Jul 142015

sucking at somethingA number of times people have asked me for some podcasting tips when they’ve decided to give this podcasting thing a shot. It just happened again, and I’ve decided to compile all my beginner advice into a post I can easily point to, rather than having to retype everything each time.

I will not be repeating the things that are already found on How To Podcast pages. Please follow their advice on setting up a WordPress Site, creating an RSS feed, and registering with iTunes. It’s much better than what I could give, and probably more up-to-date.

I will repeat a few things I said at my “Voicing A Character” page though, since that one is kinda hidden unless you’ve wanted to voice a character for HPMoR.

First, I want to reinforce anything you’ve read that advises you to create your RSS Feed through Google FeedBurner rather than using whoever your site host is. DO THIS. You will very likely want (or need) to switch hosts one day. This will make your life sooooo much easier when you do, with very little extra effort right now. I learned this the hard way.

For publishing, I use PowerPress from BluBrry. Simple and free, which is what I want.

Second, if you plan on doing more than a dozen episodes, it’s worth it to shell out the money for a mid-grade microphone. They make a hell of a difference. I use an Audio Technica 2020, with a USB converter.

Cheap hardware essentials that I didn’t realize were essentials until later: A microphone stand, so you don’t have to hold the mic and it stays a constant distance from your mouth. A sheet-music stand to hold my source material, so I don’t have to hold it in my hands and have the paper rustle in the mic. A pop-filter, to prevent the worst of those annoying pops and cracks.

I’m less sure of the spider-mount. I’ve found it helps just enough to justify the cost if you’ll be doing this for a long time. Some come with a pop-filter integrated, which helps defray the cost.

Minimize all background sound, these mics will pick up everything. Refrigerators, HVAC, even loud computer fans. Be aware of noise you can’t control, a truck driving by outside can be picked up. You’ll have to wait until it’s gone and then redo that sentence. Likewise, take a full breath when you reach the end of a page before flipping it.

Echo is the devil! It’s a stealthy degrader of audio quality that you don’t notice when you record, it’s hard to eliminate IRL, and it’s almost literally impossible to eliminate via software in post (some of the extremely high-end audio software claims to be able to get rid of some echo).

The best fix is recording in a closet. All those hanging clothes do *wonders* to absorb sound. Put egg-crate foam on the wall opposite you to nullify echo from that direction. For real. If your living quarters were to be picked up and shaken by vigorously by a giant, you should emerge unscathed.

For software, do your recording and editing in Audacity. It’s free, and plenty powerful for anyone who isn’t an industry professional. Save every now and then while you’re recording. Keep the raw file when you’re done, and do all your post-production work in a renamed copy, in case you screw something up real bad.

First thing you do before you start anything else in post-production is to run a Noise Reduction on the entire thing. It’ll make every type of editing easier, as the background hiss will be reduced.

The BIGGEST THING I WISH I KNEW FROM THE START is this: Whenever making edits in Audacity, always “jump to zero” after selecting the section you want but before doing ANYTHING ELSE. The hotkey for this is “z”. It’s the *best thing ever*!! Seriously, hit Z anytime you highlight any amount of track for any reason, or are about to paste something in. Make it a habit. Find yourself accidentally hitting Z after selecting text to copy out of an email or webpage, because you have such entrenched muscle-memory of “Releasing Mouse Button After Selection -> tap Z.” It’ll put a stop to so many of your post-production pops/clicks.

In terms of technique:

Modulate your breathing. That’ll save you a ton of post-production work. Plan when you will breath before hand, make sure it’s only at natural breaks in a sentence, like commas and periods.

Beware of throat phlegm, do your best to keep it clear, unless that’s the sound you’re going for. You’ll eventually figure out what works best for you to accomplish that.

When you flub a word and have to redo it, go back AT LEAST a few words. You need to get a nice flow and find natural breaks in speaking to splice the lines together, and in practice these very rarely occur between words. They’re more common between vowels and hard consonants. Best practice is to go back to the last natural pause – either a period or a comma – and continue from there. I always do so, and it’s invaluable.

Don’t be afraid to do a few takes if something doesn’t feel right and cut out all but the best one.

You’ll probably read too fast. Most people do. You should probably slow down.

Don’t worry about over-acting. That’s almost impossible when you only have your voice to convey emotion, rather than face, body, etc. It’s far more likely that you’re being too flat than that you’re overacting.

But the biggest piece of advice – realize that you will get better. And the only way to get better is to keep doing this. So don’t give up! You’ll never learn how to walk if you’re unwilling to wobble around like a flibbity-jibbit for a few months, figuring out how these “leg” things work. :)

  5 Responses to “Beginner Podcasting”

  1. I’ve also been hearing good things about those portable recording booth things, that, rather than put you in a foam-lined cupboard, put the microphone in a foam-lined mini-cupboard that should ideally reject noise from all sides except the open side that you speak into. Haven’t tried one out yet – I’m saving up for one of the collapsable, take-in-a-backpack types, but lots of people seem to rate them highly.

  2. Thank you for this! I’ve realized I want to do a podcast/drama thingie, and I was going to email you for advice. I’ve done a lot of librivox this spring/summer, which has led me to learn a lot about audacity. Here’s a great set of video tutorials: https://forum.librivox.org/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=33439

    (Question – do you get permission when using commercial music for intros/outtros? )

    • Sorry for the long-delayed reply! I generally don’t for the intros/outros, I’ve heard that short snippets are generally considered OK under Fair Use. (However I’m not a lawyer and you shouldn’t base any actions on what I’ve said.)

      • I’ll probably try to get a friend to create something for me. Here’s the URL – http://14audioworkshop.com — it’s a time-constrained creativity event, like NanoWrimo, the 48 Hour Film Festival, or the 24 Hour Playwriting things, but for Audio Drama instead. I’d love to have you participate! (I’m still working out logistics)

        • That looks awesome! Unfortunately I am extremely busy nowadays, and I wouldn’t be able to get deeply involved. I could, if you’d like, provide some voice work, as long as it wasn’t a huge amount. But that probably wouldn’t work very well in a team-dynamic time-pressure sort of event. When is this happening?

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