On Air

If you're a frequent net user, you've undoubtedly heard about the podcasting revolution. Here, Windows show you how to create and share your very own radio show…

  • E-Mail
By  Cleona Godinho Published  January 1, 2006

On Air (Section 1 of 2) |~|audacitybig.jpg|~|We used Audacity’s fade in and fade out effects to add a professional touch|~|What is podcasting? Simply put, podcasting is a means of distributing your own broadcasts via RSS (real simple syndication) feeds. These can be heard by users around the globe whenever and wherever they want, either on their MP3 players or PCs. Compared to traditional mediums, podcasting puts the listener firmly in the driver's seat, as it lets them listen to topics that interest them (in stark contrast to radio and TV with which the programme you want is only aired at a certain time). Another great plus is that you can make your voice heard by producing a podcast of your own without burning major bucks on expensive broadcast equipment. Planning is key First, plan what topic(s) you will cover in your podcast. For instance, if you're an avid cricketer and have opinions on various teams you could create a podcast that includes commentary on the latest matches, players and issues. As you'll find if you trawl podcast directories such as PodcastAlley, the shows that often work best cover niche topics. Trying to cover everything in one show - especially if you're a novice broadcaster - is not easy at all. After deciding on your topic, note down particular aspects of it you will focus on. Next, draw up a draft of what you plan to talk about and run a mock test by recording a show on a tape recorder or mobile phone and time yourself. A good rule of thumb when making a podcast is to keep it no longer than 30 minutes. When drafting content for your show, make sure you don't tread on thin ice by talking irresponsibly about sensitive topics such as religion or politics. It's also important that your podcast be fresh and original, and not simply a copy of someone else's work. Break your podcast into segments, as this will prevent listeners from getting overwhelmed with information. Ideally, your podcast should include a brief introduction of yourself and your show, as well as music or interview sections to break up what would otherwise be your continuous speech. Next, end your show with an enticing question, competition or a quick overview of your next show in order to keep your listeners interested. If you decide to include music in your podcast it's important that you don't infringe copyright laws. We suggest www.opsound.org - an open-source 'record label and sound pool' that lets you download music, make copies of it and share tracks with other users. Another good option is http://music.podshow.com or www.looperman.com. Both offer royalty-free music and sound effects. Grab your gear Besides quality content, the podcast itself needs to be recorded clearly. To achieve this, you will need the right gear. As you will be recording your or someone else's voice, a quality microphone is essential. However, if you already have a desktop microphone and are happy with it, there is no need to invest in a new one just yet. A pair of headphones is also a must so that you can monitor the sound levels of your podcast without sound coming from your speakers being recorded as well. While most modern machines include some form of onboard audio, if you're after a real quality solution a discreet solution is called for. We recommend Creative's SoundBlaster series. Along with these tools, a reasonably fast PC will help encode and edit your work in quick time. In particular, pay attention to its processor speed and memory. At the very least, your CPU should feature a clock speed of 1.5GHz in addition to a minimum 256MB of RAM. We also suggest a beefy hard drive with at least 80GB of space on which to store all your recordings. If you're planning to get serious, we suggest upgrading your internet connection to the fastest you can afford, as this will allow you to quickly upload and download podcasts. A 256Kbps connection should be the bare minimum. In the studio Now that you've decided on your content and you've got all your tools ready, your next step is to set the mood. First, make your designated recording area as soundproof as possible. A simple way to do this is by closing all doors and windows. It's also wise to disconnect or place phones and mobile away from the recording area to prevent unwanted background noise from distracting you and your listeners. Also, if you've got housemates, kids or pets, make sure they don't interrupt your sessions with opinions of their own! When recording your show, make sure you don't rush yourself. Moreover, it’s a good idea to smile as you talk, as your listeners will be able to hear this enthusiasm in your voice. Unless your show is about a particular dialect don't use too much colloquial language, as some listeners may not understand you. Be sure to articulate your words too. The next step involves configuring your PC and recording software. In this workshop, we'll talk you through using Audacity - an easy-to-use (and free) sound recording and editing package, which is available for download from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download. You'll also need to install Audacity's LAME MP3 encoder plug-in to convert your WAV files to MP3s. This can be downloaded from http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~raa110/audacity/lame.html. HOT TIP - Ideas for podcasts - Your thoughts on the country or city you live in - A hobby-based show discussing and enthusing about your favourite topic - A show featuring original music by you and your friends - A technology podcast with your take on the latest happenings in the world of Information Technology - A comedy show (for the Bill Cosby in you) - A show based upon (and promoting) your product or service - A podcast comprising your views based on the lastest news and burning issues. ||**||On Air (Section 2 of 2) |~|poderatorbig.jpg|~|Create a RSS feed for your MP3 file using Poderator.com |~|Pre-recording checklist Before you record your podcast there are a few settings that you must set: - First, set your microphone as the recording source. To do this, go to 'Audio and Sound' devices in Control Panel - Next, click Advanced in the Device Volume section and click Option/Properties. In the ‘Adjust volume for’ section choose Recording - In the next panel, select Microphone, Stereo Mix and Line in. A recording control panel will appear - Select Microphone and make sure the volume slider is roughly in the middle - Leave this panel open so that you can make changes during the recording process. In addition, turn off all Windows XP's sounds, as we doubt your listeners will appreciate hearing those annoying clicks and pings: - Go to Start/Settings/Control Panel/Sounds and 'Audio devices' - Click the Sound tab, select the Sound scheme drop-down menu and select 'No Sounds'. Now open Audacity, go to File/Preferences and click on the Audio I/O tab to make sure your soundcard is selected as the device for playback and recording. Under the Quality tab, select 44,100Hz as your default sample rate and 16-bit as the default sample format. Next, click the File Formats tab. This controls the output format of the audio you'll record. To prevent overwriting your recording, select the 'Make a copy of the file before editing' option located under 'When importing uncompressed audio files into Audacity options'. Now choose WAV (Microsoft 16-bit PCM) as the 'Uncompressed Export' format. In the MP3 Export set-up panel, click on Find Library. You'll receive a message asking you if you wish to locate the LAME .dll file. Click Yes and navigate to the location of the LAME .dll file you downloaded previously. Once the LAME encoder is linked, change the bitrate depending on the type of audio your plan to record. We suggest 48 - 56k mono for audio books and talk shows, 64k and above stereo for music and music/talk combinations, and 128k Stereo for pure music shows. Next, click OK, navigate to Audacity's main screen and start recording. Mix it up On the main screen, navigate to the Mixer toolbar and click on the Microphone icon to turn on monitoring. You'll now see a red slider bar moving from left to right as it picks up noise. If you begin speaking and the bar is at the centre of the scale, you're recording at a good volume level. However, if the solid red part of the bar moves to the extreme right, your recording will end up distorted. To avoid this, try turning down the mic volume. Try adding extra distance between you and the mic, or speak more softly. Once past all this, it's time to start recording. Push the red record button to begin and the yellow stop button when you're done. Next, save the recording as a .wav file. After the file is saved, it's a good idea to playback the file and listen to how it sounds. It's here that you can also take notes on what ou'd like to edit out. Assuming that your recording wasn't absolutely flawless and included a few 'umms and ahhs', it's time to chop these out. All you need to do is highlight the unwanted section of your recording by holding down the left mouse button and dragging it over Audacity’s recording time line. The highlighted audio can then be deleted by clicking Delete on your keyboard. To add intro or background music to your recording, click on the File Menu/Project and select Import Audio Once you’ve selected your music, click OK and another timeline for the new audio file will open up below your original recording. If you hit Play, both your recording and the music will play at the same time. In order to make your podcast sound professional, think about fading in your intro music. To do this, select the first few seconds of your music time line. Then, go to then go to Effect/Fade In. The program will automatically add the effect to the start of the music. As you're using intro music, you'll definitely want your voice track to play after the music has run for a while. This can be done by highlighting a section of the timeline before your voice begins playing. Next, click Generate/Silence. Type in how much silence you wish to include (in seconds) depending on the length of your intro music. Fade out As your intro music comes to an end and your voice begins playing, also gradually lower the music volume. To do this, select the area of the song that coincides with the time your voice begins playing and drag it to the very end of the song. With this highlighted, click Effect/Fade Out. When you press play the music should start at a low volume and gradually increase. Once your voice begins, the music will slowly die out as your voice fades in (see Pic A). If you're happy with the final result, simply save your recording as a .wav file. Now, make a backup of that file and keep it somewhere safe, open the .wav file in Audacity and resave it as a MP3 file. (To do this, go to File/'Export as MP3'). To make it easier for your listeners to find your podcast on their portable media players, make sure to edit its ID3 tag (see pic C). This can be done from within Windows Media Player, iTunes or any other popular music playback software. In Windows Media Player for example, right-click the file in the Now Playing list and select the Advanced Tag Editor. At the very least, fill in the title and artist fields so that your listeners can distinguish your show from others. Once you've converted your podcast into MP3 format, you'll need to make it accessible to the masses. To do this, first upload your MP3 file to your web server and save it in a dedicated directory. (If you don't have your own server, we suggest using www.ourmedia.org, which provides hosting space for podcasts and unlimited file bandwidth for free.) Next, create an RSS feed and add it to your server. An RSS feed is basically a XML file (a type of smart link) that summarises your content and tells podcast software where to find your latest podcast. Although an RSS feed can be created manually, we suggest using an online tool such as http://poderator.com (see Pic D). This automatically creates an XML file using the information you supply about your podcast. The first step involves adding podcast details such as its title, description and your website URL. The site will then ask you to fill in episode details such as the title, description and complete URL of your MP3 file. Once you're done filling in the form, click 'Publish your XML file'. The site will now create a XML file and let you download it to your PC. Next upload the XML file to your web server. Once it's on your web site, take note of the complete RSS URL (e.g. http://www.yoursite.com/myxmlfilename.xml) and enter it into a reliable feed validator - such as http://feedvalidator.org or http://validator.w3.org (to make sure it works properly). To add more episodes, create your new MP3 file, upload it to your server and add a link to the new episode using Poderator. The tool will then generate an updated RSS file to replace the old one. (Note: when saving the new XML file to your PC, make sure the name of the file is the same as the previous one.) If you'd like your friends and family to subscribe to your feed, send them the RSS URL first, as they will need to enter this into a podcasting aggregator program. We suggest using iPodder, which can be downloaded from www.ipodder.org. This is a free app, which automatically downloads podcasts and can sync them with your MP3 player. Marketing your podcast - Subscribe to your own podcast to get the ball rolling - Add a new show regularly (i.e. once a week), otherwise your audience will soon lose interest and move onto other shows - Set-up a comment web page or blog so that you can get feedback from your listeners - Add you podcast to online directories to increase its visibility. WINDOWS recommends the following websites: - www.ipodder.org - www.podcastingnews.com - www.podcastalley.com - www.podcastdirectory.com ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code