Production week for episode 1 of MOREnetworking: Podcast settled in with two, great big tasks staring us in the face. First, we needed to research the topic as thoroughly as possible in the time available, so that we could put together the content for the episode. This was somewhat atypical for what had been envisioned for the podcast, as I had originally thought of it as a medium for capturing some of the technical knowledge that already existed here in MOREnet.
Second, we needed to figure out the details of producing a podcast. We had roughly outlined ideas for content in the pre-production meeting, but it was my job, now, to formalize the plan. It made sense to start with a schedule.
I determined what segments I thought needed to be in the episode based on the pre-production meeting and elements dictated by the project proposal, and created a list, organizing them in the order I thought they should go in.
I then budgeted the time available for each segment. As part of the project proposal, I had determined that about 30 minutes was as long as we wanted our episodes. Any longer, and not only would it be difficult to produce weekly, but it would also likely tax the patience of most listeners, even if they were interested in the topic. The project proposal also stated that each program would be about 20 minutes content, and about 10 minutes colophon, or information about how we produced the episode. Knowing this, I then divided up the available minutes for each segment.
Responsibility for producing the content for each segment was then divided up with the other members of the team. However, that created a problem of its own. How should we generate the content we needed?
There are a variety of formats available designed to help a production team keep track of how long a script is running. As a rule of thumb, each of these formats allow about a minute’s worth of dialog per page. With a little research, I found a sample of a Microsoft Word document that used the standard format in the United States for radio plays. It was basically what I was looking for, but I thought that it was too complex for our relatively simple needs, so I created a modified version of the template for our use.
Once the content was all ready to go, I then scheduled a time and location to do the actual recording. My choices were pretty limited; like most offices, MOREnet doesn’t happen to have a recording studio handy. I did need a room that had reasonably good acoustics, was shielded from as much outside noise as possible and was big enough to hold the entire team. I selected MOREnet’s main conference room, which, as it had been set up to conduct video conferences on occasion, was a reasonably good choice.
The available team members gathered, and we discussed how to go about recording the audio. We chose not to rehearse, as one of the goals of the project is to minimize the amount of time participants had to contribute to it, and also because we could capture everything on our digital recorder; the good parts of even our flubbed takes could potentially be used.
The team members divided up the “on air” roles for each segment, and we recorded them. We didn’t do more than two takes for any segment, and most of them were perfectly fine the first time around. After about a hour, we had marched through all the content.
We did learn a number of lessons in the process of recording the segments. An important lesson was that long website addresses are difficult to read in an audio format, especially if they have unusual punctuation, such as hyphens and underscores, or words that are perfectly fine when viewed as text but are unpronounceable, or ambiguously pronounceable, in audio. However, we found that spelling out difficult sections was helpful, and later decided that this was the sort of information that should be included in the podcast’s companion website if listeners needed to reference the information.
So, all the raw material was now in place. All that remained was to put it together.
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