Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Creating My First Podcast

I finally decided to take the plunge, and create my very own podcast. Before you get too excited let me say that it is only available within the confines of my company. I have done this because A) it isn't a very good podcast, B) it is more about experimentation than publishing something entertaining, and C) I am thinking about using it to publish company meetings and events. That being said, what I want to talk about in this entry are the tools and resources that I used to build the podcast.

First, you will need a computer and a microphone. I have a really cheap microphone that I picked up at Radio Shack, which cost about $20. If you plan on putting together a nice podcast, then I suggest spending a little more.

Next, you need something to talk about. I decided to talk about podcasting, and the tools that I used to create the podcast (much the same as I am doing here in words). I decided to write a script to guide my dialog. It was useful to help me stay on message and to keep myself from babbeling.

To record your voice you will need some software. I am only experimenting, so I didn't want to spend any money. After doing some searching I found Audacity, a free and open source recording and mixing program. When you download it you will also need to download the precompiled "Lame" DLL, which is used to generate MP3 files.

I was really impressed by the tool, especially for the price. It allows you to record multiple tracks, edit them, apply effects, alter the amplification, and everything that might need to do during the production of your podcast. It was very easy to use, and after about an hour of using it I felt very comfortable with it.

I also wanted some catchy music for the podcast, so I went to my favorite music place, Magnatune. Not only do they have a good selection of music, but you can also use their music in your podcast for free. I say again, for free. I wanted something that was instrumental only, but with a good beat. The group Seismic Anomoly fit this bill, with their hard rock instrumental music.

One I had my voice recorded, and some music on a seperate track, I started to mix the tracks. In places where I seemed to stumble, and said "ummm" a lot, I would just delete them out of the voice track. That is the great thing about distributing a recording, if you screw up a line, just say the line again and cut out the bad one. ...I deleted a number of these :)

Next I amplified the music for the intro, and dimmed it during the talk. After an hour of work the music and voice just seemed to fit well together, timed just perfectly. Again, Audacity makes this very easy to accomplish. Of course Audacity has it's limitations, but if you have never done recording work before, it is a great tool to start with. Once I was done I exported the audio to an MP3 file.

The next, and last, thing to do was to create an RSS file for the podcast. I found a tool called Podifier. The download link for the tpol is half way down the right side if the page, and again, it is a free tool. When you run it, it askes you for the name and description of the podcast. Next it lets you browse for and attach MP3 files to the podcast, and for each you specify the title and description. Next, it will upload the files to your FTP server, but in my case I chose to have it just write the RSS file, and I uploaded it manually.

And that was it. Nothing terribly difficult. Just to make sure that everything was working I popped open iTunes, specified the feed URL under the advanced menu, and it downloaded the podcast just like any other. I then synced up my iPod, and made my wife listen to it. She said that I should have blown my nose... apparently I sounded a little stuffy.

So, what's next? Perhaps a videocast? Speaking of video podcasts, there is a new "how-to" video podcast that launched called French Maid TV, and their first installment is how to make a video podcast. French maids making podcasts? Yeah, it doesn't get much crazier than that.

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