There continues to be an explosion of interest in podcasting… AI tools and new gear makes it ever-more affordable and easy.
Personally, I can’t think of a better time for a business (or individual) to create valuable audio and video content in a podcast format. In the past years, I’ve had a handful of requests to better understand how I create the Six Pixels of Separation podcast. I answered this question in detail back in 2008 (you can read about it here: How To Podcast) and then again in 2012 (you can read about it here: How To Podcast – 2012 Edition), and the last version was How To Podcast – 2020 Edition. I’ve now posted over 870 episodes of Six Pixels of Separation (every Sunday since May 22nd, 2006) and close to 100 episodes of Groove – The No Treble Podcast (a monthly show, where I am slowly trying to build the largest oral history of electric bass players). Along with that, I couldn’t even tell you how many podcasts I’ve been a guest on, but it has got to be in the hundreds (if not close to a thousand).
I’m (still) no “professional”.
Before digging into my workflow (hardware, software and thinking), let me make one point clear (and, it’s the exact same point I made back in 2008, 2012 and 2020): I don’t think that I have the “right” formula. My show is very “indie,” and it’s created and published with a minimal amount of production (lowest cost possible too). I’m not an audiophile, and I have no special propensity towards audio engineering. I see it as a fun (and different) way to communicate and connect with people. I’m ok with the fact that it’s often raw, flawed and basic. I just like collecting and sharing these conversations.
Here’s how I podcast (but please keep in mind that I am a huge proponent of doing a lot more pre and post production for maximum efficacy):
I don’t do much to prep for a show. Over the course of the week (in-between episodes), I simply look at my social media feeds for smart people saying and doing smart things (especially those publishing a new business or non-fiction book), and I reach out to those who I think might have something unique to say about a specific topic related to business, management, leadership, and innovation. In the past years, I have pulled away from anyone with a book on marketing (I’m just fatigued on those types of books), and I’ve also not been interested in what I call “101 topics” (content geared towards the “how do I get started in…” genre).
How to record the conversation…
I currently record out of two studios (one at home and one at my office). All of my conversations are recorded using Riverside. There are other/similar options. I love how Riverside handles both audio and video (currently, I only use the audio, but having the video will be useful in marketing, maybe shifting to a YouTube podcast, and even just being able to see your guest while you are talking with them). Riverside also records each side of the conversation natively, and then uploads the files to the cloud. It has many great editing features as well. From a hardware perspective, I am using a MacBook Pro. My current microphone of choice is the Shure MV7 (I like the model that has both XLR and USB options). I use Audio-Technica wired headphones. My office studio also has a Rode RodeCaster Pro (which may be the best piece of computer hardware that I have ever owned – big statement, but true). It is a fully portable podcast recording studio that allows you to do a myriad of things (from multiple mics to Aphex audio processing to bringing in your smartphone via Bluetooth to having audio files accessible on keypads and more). I also love that I can record on-board using a SD card (which ensures that I have a native backup). When using the RodeCaster, I switch from the USB on the Shure MV7 to XLR. If you’re looking for decent and well-priced XLR only microphone, I also use the Rode PodMic. All of my mics have the Rode PSA1 studio boom arm (I like have the microphone close to talk hole for a warmer sound). In terms of cameras, I’d recommend the Sony ZV-1 and/or the Elgato FaceCam (both companies have other/newer options… go with the latest ones).
How to record the conversation when you and the guest are in the same room…
If I have the luxury of having a conversation with someone in-person, and they can make it to my office/home, I simply add in an extra XLR mic into the RodeCaster and record the conversation directly to the onboard SD card. If I have to record remotely (their office, hotel lobby, etc.), I record it on a Zoom H5 (which is a handheld portable digital recording studio). I use two Samson Q2U USB/XLR dynamic microphones for remote recording directly into the Zoom H5.
Getting the best sound quality…
Even with platforms like Riverside, quality recording equipment and a quiet room to record in, we are still at the mercy of technology and connectivity. Because of this, I do make some demands on guests, and I follow these same rules on my side of the recording:
- No wifi. The connections on both sides must be hardwired into the Internet. Wifi causes all kinds of problems.
- Quality microphone. No iPhones, no cheap headsets, and no using the onboard mic. If the guest doesn’t have a quality headset/mic or studio quality mic (or access to one), I usually pass on them as a guest.
- Real (and wired) headphones. I demand that all guests use headphones plugged directly into the computer for our conversation. No external speakers, AirPods or bluetooth headsets (they are all pretty sucky for podcast recording).
- No ringers. I ask that all guests mute all ringers or buzzing that could interfere with the sound quality and flow of the show.
- Close all software. Only leave the Riverside tab open in Google Chrome on both computers (yours and your guest). All other software must be shut down/off. Software running in the background can cause lagging and CPU usage challenges.
- No shuffling. I always remind guests to hover over the microphone (about a fist’s distance from the mic) and to keep all shuffling down to a minimum. I like the conversation to sound very warm.
OK, now that the audio is recorded, what do you do?
Once the audio is recorded, I use Descript. If the RodeCaster is the best piece of hardware that I have ever owned, then Descript might just be the best piece of software I have ever used. In fact, I use Descript for editing all things audio and video. It’s astounding. When you import your raw audio into Descript, it converts the audio file into text, and then you can auto-magically edit your audio by simply editing the text (as if it were a document). What makes this process even more incredible, is that the software can identify multiple speakers on the audio file, creating a script of the podcast. You can import your own voice file, and the software will allow you type in words that will then use AI to generate those words in your own voice (and, it works… amazingly). Another killer feature is something called Studio Sound, which I apply once my edits are finalized. This gives the entire show an NPR-quality audio effect that I, simply, love. Adobe has a free tool, Adobe Podcast, that does some amazing things for audio quality as well.
Once this is done, I use Audacity to add in the extra audio parts and do the final edit (admittedly, you could probably do all of these steps in Descript). Audacity is used to create and mix the voice and music intros, any bumpers, ads, etc. Once this is done, I bring the file into Apple Music to add the cover artwork and some additional show notes. I use Libsyn to host the podcast.
Show notes, posting and beyond…
Once the final MP3 file is done and posted on Libsyn, I write up the blog post for the show in MarsEdit and hit the publish button on WordPress (which is my Six Pixels of Separation publishing platform of choice).
It works for me.
I’m sure many podcasters weep a little when they hear how I record Six Pixels of Separation. Most shows now outsource everything (hired producer, editor, etc.). Who knows, maybe somewhere in the next one hundred episodes I’ll catch the audio engineering bug and go even more hardcore into it, or I might outsource all of the production? But, for right now, I’m still just having fun with it.
As I said earlier, my way is, probably, not the most professional way to record a podcast… but it is my way. I’m hoping that my passion, knowledge and insights make up for what’s lacking in professional editing skills and audio quality. I’m also quite sure that as podcasting continues to evolve, the demands to produce a higher quality show (in terms of pure production and audio) will force me to figure out an even newer way to take it to the next level.
I would also recommend, that you check out these two articles before you start a podcast:
- The Ultimate Guide To Being A Great Podcast Interviewer.
- How To Be The Most Popular Guest On Every Podcast.
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You can also check out Groove – The No Treble Podcast as well.
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