Podcast Q & A

Every so often people write into us assuming we know a thing or two about podcasting. All I can say is we do our best and I’m flattered people would approach us with questions and I’m happy to try to answer a few recent ones.

If you’re looking for more about the narrative for why we started the show in the first place I’d suggest listening to Patrick, Charlie and myself when we were the guests on Podcast Squared a few weeks back.

Podcast Squared #53 – Crazy Science

I also wrote a somewhat more snarky and narrative post on how the podcast get’s put together each week which I posted on this blog awhile back. It’s not as helpful in a technical sense, but may illuminate some of the other hurdles of running a weekly show.

Another Manic Monday: How the Sausage Gets Made

Today’s questions were submitted by Dayna and are great things to think about for anyone wanting to get started with a show.

1) What kind of equipment did you guys use to record with when you aren’t using Skype?

To clarify for those who might not already be aware, we usually record the show over Skype. It’s been over a year since the original three of us lived in the same city, but there was no chance we’d stop doing the show just because of a silly thing like geography. Fortunately, given a strong internet connection the combination of Skype and CallGraph (a free Windows utility for recording Skype calls) we’ve been able to continue without skipping a beat.

However, when we were in person we’d record using a microphone, a laptop, and headphones if we were doing an interview. The headphones would all be plugged into one laptop using splitters.

The quality of your microphone makes a big difference here. We all use microphones made by Blue, including the Snowball and the Yeti, which are very affordable for the quality received. They’re simple plug-and-play USB and are extremely common in the podcasting community.

Callgraph can be used to record without Skype, or you can use the program I’m about to write about in regards to question 2.

 2) What editing program do you use?

I use a few programs, the first of which is a program called Audacity, which is available for free on both PC and Mac. It is also capable of recording, but I find that it’s a bit bulky for that task and has a tendency to crash during long recordings with no easy way to recover data.

That being said, as and editing program it’s exactly what I need. If anything it’s probably more than I need, but podcasts that aren’t Radiolab are simple enough that they don’t take a ton of fancy tools. Cut, copy, paste, fade in, fade out, etc. It’s all there and pretty straightforward. Editing is slow going, especially at first, but it’s worth learning how to do right. It gets faster both as you develop proficiency on the mic and while using Audacity.

Patrick has some extra advice for Mac users, ” Mac people can use Audio Hijack to record Skype calls, but it costs $32 (free version will screw up your recordings that run longer than 10 min). Mac peeps can also use GarageBand, to edit (and record non-skype shows), but even I (a Mac fanboy) will concede that Audacity is superior for editing the spoken word.”

The other program that I rely on for editing is Levelator. This program saves you from doing a ton of extra work in Audacity by using an algorithm to smooth out a lot of the audio issues found in spoken word recordings. It can only accept single track .wav files, so that’s the type of file I record and edit in. It’s much bigger than compressed formats, but worth the hard drive space to get to use Levelator. I use Levelator after I’ve edited the “raw” audio from the first recording but before I put in the music. However, I know other podcasters that put their audio through Levelator before ever opening Audacity. Play around with it and find out what works for you!

And just for a little more info, we host the website with Bluehost which, in the interest of full disclosure, is an affiliate so if you’re looking to set up your own site consider using the above link to help us out!

The podcast itself is hosted through Libsyn, there are other services out there but we’ve been happy with Libsyn so far.

3) About how long do you record to get the hour or so show you put out?

I’ve never been asked this one before! We try to record “straight to edit” as much as possible. Meaning what we say once we start the show is what’s meant to be on the show. This doesn’t always work, but it certainly helps make everything stay on track as much as possible. We generally talk for the first 15 or so minutes on Skype about any last minute details for the show, who’s taking point on each segment, what order to do things in, and  who  is doing what for their PaleoPOW. Then we record “on air” for about as long as the show actually is. There’s an occasional tangent that gets cut or comment between segments not meant to be kept in but we usually get pretty close to the actual time of the show that get’s posted. After signing off we talk briefly about what’s coming up while the files transfer. Music suggestions, future topics, guests, other business stuff.

So to answer simply, we allot about 2 hours per recording, just to err on the side of having enough time to get it all in.


So there you have it! Three great questions for the burgeoning podcaster! I hope if any of you were considering starting your own project you appreciated this and can attack your goal with a bit more knowledge and insight. Any further questions can be sent my way via paleopals@sciencesortof.com, I’d be happy to make this a semi-regular segment if the questions keep coming.

And finally, if you are a listener and have started your own show: let us know! We love hearing what you guys are up to, so don’t hesitate. Really, we’re just looking for anything to replace The Nerd List at this point.


3 Responses to Podcast Q & A

  1. DaynaJDNo Gravatar 28 July, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    Thanks, Ryan! That’s a huge help. I’ll be sure to send you a link once we get the show up and running.

    And we would be more than happy to replace The Nerd List. Haha. (Just kidding, Jon).

  2. Cameron KNo Gravatar 31 October, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Awesome, thanks for this,
    I had problems getting as good audio quality using the built-in audacity compression, and your tip about the levelator led me to trying to use it again, and eventually finding Chris’ Dynamic Compressor for audacity. (http://theaudacitytopodcast.com/chriss-dynamic-compressor-plugin-for-audacity/) The levelator has been down for a few years now (even the old version doesn’t run in Linux anymore, since it requires python 2.5 and no newer)…

    I’m using an ATR2100, which *should* be less noisy than a snowball, but isn’t as adjustable as the yeti. Using a good voice compression algorithm really helps out, I think i’m going to re-publish all the old episodes of my podcast after applying this to it.

    and I did start my own podcast after listening to you! http://laserpodcast.com is a science podcast about recent physics/materials science papers. Thanks!

    • RyanNo Gravatar 3 November, 2013 at 10:24 am #

      Levelator hasn’t been update but it is still available and I think still works pretty well. I’m going to try that compressor though. Thanks!

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