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My Podcast Workflow Sucks

John Federico

Yes, even with the new toys I've gotten recently, I'm becoming frustrated by my podcast workflow. Sometimes it's due to the limitations of my software, other times it's my inability to let go of some of the details.

Here's the laborious process I go through each week when producing On Digital Media:

First, I bookmark items of interest in a del.icio.us account. Our panel of digital media geeks reviews them (hopefully before we record) and makes suggestions.

When everyone arrives at Studio 1A ("A" stands for "Attic", which is the location of my home office) ;) we usually have a glass of wine and some takeout, then review the list of stories. Someone takes notes while I set everyone's levels and connect the backup recorder. (My Zoom H4 Handy Recorder)

Recording primarily takes place in Garageband. Last December I discovered that Garageband will do simultaneous multi-track recording of up to 8 tracks. I use it with my Alesis MultiMix 8 Firewire Mixer and it works great.

Once we've got levels set and have decided upon the list of topics to cover, I record the intro. When I'm happy with it we'll start recording the episode.

Everything's fine up until this point. It's post production that gets to be cumbersome.

First, I'll drop music into the intro and outro, along with the standard disclaimer at the end. Then, I'll try to remove the "ums" and "ahs" from where the music beds are.

Next, I'll export the audio to iTunes. Because there are usually 4-5 active tracks, each with vocal processing, the mixdown and export can take up to 20 minutes, depending on the length of the audio.

TIP: if you "Export to Disk" in the highest possible quality, it can only be saved as an M4a file. However, if you "Send to iTunes" it arrives in the iTunes library as an uncompressed AIFF file.

Now, this is where my work ethic gets in my way. I'll import the file into Audacity and proceed to clean it up. That means removing everyone's "ums", "ahs", "youknows", and occasional inappropriate language or comments. (Hey, it happens.)

This takes forever as I need to review the entire 45-60 minute show in real-time and make edits. While I'm doing this, I'm also writing the show notes. This is usually the best time to do it since I'm able to get the timeline of the topics correct.

When I'm satisfied with all the edits, I'll export the project as a WAV file. This takes about 10 minutes on my MacBook.

Still more to do.

I'll launch the miraculous Levalator from GigaVox Media. I can't say enough about this application. If you produce a podcast, go get it. Now. It usually takes The Levelator about 10 minutes to process a 60 minute show on my MacBook.

When that process is complete, I'll encode the WAV file to MP3 using the LAME encoder in Max. (The iTunes MP3 encoder just isn't as robust.)

When that's completed, I have to wait for the (roughly) 58 MB file to upload at a painful 46 Kbps. (I cannot wait for my Verizon FiOS service!)

While that's happening, I usually embed the appropriate links into the show notes.

Finally, after the file is uploaded and PodPress has automagically identified the file size and duration, I'll post the show in WordPress, manually ping FeedBurner then manually kick off a download in iTunes to make sure everything's working. Then I'll go to bed.

All in, post production can take up to 4 hours, including the time it takes to upload and encode.

How can I improve this? Probably in a few ways:

1) Become a better speaker on-mic. If I were more mindful of my vocal patterns, I could probably reduce my "ums" and "ahs". Of course, I would also have to convince my co-hosts to do the same and that's probably not going to happen. (After all, this is a casual endeavor.) Doing this however, would allow me to go from AIFF to Levelator to MP3 without having to edit the file.

2) In the absence of #1, I could just deal with the imperfections. I really doubt that I'll lower my standards in this area, so...

I guess I'm stuck with my sucky workflow, unless someone has a better idea.