Streamlining Your Podcast Workflow

Hi folks, Jay Walsh from ProPodder.com here. Dan was kind enough to let me take over his blogging duties today so I thought I’d talk about something near and dear to my heart: streamlining your podcast workflow.

Now, let me tell you up front, I’m probably one of the laziest human beings on the planet. If there’s a way to simplify something and not screw with the quality, I’m all for it. And when you’re running a podcast , a blog, have a family life and a full-time job, you learn a few things about managing your time effectively.

A Couple of Caveats

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution by any means. Not every podcast has the same content and format. In fact, if you can use all of these tricks I’m about to give you, I’d be shocked. Your best bet is to cherry-pick the suggestions and see which ones fit into your own particular workflow.

I’m also assuming you don’t have your own Virtual Assistant (VA) to take up the slack or are using some form of studio cart software. If you have no idea what I’ve just said, then read on – this post is for you. If you do use a VA or a studio cart, then read on any ways. There may still be a nugget or two for you.

Build Once – Use Often

I’ll be using some of the ideas from my own podcast, Campground Pirate Radio, which is a 90-minute, music-format podcast.

When I first started it took me half a day to record the show, create the artwork, write the show notes and get everything uploaded and launched. Only then could I start sending links to the show out to my social media sites. Today, I can do everything in about 3 hours. Not bad for a 90-minute show.

What it comes down to is the pre-production. Look at all of the tasks you’re doing for your show. What tasks exist that eat your time, are repetitive and can be easily pre-built for later use? Let’s look at a few.

Setting Up Your DAW Templates

It doesn’t matter which DAW (digital audio workstation) you’re using, you’ve got to set everything up correctly before you utter your first word. It’s particularly important if you’re running a live show or doing an interview.

After your first few shows, you’re going to get a feel for what settings and how many tracks are required for each of your shows. You’ve got intros and outros, bumpers, and maybe some bed music. There may be one or more. Now is the time to create a Master Template of your show.

Your last show can act as the model. In CPR’s case, I have a track for myself, and another for intros, outros, bumpers and sound effects. But, because I’m tracking music mixed at different levels from different decades, I have an additional seven tracks with different volume levels set on each. I used to use automatic volume controls but that takes time to set for each song. With seven unique tracks, I just drop the mp3 on the appropriate level and move on to the next song.

Your case may be as simple as a track for you and a track for everything else or more complex than my setup. In any case, spend the time to set up your tracks, set your volumes and then save that job as your Master Template. When you start a new show, open your Master Template and save it as the new show’s name.

I know a lot of podcasters just copy and rename the last show. I strongly suggest you don’t do that. Any problems from previous shows get amplified. And after a succession of copies and recopies you could even start infecting your shows with code glitches that are so buried you’ll never find them. Trust me, they’ll always crop up at the worst time.

Set and Save Your Dynamics Settings

You’ve got your own Secret Sauce recipe for your sound. Make sure that you’ve saved and properly named your plugin settings, preferably in the Master Template. Also, don’t forget your mixdown settings.

Set Up Any Show Art Templates

I usually create a new piece of art for each show. If you do the same thing, create a basic template in your raster program of choice (I use Adobe Photoshop but there are other excellent programs available).

For CPR, I have a 600×600 pixel template that has my logo and a couple of other pieces of art I occasionally use saved as layers. All I need to do is open the template, add the new background art, turn on the needed layers and quickly position everything. Then, save it for web use. My covers take about five minutes to create.

Use iTunes to its Fullest Extent

Earlier I mentioned something about a studio cart. A studio cart, back in the day, was a large box that held dozens of tape cartridges. Each of these cartridges contained a sound, a bumper, a commercial, a song – basically all of the additional audio required by the disc jockey. Today we have software equivalents of the studio cart. What I’ve found is that a nice, free alternative to the studio cart can be done in iTunes.

In iTunes I create Playlists for each set of items I’ll be using. For CPR, I’ve got a playlist for the general music, featured bands, and soundscaping (my intros, outros and bumpers). I’ve got one for a regular segment on my show that’s created by a buddy of mine and a final playlist that I use to mix down my shows.

It’s a good idea to create a naming convention so all of the playlists land together in the menu. I start each of mine with the letters, CPR. My “studio cart” reads:

CPR-BTA (the Bomb-Throwing Anarchist segment)

CPR-CPR (I use this for the final mix down of my show)

CPR-Featured Music

CPR-Music

CPR-Sweepers (all of my intros, outros, bumpers and house ads)

When I need a sound or a segment I click on the respective folder and drag the mp3 to my DAW and drop it on a preset track.

I hope you find these tips to be as successful for your podcast as I did for mine. By freeing up my time and allowing me to be more creative, I think I’ve got a better show. And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?

You can check out Jay’s blog at ProPodder.com and his podcast at CampgroundPirateRadio.com

 

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