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Posted by Carl on Jan 11, 2011

Behind The Mic Part 4 – Recording The Show

Behind The Mic is a series of Blog Articles we are going to release about the trials and tribulations of two guys starting a podcast. We will go over how we got started, what goes into each show, and finally just explaining how the whole thing comes together. Even if you aren’t interested in running a podcast yourself, we thought you might enjoy this series.

Finally comes the fun part! Actually recording the show. We have the equipment set up, we have a quiet place to do the recording, and we have the time set aside to do it.

A Regular Recording Schedule
One of the most critical parts to a successful podcast is maintaining a consistent and steady schedule. Several podcasts have fallen by the wayside or lost a lot of listeners due to their erratic schedules. It is an interesting point that listeners can be extremely sensitive to inconsistent show production, even when the show is free.

So we make a point of producing our show every two weeks. It doesn’t sound like that often when you are the listener and you are waiting for the next episode to come out, but as the producer of the show, this is a very quick pace. Especially when you consider everything that is involved in the design of each episode (See Behind The Mic 3) of The Independent Characters.

It also may not sound like much of a commitment, but think about it this way: You are giving up one day every two weeks to record the show, rain or shine, regardless of other plans. And this isn’t your job, you are doing this for fun. It is a much bigger commitment than most people realize.

Quiet and Focus
So once we have everything set to go, we need a quiet place and the time required to record the show. Fortunately in our case, we have “The Boiler Room”. This is Carls gaming room, which is actually a converted half of a garage. It doubles well as a recording studio also.

The Boiler Room Studio

We typically need to set aside around 4-5 hours to record a show which will last about 3 hours. You need uninterrupted time as well as quiet. To us, things such as squeaking chairs, barking dogs, cars, trucks, sirens, and children all detract from the focus of the show.

We make mistakes while recording all the time. However, we have learned methods that help us recover from these and keep going. Typically if one of us says something they didn’t mean to, or loses their train of thought, or even wants to double check a fact before continuing, the speaker will stop and take a long pause. During this time neither of us will speak, the person pausing will think about what they want to correct or say, and then begin again. What this does, is causes a long blank space in Audacity (looks like a patient “flatlining”) and allows us to quickly identify these areas of correction for editing in post-production.

This is what a mistake looks like.

This is basically how the show is recorded:

Outline Guide
We have an outline for the show already created at this point, (again see Behind The Mic Part 3) and we typically have it printed out and in front of both of us as the show begins. We use this for taking notes on as the show progresses.

As I mentioned before, the show is broken down into several segments, the first of which is “The Show Intro”. This is the part of the show you first hear, where we introduce ourselves and tell you what the show is going to be about. Interestingly enough this is actually the last part of the show we record. This allows us to account for anything that comes up during the show, that we hadn’t accounted for.

We then record every other segment of the show in order. Obviously the content of each segment can vary based on the theme of the show. We work right from our outline, and do our best to stay on topic. As you have probably heard, that isn’t always successful! However, as we have gotten more practice, we have gotten better at staying closer to the initial topic, or at least announcing our deviation from what we are talking about.

My dog has nothing to do with 40k. This is off topic.

My dog has nothing to do with 40k. This is off topic.

At the end of each segment we typically take a break of about 15-20 minutes. During this period we discuss the segment we just recorded, and where we are going next. We also save each segment as we record it. In post-production, we piece all of the segments together in the correct order. Saving each segment as it is completed ensures that if something disastrous were to occur, we would at least only lose part of the show.

One of the things we have discovered is that we have a tendency to start talking about the topics while “off the air”. We have literally gotten to the point where we tell each other “Ok, let’s stop talking about this and save it for the show.” We want to make sure we save the good stuff for our listeners instead of hogging it all to ourselves! There is nothing worse than when one of us says something that is absolutely hysterically funny, but we don’t capture!

Once we have recorded each segment, and our show closing , we go back and record the intro to the show.

Recording via Skype
One thing that isn’t taken into account here is interviews via Skype. Typically these do not fall on the same date that we record the show. We actually need to meet during the week sometime to arrange for this type of recording. Usually we are working under the time constraints of the guest.

We have found that these interviews sound best when both of us are in the studio and the guest is remote. Well that is unless we can get the guest in the actual studio! On occasion we have travelled somewhere for an interview. We have recorded on location at Da Grand Waaagh and other peoples homes.

On location at Da Grand Waaagh!

Our biggest challenge is yet to come with our trip to Adepticon. Not only will we be recording audio on location, but we will also be broadcasting live video coverage of the events. Though imposing, we really think we are up to the challenge at this point. We will see in April!

We are still struggling with this a bit. We really pride ourselves on producing a show with extremely high sound quality. When we record via Skype, we definately notice the sound quality drop. We are constantly working to improve this.

Additional Pieces of Content
Advertisements, promotions, anything that doesn’t fall into the normal pattern of the show is also recorded during these sessions. This can take a bit of time, but often we record one line at a time, multiple times, and then piece these together in post-production.

That’s pretty much it for the recording. Believe it or not – this is the best!

Next: Getting Noticed

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