I’ve been asked to do a short series on the mechanics of podcasting. Part of me did not wish to take this writing assignment, since a professional podcaster should retain some slight air of mystery about the process, with the occasional comparison to medieval alchemy or tax accounting. In fact, the actual production of a podcast is fairly straightforward. All you need is a sound file, a server, some bandwidth and the ability to diligently copy some basic coding instructions into an XML file. I will be doing a series of short posts on each of these topics. I’ll begin with the sound file after the jump.

I’ll start with the assumption that you have an idea of what your show is going to be about. A quick glance at iTunes is an audio version of life’s rich pageant, with shows on just about every topic you can think of, including enough Harry Potter coverage to rival a presidential campaign. I wouldn’t presume to advise you on your content, but you will need to do some recording.

Podcast Academy is the best website I know of to get a sense of the tools and prices to put together a home studio. I bought most of my hardware from BSW Audio and I use Sound Studio as my editing software (I work on an iBook G4). I’ve only used Sound Studio, so I can’t really give an opinion on other suites, such as Audacity. My set up for the home studio initially ran about $500, with the bulk of that going to the Hybrid box that allows me to record phone calls. Then, BSW had a sale on an Electrovoice microphone and my sound consultant did some cartwheels and told me I had to get it, so there went another $350. Before that, I used a $99 Shure microphone, which did a nice job, though I can hear a difference between the two mics.

The core of my home studio is the Hybrid box, a small 4 pot sound mixer, a microphone, some sound cords, a decent set of headphones and an external sound card that plugs the whole thing into a USB port

If you want to do some remote recording and interviews, pick yourself up a Marantz 550 or 620. They both record to a flash drive, making the files easily downloadable onto your computer.

Try to pick the quietest room in your home to do the recording. You will be very surprised at the ambient noise in most parts of your home if you just plop down wherever and start.

If money is no object and you have no interest in learning how to engineer your own show, you can always see if you can rent studio time. For tricky interviews (i.e. more than one person in multiple locations) I pay for studio time at our local NPR affiliate. They do all of the engineering and give me the digital file at the end.

I could go on a bit about this, but I think the post covers the basics. If you have questions, post them in the comments section and I will answer them.

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