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Make a Professional Podcast on a Minimal Budget

Make a Professional Podcast on a Minimal Budget

podcaststandout.jpg
There are more podcasts out there than you can shake a stick at. It seems as though everyone with a microphone has a podcast. Luckily for you, most of them have room to improve. Following on from our previous post, Benefits of Podcasting, here’s how to make your podcast stand out from the crowd on a minimal budget.

What do you need?

Microphone

Most laptops have inbuilt microphones which are usable for recording your podcast. If you are thinking about taking it to the next level, then it would be wise to invest in an entry level condenser microphone. Compressing your files into mp3 format will remove most of the quality in higher end microphones.

Software

Is there really a better free audio editing package than Audacity? I don’t think so. Use Audacity to record, edit and produce your podcasts.

Ears

A lot of people produce incredible podcasts with the minimum of equipment. The trick is to listen carefully and follow some of our tips below. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to take a long break from your recording and then listen to it again with fresh ears.

Recording Values

A little effort in the recording process of your podcast will go a long way. Take care to find quiet spaces to limit noises such as sirens, coughs, dog barking or anything else that isn’t part of the script.

A lot of people think that they can remove these noises in post production, but this is not always the case. Audio software isn’t magic, trying to remove an overlying sound is like trying to remove flour from a cake after it has been baked. You usually have to rerecord those lines, often leaving the podcast sounding unnatural.

Anyone working in sound will tell you to getting the recording right will save you time and mean a higher quality output.

Tip:

  • Monitor your signal and look for about 7/10 on your recording meter
  • Record in mono at CD quality(44.1KHz 16bit)
  • Get closer to the mic, 5 inches away is a good measure (the further away you are, the more unwanted room resonance you will pick up)
  • Keep your mouth well lubricated
  • Speak past the microphone, not directly into it. This will remove breath and wind noises
  • Speak clearly and slowly

Post Production

Once you decided that you created the best recording you possible could, you can optimize it in Audacity. The first thing you need to do is to clean up your recording. Remove any long pauses and unwanted noises.

Streamline your podcast into a precise piece of content. Make sure if you are cutting the tracks into many pieces that you give any new block a sharp fade in and out so that you don’t get any pops. To do this you should zoom in as much as you can into the recording and only select a small part to fade in, this way the fade in will not be noticeable and the software won’t produce popping noises. Have a look at the screen grab below for an example.

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A few tips

  • If you hear reverb, you have applied too much
  • Use EQ to remove distant rumbles, but be careful not to use too much as this will leave your voice sounding unnatural. (Bonus tip: You can make a voice sound like it’s on the telephone if you remove the high and low frequencies).
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment

When you have completed your podcast and are happy with the results, be sure to normalize your recording. This will make your podcast louder. Ever wonder how broadcasters product audio tracks that have a consistent volume level? Use compression to narrow the dynamic range of your track. Here is a very good guide to using compression.

Be Creative

Making your podcast stand out isn’t just about being clear and well produced, although it helps. You need to be a little creative. Listen to podcasts that you like. Make notes of things that people do which you find interesting. This doesn’t mean that you are stealing their ideas.

When you make a list of what you like to hear in a podcast, it can help you determine the direction yours can take. It may spark that bit of creativity which was otherwise dormant. Here are a few things to consider:

Idents or Intros

A podcast ident is the introduction to your podcast. Think of it like your sonic logo. It’s a great way brand your audio output distinctly different from the crowd.

Music and Sound Effects

Music is another way to theme your podcast. It is a great way to break down longer podcasts and also prepares listeners to different parts or features in the audio. There are a number of royalty free podsafe music and sound effects websites.

List of Sound Effects and Music Resources

SoundSnap - Quality sound effects and ambiance
PodsafeAudio - Music to use under the creative commons license. A huge library.
Partners in Rhyme - A large number public domain sound effects
Jamendo - Another great community for sharing music under the creative commons license.

Hopefully we have given you a few ideas on how to make your podcast stand out. This blog post is quite brief and the subject is vast. If you would like to learn more about different techniques and tools for podcasting, then have a look at mashable’s podcasting toolbox. Please do share anything you have to add in the comments below.

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6 Readers have left their thoughts

  1. Yeah, I finally should do a podcast. I love Audacity and it is really easy to use.

  2. I will also try this. Thanks for sharing

  3. Great resources! Thanks for posting.

  4. @Tad - I’m sure yours would be good. For podcasts, Audacity has everything you need. Thanks for the comment.

    @Sarah - Thanks for stopping by, let us know when you have a podcast up.

    @Tanner - No problem. Thanks for commenting.

    /Nick

  5. I cannot do justice in attempting to express my gratitude towards the author for this fine article — the first of its kind that I’ve come across.

    I have long desired to learn podcasting, however a nagging fear of the technology involved has always prevented me from jumping in head first and learning it.

    After reading this, I no longer feel as though I have to jump in head first, as this article allowed me to get my toes wet (figuratively speaking, of course) and adjust to the water temperature before getting all the way in.


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