To start off the new year I finally uploaded my first podcast Lounge Talk With Laz, a project that’s been in the works for a few months. While it departs from the formality that normally accompanies a majority off my posts, I really enjoyed producing the first episode and its been well-received by those if you who took the time to listen. Along with the feedback, I’ve also had questions regarding how I went about producing it, so I figured that I would take a bit of time to walk you through the process from start to finish.
1. Planning and Branding
Over the years I’ve listened to thousands of hours’ worth of podcasts and it wasn’t until my senior year of college that I had the opportunity to take an audio and video production course as an elective for my major. While I learned the basics of what makes a good podcast in content and editing, a lot of my ideas stemmed from the podcasts that I often watch on Youtube. Before podcasting, one of my ambitions was to live stream on Twitch, but I quickly decided that it wasn’t a venture that I wanted to pursue after learning of the swatting incidents that have plagued the community and caused deaths from accidental police shootings. At this point I had a dynamic microphone and a gaming computer that doubles as a workhorse for design work; after making mock podcasts for that audio and video production course, I decided to use my equipment to produce something that adhered to my personal branding for social media and digital marketing.
I touched on this in the podcast this week, but initially my career was tracking toward journalism and my branding reflected that in the form of a typewriter on banners for my social media accounts. This obviously doesn’t convey a sense of digital tech-savviness, so it was time for a change. The podcast is supposed to be informal and friendly kind of conversation with my audience, so I set up my branding to include various aspects of my personal life: a laptop with my hands outstretched, typing on a keyboard to embody the digital writing aspects from my journalistic past and my present status as a blogger; a cigar with an ashtray off to the side of the laptop (I usually enjoy a cigar at the end of the week while I produce content or interact on social media); and what was supposed to be a wine glass to the right side of the laptop, as I’m well known in my friend group for enjoying wine.
There were a few tweaks that happened, notably the wine glass being replaced with a cup of coffee on a saucer plate. The top-down perspective of the branding coupled with the illustration-style made the wine glass look weird and sort of unrecognizable as a symbol, so the coffee served as a replacement as most writers are known coffee and caffeine addicts. The idea for my name also text-wrapped stemmed from one of my friends and she helped with the typeface and liquifying the text to conform to the shape of the arms in the branding. Then it was simply a matter of choosing a nice-looking color scheme and moving onto phase two for the actual production of the podcast audio.
2. Recording Session
Out of everything that I did, sitting down and recording the audio was a breeze in Adobe Audition. The microphone is plug-and-play and all that was left was to create a basic outline of what I wanted to talk about. Considering this was the first episode I felt like a good introduction was the best way to introduce the new content to my listeners. For the most part my professional timeline has been atypical and I wanted to highlight my transition from writer to digital marketer, considering most people wouldn’t see the crossover of skills between these two professions.
A unique challenge that I faced was sitting down and talking into the microphone for nearly half an hour without sounding like a bumbling idiot. I would often pause the audio, think about what I wanted to say next and then record another minute or so of audio before a flow developed without awkward pauses or transitions between thoughts. This kind of style for recording stemmed from the vlog-style videos that I produced in 2017, but in the future I want to become a better speaker that doesn’t need to pause and play the recording session every so often.
3. Audio Production
After recording about an hour of audio, the fun part now stood before me: editing out all the stutters and long pauses throughout the clip. While I removed more than half of the overall clip, sitting and editing took nearly two hours to complete. I didn’t do anything special in post-production in terms of enhancing the audio other than adding noise gates to remove background noise, breathing into the microphone and stabilizing audio so that it doesn’t blow out someone’s speakers by being too loud. The biggest challenge for the audio production was finding a sound clip to serve as the introduction and conclusion for the podcast that was copyright-free. For design work I’m terrible at three things: color-schemes, typefaces and appropriate music or sound effects.
I spent about two hours surfing the internet for music ideas before stumbling on this 8-bit video game dubstep remix by ColBreakz, who only requests attribution in the description of the video. It might not be the most appropriate music, but it fits my personality well, has that tech-sound to it to reflect the branding and it’s an upbeat and fun track to listen to. After I found what I wanted, I picked about 20 seconds for the intro/outro and slowly faded it so it transitioned into the actual audio instead of abruptly ending.
4. Video Production
This was the trickiest part of the entire process, as I’ve never produced a video before that wasn’t filmed on a camera. I had a cool idea in that I wanted to implement with a sound bar integrated with the audio on screen, but had no clue regarding how to do it. Google really helped show me how to add this through Adobe After Effects, where I had to link the sound bar with the audio for the music. I could control how the sound bar looked, how many lines it spanned, where I wanted to place it in the video, how far the lines would rise in relation to the audio and whatever other cosmetic choices I wanted to include.
Here is where I ran into some serious issues, most of them caused by me. For the duration of the effect I needed to leave the value as N/A; I thought it needed to match the length of the clip, which was 26 minutes long. Changing this value screwed something up horribly in After Effects (it probably made the file massive) and when I exported it to .mp4 format through Adobe Media Encoder it only exported a 30 second clip that didn’t have the effect animated.
Going back to After Effects I went to preview the video to see why the sound bar wasn’t animating, only to receive caching and freezing issues as I attempted to play the preview. I’ll save you the details, but I spent four hours trouble shooting and improperly encoding videos (one of them was 325 gigabytes in API format that saved in my SSD storage, yikes) before I realized my mistake and encoded everything without a hitch.
In terms of the video background itself I converted my branding photo into 1920×1080 for optimal viewing and included the name of the podcast with the episode number for the thumbnail, which went without a hitch (although I initially messed up downsizing the file in photoshop, as the canvas was larger than photo and when I went to export it the photo had a white bar at the bottom that I didn’t initially catch).
5. Where and How To Upload
This part required a lot of thought, but it was much simpler than I anticipated it to be. Instead of just the audio clip, I wanted my podcast to be an actual video. One major mistake that some websites make is uploading large videos or photos onto their website storage, which is a great way to use up the allocated data offered through their web provider and completely bog down the loading times of their site, which will negatively impact their SEO ranking on Google. Youtube is a great way of uploading content while minimizing the data that’s stored on your site, so I decided to just embed the video at the top of a post on the site.
A question that I had pop up is why I didn’t share the podcast through a Youtube link on social media so viewers only have to click the play button instead of transferring to the site to view it there. My ultimate goal is to drive traffic to my website from social media, so enticing viewers to skip my website and jump onto the Youtube platform goes against my conversion funnel in that regard.
After embedding the video onto a post, I needed to install a plug-in to hide the featured photo in my post while still displaying it as a thumbnail on the rest of the site for viewers to click on, which turned out to be a simple two-minute Google search to find one.
Similar to NPR and WEMU, I wanted to include a brief description of what the episode would touch on topic-wise, so I wrote a brief 300-word description to display below my video and in the description section on the Youtube platform (along with some shameless social media plugs). Not only does this serve as a way for listeners to decide if they are interested before investing a chunk of time listening to the podcast, only to decide that it isn’t for them topic-wise that week, but it also helps with search engine optimization.
While it seems like a complicated and tedious process to produce, making podcasts is a breeze once you develop a process. I’m really happy with how this first episode turned out and with a few more tweaks it’ll be an even better viewing/listening experience for everyone. In the first episode I mentioned posting on Saturdays, but I want to upload on Wednesdays after producing the audio content during the weekend. The podcast will also serve as a bridge-piece for the other blog posts that I’ll be publishing on Mondays and Fridays, so Wednesday’s are the best way to do that at this moment in time.
If you haven’t already listened to the podcast check it out and let me know what you think or when you would prefer for it to be uploaded on a weekly basis! I hope you enjoyed this blog post and stay tuned for more content on the latest and greatest in digital marketing and social media!