I used to dismiss podcasts as unnecessary talk shows. That was until I started a podcast myself.
In the fall of 2018, I decided to start my own radio show for WQAQ 98.1 FM called Mr. Game Boy. The name was a play on the original Nintendo handheld “Game Boy” and my show was an hour-long talk show dedicated to gaming related news and current events. I had a lot of fun doing it. That all ended, however, when the entire world was forced into quarantine in March 2020. Gaming news was not slowing down and I still wanted a way to broadcast my radio show for people to listen to. That’s when the idea of a podcast popped into my head. I kept up with the weekly podcasting until September 2020. Now, I have another opportunity to make a podcast, and for the next two weeks I will plan and produce an episode for a theoretically new podcast.
Before we get into my podcast prep, I want to go over some of my learnings after reading and listening to a podcast series, and I also want to show you some examples of podcasts or audio commercials that I find really inspiring.
For this post and the remainder of the blog posts in this category, I will summarize a chapter from the book The Bare Bones Camera Course For Film and Video by Tom Schroeppel. The eighth chapter to the book introduces the reader to sound, and everything they need to know about it. Tom starts by explaining how sound is made – by something vibrating. He explains that our eardrums convert these vibrations into nerve pulses that get sent to our brain and allow us to hear sound. Microphones take in sound the same way but convert the vibrations into electrical signals, and speakers do the opposite by taking electrical signals and producing it into vibrations. Sound is measured by frequency (in Hz, how close the waves are to each other) and amplitude (in dB, how high the waves are).
The two types of microphones are dynamic and condenser. Dynamic microphones are much more durable due to a magnetic plate being inside them permanently that allows the mic to take in the sound, capture it cleanly, and produce it at a really great quality. The condenser mic has a similar purpose, and also produces great sound, but it is much smaller, less durable, does not have a magnetic plate and instead uses electrical pulses, and also requires batteries to operate effectively. The two types of pickup patterns are omnidirectional (mic can pick up sound from any direction) and directional (which in and of itself has two different types – cardioid and supercardioid/shotgun). The three most commonly used mics are lavalier mics (best for interviews or scenes where one person is speaking and not moving too much), the hand mic (most common mic that can be used for on-stage, attached to a fish pole, or as a desk mic), and the shotgun mic (best for documentaries or shooting ambient sound).
Note that whichever mic you choose to use, the best way to get the most out of your audio is if you record it to a separate audio recorder; your sound will be much cleaner and richer that way.
Other sound terminology that can help you improve your audio quality and mixing include wild effects (sound effects in a scene rerecorded without the picture), sync sound (sound recorded simultaneously with the picture), VoiceOver (narrative voice speaking over some footage), ambiance (locational sound with no dominant source), and equalizing (raising/lowering frequencies to enhance/eliminate a sound).
One medium where sound is really beneficial is in a podcast. I listened to a six-part podcast which quickly explained the best practices and methods for planning a podcast. In summary, episode 1 is about creating an invisible script, or a script that sounds so natural that it seems like there was no script written to begin with. Most podcasts, whether it seems like it or not, have some level or script within them. A script can help with the podcast structure, the flow of the episode, cuts down on production time, and can even help make you a more confident host. If you map out your podcast in a linear manner and talk as if you’re having a conversation then your listeners will want to tune in and listen to you more often. Episode 2 is about narrative flow, and that having a strong, linear structure to your podcast is beneficial for everyone. If you keep your topics on a linear, point-by-point basis, your listeners can listen effortlessly, which will keep them more engaged. Having a short and sweet recap as well as tie-ins to your intro is also a good idea. Episode 3 is about injecting personality into your script. The best way to go about this is by writing with all filters off on your first draft. Include stories about the many errors you’ve made so you can appear relatable to your audience.
Episode 4 is about hooks and taglines. Taglines are a strong part of a personal brand that can get picked up by your listeners, who may even repeat your tagline if they enjoy your content enough and are loyal. Hooks are common and original phrases thrown into your podcast to transition and introduce new segments, sponsors, or the end of your episode. Episode 5 is about planning your podcast, and the best ways to outline your podcast. Many of the recommendations include mind maps, note cards, a piece of paper, or software programs such as Evernote to write and outline your podcast. Hemingway is also a recommended podcast editor that can catch repeated words and long sentences. Episode 6 is about presenting the scripted podcast. Rehearsing your podcast is key, and marking up your podcast to remove jargon or write tough words phonetically is a smart move. When recording, it is okay to do multiple takes of a segment and slowing down your delivery, as well as breaking your show into chunks, will make the podcast much more enjoyable for your listeners.
Below are three podcasts that I find to be really well produced and are inspiring for the creation of my podcast.
This is a new podcast series that started back in June by two tech YouTubers that I really like. They have the equipment that allows their audio to be as clean as crisp as possible. This video shows their setup, as they have quality mics and headsets plugged into a Rodecaster Pro that makes their audio rich and present. This episode is their first interview with a guest, and they were able to interview the Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, where they talk about the Xbox Games Showcase that occurred in July 2020 and the impact gaming has had on the virus. The continued flow of conversations as well as my general interest in the topic allows the podcast to be easy to listen to.
This is another podcast by a YouTuber that I watch and really enjoy, Marques Brownlee (MKBHD), called the Waveform podcast. In this episode, he talks about YouTube and has a special guest – Jimmy Donaldson (MrBeast, the largest YouTube channel of recent memory). They both bounce ideas off of each other so well and talk about something they are very passionate about. Brownlee has is a tech reviewer, so he is very well equipped with the technology needed to sound very well and make his voice sharp and rich. MrBeast is recorded on a zoom call but he still sounds very good. They both go from one topic to another while still staying on the overall grand subject of YouTube and the algorithm discussion.
This is episode 10 of Season 5 of a podcast called Unexplained by Richard MacLean Smith. This podcast is a narrative journey discussing the stories and theories behind some of the most unexplained events and circumstances in history. It differs from the previous two podcasts because it is only 30 minutes in length, features only one voice, and uses ambient music to help get the viewers in a meditative state as they listen to a near supernatural story and get taken to a new world.
Before I make the podcast, it is best to extensively plan out my podcast in order for the episode to be the best it can possibly be. Below is my mind map and planning document, where you can see what I have in mind and my thoughts about the process of planning for a podcast and why I chose the direction I did.
If you read the following document above, you will gain an understanding of the idea I have for my podcast and how I want it to be structured. The topic I chose for my podcast is YouTube – and everything there is to know about the social platform. I chose this topic because I love YouTube more than any other social media platform. I watch many hours of YouTube per day (which I know is quite unhealthy), and enjoy researching and studying analytics, as well as watching other people explain how they make money on the platform. I also make YouTube videos myself and have grown my channel a bit since starting it almost nine years ago. All of these factors made discussing YouTube a seemingly obvious topic to talk about for my podcast.
The first thing I created on the planning document was the mind map. I listed everything I could think of whenever I think about YouTube. I split the mind map into 5 different categories: types of content (videos/livestreams), styles of content (gaming/tech, etc), types of content creation (making videos/stories/community posts, etc), paid services (Premium/TV), and monetization (making money on YouTube). When creating the mind map in this style, I knew it was going to be tough to turn this topic into an actual story, so I figured the best way to go about this topic is to have a guest with me who has also made YouTube videos for multiple years and have the two of us talk about these topics while sharing our experiences and opinions on each of them.
Creating the planning document was also not that bad because it gave me a better idea of how I wanted to present my topics and in which order they should be presented in. I was also able to get a good idea of what type of music, ambient sound, and SFX I should acquire for the podcast by the time it is recorded. When creating the script, I took the advice of The Podcast Host and wrote my entire thing unfiltered. If I’m going to be honest, this is my first draft of my “invisible” script with edits accounting for spelling. If any of you reading this have any suggestions on whether I should shorten or eliminate a topic, or should improve my VoiceOver lines if they feel more written to be read instead of heard, let me know by commenting below. I’d love your feedback!
Next week I will tweak my script, record my YouTube-themed podcast, and add my music, ambient sound and SFX. I hope you enjoy learning as much about YouTube as I can squeeze in 10 minutes!