- Internet & the Web
How to Make a Podcast without a Mac
They say that anyone can whistle, but did you know that anyone can also podcast... even if they don't have a Mac? Whether you're hungering for your fifteen seconds of fame as a cyber-celebrity, have something to say to an audience, or are just curious, read on to learn more.
What's a Podcast?
For those still unacquainted with the term, a podcast is a digital media file (or collection of files) that is broadcasted over the Web and allows individuals to playback an "episode" on portable media players and personal computers using syndication feeds and aggregators like RSS or Atom. Both in its creation and distribution, podcasting can be viewed as an Internet-based "amateur radio." However, since its original inception, podcasting has evolved into a new-media art form, with major companies like CBS and Disney producing their own online series.
The name "podcast" is a combination of "iPod" and "broadcast," as the first scripts for podcasting were created for iPod users. However, as an iPod is no longer necessary to make a podcast, an alternative meaning for "pod," the acronym, "portable on demand," has grown in popularity. Unlike other digital media, podcasts are unique because they can be syndicated, subscribed to, and automatically downloaded as soon as new content is created.
What are Podcasts about?
Anything and everything. Podcast topics can be socially aware, laden with expletives, entertaining, serious, silly, philosophical, personal, private, creative, or bizarre. Podcasts can be produced in any format, whether it is straight commentary, interviews, performance, or promotional messages. Since they are not regulated by the FCC or other government entities, podcasters have total freedom and control over what's in their broadcasts.
When you get ready to make your podcast, think about your potential audience, the purpose of your show(s), and where you can promote and post your final product. Websites like MySpace, Facebook, and most Blogs will have some sort of option for imbedding podcast feeds into your webpage, so make sure you look around for the RSS feed icon.
Before diving in, surf the Net a bit to see what's already out there. On websites like Podcast.net, you can find shows about Hollywood, gadgets, sports, childcare, etc. If something inspires you or you just want to check out the latest content of a particular podcaster, check out iPodder.org to download a software application that automatically delivers episodes to your default media player.
Before you record anything, try to come up with something that hasn't been done before. If you're just doing these podcasts for friends and family, then finding an original niche isn't as important. However, if you crave a wider audience, then you may have to revise your scripts in order to come up with a show that is more unique. Also, if you don't feel comfortable about talking for more than fifteen minutes, think about adding guests or other audio to give the impression of natural conversation or entertainment media.
What do you need to get started?
As with anything involving technology, you can spend a lot of money on the latest and greatest, but really, all you need is a computer, a microphone, and a website where you can upload your finished podcasts.
Depending on your budget, microphones come in many shapes and sizes; not to mention those that are already built into the computer. However, if you want a microphone that will cancel out external noise, you can find ones starting at about $10 in any standard electronic store. Moreover, if you really want to hear how you'll sound, a good pair of headphones is a must.
Finally, you'll need the right software: a voice recording program with audio editing. If you want, you can use something as simple as Windows Media, or other preloaded programs. However, one of your best options will be to go online and download Audacity 1.2.3. a FREE, user-friendly program that is compatible with both Mac and PC.
Recording a Podcast
Before you begin...
- Connect your microphone to the microphone-in connection on the PC.
- Connect headphones to the stereo line "out" (generally the green audio connection) or the headphone jack. Put headphones on, and launch Audacity
1.) Select the microphone as your recording source: Open the "Preferences" window from the "File" menu. On the "Audio I/O" tab, check that your sound card is selected as the device for both playback and recording. In the "Channels" drop-down menu under "Recording," choose 1 (Mono), and not Stereo, which will only duplicate the audio and crate a larger file.
Find the "Quality" tab, and choose 44,100 Hz as the Default Sample Rate and 16-bit as the Default Sample Format. Ignore the rest of the settings.
2.) Set the sample rate and bit rate: The "File Formats" tab configures output options. Choose WAV (Microsoft 16 bit PCM) as the Uncompressed Export Format. Leave the OGG Export Setup untouched, and close the Audacity Preferences window by clicking on OK.
3.) Configure output options: Click on the microphone icon in Audacity's Meter toolbar to turn on monitoring. You should see a red level indicator moving slightly as it picks up ambient room noise. Talk into the microphone and make adjustments to the volume until you get a level that rises close to the right edge of the meter without turning the far-right section solid red. If you get a solid red bar at the far right, the audio will sound distorted. Once you've adjusted the level, you're ready to record.
4.) Record: Click the "Record" button and start talking. When you finish, press the yellow square "Stop" button and save the file in .wav format. Saving is an important step, in order to make sure you don't accidentally delete the file.
Keep your recordings in context. If you're recording on location, think about your final edit. If you're providing narrative links on location, make sure you record them in a place away from loud noises (such as a generator), but not so far away that you don't sound like you're there! Avoid being in the wind; even the slightest breeze can sound like a hurricane during playback.
*Heads Up* Once you've made a recording, be sure to close out the window, or begin a new project. If not, you're going to lay another track right on top of your first recording.
5.) Editing and Converting: Editing can be as easy as deleting all the places you said "um" by highlighting them and pressing "backspace", or by adding music or other audio clips into the recorded file. Audacity has a great "Help" section that includes on-line tutorials about adding the bells and whistles to any file.
To save your podcast as an MP3, open "Preferences" again, and choose the MP3 bit rate on the "File Formats" page (anywhere between 32 and 64 is good for vocal audio).
6.) Publishing and Uploading: For a wider audience, you can publish your podcast as an enclosure on blogging services like Blogger.com. Technically, your MP3 does not become a podcast until it has an RSS feed attached to it. Most blogging software has built in RSS feed capability, so not to worry. Once you're online, simply copy and paste the embed code given by YouTube, Google Video, etc., or the link to your hosted file, and paste that into a new post on your blog. You can also submit your RSS feed to iTunes or use a free feed service like FeedBurner to make your podcast easier to find.
Good luck, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!