How It’s Made (Part 1)

As host and producer of the Badasses, Boobs and Body Counts podcast, I’ve been asked the following question more than I can recall: “What does it take to make a podcast?” In this tech article, I’ll outline the process for creating one of our standard 60-minute episodes. This article will be the first of an ongoing series on how this show is made. It won’t go into great detail but will deliver a thorough production overview including the time it takes to get that 60-minute episode released.

Before I begin, I’ll state upfront that this is a budget conscience show. I don’t have a paid producer. I don’t use an expensive XLR mic or fancy mixer in my low-budget operation. In fact, I don’t actually have a studio. My computer is in the bedroom where I sleep and it’s nothing like the arrangements of the paid professional podcasters. I wanted to tell you this because you don’t need a fancy studio to podcast. You can get amazing results with the equipment you currently have as long as you take extra time when setting things up in pre-production and, most importantly, in post-production during the editing process.

My Hardware
The physical hardware I use for the BBandBC show is as follows:

iMac 27 < Amazon >
Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Mic < Amazon >
Rode PSA1 Swivel Mount < Amazon >
Rode PSM1 Shock Mount < Amazon >

If you have a desktop PC or a laptop, you’re all set. You don’t need an upgrade to podcast. I do recommend the following headset if you’re on a budget. This is the exact headset that my co-host Iris uses and she sounds amazing.

< iMicro Headset >

My Software
The software I use for this show is as follows:

Skype < English Site >
Call Recorder for Skype < Mac Version >
Audacity < Mac and PC >
Levelator < Mac and PC >

My actual recording station.

Pre-Production

Watching the Movie
There are several things I do to prep for a new episode. First and foremost, I watch the chosen film to be discussed. Our film selection is kept on Google Docs and is a mix of films chosen by myself and my two co-hosts, Iris and Mark.

I almost always watch the movie by myself. I do this because I take synopsis notes while viewing it. I do use a laptop for this process. You don’t need a secondary computer to take notes. Iris actually took paper notes when she first joined as a co-host. I take notes this way because it’s convenient for me and the notes I make need to be imported into the final episode note document.

The average film we choose for an episode has a runtime of about 90-minutes. During this time, pausing will be part of the process to assure notes are accurate. As a result, I spend about 2-hours in the process of taking notes and watching a 90-minute film.

Time = 2 Hours

Finalizing the Notes
Now that my synopsis is done, I need to paste them into the show notes. We use a pre-made template for our show so some of that work has been done ahead of time. I’ll fill out that template, then paste my synopsis into it. Last but not least, a bit more time is needed to research the “weekly bio” segment. Once that’s done I’m good to go.

Time = 1 Hour

Actual show template.

Final Pre-Production Steps
The last thing I do before recording an episode is to hunt down trailers, potential sound clips and closing music. YouTube is my friend in this case. There are times I need to pull clips from the film being discussed but I won’t include that in this timeline because it doesn’t happen in every episode.

Time = 15 Minutes

Time to Record

Recording the Episode
The BBandBC Podcast has been around for a while, so we have a set recording schedule. We record every other Saturday night, twice per month. We also record two episodes per session. The recording of the episode is the fun part and also the easiest part. We connect via Skype at 7PM PT and chat for a couple of minutes to get caught up. Once I hit the record button on the Call Recorder software, the shenanigans ensue.

If by chance we don’t have any connection issues, we’ll get through an episode in about 50-minutes. If Skype decides to be a bitch, as it often does, that time can be extended. Let’s assume for the sake of this article that everything has gone as planned.

Time = 50 Minutes

Post Production

Time to Edit
The following morning, bright and early on Sunday, I usually begin the editing process so the episode can be released that afternoon. I’ll lay out that process here and add the time needed for each section.

Audacity
Call Recorder records the Skype session in the .MOV format. This is the apple Quicktime format. I use Audacity to edit each one of our episodes. After opening up Audacity, I drag the recorded .MOV file into the work area of the program. It’s now ready to be worked on. I won’t go into editing detail here as I want to save that for another entry in this series. You can see by the picture I’ve included below what an unedited show episode might look like in Audacity.

This is actually an unedited interview. But you get the point.

I’m a bit finicky about my editing process, so the time I take will likely be a little longer than average; however, the pickier you are, the better things should sound. I also want to add that this process has been streamlined over the years. In other words, I’ve refined my process through experience and have a routine down. The process to do a “first pass edit” on a 50-minute file is about 90-minutes.

Time = 90 Minutes

Editing Continued
After the first pass of editing is complete, I export the file as a .WAV. Once that is complete, I import it back into Audacity and begin the final stages of putting the finished product together. This includes adding trailers, bumpers, promos and music. This process is done by over-laying new tracks to ensure everything sounds as it should.

Since I planned ahead of time by grabbing these sound clips from YouTube, this step takes about 45-minutes including the time taken to remove noise, compress the file and then export it once again in .WAV format for the final step towards a completed .MP3 file.

Time = 45 Minutes

Levelator
Once the new .WAV file has exported, I open up the computer’s “finder” and drag the new .WAV file on top of the Levelator program. What does Levelator do? It takes any uneven .WAV file and levels it out. Have you ever listened to a podcast where the trailers, commercials or bumpers are louder than the host? Of course you have and it’s because the producer isn’t leveling his final product through Levelator or another similar program. Every episode of BBandBC uses this program before being released.

The simple yet effective Levelator.

Time = Depends on the size of the file

Releasing the Episode
Once I’ve exported the final output file from Levelator into Audacity, I put it through a number of different steps in order to prepare it for release. After these final steps, I import the file into the iTunes client on my computer in order to add all the ID3 tags to the file. Once that’s done, I upload the final file to my podcast service provider for distribution. Last but not least, the website is updated to reflect that the newest episode has been released.

Time = 45 Minutes

Summary

Wait! We’re Not Done Yet
That’s it for the first part of “How It’s Made”. You can see that there’s a bit of work involved with each and every episode we produce. If adding up the time to release an hour-long episode, I come up with a total of 7.08 hours per week. This number fluctuates depending on what we’re doing but it does give you a pretty good idea of the time it takes to produce the show for weekly release.

Please comment on this article in the space provided below. I want to know if it was helpful to you in any way and if you’d like to see articles like this in the future.

Contributed by Mike Murphy

 

2 comments

  1. This is a pretty accurate description of the work behind doing a movie podcast. If I am on someone’s movie podcast I usually watch the movie 2-3 times. The first time no notes or anything, just watching the film. Also the software links you have included are an excellent source for beginners. However, you don’t have a link for a free Windows MP3 Skype recorder. This makes sense as you are using Apple. The recorder I use is literally called MP3 Skype Recorder. http://voipcallrecording.com

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