Here’s what you’re going to absolutely need for your show:
- Your concept and format
- A microphone
- Recording space
- Recording and editing programs
- File hosting
- An RSS feed
Your concept and format
Like I said before, you probably have a good idea of what you want to do. When you’re getting ready to record, though, you’ll want to define it a bit further. What kind of show is it? Will it be yourself or will you be including other people in it? Do you want an opening theme? Will you be reading fan mail or interacting with your listeners?
A good idea would be to sketch out a rough outline for your show. Here’s the outline for Made Of Fail:
Intro discussion, introductions to guests
Minor closing discussion
Pretty simple, right? It’s quick to reference, helps us keep on track during recording, and can be adapted on-the-fly if we need to change it up for any reason. Don’t forget, your format can be whatever you want; you don’t even need to have a show structure! Coming from experience, however, it definitely helps. Compare some of our earlier episodes to the ones we’re putting out now; there’s a definite improvement.
Something that might get lost in the shuffle is the need for someplace quiet and comfortable to set up. Remember, the computer cannot distinguish with great accuracy what it has to record, so limiting the amount of sounds around it will really help the quality. You’re also going to want to make sure that everyone in your home or apartment is aware not to bother you during recording. If you can, try and keep your pets in a different room.
While you can try to use your phone or the on-board microphone from your laptop or tablet, I highly recommend against this. Again, the computer can’t really pick and choose which noises it records, and an omni-directional microphone picks up everything. A decent pair of headphones with a directional microphone costs $15-$20 and works really well. The next step up from that is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a stand-alone microphone. We recommend the Blue Snowball. Use whichever method fits your budget and makes you the most comfortable.
Recording and Editing Programs
To record your podcast, you’re actually going to need two different pieces of software: a Voice over Internet Provider (VoIP) and a Sound Recorder. As far as VoIPs go, Skype is the universal standard everyone knows and hates and uses anyway. There are others you can use (like Google Hangouts, Mumble, et cetera), but whatever sound recording software you use has to be able to capture the conversation you’re having. Also, make sure that the program is not auto-adjusting your microphone volume.
There are two huge changes that have been made since we initially posted this guide. First, Microsoft bought Skype and changed how it interacts with other programs, so that Powergramo license we’d bought went straight down the toilet. Live and learn. The second is streaming. The product of this union is Open Broadcast Software (OBS), an open-source program that allows users to stream what they’re playing live. Another function for OBS, though, is the ability to record. Just pick the output format you want in the settings; whether you want to use more than one audio track (SPOILER: you do); and where on your computer you want to save the audio file.
There is one other piece of software you will need if you intend to add sound effects and/or music: editing software. Fortunately Audacity is still around, still free, and still works as intuitively as ever.
One more thing: before every recording, test to see that everything is working, is updated, and connections are stable. Familiarize yourself with the software you’re about to use. Make a test call and test recording to make sure everything is plugged in and where your output file is saved to, and the recording will go smoothly. And finally, if something goes wrong: sacrifice an avocado. Seriously.
This is the first of the really important parts. You’ll need a place to put the files that allow for easy downloads. Whether you purchase your own server space (ours is very cheap through Dreamhost) or use a free file-hosting service (Podbean, PodOmatic, Libsyn, etc.)or even something like InMotion Hosting, it comes out to the same thing: the file will need to be downloaded easily by anyone who wants. If there’s a CAPTCHA or password or other obstacle, casual listeners will pass you by. (This means stay away from Megaupload and similar services if you want to gather casual listeners.)
There are a lot of file hosting services, both paid and free, but I’d recommend purchasing server space. It’s inexpensive and then you can use it for pretty much anything. If you do, buy a domain name as well; it’ll save you a lot of time in the long run. Most hosting companies offer discounts if you buy server space and a domain name at the same time, and their customer service is usually worth the trouble.
An RSS Feed
This is the other really important part. Having an RSS feed will let your listeners grab your show from any service they want, including – but not limited to – iTunes, Google Reader, LiveJournal, Outlook, or their web browser of choice.
I’ll share a trick with you, to save you a lot of time. Almost every blogging service (WordPress, LiveJournal, Blogger, TypePad, etc.) automatically has its own RSS built-in. Usually they’ll have an RSS or XML button somewhere on the page to let you grab the address. If not, they’ll have a guide on their help pages.
Made Of Fail’s RSS feed is our old (also free) LiveJournal Community. It’s a Community instead of an individual journal so Dayna and I could make posts to it easily with our own accounts. It’s also a lot easier to let others post episodes if they need to without giving out account information. If we had decided on a WordPress webpage in the beginning, we’d have used that instead.
The feed then gets run through FeedBurner for extra distribution and publicizing features. Once that’s set up, everything’s automatic. I’ll go into that more in the Publishing section.
Relax and take it slowly! It’ll take a bit to get set up, and then you’ll need to get used to how it runs. It will also take time and effort attracting listeners, so don’t get discouraged in the first week! Remember, you’re doing this for fun, so take it at your own pace!
Step Two: Recording