Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Step by Step: Making a Podcast, Pt. II

OK, yesterday we covered what a podcast actually is, and what it consists of. Today I'm going to give you some advice on sound files, then we'll cover the basics of creating your first XML file. Video podcasting is almost exactly the same, but I have no experience of it, so don't feel qualified to advise on the best filetypes for doing this. If you're video podcasting I'll give you some hints at what format to encode in later.

Creating your sound files:
I'm not going to go into the actual mechanics of creating your podcast programme itself, as I don't know what sound editor you've chosen to use (although there is some advice on how best to record DJ mixes in an earlier blog post). When you're recording, it's best to record a high-quality file, then we can make it lower quality (if need be) when we put it onto the 'net. It's not possible to make a high quality file out of a low quality recording, so at this stage in the process it's important to work at a fairly high recording quality. This will usually mean recording your podcasts in stereo, at 44.1Khz, 16bit. These are the settings you would choose in Adobe Audition to get this:

It's not totally necessary to know what these numbers mean, just that the higher these numbers, the more accurate the recording will be (the quality of the end recording obviously depends on other factors as well though, like the quality of the microphone and sound card you're using, as well as the amount of background noise whilst recording). The settings mentioned before are the same as CD quality sound, which is fine for this stage in the process.

Once you have your first programme recorded and ready to go, it's now time to compress it ready to put on the net. At the moment, you've probably got it saved as a Wav file (or maybe an Aiff file if you're using a Mac), but right now for every minute of audio, this file is taking up about 10 megabytes (Mb), so a 20 minute recording would weigh in at 200Mb. Obviously this is far too big for people to download, so we compress it to save them time, and you bandwidth charges. If we make this into an Mp3 file, we can keep roughly the same quality, but make the recording only take 1Mb for every minute of audio. This is clearly much better.

To produce my podcast, I encode my mp3 files at 128Kb/s, stereo, 44.1Khz, but you may want to use a lower/higher bitrate depending on how necessary it is to retain the original quality of the recording. I chose these settings, because for music, it still gives a fairly decent sound quality - if I were to choose a bitrate of 256Kb/s, the recording would not really be noticeably better, and would take twice as much bandwidth and twice as long for everybody to download. These are things that you need to be very aware of when creating these files. If you're using Adobe Audition to create your recordings, just go to file>save as... type a file name, then under "save as type" choose "mp3PRO (FhG) (*.mp3)".

Click the options button at the bottom of the window, and choose the "128Kbps Stereo (Internet)" preset from the list. If you want to make your final files higher or lower quality than this, now is the time to change these settings.

Now you have a file that people can listen to, but there's still a couple of things we need to do before we put it onto the internet...

Adding extra information to your sound files:
All we have so far is an mp3 file, with some audio in it, but mp3 files can also store a lot more information than just the audio in them - they also contain the name of the track, the artist and copyright information, and often some album artwork as well. It's usually a good idea to make sure that each of your podcast episodes contains this information in case it gets separated from the rest of the podcast for any reason, and also this is the information that will show up when it's played on an iPod or other portable mp3 player.

iTunes is fine for adding this information to your tracks, and the process is the same on both Macs and PCs, so I'll use this.
  1. Open iTunes up, then go to file>add file to library...
  2. Choose the mp3 file you saved, and click "open".
  3. You should now see the file you created in your iTunes library. (You may need to click "music on the left hand side of the iTunes window to bring up your library. If you can't find your file in the list, search for the filename using the search box in the top right hand corner of the window)
  4. Right-click on your file, and choose "Get Info" from the top of the menu. This will bring up all the information that this mp3 file contains in a summary.
  5. Click the "Info" tab at the top of this window, and you will be able to fill in the artist and title information. Make sure you put your email address in the comments field so that people know how to get in touch with you if they have comments on your podcast. Also be sure to choose a suitable genre for your podcast, if the genres already in iTunes don't fit the bill, don't be afraid of typing your own into this box. It's far better to have a fitting custom genre, than to label it "Pop" because it's the nearest fitting thing. Put the name of your podcast in the "Album" field.
  6. When you're done, click the "Artwork" tab at the top of the window, and click the "Add..." button. Choose a suitable picture to grace your recording with. This is the picture that will show up in iTunes whenever somebody plays your podcast, and on newer iPods. It's usually best to give each episode the same picture for consistency, and I'd recommend setting this as your podcast logo (if you don't already have one, I suggest you make one now - you'll need this to list your podcast in the iTunes directory). It looks best if this image is a square Jpeg file, but iTunes can cope with a rectangular one. My logos are 512x512 pixels in size.
  7. Click the OK button at the bottom of this window. iTunes will now save all the information you've just entered to the mp3 file. If it's a long recording, this can take a little while, so be patient.
Now your mp3 file is ready to upload! Upload it to anywhere on the web that will give you the space and bandwidth to put your files, next I'll show you how to make your XML file.

No comments:

Post a Comment