Podcasting Process

While I'm nowhere near a "professional" podcaster, I've been working on both Sutras (and Stuff) and the NBN Language podcast for just under a year now. It took a lot of trial and error to get a process that works for me and has a decent audio outcome. In case other educators are interested in how to make a podcast or similar audio recording, here's a quick rundown of how I work.

Hardware

Software/Websites

 Steps

  1. If the podcast is an interview, I start with a set of questions. If it is a narrative, I write out the entire script, noting places where I'll insert audio. If it's a combination, where I narrate and embed an interview into that narrative, I start with the interview and then think about how best to frame it.

  2. Zencastr is a free site where you can record interviews and download them. I haven't had any issues with it. In fact, even some interviews where what I heard was choppy, because of poor Internet connection on one side, turned out fine because of how Zencastr buffers audio. I usually record in the closet because it keeps echo down. Some clothes hanging muffle things a bit, and there's a door that closes. I hang a "recording" sign on my office door and let my family know ahead of time when I'm recording, since you don't want background noise.

  3. There are a number of websites where you can get free audio or sound effects. For music I use https://www.buzzsprout.com/blog/free-music-for-podcasts and https://incompetech.filmmusic.io. You can get sound effects from https://freesound.org/ and https://www.zapsplat.com/. I also download from YouTube using https://ytmp3.cc/en13/ and include attribution since I'm mixing and reusing for educational purposes.

  4. Once I have all of my audio, I will upload the interviews to Otter so it creates an automatic transcript. This requires paying for a subscription. While not perfect, especially with Sanskrit or technical philosophical terms, it's enough for me to work with. Using the transcript, which has timestamps on it, I can copy and paste material into my narrative, noting the times of the original file. This is important for the next step.

  5. Using Audacity, free audio editing software, I integrate the audio into my narrative. There are detailed guides online for how to do this (like here). So far, I tend to send questions ahead of time to my guests for the NBN interviews, just because academics really like to be prepared. I emphasize that I don't want them to write out and read their answers. This mostly works--though I have had at least one interview where it was clear the interviewee was reading, and most people aren't great at doing that and being expressive. Having more of a normal conversation will help make the recording more interesting to listeners, and it's what I do with S&S.

  6. After I have an Audacity file complete, I export it as an mp3, labeled "pre-production." I then upload it to Auphonic, which will do the post-processing for me. Most importantly, this means that the volume is even across the podcast (instead of quiet then LOUD then quiet--which I had difficulty with in Season 1). That's the point where I also add meta-data like track number, title, and so on.

  7. Once I have the final file, I upload it to Anchor.fm, which is where I'm currently hosting Sutras (and Stuff). It's not perfect--I don't like that I can't get the published link ahead of time so that I can schedule tweets letting people know about it. But until I've finished Season 2, I'm not going to mess with transferring to another platform. The nice thing about Anchor is that they push your podcast to all the major platforms like Spotify, Apple, and so on. And they have some analytics about who's listening (and how long--do people finish your podcast?). Though I try not to pay attention to that too much, since for now, the project isn't about getting big numbers of listeners, but creating something which I think is excellent and which can be used in classrooms.

That's it! How long does all this take? Well, it's time-consuming to create these embedded narrative podcasts. Recording an interview and posting it directly is much simpler. For instance, Episode 7 of S&S was about 12 minutes long, and based on my time tracking in Toggl, it broke down this way:

  • Writing: 75 minutes (that includes writing and finding audio materials to integrate)
  • Recording: 30 minutes (that includes restarting sentences where I mess up!)
  • Editing: 60 minutes (that includes cutting out disfluencies, inserting material, and uploading to Auphonic for post-production)
  • Total: 2 hours and 45 minutes for a 12 minute podcast.

The time varies--some podcasts are easier to write than others, and sometimes there's less to edit and my recording time is closer to the length of the final show. And this excludes the interviews themselves (for Season 2 on Nyāya, I interviewed Stephen Phillips and Matt Dasti each for about an hour and have used that single interview for material during the entire season). But this is why I have scheduled for every other week and don't start a season until I have several episodes already complete and scheduled! Even still, with teaching and research which take priority over podcasting, I get behind schedule.

As with any other skill, more hours of practice will mean that I can work more quickly and accurately. Even so, I would expect that the time put into a piece of audio final length of a podcast is at least double. Probably more when you're starting out.

However, hearing from people around the world that they have learned something about Indian philosophy from my podcast has made it worthwhile, and I plan to continue as long as there's an interested audience and I have the "spare" time for this hobby.

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