By Bart Weiss
Because of the current COVID-19 situation, shooting video is much more difficult than it has ever been. One way to move forward with creative digital storytelling is moving to the world of podcasting. Here are some tips and pointers.
There are several types of podcasts. For those of you interested in dramatic film, you could create a narrative podcast. You could have your actors record from home. With your imagination and good sound effects, you can bring up the production value of your podcast without spending a lot of money.
For inspiration, listen to “Limetown“, “Homecoming“, “Welcome to Night Vale“, and “The Truth“. Another genre of podcast that could be really fun would be to do one where you review films that you love. I love documentaries and am co-host of the “Fog of Truth” podcast. Of these discussion-style podcasts, the better ones have some good editing. Trimming the boring parts, taking out the “ummms” and lip smacks, is one part. To add production value, you can bring in clips from the film, and of course, you need to make a rocking intro. But please don’t make “the two drunk guys talking about star trek pods”; there are many of them.
One hint if you are doing a discussion-style podcast is that aside from the subject of the podcast, try to have some entertaining banter, people listen to podcasts because they like the people they hear and because they have something to say.
One major difference between podcasting and filmmaking is that your podcast audience is probably cooking dinner, walking the dog, or doing exercise, versus when you make a film, you generally have the audience’s full attention.
So now that you are inspired and perhaps have an idea, here is what you need.
The mics you use for film production could work, but they are not the best for voice. If you have the money the Shure SM7B is what you see in most studios. There are many other choices, but one thing to be aware of is – do you want a USB mic or an XLR mic? Audio-Technica ATR2100x is an inexpensive mic that uses both.
You need the USB if you are connecting the mic directly to the computer. You would use an XLR cable if you are going into a recorder. But many audio recorders will adapt XLR and send it out as a USB. You need to set the recorder to audio interface.
You might also need an arm to hold the mic, a pop filter, and good headphones. (I recommend Sony 7506.)
If you need to record multiple people at once remotely you could use Skype or Zoom, but their quality is not that great. The best way is to use Zencastr (zencastr.com). What this service does is let you record multiple people in different locations on separate tracks, and it can give you a wave file which is much better than an MP3 file. But to use Zencastr, everyone has to connect to a computer, (thus the need for the USB port). Of course, you could have your actors or film geeks record on their own recorder and send you the files.
Once you have recorded, you need to edit. The cheapest ways are to use Audacity (www.audacityteam.org) or Fairlight that comes with DaVinci Resolve (www.blackmagicdesign.com/products). Both are free. If you have Adobe Creative Cloud, you can use Audition. If you have the academic bundle from Apple, you can Logic Pro.
With editing, you need to cut out the non-essential material, add some music, and create a cool intro. You should also finesse the voices with a compressor and then add sound effects and mix all of it together.
Before you get your files up, you should create show notes and perhaps a few graphics for your show.
So now you have your masterpiece, and you want to get it “wherever you get your podcasts”. There are services that will take your files and get them to all those podcast apps, and they charge you for that and for server space, which can add up. But there is a free way to get your work out and not pay for it. Anchor.fm is a site that will host your files and send them out for free. Not only that but you have the option of selling ads and getting a cut of that. It is a very simple drag and drop. You can even record your podcast directly into Anchor.
One last tip, it might be a good idea to create a few episodes before you launch so you can spend some time promoting the pod.
Bart Weiss is an award-winning filmmaker, educator and director/founder of the Dallas VideoFest and produces “Frame of Mind” on KERA TV. He was President of AIVF and was a video columnist for The Dallas Morning News, and United Features Syndicate. Bart received an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University. www.videofest.org