Behind the scenes of a podcast
I posted that fancy picture of me in Room 135, a recording studio at WPSU (where I used to work). I spent HOURS in that studio (sometimes in the middle of the night — creepy because one wall is essentially a window to the lobby). A number of friends asked me if I was renting studio space for my podcast project and I laughed out loud.
Nope. I am recording my podcast in my closet.
I’m not new to recording in strange locations — I remember once throwing a heavy comforter over my head and crouching on the floor to record voiceovers for a news story. In fact, after much trial and error, I discovered the best location for recording at our old house was in the garage, sitting in the passenger seat of our parked car.
While I do have solid equipment from my reporter days (albeit equipment best for field recording), one thing I love about podcasts is how low the barrier to entry is. If you have a laptop, a microphone, and a little bit of money for hosting the actual podcasts on a server, you can make a podcast.
In fact, my daughter recorded a couple of episodes a few years ago and she’s now working on a new episode completely on her own.
Here’s what I’ve done to prep for my podcast.
Solidify my idea.
I knew I wanted to focus on reading and books because it’s what I know and love. I also wanted to pick a topic that would build upon and even enhance my day job (teaching HS English). What I needed to determine was what exactly I wanted to talk about.
When I started outlining the first episode, it was crazy how quickly things came to me. I think I sketched out the first episode in about 15 minutes. I think it’s because I’ve actually been thinking about this idea for a really long time.
Come up with a name
This has actually been really hard and I’m not 100% confident about my decision yet. I wanted to come up with a book-related name, something instantly identifiable that sets the tone for my content (the adjectives I’m going for: thoughtful, snappy, quirky, deep). My first idea was “Franny Glass,” after my favorite literary character. Doesn’t she epitomize those descriptors? But Franny Glass has a bit of a musty feel and I have no idea how many people have read J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.
Suggestions from others: “The Shaffnerd” (ha!), Ye Olde Book Podcast (Paul’s go-to suggestion for anything is “Ye Olde”), Kitabu (book in Swahili), and A Novel Idea. Also “Flipping Pages” and, my favorite, The Book Rapport (you know, like The Colbert Report? Anyone?)
My friend Cindy suggested sticking with what I have — either Sounds and Bites, a domain I’ve owned for years, or KLSreads, my hashtag and Instagram account for books.
At this point, I’m leaning towards following Cindy’s advice and sticking with Sounds and Bites. Mostly because I JUST renewed my domain.
Set up my equipment
I dug out my old Marantz PMD661, my Electro-Voice RE-50 Mic, and reregistered my audio editing program on my laptop. I found the quietest room in our house — our closet — and cleared the top of my dresser to make a workspace.
Then came the actual recording, which was fun AND painful. I went through my outline several times and threw away a couple of takes before landing on a mostly solid recording.
Editing is super fun but also very tedious. It’s also really tempting to go overboard — it was all I could do NOT to edit out all my weird breathing noises. (SO GROSS.) Listening to a recording of yourself is a uniquely painful experience. I had no idea I started every other sentence with “So…” and I didn’t realize how prone I am to upspeak (ugh!).
I was happy to realize my fingers remember the keyboard shortcuts for the editing program, though, even after almost 4 years.
Listen and edit again
This is what I did when I worked on radio stories before, too: I exported the audio “draft” as an .mp3 and then sent it to my phone. Then I listened to the whole thing a couple of times through, jotting notes about what didn’t work and what I needed to change (for example: I listed fish sauce as an ingredient for a vegan dish. SMH). I also sent the mp3 to two “beta listeners,” Paul and my little bro, and begged them for constructive feedback. As is always true, their feedback pretty much canceled each other’s out. :) (Want to be a beta listener? Let me know!)
This is the perhaps the hardest part and I’m not done yet. It can be hard to match your own voice quality and tone. It’s also hard to know when to make changes to improve the piece and when to just let it be. I also found my voice is pretty much shot today — I’m just so tired of talking. I’m going to save this job for tomorrow and give the first “draft” another listen tonight.
Now that I’m writing all the steps out, it’s actually a pretty big job for a little podcast! It’s exponentially easier than video production, however, and it’s FUN.
My goal is to polish-off Episode 1 tomorrow and record Episodes 2 and 3 this week. Paul’s working on the podcast logo design. I plan to launch by the end of the month!