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Best practice for creating a podcast

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Podcasts have become a popular way to connect with modern audiences and are a democratic platform to share ideas, opinions and viewpoints. The below guide equips you with the basics of structuring, recording, enhancing and editing your podcast. 

Topic structure & style

NB The below mainly applies to assignments that do not follow a particular framework or specific guidelines. If you have been provided with detailed instructions by your tutor, please follow those first and foremost. 

First, consider what you want to talk about in your podcast, this should be something that interests you in one way or another. If you aren’t interested, no one else will be! Find your topic and narrow it down to something you can confidently talk and engage in. For example, if your podcast was about music, what kind of music? What kind of artists? What about them? Find your niche.

Podcasts are often made with at least two people allowing conversation to flow and for organic discussions to develop around your topic. Whilst it is possible to produce a podcast individually, it is more difficult and requires more preparation. Consider if you’d like someone to host the podcast with you or to have a guest who might have specialist knowledge on a topic.

Once you’ve pinned down a topic, it’s important to develop a structure on which to base your podcast around. This could be a loose time frame for themes and ideas which you’d like to talk about within the podcast. Think of this as a running order. Whilst podcasts don’t follow an actual script, it is important to have an understanding of some of the ideas you want to cover and how to go about talking about those ideas in a concise and engaging way.

Think about style, will your podcast include sound effects and music, will it have pre-recorded interviews or ‘vox pop’ style segments? Give some thought to how you want to come across within your podcast and how that works within the topic you’ve chosen. Podcasts can literally be about anything but, without any planning and effort, your podcast will be lacking.

Recording your podcast: How, where and with what?

One of the most important things to consider before recording your podcast is where you are going to record it. You want to ensure you choose a quiet location, with little to no background noise. Avoid cafes, restaurants or the outdoors as locations! The best place would be a sound recording studio but, if you don’t have access to this, even an empty office or classroom can suffice (or even just your bedroom if that is all you have access to). Just make sure that all noisy appliances are switched off! (fans, air-conditioning, etc.) 

Depending on your budget there are a range of options available to you in regards to what to record your podcast with.

If you don’t have access to anything other than your smartphone, don’t worry! You can use recording apps to record your podcasts on your smartphone or tablet. The two most common apps are Voice Memo (iPhone) or Voice Recorder (Android). Although they only have basic functionality, they are perfectly capable tools if you don’t have access to anything else.

If you study at the main Roehampton campus (excludes QAHE Holborn, Birmingham, Manchester and any other partner campuses), you may borrow digital sound recorders loaned from the AV Resources department on the first floor of the library.

Recording sound

Recording great sound is all about clear crisp audio files with minimal or ideally no background noise. As previously mentioned, recording sound in a quiet environment is important. It is also important to speak clearly and at a good level. This means being loud enough to be heard well but not so loud as to cause distortion.

If using a digital sound recorder with sound levels displayed in decibels (usually abbreviated to DB) you should aim to record sound between -12 and -18 DB. This is a useful rule of thumb for good sound. Professional sound studios use ‘pop filters’ to reduce the harsh sounds created by plosive words. 

Enhancing, editing & distribution

Once recorded, your podcast is ready to be finalised with any sound effects or music you may want added. This is a good opportunity to remove any long pauses, adjust your sound levels to be slightly higher or lower as needed. The same goes for music and sound effects – these can mixed together for a consistent sound level which your listeners will appreciate.

Software for editing & exporting your podcast

The software that we would recommend for those starting out and with a tight budget is Audacity ®. This is a free, open source audio editing software that is available for both Mac and Windows computers. 

This video demonstrates how to use Audacity, it covers how to record directly into audacity software as well as editing and some useful feature and effects which you might want to use.

Once you have finished editing your podcast, the final file will need to be exported. For the purposes of academic use we recommend exporting your final podcast as an MP3 file in Audacity. 

There are many other audio editing softwares available to use such as Pro Tools and Adobe Audition. However, many of these are complicated for beginners to use and often require a subscription to use, so they can be expensive. But if you are looking for more of a challenge and have access to one of these, give it a try! Adobe Audition can be accessed by the Mac computers in the Roehampton library cafe if you are an on-campus student.

Once finished, your podcast can go on a variety of platforms, for academic purposes you will need to use moodle but podcasts can be uploaded to YouTube, soundcloud and many other places. 

Useful resources

Audacity tutorials – https://manual.audacityteam.org/man/tutorials.html

So You Wanna Podcast? Part III: Recording & Production –  https://nofilmschool.com/2016/08/so-you-wanna-podcast-part-iii-recording-production

How to create an award-winning podcast in five simple steps – http://www.wired.co.uk/article/how-to-make-start-a-podcast

Resources for free sound effects and library music

BBC SFX Library – http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/

YouTube Audio Library – https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/music?feature=blog

Free Music Archive – http://freemusicarchive.org/

Free Sound Effects – https://freesound.org/

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