The Basics of Starting a Podcast
Will it really shock any of you to know that I had zero fucking clue what I was doing when we first kicked off Authors & Dragons? I mean, on the GMing side I had plenty of experience, though they do prove to be one of my more… erratic… player groups. But I mean in terms of how to actually record and podcast the games, which was what we started out doing. This resulted in my doing a lot of googling and pestering my friends with actual experience to tell me how to get things off the ground.
One thing I found weird in my searching, however, was that all the information I needed was spread out. There were articles on equipment, articles on software, articles on how to actually record, but none dealing with everything I’d need to know to begin doing my own podcast. So, now that I’ve gotten a little practice, I thought I would create exactly that article for people looking to start their own.
Look, I’ll say upfront that if you have the cash to burn, there are probably better options than what I’m going to suggest, because that’s the nature of commerce. However, if you’re looking to get this handled on the cheap (or free) like we were, then these are the options that fit both your basic needs and your wallet.
To record the actual program, you’ll want to get the MP3 To Skype Recorder. Oh, and Skype, since you’re talking to people who aren’t local. If they are local… read a different article, I guess? Can’t say that’s come up too often. Anyway, for recording the calls, MP3 to Skype Recorder is a pretty solid system. Not the most user-friendly, but since it’s free you can’t beat the price. And, because there’s no cost, you can have everyone participating load the program and record the call, creating back-ups in case something goes wrong on your end.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, Pamela has great reviews, and I bought it as a back-up in case something fucked up with my first program. That said, the damn thing fails to connect with Skype every one in five times, so don’t make it your default unless you know way more about making programs talk to each other than I do. Not a high bar, true, but still one you need to clear.
For editing the program, it’s hard to beat Audacity. Free, easy to use, and universally enjoyed, Audacity is the perfect fit for the new podcaster on the go. A few things you should know (that I wish I had): Truncate Silence will slice down all the pauses and breaks automatically, so you don’t have to. Noise Profile lets you filter out the background noise across the whole recording. Dynamic Processing sets an audio range so you don’t accidently blast someone in the ear. Use the tools given to you and it will make your life a lot easier.
Sadly we’ve come to end of where things can be done for free. You’re going to have to spend a little cash here, unless you happen to have all the stuff you need lying around.
First and foremost, you need a computer that can run Skype and all the programs I mentioned above. You’d think that would be a given, but I’ve learned to take nothing for granted.
After that super obvious part: you need a mic/headphones. Now while people in the same room use fancier microphones like the Blue Yeti, since you’re doing it across Skype you can get away with a headphone/mic combo, and by all means should. As someone who has had to edit out a shitload of background noise in the early days, do yourself and your podcast a favor, get a headphone mic and have all the participants do the same. It makes a huge difference.
As for what to pick, that’s up to you. There’s a basic version here for like $25, a wireless one I used for a while and enjoyed that cost $55, and the wireless Turtle Beach ones here I eventually had to upgrade to for around $100. To be fair, those first wireless ones worked fine, the issue was that I have big ears, and after an hour or so the headset got painful, which is why I upgraded to Turtle Beach. Since I’m on Skype 2-3 nights a week, the comfort was worth the cost, but only you can make the determination of what’s best for you.
That pretty much covers hardware. Sure, there are no end to the accessories and such that you can add on if you want, but as far as the basics and getting out cheap, you can make it work with a headset and a computer.
Hey, did you know you can’t post to iTunes? I didn’t! No, iTunes uses RSS feeds, meaning you have to host the podcast on another site and then submit the feed to iTunes (and Stitcher and all the other podcast sites). Luckily, I had this site and already pay for unlimited bandwith, but if you thought you were jumping in with nothing more than audio content, brace for more work ahead. Luckily, setting up a site or buying space is pretty easy these days, Squarespace is probably overkill if you don’t need it, check out cheaper options like Wordpress and Arvix to set up a server system.
The actual act of how to post is going to vary wildly across platforms so I’m not going to try and cover how that works. But I will say that I recommend keeping your host page public, as well as submitting to iTunes. While iTunes dominates the market, a lot of people greatly dislike the platform, so providing an option for those who like a direct link is good all around.
Okay, now you’ve got the software to record your sessions, software to edit it, a headset so it doesn’t sound awful, and a place to post. Go forth and make your own podcasts, people! Or don’t, if that’s not up your alley. Truthfully I have no idea how many people actually want or need this knowledge. I just know it would have helped me a few months ago, so fingers crossed it does someone some good.