Podcasting has hit the mainstream. In the UK, Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas speech will be available as a podcast.
How easy or difficult is it to create a podcast? Is Apple’s Garageband the right tool for a quality production?
Despite Adam Curry’s coronation as the Father of Podcasting, no one has done more than Apple to promote podcasting as a new form of media.
Apple quickly adapted podcasting to iTunes, the iTunes Store, and Garageband, all of which helped to push tens of thousands of podcasts to at least as many listeners.
That’s a Friday attempt at humor, as many pundits suggest that the number of podcasts available and the number of podcast listeners may be the same.
Regardless, podcasts are popular and growing in number and listenership.
How do we define podcast? Wikipedia. What’s the best way to produce and distribute a podcast? Is Apple’s Garageband and iTunes Store a good place to start?
There’s not full agreement on all the definition details, “though podcasters’ web sites may also offer direct download or streaming of their content, a podcast is distinguished from other digital audio formats by its ability to be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading feed formats such as RSS or Atom.”
There are plenty of books and tutorials on creating podcasts, distributing podcasts, and dreaming up appropriate content for podcasts. There are also plenty of porncasts available (so I’m told, lacking any personal research).
The Friday question of the day is, “what’s the best way to create a podcast?” A decent microphone, a Mac, Garageband, iPhoto go a long way toward a decent, professional production (quality content is a whole different discussion).
Why Garageband? Short of setting up a full-on home audio recording studio with expensive microphones, soundproofing, an audio mixer, and a dedicated Mac for production, Garageband is fully competent.
How can something so free be so good at digital audio recording? Garageband claims heritage from Apple’s purchase of eMagic and Logic Pro years ago.
Garageband, though free with each new Mac, and included in the highly capable iLife ‘06 suite of tools from Apple, is a very capable digital audio recording application, and perfect for podcasting, if not the best tool available.
Apple agrees that creating podcasts via Garageband is “drop dead easy.” So easy, there’s not much of a need to dip your toes into a manual to figure out how.
The steps to a ready-to-listen-to podcast production are straightforward. Record, Upload, Download, Listen. My focus today is the Record function with Garageband.
It’s almost too simple. Open Garageband, select Track, select New Basic Track. That creates a basic audio track in Garageband so you can begin to record your podcast’s content.
Assuming you have a decent microphone plugged in, the rest is about content. Even without a good microphone, an iSight camera creates decent audio, and Garageband has filters to reduce the background noise.
Many podcasts today come with video, too, and Garageband is ready with a podcast track. Drag and drop photos from your iPhoto collection directly to the Garageband video track.
Match the photos with specific recorded audio sections by stretching, reducing, dragging the photos. Use Garageband’s loops to add audio effects such as sound bumpers, intro sound, close sound.
Just as the quality of a photo is often dependent upon the quality of a camera lens, so it is with a podcast—audio quality is determined by the microphone, not by any deficiency in Garageband.
Garageband’s built-in filters can reduce background noise, enhance weak vocals, and pump up a signal from a less-than-professional microphone.
Once you’ve recorded something of substance, the podcast can be saved as a file or your Mac, or exported to iTunes. Getting your podcast into the iPods, Macs, and PCs of listeners is a different issue, which I’ll explore on a subsequent Friday look at Apple’s iLife tools.
As for Garageband, don’t let the fact that it’s free with a Mac or simply a part of the iLife suite make you think that it’s not a high quality audio production tool. It is. It may not have all the bells and whistles of Apple’s Logic Express, or Logic Pro, but Garageband is highly capable as a multi-track digital audio recorder.
In future Friday’s I’ll explore additional recording techniques using other Apple tools. Do you use Garageband? What have you recorded? What kind of microphone are you using? Share your experience with other Mac360 readers in the Comments section below.