Friday, July 23, 2010

More Adventures in Podcasting.

So, last night, Sunny and I recorded this week's episode of Watermelon Helmet (Why Watermelon Helmet? Let's just say the randomness of the name fits the randomness of the Podcast).

It was a real learning experience.

First of all, when the new episode goes up on Sunday, I think everyone will notice a drastic improvement in sound quality. We did have a few problems as we only have the one decent condenser mic and had to share it, but I think I managed to fix 99% of that in post production.

Basically, with the mic levels set to where you can hear us both loudly and clearly, you could also hear our fridge running two rooms away and the cricket's chirping outside. Turning the gain down cut out most of that, but then we were extremely quiet on the recording. Basically, until we can afford 50 grand to build and equip an actual soundproofed studio, it's a trade off.

Luckily, Audacity (one of the programs I use to edit the podcast) has an Amplify function that works incredibly well, and after running the audio through a noise reduction filter, then amplifying, compressing and normalizing it, I ended up with a great quality sound file... At least 'great' compared to the first episode, but I think we're at least on a par with 99% of the non-professionally recorded podcasts out there.

As for the actual content…that was an eye-opener.

The way we prepare for a podcast is we usually come up with a couple of different topics ahead of time, but don't actually script anything and make an effort not to discuss it before recording. If we discuss it in detail beforehand, it makes the conversation seem very stiff and boring because we're just recreating a conversation we've already had. The way we do it, we know we're going to talk about x and y, and maybe we know we're going to start at A go through B and arrive at C…but that's about it.

However, there's upsides and downsides to doing it like that. You see, you may start at A and plan to get to C through B, but sometimes you end up somewhere completely different. Sometimes this is awesome and results in a show that was completely unplanned but a hell of a lot of fun…other times you end up taking tangents off tangents and end up at a dead end.

That sort of happened in this episode. It lasts for around 50 minutes and we both really liked the first 35-40 minutes of it…but after that we ended up on a topic we were completely unprepared for, and it was a bit too 'straight' and serious for me…and we couldn't really wrap up the discussion very well, so it just kinda trailed off.

However, this was only my second podcast using this format and Sunny's second podcast ever…so I'm sure we'll get better at it.

The one other thing I learned while making this podcast is I have a very annoying habit. When I'm talking I pause a lot in the middle of sentences. If you listen to the first episode, you'll be able to see what I'm talking about. Mos people say "ummmm" or "errrrrr" when they pause for a second to think…I don't. Listening to the episode while editing it, I discovered I talk like this. "Well, what I think about that …(2 second gap)… is …(3 second gap…) that this thing…"

Of course, that was an easy, if time consuming, fix when I was editing…but out of an hour of audio, I cut nearly five whole minutes of silence. It's not a big deal in regular conversation, but on a podcast it's a lot of dead air. Again, it's a trade off. We want this podcast to be off-the-cuff and an honest, real conversation between the two of us. We could get it down to a much higher level of polish if we meticulously scripted and edited it…but that's not what the podcast is about. In fact, in this episode, Sunny makes a point that almost completely changes my mind and makes me look at what we're talking about in a whole new way. That wouldn't happen if we were working from a script.

Anyway, let me end this by thanking everyone who's shown their support. For just the first episode we're up to about 15 subscribers and just over 50 downloads total. For a first episode of a podcast hosted by two 'nobodies', that's not bad at all.

In other news, iTunes accepted the Podcast into the iTunes Music Store…exactly one day after I changed hosts. As I mentioned before, if you don't want to wait until the new feed is made available in the store, there's a link on the main podcast page to subscribe through iTunes or your favorite podcatcher.

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