Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Problems of Podcasting

I don't suppose it comes as much of a surprise but podcasting doesn't come naturally to me. I suppose it's something I've wanted to do for a long time but something held me back. My personality is of the introverted type and I don''t have that nautral belief in my powers as a communicator to ever think I'd be any good at that kind of thing. Yet I wanted to try it because sometimes you just wonder to yourself if it's at all possible and how might results sound. It's also good to face your fears and deficiencies head on. I think (or perhaps merely hope) that it makes you a better person.

What I've discovered is that writing a podcast is only a very small fraction of the battle and that the harder part of the work is the recording, which brings with it all manner of unexpected problem. It's often small things which you wouldn't believe could cause you such headaches. I bought myself a really high quality microphone a few months ago for work I was doing and which was suffering because of the really low quality sound I was getting from a cheap £10 mike I'd bought from Maplin. Now my problems are reversed. The microphone picks up every noise in the room. Should my stomach growl, it will be there hidden in the mix. If I move in my chair it picks up the squeaks of the arms. If a dog barks outside, it's there on the recording alongside every machine tool, lorry reversing, and even the sound of the wind in the distant recotory wood. And unlike, for example, working with photographs, there's no chance to get in there and erase the sound unless you're lucky and the problem occurs at a moment of relative silence between words. It's easy to go in there and snip out your intakes of breath. It's impossible to erase the distant sound of your Android tablet updating with its characteristing whistle. All of those ruined recordings today.

Even more horrifying are the noises I find myself making. It's slightly disturbing to realise that when speaking your mouth makes all kinds of strange squelches that nobody would pick up in real life but are there on an extremely high fidelity recording. Listening back to myself, I sound like some 90 year old with a set of loose fitting dentures. It's really offputting. My breathing sounds heavy, my voice twisted in all strange manner of convolutions. Then there are the language prolems. I always thought that I wasn't too bad at public speaking but then you hear yourself constantly mispronouncing words, missing syllables out, or simply stumbling over a series of phonemes like a drunk man stumbling over a garden fence. The whole recording process begins to amount difficulties that have to be overcome before you can even begin to edit the results into a podcast.

I'm beginning to have new respect for anybody who does this regularly whilst working on their own and who produces anything half listenable.

When I started out recording these about a week ago, I genuinely thought I'd manage two before giving up. I've now recorded four, despite the lingering problems cause by a really bad throat infection. I'd like to do more but as I sit here typing this, I don't know. The amount of effort required for just one podcast is so great that I don't know if I should carry on. Even if I can write the 1500 words or so in an hour or two, then another hour to record it a few times, iron out the problems, and then another hour to fit it all together and upload it, that (at the very minimum) is a four hour job. Today's was such a rush. Was it worth it? I'm pretty certain that it wasn't. But it's only by trying these things that you discover what is and isn't possible.

Yet as I type all those doubts up. I also feel a contradictoy sense of the effort being worth it. I don't mean that quality is there or that simply by doing this I somehow make a difference. I realise that these are instantly forgotten bubbles in a universe of froth. There are simply too many voice. What I think I mean is: what is the alternative? You have to put your effort into those things where you'd want others to put effort. The alternative would be to admit defeat and let the world become a homogenous whole, with no voices of dissent or difference. I'd rather go down saying things I believe in than go down saying nothing at all.


  1. I would suggest you have two options here: either go back to using the original mike and upload muffled and indistinct podcasts, or do a 'take one' and publish and be damned. Personally, I think that the odd background interjection of your stomach rumbling, the dog farting or the postman tripping outside and shouting "Fuck!" would add a frisson of interest, an air of unpredictability, an immediacy; a certain je ne sais quoi that would lift it above the other boringly perfect podcasts out there. 'Reality' pocasts, as it were.

    I came across this blog ages ago, liked it, bookmarked it and promptly forgot it. I read quite a lot of blogs, and being a somewhat opinionated cove I quite like to leave a comment when pertinent, but there is only so much time one can spend reading blogs and leaving ones pearls of wisdom if one wants to actually make a living and live a life beyond the internet. However, having rediscovered this place, I'll be back, as Arnie once famously said.

    Good luck with the podcasts!

  2. Well I'm glad you remembered me eventually and came back. I pretty much agree with the 'take one' approach and be damned. Like you, I like a degree of amateurism in an operation since true professionalism tends to be exceedingly boring (Sky News, for example, which is very polished but pretty dull because of it). I guess you can think too much about these things and I'm never going to match professional setups. That said, I don't want to sound too much of a prat (and I'm very aware of my sounding prattish) and if I can fix my problems with better mike positioning (there's a science to it, apparently) I'll feel at least half-way happy about carrying on.