Before we begin, a note…I am giving this advice based on using a PC, not a Mac. If you are using a Mac, use the GarageBand program, which is infinitely better than anything Microsoft has yet to offer. The rest of us will trundle on with the following…
1. The Script
As well as teaching history, I also teach English, so I’m going to be anal about this: a podcast without a script is going to be crap. No-one wants to hear you ramble about, trying to collect your scattered thoughts from the corners of various rooms and then cobble them together. No. Write a script for a specific purpose and audience, read it to yourself (or better, to someone else), edit it savagely, then edit it again, more savagely. By then, you will having something approaching a credible script.
2. Recording Software
Audacity is the program that I use. In addition, you must download the LAME program. LAME allows you to create mp3 files once you have finished recording with Audacity. A really good how-to for Audacity can be found here.
3. Recording Hardware
If you have a laptop, it is likely that it has an inbuilt microphone – this is fine for recording if the room is really quiet, like a tomb. Barring regular and frequent access to such, you need to use a headset…best of all a USB headset, which uses a USB plug to connect to your computer and cancels out a lot of noise. You can buy one for about $AUD40.
Once you have Audacity, LAME and a headset, you are right to go!
4. Using Audacity
A fantastic site for using Audacity for podcasts is located here. Particularly helpful is the fact that it shows you how to adjust the settings for Audacity. Audacity allows you to record live voice (ie. you speaking into a microphone) by pressing the red dot button and then letting fly! (in the structured an interesting way provided by your script, of course) It also allows you to bring music, sounds or other voices you have previously recorded into what Audacity calls the “project”.
For example, for a podcast on the “Chinese in the goldfields” was created by recording a “live voice track” (me), an “interview track” (recorded on my iRiver with an expert) and a “backing track” (music to make it interesting). I then lined up the different parts appropriately and faded the music in and out at appropriate spots.
For a simple instruction sheet on using Audacity, go here.
5. Exporting to mp3
Once you are happy with your creation, go to “File/Export as Mp3”. This will ask to fill in a few details and then will create an mp3 file. This is the file that you upload to the internet.
6. Extra Stuff
Loops: I think it’s a good idea to create introductory and concluding loops – short bits of music and/or speech that distinguish your podcast and settle the listener in…and out.
Audacity Projects: don’t delete your project!! I said before that Audacity saves your work as a “project”. The project includes all the different tracks (voice, music, loops etc) as separate items. The mp3 file combines them all into one. However, you may want to alter something later, like change the backing music or add some more of your dulcet tones. If you don’t have the project you won’t be able to do this.