Content Creator, Podcast Producer

All About Audio

I’ve written extensively about my work on the Bring Your Own Movie podcast. The project was never part of my sabbatical plan, but it’s been one of the most fruitful and rewarding endeavors during this time of exploration. 

It taught me a lot of skills that would have served me well in my past jobs, especially learning to cope with (and seeing the value of) launching a less-than-perfect product, and then iterating on that. It’s also been one of the most entrepreneurial undertakings of my sabbatical, forcing me to learn how to get something completely new off the ground.

And most importantly, it’s just been plain fun!

Obviously, the hope is that one day down the line, we can make some money off of this podcast, but that is likely a long way off. However, it got me wondering — what type of professional podcasting opportunities are out there?

What is a podcast producer?

As I wrote about in a previous post, I defined my own role as producer for our podcast. For the most part, I’m the person managing the logistics — booking the guests, making sure we have a recording venue, coordinating episode prep and launch, and overseeing promotion.

But what are the typical duties of a podcast producer? Well, I went to LinkedIn to find out.

Here are the responsibilities for a podcast producer role open with CBS Interactive:

  • Support high-profile partnership by writing scripts, produce, record and edit 5-6+ audio stories on a daily basis
  • Record, edit and contribute to the development of content for podcasts.
  • Conceptualize and pitch programming ideas/segments and show formats
  • Project manage production schedules, workflow, roles and responsibilities
  • Attend regular meetings to discuss and refine strategy, programming, and tactics in pursuit of our editorial and audience goals
  • Use analytics to clearly communicate best practices and give timely feedback

And I see similar tasks required for the podcast producer position open at SiriusXM:

  • Produce, edit and publish podcast content to Pandora, 3rd party platforms as well as the SXM App.
  • Collaborate with relevant programming counterparts to develop podcast formats of existing content as well as new content, lending additional production assistance, as needed.
  • Participate in creative and production discussions around new podcast formats with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Act as primary point person for all podcast needs within assigned content verticals.
  • Gather and package all relevant audio, metadata and creative assets for delivery in SXM Publish platform.

Essentially it seems like podcast producers do everything short of hosting the show (and I’m sure some do that as well!). The whole lifecycle seems to be helmed and executed by the producer: coming up with creative concepts and scripts; coordinating the production; doing the actual recording; editing the episode; making sure it’s uploaded and published; and analyzing stats.

Looking at these responsibilities, I identified a big gap in my skills and experience: recording and editing the audio. Luckily, I happen to be married to our podcast’s audio engineer and editor, so I had the perfect teacher!

Podcast Recording and Editing 101

Although Ryan records and edits our podcast in Logic, he taught me about recording and editing in GarageBand, as that program is free. 

Recording

We began our lesson with a review of the equipment. Now, you can record a podcast with something as simple as your phone, but luckily, we had the Bring Your Own Movie equipment on hand. We use proper microphones and a USB audio interface, which then connects to a computer and audio recording software of choice (again, we used GarageBand for this lesson). Ideally, you would be recording to an external hard drive, but for this lesson, we just recorded to my computer’s hard drive.

Once the equipment is set up, it’s all about getting the right settings and levels in place. As Ryan told me when talking about the recording equipment: “More important than getting the ‘right thing’ is using the thing you have in the right way”. Two of the biggest factors in getting a quality recording and making editing a lot easier:

  • Microphone placement: while distance away from the microphone can make a difference, what is most important is that the host keeps a consistent distance from the microphone throughout the recording. That way, not as many adjustments need to be made throughout the recording process, and if there are any level changes that need to be made during editing, they can be applied to the entire track rather than bits and pieces throughout the recording.
  • Setting up gain staging: Without getting too much into audio terms, gain is how loud something is before it goes through any processing; it’s the volume level being sent into your plugins, preamps, and amplifiers. There are multiple places along the recording path where gain can be adjusted, but it’s best to do it in as few places as possible (we focused on the dials of the interface). For our interface (and because we’re not in a studio environment), Ryan recommended turning the gain knobs all the way up and then backing off just a little.

As for setting up the tracks in GarageBand, the only thing that Ryan typically does is place a limiter, which essentially flattens out parts of the audio that get too loud and prevents clipping.

Then it’s time to record! Throughout the recording, you can make adjustments to the gain knobs if people are getting too quiet or too loud, too close or too far away from their mic. It’s also good to note time stamps of notable parts of the recording that will be helpful during editing. For example, did somebody hit their mic and you want to edit that out? Noting the time stamps can make it a lot quicker to edit.

Editing

Once recording is done, it’s time to edit. For our podcast, Ryan has five main steps for his editing process:

  • Step 1: Raw cut listen OR making just the large obvious cuts (bathroom breaks, large tangents, hitting the mic, etc).
  • Step 2: Go through again and listen for more nuanced things: weird sounds people make, longer than comfortable silences, off-topic bits, etc.
  • Step 3: (if necessary) Mastering pass (EQ, compression, volume adjustments, etc.)
  • Step 4: Put in other clips (music, movie quote, etc).
  • Step 5: Export. For spoken word, usually just low quality, no more than 96 kps.

We did our own sample recording so that I could practice my editing skills. I really enjoyed this part. The big challenge is when you cut out a section but need to find the right place to make the edit so that the final piece sounds seamless. It felt like such an accomplishment when I would edit out a large section, and it would sound like it was never there.

I also got practice adjusting the EQ, compression and volume, as well as adding in music clips for the intro and closing. 

Here is the final product:

Next steps

I want to start by getting more practice editing. Even if I don’t even become a full-time podcast producer, there could be good opportunities to do freelance editing. I’ll get some practice with our own podcast episodes and may reach out to my network to offer my services for additional practice.

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