To cut to the chase – I loved it!
Now for the rest of the story. Podcasting is nothing more than a person with a mic and a story well told. But, on a production level, it could get complicated when you add stuff like a ‘DAW’ or a digital audio workstation – a fancy term for a recording and editing software. Or multiple guests.
I love the spontaneity of podcasting, letting guests be themselves, warts and all. Yet I like to edit much; tighten things up, with intros, outros, multiple tracks for voices, and occasional sound effects etc. I use Hindenburg Pro for a bulk of the work, and Anchor.fm to upload the finished product to Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the likes.
The more ‘guests’ you have, the complexity ramps up. There’s overlapping audio when someone occasionally talks over another (a good thing?), bloopers that could be left in –and sometimes should – but at the expense of duration of the podcast. And sound levels to adjust, especially if you have a mic that allows for switching between cardioid (for voices directly in front), and omnidirectional. When I have forgotten to switch modes, the results have been…meh!
Some history here: There was a time, c. 2011, I when Derrick Mains and I hosted a radio show out of Phoenix we called Your3BL (listen here!) which stood for ‘Your Triple Bottom Line.’ It was out of KFNX studios hidden away in a nondescript strip mall. The man behind the glass did all the mixing and sound balancing, so it was pretty easy for us hosts. But Derrick and I liked to shake things up a bit now and then. Sometimes, we recorded the show elsewhere. Like one at Gangplank, a co-working space. There was a time I hosted it on a laptop in a classroom at Clark University in Boston with Derrick in Phoenix. We called in, through a dedicated phone line to the studio. That was one of the ‘live’ events that stretched my capabilities, but the recording taught me a lot about podcast production.
Recently I decided to interview two guests in school, and thought of upping the ante a bit. We recorded it in the gymnasium. That’s asking for trouble, if you know something about the cathedral-acoustics in a gym. Especially, when it’s the first time.
I wanted the acoustics to feel like it was a large space. Then there was the fact that we had two audiences: the ones in front of us, and the ones who would listen to the recording. The student audience in the bleachers came through loud and clear, cheering wildly when our two guests were introduced. But would the recording pick up the exuberance? To compensate, I had a back-up recorder on the desk, my trusty ZoomH4N Pro. I could grab that feed if I needed in editing. There was also a video camera at the back of the gym, hooked to a wireless lavalier mic which I placed next to our guests. This and the desk mic were plugged it in through the Scarlett Focusrite mixer. (That video mic feed came handy in editing, since one of our guests, an awesome pianist, played the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean which overpowered the desk mic. I was able to splice the better audio in later.)
You learn something! Like wishing I had two clip-on mics for the guests. I know, overkill! Or testing sound levels in the vast space before the real thing.
As for our guests, they were freshmen Reina Ley and Landon Madsen. A few weeks before, (Sept 2022), Reina had auditioned on NBC’s The Voice. That same month, Landon, the pianist, had given a stunning performance at our talent show, Franklin’s Got Talent. The podcast were were recording, was a way to celebrate our student’s achievements, as we often do during morning assembly. Moments like this not only memorialize these particular achievements, they reveal something about all our students. The often unspoken talent hurrying through these hallways, toting trombones, football gear, trifolds, and other paraphernalia.
Here’s where the learning gets more interesting. This experiment in podcasting doubled up as an assignment for students in my class on Writing and Publishing in the Digital Age. I got them to help me set up the hardware in the gym. They were the ones manning the video camera, and doing the sound checks. Another was the photojournalist, with a regular camera. After fall break, these students will take this video feed and turn it into a news story, worthy of television. We have practiced with a green screen, so there will be an anchor, a reporter on the scene etc. Who knows where this will go! This, to me is what makes learning more hands-on, and lets them apply the theory of storytelling to real work they could publish (On Medium, the class website, and elsewhere) and see their output. Next month, they will be recording mock political debates in a history class, and produce a newspaper with many of these stories.
They, like me, love the challenge. After all, much of this (and the podcast) takes place in the Computer Lab. I remind my students, ad nauseam, it’s after all a ‘lab’ –where we are supposed to experiment!