During our travels through South America, Matt and I listened to and bonded over quite a few podcasts. As we rambled along on yet another 24-hour-long bumpy Peruvian bus ride, we’d click on a new episode of This American Life, All Songs Considered, or Reply All and be transported somewhere else for a bit. During a particularly long hiking day, with a pass over 17,000 feet, we spent our afternoon resting (read:staying warm– it was cold and wet!) in the tent, drinking tea, eating cheap packaged cookies, and listening to Sam Harris talk about spirituality and meditation. These stories have now meshed with my own stories of our travels. They powered us through our toughest days, entertained us, and taught us about things going on in the world that we would’ve had a harder time learning about. So, I guess you could say I’m a fan of podcasts.
And, as an avid podcast listener, I’ve talked about wanting to start a podcast for a while now, and because Matt is an excellent dream-enabler, and partner, he agreed to come along for the ride. So, without more than an iPhone, iPhone speakers, and a cheap video mic that Matt had, we started recording audio to share our story with you.
That’s where we hit many barriers. What audio-editing software do we use? How do we even start editing multiple hours of conversation down to 20 minutes? And on and on. I’m pretty sure I’ve read some of these before;
Here are three things I wish I’d known before starting:
1. Get your recording quality right the first time.
In hindsight, this is very obvious. Since you’re working on an audio product, your podcast lives and dies by audio quality. There’s only so much you can do in post-production. The best ways to ensure audio quality includes:
- investing in a proper microphone or microphones (and mixer depending on how many people will be talking most of the time and where you’ll be capturing this audio)
- choosing the right environment to record in (ie minimizing ambient sounds and echoing). It sucks to record something that’s awesome and impactful only to have to scrap it because of shoddy sound quality.
2. Podcasts come in many forms. Your considerations for setup, editing time, etc. depend at least partially on this.
A storytelling podcast like This American Life that combines narration, interviews, sound effects, etc. is complicated. Some questions you may want to think about before starting:
- What types of places will you be recording in? Will it be mostly a controlled studio environment or will the background change?
- How many people/voices are you recording? Are they in the same room?
- Will you be skyping for interviews?
Since we wanted to play with the story-telling podcast, which combines narration, sound effects, and interviews vs. interview-only (or interview with short narration) style, we jumped in very blindly, although enthusiastically. During the process we’ve now learned about recording and editing audio through Skype in different time zones (and matching audio up later), recording on the go, recording in a large room with people sitting everywhere (don’t do this). During post-production, we had something like ~20 tracks for our first cut, and this got pretty stressful.
3. You’re never going to know everything you need to know before starting. The process is going to be messy, and you’re going to make mistakes along the way, and that’s ok.
We sent out our rough cut of the first episode to a group of “beta” listeners, and the feedback is more or less that we need to cut/re-do large sections of our audio. Even though that’s pretty disheartening to hear and move forward, we’re still so much better off starting the learning process, making mistakes, and having a product than sitting around doing nothing. We’ve already learned so much along the way, and I’m excited to share more. In the meantime, we’ve settled on Audacity for software editing (it’s free and has all the features we need right now), and we’re waiting for our new mic to get here.