Podcasting – How we make Brainwaves

At a recent evening out I was discussing creating podcasts and videos with some friends. I mentioned that in order to produce a single podcast of the length we put out, about 30-40 mins, it took a lot more work than most people realised, about 4-5 hours at a guess. There was some surprise expressed at this and it got me thinking that we don’t really see behind the curtain a lot when it comes to the creation of the media we consume.

We are still a relatively young cast but I thought it might be of interest to others looking to get into the field to see how we put Brainwaves together.

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What is Brainwaves?

Let’s not bury the lead. If you aren’t familiar with it Brainwaves is a fortnightly podcast focused on tabletop industry news. We tend to shy away from talking about new releases as so many other media figures cover that ground already.

The cast is about 30-35 minutes long, though we occasionally run a wee bit longer. We also put out an extended version of the cast, called our second edition, for our patrons. This generally runs somewhere round the 40 – 50 minute mark.

Now we are all on the same page, let me show you backstage.

Draft

It starts with a document like this one . When it was 3 regular hosts we used Asana to organise all our documents and music files but now I just use Drive directly as I am doing the lion’s share of any editing work.

The day after we finish the recording of one cast the new doc is shared between Jamie, I and our guest. We will fill this out over the course of the next couple of weeks with bits of news, bullet points about that news covering the relevant points and musings on what we should chat about in Brainwaves or do for a skit. I’d estimate that this takes 1-2 hours in total including going and reading news articles, verifying sources etc. We end up with something like this.

Recording Day

We usually record sometime over Sunday – Tuesday of the week preceding the cast going out, giving me plenty of time for the edit. Using Skype or Hangouts to chat, we meet up in the evening and have a good 10-20 minute chat before recording. Partly this is to ease our guest into the cast but mostly it is to discuss the running order for the show: assigning pieces to cover between the 3 hosts, talking over the discussion points etc.

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This also helps refresh everyone on the news document and allows us to mostly prevent the same person covering more than one topic in a row (no wants to hear me talking for ages). As we prepare to record we might drop items, add in last minute bits of news and go over what we might talk about after each piece. We’ve found this method to be a good compromise between being fully scripted, which we tried and didn’t like, and completely improvisational.

Recording itself doesn’t take too long, an hour at absolute max. We ask our guests to record their own audio and then send it to us after the cast, syncing it all up with a clap at the start of the show (that I have once forgotten to take out!). We try and keep things relatively tight, which does occasionally mean I have to crack the whip. This does sometimes mean we cover something whilst recording that doesn’t make it into the Broadcast edit. Anything that doesn’t make it, remains in the second edition version of the cast.

Once, Twice, Three times an Edit

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Audacity is free and straightforward to learn

Now I’ve got everyone’s audio the work begins on editing the cast. I use Audacity to both record my audio and edit the cast. My first edit is to get rid of mouth noises, breathing, pops and clicks, do what I can to reduce any background noise and to cut out any nonsense that is too much for even for the second edition version of the cast. This takes about 2-3 hours in total listening to the whole cast, stopping and starting to make sure what I’ve just done sounds good and generally taking it slow to make sure I don’t put anything out of synchronisation.

Once I’ve done that a second edit is done where I drop in the effects template for Brainwaves: intro music, Brainstorm sting, outro etc. I then move these parts around, extend or contract them as appropriate and generally make the cast sound like our listeners expect. This doesn’t take that long, maybe 20-30 mins to make sure everything lines up ok. That’s it, second edition is ready to go. A quick tidying up of the show notes into an actual document that can be read by our listeners and the show is uploaded to our patreon page.

It’s now time for one more edit to get the cast down to the broadcast length. This takes another 20 – 30 mins. I like to take my time as I am still not super confident with my edits and don’t want to push anything out of sync. I am aiming for 30 mins but in reality we hit somewhere between 30 – 40 minutes (though I’ve been getting it down to 35 with reasonable success recently). 35 minutes really is our new target as it gives our guests a little bit of time at the top of the cast to chat to us and tell them about ourselves.

Some adjustments of the show notes on the patreon page to show what is in the extended cast over the regular, an upload to podbean and voila. Podcast done.

It all adds up

What does that leave us with? 2 hours of prep time 1.5 hours of recording time at max and about 3-4 hours of editing giving us about 6.5 – 7.5 hours. Out of that we get what we think is a well put together 40-50 minute second edition cast and a shorter main cast. I get faster at it every time so I am shaving time off that with every edit. We could do less in terms of editing, prep and production but I personally wouldn’t be as happy with what we put out. You can put together a cast with less effort that is for sure, and I don’t think that people who do take less time are putting out an inferior product, just a different one.

I’ve written this not to boast about how much work we do, or to garner sympathy. Merely to start a conversation about how we make media that entertains and maybe to educate you if you aren’t aware how much work can go into something as seemingly straightforward as a podcast. We do it out of love for our hobby and a desire to create.

If you get some entertainment from a podcast, video, article or whatever it is let the creator know you appreciate their work: leave a review, share it about, send them a message. A little feedback can go a long way.

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If you enjoyed this article then please consider donating to our Patreon. Every little helps and we greatly appreciate it.

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