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iPod, you Pod

January 31, 2006|by ALAN SOKOL

This is Alan Sokol's second article on podcasting - radio broadcasting of sorts that's made available to the world via the Internet. Alan's previous story was published on Tuesday, Jan. 17.




Last time we talked about what a podcast is and how to download and listen to one. Now, I'll tell you about making your own podcast and uploading it to the Web.

Podcasters do this by converting their audio recording into what is called an RSS feed. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and using it is as easy as clicking a few buttons. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Capturing audio



If you want to make your own podcast, you'll first need to get a microphone that can hook up to your computer. This can be as simple as the built-in mic included in your laptop, or as involved as an external audio input/output box with a professional microphone.

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I chose the professional route, only because my dad is an audio engineer and loaned me some high-end gear. So your mileage might vary, depending on the quality of the microphone you use.

I used a USBPre from Sound Devices (about $600) to import the sound into my laptop, a Sennheiser 421 microphone (about $500) to capture my voice, and Stanton DJ Pro 60 headphones (about $100) to hear my voice while recording and editing.

But you can also get a complete starter kit like the M-Audio Podcast Factory from Sweetwater Sound for $150. With the starter kit and a computer, and you're ready to roll your own podcast.

Set up your equipment



Next, you'll need a program to record and edit your voice. A good program for beginners is Wavepad, available as a free download. For a low-budget startup, it has all the things you need and more.

Once your microphone has been properly hooked up and you can hear your own voice over headphones, just click the record button on Wavepad's screen to begin. When you're done talking, just hit stop.

It's really that simple. You can then highlight a section of your voice to modify it, such as deleting a problem or moving the section to another place in the file.

Another good idea is to set up your equipment in a quiet room with lots of soft surfaces. Background noise - caused by sound waves bouncing off hard walls and table surfaces - can distract the listener.

Also, if you use Wavepad, there's an option to reduce background noise, which works very well to get rid of distractions like car noise from the street and your cat purring (no kidding).

Say it right or make it right



Now, you'll need something to say - something you can say without messing up and having to re-record your voice.

A good idea is to write a basic script of your podcast, then speak it comfortably with a rest between paragraphs.

Afterward, you can edit out the pauses and mistakes, much like you correct a text file with a word processor such as Word.

Next, you'll probably want some music as an intro and "out-tro" for your podcast. I chose to use about seven seconds of "Funkytown" by KC and the Sunshine Band, since I live near Funkstown and thought it would be a clever theme.

But you can pick anything you like or better yet compose and record your own theme. Think "Batman" or "Pacman" for inspiration. You can then cut and paste this theme onto the beginning and end of your edited narration, much like a radio show.

Upload yourself



After you are finished editing your podcast, save it as an mp3 file so the file size is smaller. I used the variable bit rate (VBR) setting at 128 kbps maximum stream rate with a 32 kbps minimum.

Then it's up to you to find a Web site to host your podcast. There are many free servers available, or you can host it, on your own Web page.

But you can start with any hosting site with an RSS feed like PodcastAlley. Then give your podcast a unique name that tells people what it's about, upload your file, and wait for the moderator on the site to approve your podcast before people can listen to it.

Tell all your friends about your podcast so they can subscribe and start listening to your words of wisdom! Who knows? They might find you have something important to say.




Online resources for podcasting



Here are some Web sites to find the resources I used to make my podcast.

www.podcastcentral.com - You can upload your podcasts here. Also a good source for podcast aggregators (readers) and other useful information on podcasting.

www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/PodcastFact - This is where you can get the Podcast Factory package for less than $200. Comes with everything needed except the computer. Or go to www.sweetwater.com/feature/podcasting for general information.

www.nch.com.au/wavepad - Here is the link to Wavepad, a very good audio editing and recording program. It's free. Also, there's a master's edition for those that want to buy it. The master's edition base price is $50, but you can purchase add-on software as well.

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