Behind the Scenes of the Podcast
Gameplay update: More playing than writing about playing! I am in the home stretch of Bioshock Infinite and have SO MANY WORDS about it, many of which should appear later this week. I also just picked up Don’t Starve, which I really enjoy and will also write about when take a moment to stop chasing bunnies around with a pickaxe.
Way back in May of 2012 I wrote about Creating a Podcast on the Cheap with WordPress for folks who want to try their hand at podcasting with minimal set-up and no costs. I love getting behind-the-scenes looks at other podcasts, so since Cat Context is coming up on its first birthday it seemed like a good time to revisit the subject and see what a very very slightly more professional setup looks like.
At the time of the first post I had been producing a podcast for approximately 3 weeks, and my primary goal was something fast and easy both for myself and for the regularly rotating panel of guests. Sure I didn’t want it to sound terrible, but I was much more about the message than the medium. But as creating content got easier, I found myself making more and more squinchy faces at the audio quality.
Stuff You Do With a Computer: Recording and Editing
The biggest change in Cat Context’s production has been moving from a single recorded stream to a separate track for each participant. Myself, Arolaide, and Ellyndrial still get on Mumble, but we also each make a local recording of our end of the conversation. Elly and Aro convert their recording to WAV files and send it to me, and then I have three distinct tracks to work with in post-production. Not only does this eliminate weird internet audio errors from Mumble, but it means we can all be yelling over each other (note: we do this a lot) and I can still clean it up later.
I’m sure there are folks out there with amazing raw content who just slap some opening music on it and release but unsurprisingly I am not that person. I spend roughly an hour editing for every 10 minutes of raw recording. And that’s no slight to the conversation — I’m super fussy and spend a lot of time cutting out “Ummms” and conversational silences. If I am torn on keeping or cutting something, my guideline is “does this relate to the predetermined topic?”.
Really the best advice I could give anyone about recording or editing is: learn to use Audacity’s advanced features. It’s an amazing free tool that can do amazing things if you know how.
The Perils of Podcasting: Sound Booths and Microphone Collections
A year ago I recorded everything with a crappy microphone on a crappy gaming headset. Then Christmas happened and I became the owner of a Blue Snowball, which is a popular option for inexpensive amateur mics. And, hey, once I got that why not invest a few bucks in a better pop filter? And I don’t have a lot of desktop space, so a flexible stand might be nice. While I’m at it, we do live podcasts a couple of times a year, so maybe I should pick up a couple of tabletop omnidirectional mics. And — hey, wait a second, who filled my study with all this audio stuff?
While switching to the Blue Snowball came with a great improvement in audio quality, it’s also really good at picking up ambient noise like cars, cats, and people “wooing” at the pub down the road. Clearly I needed to create a better soundproof studio on recording days, and I did so with all the professionalism and care that you would expect from a fine podcast like Cat Context.
You will need: a clothesline, a sheet, and pushpins.
Step One: String a clothesline across your computer area at about a garotting level. Drape a sheet over it.
Step Two: Stretch the sheet so it covers your recording area. Use pushpins to secure it.
Step Three: NO CATS IN THE PODCASTING TENT.
Totally pro. Here’s to another year of podcasting and thanks to everyone who has listened!