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The Destructoid Guide to Community Podcasting

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The call is coming from inside the house!

So you wanna be a podcast superstar? And live large, a big house, five cars, you're in charge? Comin' up in the world, don't trust no body, gotta look over your shoulder constantly?

Well, it probably won’t happen unless you diversify your financial portfolio, but at least I’m here to guide you through the white-knuckle joys of community podcasting at Destructoid.  Why me, you ask? Well, I've drunk more beer, and banged more quiff (ay?!), and pissed more blood, and stomped more ass than all of you numbnuts put together! And by that, I mean I’ve been on a few podcasts in my time.

Podcasting might sound like a daunting prospect, but it’s really not that hard. So whether you’re a first-time guest or finally taking up the reins as host, hopefully this guide will allay your fears and steer you right. That or you end becoming a fugitive killing machine. In which case, all these ’80s video rentals I’ve been using as reference are a complete waste of time.

Anyway, this guide will be broken down into three primary sections:

Pre-Production > Recording > Post-Production

Excited? Me, too! Let’s get started!

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For your podcast, you will need:

1 Skype

1 Microphone/Headset

2 Recording Apps (CallBurner or Pamela)

1 Editing Software (WavePad, Vegas, Adobe, etc.)

3-4 Human Beings

1 File Storage Platform

As you can see, you don’t need to go overboard with your equipment, and a good podcast always boils down to great chemistry. Let’s look at that list in a little more detail:

Getting a Skype account is easy. If it’s not built into your Windows, go to the website.

Podcasting is, simply put, talk radio done over the phone. It’s a group chat edited into a listener’s digest. Most community podcasts are done over Skype – it’s a bit of a rarity for everyone to be in the same room – so obviously you’ll need a quality headset. Something comfortable in the £20/$25 range will do just fine.

MY PRO TIP: Console headsets are no-no; too cheap and nasty. But if you’re on a shoestring budget and looking to reduce the popping effect on your mic, the foamy bit from an old 360 headset is well worth salvaging.

A bit of a “No Shit, Sherlock” but you’ll also need a Skype recording app. Different podcasters use different recorders, e.g. Radio Destructoid uses CallBurner and Scary Granules uses Pamela. I’m sure audiophiles will tell you one is better than the other, but they’re both solid, accessible recorders for first timers.

LAURA KATE’S PRO-TIP: Always have at least one guest recording the whole call with one of those Skype recorders. They've saved my life more than once when someone's local recording broke.

The amount of people on your show can vary, but four is the golden number. More experienced podcasters are lower in number because they’ve built up a rapport. If you have a whole gang, then some voices tend to get lost. I find four is the best because you can tag in and out without interrupting the flow, like them wrestlers on TV.

Editing software is the real deal breaker here, since that’s where the real work begins. For Menage-A-Toid, I used a free version of WavePad Sound Editor; very newb friendly and it comes with video tutorials.

STRIDER HOANG’S PRO-TIP: Before Fapcast's hiatus, I actually used Vegas to edit my podcast on my old laptop. After the hiatus I had been using a new laptop and didn't have Vegas anymore. So I managed to use Adobe Audition which works great. Best of all, you can shell out for the modern version or simply download an older version for free. I believe Audition is currently version 5 but I found version 3 for free.

Lastly, you’ll need a file storage site for streaming and downloading. Mediafire, Soundcloud, iTunes, all good platforms. YouTube’s also an option, but that’s really more for VODcasts like the awesome OSW Review.

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As anyone who’s podcasted before knows, getting the band together is the worst part. Lots of group emails, lots of scheduling, lots of last-minute cancellations. It’ll either be smooth sailing or plain frustrating, but always be mindful of other people’s time. Eventually, you’ll all come together for a show bigger than 10 Super Bowls! Now I don’t want to oversell it…

KYLE MACGREGOR’S PRO TIP: Record at a decent hour. We record Podtoid in the early afternoon on Sunday and I'm so much more coherent than when we record Radio Dtoid (late at night).

Look, don’t jump in, half-cocked. ALWAYS BE PREPARED. One time, when I was in the Cub Scouts, we didn’t heed our own famous motto. Several of us were mauled by a bear, and we lost another group to a time loop in the woods. Hell, two Cubs didn’t even bother showing up.

So use this quick prep to honour those poor, poor souls:

  • Test your equipment an hour before recording. Always call Echo/Sound Test Service on Skype. No feedback means a loose lead/Hardware & Sound problem. When all else fails, Skype has its own comprehensive troubleshooting guide. It’s pretty damn useful.
  • Make sure those call recorders are activated. Fire it up along with Skype. It’ll auto-record all calls, including that “Meow Meow Meow” song you sung to the Echo lady. Remember: sound files are found in the designated recorder’s folder, not Skype.
  • Group Call, test, test, 1, 2, 1, 2! Your first group call is a rehearsal. Here’s where you’ll iron out any sound issues. Don’t just say everyone sounds okay. If someone’s quiet/loud, let them know. They can cap the levels in Call > Audio Settings tab. End the call and play the audio file back. If it sounds fine, you’re ready to go.

Remember: A small delay is nothing, so figure out the kinks before you all get settled in. You’ll be surprised how many mishaps occur before you go live.

DARREN NAKAMURA’S PRO TIP: Have everybody record locally and stitch the audio together in post. It helps to easily silence background noise coming from one person, and gets rid of any latency effects (robot voice).

With switches flicked and dials reading normal, the next group call will be The Big One, the ol’ “live in five.” Don’t worry, without fail, every podcast starts off with a lot of rambling and someone saying, “Are we ready yet?”

Professionalism, huh?!

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This is the part where you’re probably thinking, “Oh, great, now they’re going to tell me how to make my show!”

To which, I’d say, “No! Make whatever you want, just be original and fearless about it! If you’re not having fun, we’re not having fun!”

That said, uh-oh, it’s best to have a structure. How Did This Get Made? is a great show, but bloody hell, it’s a mess at times. You could’ve seen Sleepaway Camp twice in one night and still have trouble following their time-skip observations. If you want to keep the listeners around, there needs to be a sense of direction.

MIKE MARTIN’S PRO TIP: Having an overview/structure laid out helps immensely. Don't script things, unless you are really great actors. It comes off unnatural. Let conversations flow naturally. You can always remove rambling later, but you don't know what gem might pop up in off topic conversations.

DARREN NAKAMURA’S PRO TIP: Don't ever think that "let's get drunk and record something" is an original idea or a good one. It almost never is.

ANDY DIXON’S PRO TIP: Yeah, drunkenness is A-OK as a by-product of having a good time podcasting. It just shouldn't be the reason for the podcast :)

Sure, have a drink, but don’t go nuts. Two beers are more than enough to calm your nerves and wet your whistle throughout the entire show.

As the de facto host, it’s your job to introduce the show, the guests, and the topics, steer the conversations, and end it on a bang. Your presentation style is yours and yours alone.  You’re the Dungeon Master, the Conan O’ Brien, even the Awesomely Bearded Captain of the Titanic. The key is to be assertive once in a while. Also, make sure you write up a “Things to Say and Do” list in Word.

So for structure, let’s look at Menage-a-Toid’s second episode. As you can see, it runs on a simple magazine format; an easy fill for 75+ minutes. It doesn’t even have to be this rigid.  As long as you know your A to B’s, everything else is a lovely scenic detour. *drives innocently away to the rocky valleys of The Hills Have Eyes*

So how exactly do you converse with an audience in mind? Be engaging for one, but if you’re the de facto host, be sure to keep these tips in the back of your mind:

  • Introduce the topic, along with your own opinion, before passing the buck along. Always keep things on the move. You know, like that infamous football scene in The Room.
  • If anybody goes quiet for a while, bring them back in by asking for a thought.
  • Conversations always go off on a tangent. Still, be mindful of the original point and bring it back to some conclusion before things get exhausted.
  • Skype Messenger a valuable and silent tool. Write down your directions and queries there, as not to interrupt the conversation.
  • If the topic is running dry, wrap it up. It’ll save you from dead air and repetition.
  • Listener Questions are always welcome. Get the word out early and be sure to remind everyone again before recording. More interaction means more empowerment for your audience, which means regular retention for you in the long run.

As a guest, it’s your job to be a lovable smart-arse like our very own Occams. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but ALWAYS BE ENGAGING. Popular podcasts pride themselves on a strong cross-section of personalities. Someone will always have you covered with trivia, gags, opinions, and general buffoonery. And no doubt, you’ll be covering their arses with own brand of wit, guile, or plain old sensibility.

There aren’t any real no-no’s to podcasting, just some easily tamed bad habits. Here’s some I’ve encountered in my time:

  • No snacks while recording. Drinks are fine. Snacks are for pre-production only.
  • No distractions like clickable nibs. Trust me, even a crappy mic will pick up your fidgeting. *whispers*Sorry, Secret Moon Base guys*whisper*
  • Brevity is the soul of wit. Rambling is bound to happen, but don’t hog the mic. The key to keep things snappy. Sure, you might have to explain the mechanics of something, but you don’t need to go into the exact specifics. People tend to zone out if you’ve been talking for 10 minutes straight.
  • Don’t turn the conversation into a “schmohz. Nobody likes a messy pile up… of noise. It’s an early evening bar conversation, so be polite in addition to being fun, and be mindful of the listener. It’ll also save the editor a headache or two.

CONOR ELSEA’S (BAD) PRO TIP: Helps to live near an airport and leave your windows open.

No matter the show, you’re looking at a three-hour recording session at most. Make sure you have a break in that time. Remember to have fun with the content and say everything you need to say. Nobody cares if you suck or not. Plus, there are plenty of chances at Destructoid to hone your craft. Just ask around!

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Editing eats up your time like nobody’s business. But stick with it because this is where your well oiled vision comes to life. Whatever you have planned:

  • Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. Guests will say a lot, but not all of it will make the cut. Some jokes work, some don’t. Some get to the point, some take longer. It’s all clay, baby. If you’re confident enough, you can even shave off seconds of dead air. Don’t worry about hurt feelings. Find a balance of voices, and do what’s best for the listener.
  • Even out those sound levels. Sometimes, someone or something will be louder than the rest. You can actually reduce the decibels and keep everyone audibly in-line. Sure, it’s more time in the editing process, but you’ll end up producing a higher quality show for it.
  • Music is a useful punctuation. Cues break up your topics and keep the listener engaged. No need to play an entire piece. Learn to fade early on for the maximum effect.
  • Always make notes. As you continue to edit, something important at 1:30 will end up at 1:26. It’s a no brainer. Keep some sticky notes at hand.
  • Treat milestones like separate save games. Overwriting’s fine for minor changes, but for the end of a session, it’s advisable to save your work as separate audio files.  That way, if anything irreversible comes up, an older edit will be close at hand.
  • Send a rough cut to your guests. They don’t need to hear all of it, just the intro.  Everybody’s their own worst critic, so shake them down for good advice. Once you’ve nailed the opening half-hour, you won’t need any hand-holding for the rest.

After you’ve uploaded your final cut, write a community blog with all the relevant links.  Don’t just say, “Here’s our podcast, listen to it.” Sell it to us in 200-300 words. If you want to promote yourself further, then by all means, make a trailer and send a message to our Community Manager/Podcast Recapper. Who knows? You might even get up getting a radio spot on another community podcast. It’s all about that networking, baby! Oh, and don't forget to check out the Podcast boards in our forum!

Always remember: great podcasting comes with experience. You know, like that thing your mum and the milkman talk about on the sly.

Well, you’re on your own now. Hopefully, this guide has either given you a shot of confidence to give it a try or it’s helped to refine your skills. Maybe you’ll think, “Wait, podcasting doesn’t sound so scary after all. In fact, it’s a genuinely great way of getting involved with the Destructoid community. Gee Willlikers, Mr. Turner! It’s just like being in a knife-fight gang down by the beach!”

And I’ll look at you and say, “It sure is, Billy. It sure is.”

We look forward to give you a spin. In my case, while doing the shopping. Or photoshopping myself into Sarah Koenig's "started off great then lost the plot" Serial. What about that Jay fella, huh?

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Stephen Turner
Stephen TurnerPodcast Crasher, Total Hack   gamer profile

Once worked in a chocolate factory. There were no Oompa Loompas. Thanks for reading! more + disclosures


 


 



Filed under... #Community Badassness #guides #Podcasts

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