Recording a “Hello World” Podcast with @PBearne at #pcto2012

I’ve been blogging a long time, and participate in webinars with some of my vendor clients, but I don’t do any podcasting (yet). Here at PodCamp Toronto 2012, I had the opportunity to sit through a short session with Paul Bearne on doing a simple podcast: record, edit and post to WordPress.

In addition to a headset and microphone – you can start with a minimal $30 headset/mic combo such as a USB Skype headset that he showed us with decent transcoding included, or move up to a more expensive microphone for better quality – he also recommends at least a basic two-channel audio mixer.

He walked us through what we need from a software standpoint:

  • Audacity – Free open source audio recording software. We recorded a short podcast using Audacity based on a script that Bearne provided, checked the playback for distortion and other quality issues, trimmed out the unwanted portions, adjusted the gain. I’ve used Audacity a bit before to edit audio so this wasn’t completely unfamiliar, but saw a few new tricks. Unfortunately, he wasn’t completely familiar with the tool when it came to some features since it appears that he actually uses some other tool for this, so there was a bit of fumbling around when it came to inserting a pre-recorded piece of intro music and converting the mono voice recording to stereo. There’s also the option to add metadata for the recording, such as title and artist.
  • Levelator – After exporting from Audacity project as a WAV or AIFF file, we could read into Levelator for fixing the recording levels. It’s not clear if there are any settings for Levelator or if it just equalizes the levels, but the result was a total mess the first time, not as expected. He ran it again (using an AIFF export instead of WAV) and the result was much better, although not clear what caused the difference. After fixing the levels with Levelator and importing back into Audacity, the final podcast was exported in MP3 format.
  • WordPress – As he pointed out, the difference between a podcast and a regular audio recording is the ability to subscribe to it, and using WordPress for publishing podcasts allows anyone to subscribe to them using an RSS reader or podcatcher. You may not host the files on your WordPress site since you may not have the storage or bandwidth there, but we used WordPress in this case to set up the site that provides the links and feed to the podcasts.
  • Filezilla FTP – For transferring the resulting MP3 files to the destination.
  • PowerPress – A WordPress plugin from Blubrry allows you to do things such as creating the link to iTunes so that the podcast appears in the podcast directory there, and publishing the podcast directly into a proper podcast post that has its own unique media RSS feed, allowing you to mix podcasts and regular posts on the same WordPress site.

He also discussed the format of the content, such as the inclusion of intro music, title and sponsorship information before the actual content begins.

There was definitely value in this session, although if I wasn’t already familiar with a lot of these concepts, it would have been a lot less useful. Still not sure that I’m going to be podcasting any time soon, but interesting to know how to make it work.

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