficult, but a few simple, subtle effects can make all the difference. Normalisation – reduce loud sounds, boost quiet sounds Compression – compress dynamic range – reduce difference between loudest & quietest sounds, then turn it up (ie. make it all loud without distorting) Equalisation – boost/cut specific frequencies
  • Where? Podcast hosting sites such as podomatic take care of everything for you. You simply upload your finished audio, fill in a form and they create the RSS, a show page and an embedded player for listening online. Blogs are another popular way to distribute podcasts, however, not all blogging platforms support audio (enclosures). Wordpress does with plugin, blogger doesn’t – need to host audio elsewhere and use feedburner to create RSS, so extra step, but does give you good features and stats. Websites – key advantage is branding, but will depend on local systems as to how to create RSS etc. Issues Podsafe music Reusing other peoples recordings Licensing
  • Unit 8: Making a Podcast

    1. 1. Podcasting photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/ollyhart/123420044
    2. 2. About this workshop Overview of podcasting production Further guidance provided after session Bookmarks, handouts & supported practical Participant guidelines Let us know if you have any problems Ask questions Talk to each other
    3. 3. Producing your podcast
    4. 4. Introduction Production is easy - quality production is harder! Consider how much time/effort is justified Get the right equipment Plan your content Choose your location Record, edit & publish!
    5. 5. Get the right equipment Analogue sound - digital representation Recording chain... Microphone(s) Mixer Monitor (headphones) Recording device Garbage in, Garbage out!
    6. 6. Dynamic Mics General purpose mic Sturdy & resilient Handle high volumes Doesn’t need power
    7. 7. Studio (Condenser) Mics Sensitive & responsive Good for voice work Intended for studio use Need cradle/shock mount Need external power (amp)
    8. 8. Connectors: Jacks 6.5 mm 3.5 mm Fit many consumer devices Typically low quality Introduce electrical noise Mono or stereo
    9. 9. Connectors: XLR Used on professional mics Very little electrical interference Supply phantom power
    10. 10. Connectors: USB Typically high quality On-board audio encoding No need for audio interface
    11. 11. Recording to computer
    12. 12. Recording via audio interface XLR inputs - USB output Gain control Monitoring
    13. 13. Recording via mixer More inputs, USB output (multi-channel) More control of each channel Equalisation Gain control
    14. 14. Recording to portable device Lightweight & portable Built in mics Storage as DAT, SD, HDD... Good for sound bite interviews
    15. 15. Any questions?
    16. 16. Planning your content
    17. 17. Planning: outlines Define show structure Segments Items (stories) Timings Transitions Resources Episode 1 Intro (2 min) Item 1 (3 min) Recap (30 secs) Item 2 (2 min) (3 min)
    18. 18. Planning: scripts Writing Learn from the media… • Inverted pyramid • Headlines as hooks Add detail, but not every word Presenting Try not to sound scripted Adopt your on-air persona
    19. 19. Recording: location Studio Quiet room Soundproofing Some background noise can add atmosphere, but a lot is distracting…
    20. 20. Recording: mic technique Positioning Pop filters Sound check Watch your pace & volume Forget it’s on!
    21. 21. Editing Relatively easy, but time consuming Editing content Cuts, drop-ins, intro/outro, music… Signal processing EQ Normalisation Compression
    22. 22. Publishing your podcast Save uncompressed master as MP3 Upload to hosting service Simple Freemium Some limitations Upload to blog or website More control, more work Publish
    23. 23. Practical Produce 10 minute+ Podcast Don’t worry too much about equipment Plan and rehearse your content Publish and get feedback from others Support Handouts provide further guidance Ask tutors for help Support each other

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