Do you want to record a podcast? Good. You’ve come to the right place. In the following (long, but extensive) article, I’ll explain the steps required to produce a podcast the easy way. This isn’t the only, or even best, way to create a podcast, but it’s the one I’ve found easiest, which keep post-production time to a minimum, and allow me to persist in doing so.
I’ve been involved with creating podcasts (and video casts) for almost 4 years now. From my early FrostCast trails; through Reeducation, an Hebrew podcast which lasted a wooping 7 episodes (over a year); to being a technical advisor for On the Shoulders of Dwarves when we migrated to a dedicated website and feed, and later an advisor for Up to Four Players, when they launched; to now, hosting the Game Burning Podcast with two gamer friends.
Before we get started, please note that this article does not cover the required hardware for recording a podcast. At the minimum, each host will need a dedicated microphone connected to his computer via either a 2.5PL plug or USB. Also, most of my instructions cover Windows PC users only. If you’re familiar with the parallel apps on OSX or Linux, please lets us know in the comments below.
First things first: you’ll want a topic for you show, and a name. I only put this as a separate step because I don’t want to assume that every reader that moves on to pre-production already has an idea for a podcast.
Remember that even for topics that seem already saturated with content, there’s usually a place for another podcast. You’ll probably do something a bit different from other shows, even if only by the virtue of your personality, so don’t be discouraged. Leap into it.
The basic podcast production workflow works like this: you set-up a Hangout video conference with the other hosts of your show. Then, you use a program called OBS to record all the audio that plays over your PC – your local microphone as well as over the web audio from the other participants. OBS saves this to a video file, which you’ll convert into audio mp3. You also have the option of live streaming your show at the same time, if your have the bandwidth.
At any case, you’ll want a splash graphic for your recording, for two reasons: 1. OBS gets a bit weird if you don’t put anything “visual” on the screen while recording; and 2. in case you’re streaming live or uploading to YouTube later, you’ll need something to represent your show on the video.
This graphic should be in 1920×1080 resolution. Take a nice background image, then slap your podcast name and episode number on there. If you lack the skills to use a graphics editing apps (free options are GIMP and Pixlr) you can go on Fivrr and ask someone to make if for you for 5$-10$. Having a nice splash graphic for your podcast will also help later when you publish and share you show on social media.
For the last bit of pre-production, go over to your Gmail tab and start a new hangout chat. Add all participates to that chat, and give it a name so you can identify it easily. You’ll use this chat to start the call when recording.
Before your first episode, go and download OBS – you can use either versions, but I’m going to explain how to setup OBS Classic. This explanation will cover local recording only, and so uses the best quality options. If you’d like to stream your show live over Twitch or YouTube, your setting will be affected by your ability to stream.
For simple reference, here are screenshots of the setting I use for OBS.
The only difference here is the Max Bitrate. If your PC is having trouble recording at 1080p with max bitrate at 3500, you can reduce it for as low as 1800 without a big loss in quality. As for the audio recording, we use mono instead of stereo since all channels go through Hangout anyway – there is no reason to record in stereo.
You’re going to use File Output Only for local recording, and select the location the file will be saved to. Delete the file name (keep the extension .mp4 or .flv) so that OBS will auto generate a name and you won’t have to manually name your file each recording.
Video – keep as is.
Audio – only make sure you’re using default devices.
More in-depth explanation for setting up OBS can be found here.
Create Scenes: I use two scene – one black and another with our splash graphics. When I start recording, I move between them to create a fade-in effect. You’ll need to replace your splash graphic each episode if you elected to write the episode number on it.
There are two main parts to the recording session: soundcheck, and the actual recording.
First, start the Hangout video conference with the other hosts of your show; make sure everyone connects properly. You can turn off webcams, as you won’t be using those videos and they may affect you bandwidth and thus your audio quality.
Right click on the volume setting icon on your system tray, select Playback Devices. Look for the output your headphones use (so that you won’t get feedback from the speakers on the recording), the select Set Default.
Now, go over to the Recording tab and look for your microphone. Make sure it, too, is set as default, and click Properties. Go over to the Levels tab and make sure your levels are set to 100.
Now, in OBS, click Preview Stream. You’re checking two things: 1. that the splash graphic you use actually shows on the preview screen; 2. that when you and the other hosts talk, you see the audio levels change on the volume selectors.
If both are right, you’re ready. If not, go over and make sure you selected the correct devices – try switching between them until you get the right result, or drop me a message for help.
Now, just click Start Recording on OBS, and talk. Your show is on.
For added flavor and production value, you can begin episodes with a short musical que. Look for free and open media on sites like incompetech.com. Simply use your PC’s media play to play the mp3 file after your start recording, and the music will be recorded like any other sound.
When you’re done, click Stop Recording.
4: (don’t) Edit
Open Audacity and the folder that has your video file, then simply drag and drop the file into Audacity. Wait for the audio extraction to complete.
First thing you’ll want to do is normalize the audio. This will “average” the high and low ends of your audio, making listening more pleasant. Go to Effect > Normalize.
I use the following settings, but you may want to test them until you get a desired result.
At this point you can edit your podcast. I don’t. Most of the podcasts I enjoy listening to don’t edit, and I modeled the Game Burning Podcast after them. Editing (also known as post production) usually takes around a minute for every recorded minute, which means your total production time at least doubles. There is a lot of virtue for editing and post production in the sense that it greatly increasing your quality and production value. It’s your choice.
You can save your audacity project for future reference and restoring your episodes if you lost them, especially if you do edit and need to save your work after all the changes have been made.
The last step is exporting the audio file to mp3. Click File > Export Audio. In Save as Type, Select MP3 Files. The other options can be kept as defaults. On the next screen, you’ll be ask to fill some information about the file – take the time and do so, since some podcast apps and hosts use this information and display it for the user.
Congrats, you have a podcast.
5: Upload & Publish
Update, 16/08/2017: Podiant.co is now my recommended hosting service. It’s free (pay what you want, with extra support for subscribers), features packed with really nice interface and front-end website for each show.
Weirdly enough, this is the hardest part. The reason being that you either require to have adequate technical skills to self-host your podcast, or pay money for a full podcast hosting service.
The only exception is using YouTube, which is both easy and free to use. The catch here is that YouTube won’t give you an RSS feed, which is required for publishing your podcast to anyone using a podcatcher (podcast listening app) such as iTunes or PocketCasts. If you do decide to go the YouTube route, check the bonus step, below.
The three most widely used podcast hosting services are Podbean, Soundcloud and Libsyn. The first two have a basic free account that can help you get started, but run out of juice pretty fast. Before we go through these options, consider that each episode of the Game Burning Podcast averages at around 90 minutes, and is a 90MB mp3 file.
Soundcloud limits your account by upload time. Free account have 3 hours limit per month – about 2 episodes of my podcast. The Pro account gets doule that – still not enough, while the Unlimited option is, well, unlimited. That will cost you 15$ a month or 135$ a year.
Podbean limit accounts by space. Their 3$/month Advanced account offers 100MB per month – enough for a single Game Burning episode, but we produce one every week. The Unlimited Audio tier offers unlimited storage and bandwidth for 9$ a month.
Libsyn will start you with 50MB a month for 5$, and then goes up from 15$ to 75$, depending on your needs. They have the most complicated pricing plans out of these solutions, but probably the best tailored for any specific need. Although with those prices, Podbean is probably the best choice.
And then you have WordPress.com, which is free for up to 3GB of storage space – which is about 35 episodes of our hour and a half long show, enough for about a year’s worth of podcasting. Their Premium plan is priced at 99$ a year and will extend your storage to 13GB (about 140 episodes).
So, value for money, WordPress.com is the clear winner year. The downside is those technical skills I mentioned before. WordPress can be used to host your podcast, but it’s designed as a website service, which means it has a lot of extra features that can be confusing for the average web user. An explanation about how to use their service for podcasting can be found here.
Each of these solutions will have its own process for uploading, publishing and sharing your content. They all provide you with some form of personal page or profile – Soundcloud is the most basic, with a profile page on their own domain with limited customization, while WordPress is the most advance, basically providing you with a complete website of your own. The most important thing they give you is the RSS feed for your podcast, which they submit to podcast directories such as iTunes. You can link to this feed so that your listeners will be able to subscribe to your new show.
Bonus: Uploading to YouTube
You may wish to upload your podcast to YouTube even if you also use a different method for publishing your show, since it can provide an additional listening audience and you have a video file ready anyway. Also, some people may prefer listening via the YouTube website or app.
First, create a YouTube channel. It is recommended not to use your personal Google account for this channel, as your options will be restricted. You should create a Google Plus page – check out this support page, under “Create a channel with a business or other name”.
Now we’ll handle our video file. Download the amazing program Handbrake – it’s an automagical solution for converting and rendering video files. You’ll want to use it since OBS does a very poor job at optimizing your video recording, and we’d prefer uploading the best and smallest sized video file to youtube.
Open Handbrake and the folder that has your video file, then simply drag and drop the file into Handbrake.
In Handbrake, first chose where to save your new, converted, video file. Then, under presets select Normal; also select Container: MP4, Web Optimized. Click on the big green Start button and wait for it to finish.
Go to your new YouTube channel, click on the Upload button at the top left of the page, browse and select the new video file created by HandBrake. While you wait for the upload to finish, fill in all the required information. When the upload is completed, simply hit publish and you’re done. Congrats!