Monday, November 9, 2009

Making More Podcasts

Monday, November 9, 2009

I've been spending some time lately in GarageBand, the nifty recording software that comes with all Mac computers. It's what I usually use to create my podcast episodes for "This Birding Life." Messing around with sound recording software and equipment is something that I really enjoy—in fact I wish I could do it more often. Way back in the early 1980s, before I went to college, I nearly went to an intensive recording workshop program instead. Why? Because I loved the recording process—recording tracks, layering on effects, building songs out of ideas. And because the recording school looked cool in its advertisements in the back of Rolling Stone.

These days I have to fit the podcast recording and building in among a plethora of other tasks demanding my time. But I still like it when I get to do it. I get into a sort of Zen-like zone with the recording and episode editing.

Recording the original material is the easiest part. I guess I find it really easy to talk to people—my subjects often tell me that I "give good interview." The real work starts with the editing. This is where good software comes in super handy. Once I listen through an entire unedited interview, I go back to the beginning and do an edit pass. Among the things I'm looking to fix are volume anomalies, bits of mis-speak, and extraneous noises (don't make me list them here, please).

After I have a rough audio edit done, I go back through to listen for image cues. If the person speaking mentions something worth illustrating, I jot it down along with a time stamp. Later, once I've acquired the necessary images, I place them in the proper spot in the audio timeline so everything matches up.

Then it's time for a final listen-though to make sure there are no blips, buzzes, jumps, pops, snaps, umms, burps, or other body noises. And once these dragons are all slain, its time to pop the whole thing into my Easy Bake Oven, turn the temperature knob to "podcast" and wait.

I always make two versions of each episode: a plain audio (MP3, with no images) and an enhanced audio (M4a) which has the embedded images. These are uploaded to the Podcast Central server by seasonally-employed podcast elves, and to iTunes by the fabulously tech-savvy Katherine the Good Witch of the Web. And we are officially podcasting to the world.

In 2008, in honor of the centennial of Roger Tory Peterson's birth, and in conjunction with the new Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of North America, I, along with the multi-talented Jeffrey A. Gordon, produced a series of video podcasts. These are available for free from the Peterson Guides site. They cover a variety of species profiles, some bird family overviews, a few tutorials on bird identification, and a couple of biographical sketches of the great RTP himself.

Notice I said video podcasts. These were created in Final Cut, a video editing software that is both wonderful and dauntingly powerful. These podcasts act just like any enhanced audio podcast, except that they can contain video clips, and a variety of more movie-like effects, such as pans, zooms, fades, and so on.

Some day I want to move "This Birding Life" over to video podcast format simply because it's so much more like watching a movie as opposed to watching a slideshow. Besides, many of us now have the capability to watch video over our mobile devices and smart phones.

All I need is time. So if you've got any to spare, send it my way, will you, please?

Well, it's time to record some voice-overs for my next episode of TBL. This next one's about The Big Sit! It should be done and available in a few days. Check-in back here and I'll let you know when it's up.

Until then, please lean close to the microphone and speak slowly and clearly.....


On November 10, 2009 at 9:45 AM Dave said...

Bill -

Being a techno-geek myself, having put a toe in the podcasting waters, and sitting at the "other end" of the podcasts,I appreciate the efforts it takes to podcast. I've yet to settle in on a time-wise method, other than to rough collect snippets of audio and video and then put them together over time.

Regardless of the time it takes, as listener/viewer and sometimes producer of podcasts, I just wanted to let you know how much its worth it to broadcast.

One of the greatest assets of the Internet and current technologies is the ability to pull together ideas (and work) over distances for not only the production (like Skype), but also the local collaboration/discussions that are generated via podcasts.

Find the time - or better yet, figure out how to make the time. Its well worth it not only for your creativity, but also for the listeners!


(Pass along to Julie that I'm glad to see that she has persisted through all of the ups and downs of technologies too!)

On November 10, 2009 at 10:17 AM Bill of the Birds said...

Dave: Thanks for those kind words. It's gratifying to know that people listen to and appreciate the podcasts. At times, it's bit a bit Pink Floydish, as in: "Is there anybody OUT THERE?"

But the traffic stats show a lot of downloads for each episode, and from all over the world!

Still, it's nice to hear from a fellow techno-geek who is digging the content. Thanks!!!

On November 11, 2009 at 3:33 AM Anonymous said...
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