Improving and marketing your podcast show

How to get the best possible sound from your podcast

by | Podcast

Liam is Podmotion’s Audio Production Editor, and is also creative partner with a number of audio and video creators in and around Toronto.

In this interview with Kevin McCall, Podmotion Partner and Tech Lead, Liam shares actionable tips for podcasters, as well as some insight into what the post-production process can do to improve audio quality.

Podcasting can be daunting

Liam acknowledges that getting into podcasting be daunting at first.

“You are basically putting out content that theoretically is about has to compete with Oprah and Conan O’Brien and Gary Vee, stuff like that.

“So it’s definitely daunting but the great thing is that with the technology, even if you’re recording it on a USB microphone or iPhone . . . you can actually put something up and get an audience on the same platform as someone like Oprah or Conan O’Brien.”

Avoid background noise

The main things new podcasters must avoid is background noise. Liam advises newbie podcasters not to record next to their laundry machine while it’s running.

“Try and get a nice quiet spot of your room or your apartment or your house. For me, usually what I do is I actually just literally put a sweater over top of my microphone so that only my voice is going towards it,” explains Liam.

A microphone, even though it’s facing your face, will pick up what’s happening behind it – the noise reflections off of the wall, ceiling, or the floor. Every hard piece of furniture, even mirrors and glass frames, will reflect noise back. So try to record in a room with soft furnishings and, if possible, cover mirrors with a throw.

Keep your eye on the levels

Podcasters should also watch the levels when they are recording and make necessary adjustments.

“Just be aware of where you are, how loud you’re speaking, aware that you’re speaking into a technology that has tools for you to monitor, so you can monitor those tools yourself if you need to, with the audio with the level with the volume. And treat your recording space as a professional studio.”

A professional’s touch

If mistakes occur, or someone bursts in when you’re recording, there is a lot that can be done to fix and enhance audio files.

“The amount that it can be fixed is kind of impressive,” explains LIam. “I use tools like equalization, compression, and dynamic limiting.

“I even often use reverb to kind of make it sound like they’re in a small studio. So it’s like a very subtle reverb that kind of makes them sound like they’re in a vocal recording booth, even if they’re just in their room or if they’re in their kitchen or something. It’s kind of impressive,” he adds.

Liam says that one of his favourite tools is a plugin that enhances bass that gives podcasters a kind of an NPR radio voice – similar to being really close to a mic.

And one of Liam’s final tips is to use a professional podcast editor, no matter how small your show. A professional editor can make a world of difference, and also ensure that your recordings sound great on all platforms – including computer speakers, car audio systems, laptops, and smartphones.

Contact Podmotion.co for assistance with any aspect of podcasting. We’re here to help!

Episode Transcript

Kevin McCall:

Hi, and welcome to the Podmotion Podcast. My name is Kevin McCall, and I’m a founding partner and the technical lead at Podmotion. Podmotion is a podcast production and promotion company that helps solve two of the biggest challenges in podcasting, getting a podcast started and growing your podcast once you have started it. Joining me today is Liam Morrison, an audio and video production editor with Podmotion. Hi, Liam.

Liam Morrison:

Hey, how’s it going?

Kevin McCall:

Good. How are you?

Liam Morrison:

I’m not too bad, not too bad. Just enjoying the afternoon. I guess, the early afternoon.

Kevin McCall:

So Liam, to get started, why don’t you give us a bit of your background, and how you got into audio and video production.

Liam Morrison:

Yeah, so I am an audio and video specialist.
I do audio engineering, mixing, mastering, editing, recording, whatever you want to call it; and then I do video editing as well, video production; I do some work on site with recording, with cameras and stuff like that, but most of the work I do is post production work, so editing, color correction, audio correction, green screen, after effects, special effects, stuff like that. I basically got into it, kind of, by accident. I originally was a musician when I was in high school, and so, I was really involved in the music scene and played in a band and toured around kind of the local area. And then, from there, I kind of decided to go to audio production school for – I went to Seneca, York University, for music production, and that’s kind of where I started to expand my horizons a little bit. I realized that the more people that I was working with at my level weren’t just looking for, or couldn’t afford even just an audio engineer, they were looking for kind of a creative partner. So from that I kind of started working in video a little bit more, started working in marketing a little bit more, kind of becoming an all-around audiovisual kind of creative specialist. So just like over the past 15 years, it’s kind of grown more and more over the expansion of my clientele that’s kind of grown from just bands and musicians to audio book producers and publishers to podcasters to even internet influencers doing YouTube channels and stuff like that. And yeah, it’s a blast, it’s like my favorite thing to do, and I’m very happy that I get paid to do it sometimes. So yeah, it’s very nice. That’s my journey in a nutshell.

Kevin McCall:

And in the last couple of years, obviously, podcasting has become a lot more popular. How have you seen that growth yourself, what’s really interested you, or, how would you describe that in the last few experiences in the last few years?

Liam Morrison:

Yeah, it has. It’s definitely grown a lot, and it’s kind of been cool, because I’ve also grown into a fan of podcasts at the same time. I wasn’t really into podcasts five years ago. I started listening to podcasts, and then maybe a year after I started listening to podcasts is when I started getting hired to work on podcasts. And yeah, it’s really great – it’s really cool to see, like, as an audio engineer, I get to kind of listen to podcasts that I probably would normally never listen to, you learn little things here and there about stuff that actually does apply to my life, and it’s kind of like a free listen to a podcast. But the podcast world is so interesting, it’s such a great world to be a part of because there’s so many smart people in their niches that can now kind of connect to their audiences and connect to human beings and have a discussion and create a community around these, like, these niches that would normally, before with television or radio, they would never have a voice, it would be like an internet blog or a forum or something like that, and now you can create a community around these niches that are so exciting to be a part of.

Kevin McCall:

That’s really interesting that you mentioned blogging, because as a technology person, I can recognize that podcasting is growing, and there are a lot of technology tools and solutions available to help podcasting, in much the same way that blogging grew in the last 15 years, it grew much faster, largely on the backs of tools like WordPress and things that made it very easy for people to set up their own blogs and to do that. And it’s very easy for us to, as we’re doing right now, get on a web session and record audio and basically use that for a podcast. So I do see that as well, there’s some technology that’s helping a lot of this, and it’s really interesting too. I find it really interesting as well to see that growth.

Liam Morrison:

Yeah, it’s really cool, and that’s another thing is the technology around it has grown a lot – like, when I first got into audio engineering and recording, USB microphones were not very good, they were not high quality, but because of the growth of not only podcasting, but home recording of music and stuff like that, even video game streaming, whatever it might be, the technology for recording high quality content at home has grown so much, whether it be video technology, recording technology, audio technology, even the computers that we’re using to record this, like, it’s incredible.

Kevin McCall:

And at Podmotion, as I mentioned in the intro, we’re really focusing on solving two big problems in the podcasting space. The first one is that it, first off, for a lot of people, it’s really difficult to know how to go about starting a podcast. There’s so many tools available, there’s multiple platforms for distribution of podcast content, and that’s not even considering the audio editing space. So let’s talk about the audio editing, the sort of the audio engineering space and what solving that problem means to you.

Liam Morrison:

Yeah, when you are releasing a podcast, it kind of can be daunting at first, for sure, because you are basically putting out content that theoretically depending on what the podcast is about has to compete with Oprah and Conan O’Brien and GaryVee, and stuff like that. So it’s definitely daunting but the great thing is that with the technology, even if you’re recording it on a USB microphone, or, I know people who kind of hold up their iPhone headphones closer to their mouth to record their podcast, with the audio editing aspect, if you can understand what you’re doing, that’s the great thing about podcasting and putting out a podcast and is that you can actually put something up and get an audience on the same platform as someone like Oprah or Conan O’Brien.

Kevin McCall:

So it’s very easy to get started to record your audio but what do you notice, you know, particularly for people who are starting out, what are some things they can do that help with that initial capture of the audio?

Liam Morrison:

Yeah, the biggest things would be don’t record next to your laundry machine while it’s running, don’t record inside the refrigerator. Try and get a nice quiet spot of your room or your apartment or your house. What I do, I’m not doing it today, but usually what I do is I actually just literally put a sweater over top of my microphone so that only my voice is going towards it, just like – because basically, what happens with the microphone is, even though it’s facing your face, it’s still going to pick up what’s happening behind it, the reflections off of the wall, the reflections off of the ceiling, the reflections off of the floor. So the room I’m in right now has hardwood flooring and not a ton of stuff on the walls, and even the stuff that is on the walls is mirrors and glass frames, so it’s going to be really reflective and echoey, stuff like that is like stuff that you can keep in mind, have a room with more carpeting, it would be a better room to do it rather than a room with hardwood floors. Basically, watch the levels when you’re recording, the most ways that you would record it would have kind of the audio leveler, which is the – most people would know it, it goes from green to yellow to red, as you’re recording, it shows the volume that you’re recording, make sure it’s not going red because then it’s going to start to distort and have really nasty sounds and not sound very nice to your listeners. Just kind of, yeah, just be aware of where you are, how loud you’re speaking, aware that you’re speaking into a technology that has tools for you to monitor so you can monitor those tools yourself if you need to with the audio, with the level, with the volume. Yeah, just kind of, if there’s people coming in and out of the, like, if the door were to open, maybe pause for a second, start over so that that noise isn’t in the background of your recording, just simple things like that. Nothing like crazy that you need to buy or anything like that, just so you know, be aware of your surroundings. Be aware that this is a professional atmosphere that, like I said, you are in competition with people with professional production studios, so you don’t want to make it sound like there’s people walking in and out behind you, you don’t want to be in a cafe or have your laundry machine going in the background, stuff like that.

Kevin McCall:

So it sounds like it’s very possible to get into podcasting, just start a podcast, at least from the audio recording perspective, and do the audio recording yourself and probably the basic editing. But how much can you improve that original audio when you’re doing the audio production – so if someone were to come and use Podmotion to start up the podcast, how much better can that sound through the audio production process?

Liam Morrison:

It’s quite impressive actually, going back to the technology conversation, like, as long as the washing machine isn’t running, there’s no background noise, and you’re kind of speaking clearly with a normal volume, the amount that it can be fixed is kind of impressive. I use tools like equalization, compression, dynamic limiting, I even often use reverb to kind of make it sound like they’re in a small studio. So it’s like a very subtle reverb that kind of makes them sound like they’re in a vocal recording booth, even if they’re just in their room, or if they’re in their kitchen or something. It’s kind of impressive. And one of my favorite tool, this is a little tip, is a little – it’s actually a plugin that I use, but it’s basically a bass enhancer. So what I always love is kind of giving podcasters that radio voice, that NPR radio voice of like being really close to the mic, and it just kind of adding a bass boost to the lower frequencies of their voice is a really easy way to do that. So that’s a little extra tip that I can throw in there, that’s something I do often as well.

Kevin McCall:

Great, great. That’s a really interesting insight, I wasn’t aware of that myself. And then the other problem that we’re looking to help people solve is maintaining and growing their podcast. So we’ve done some research, a lot of podcast shows don’t make it past their 10th episode; and we have to believe a lot of that is probably due to the amount of effort it takes. So it can be fairly easy to sit down and record a conversation, but it takes effort to produce the show, to market the show, to do the research for each episode; and this is where Podmotion can help as well, where we can become the podcast production team for anybody who is trying to maintain their podcast or grow their podcast through marketing. And what are some of the benefits of say working with Podmotion and having an audio engineer, such as yourself, joining a team of somebody who’s already producing a podcast?

Liam Morrison:

Yeah, I think Podmotion is an incredible idea, incredible platform that anybody who wants to start up podcast should definitely at least look into taking advantage of Podmotion as a service, because it’s exactly like you said, a lot of people, kind of, when they imagine starting a podcast, they imagine sitting down with a friend or with a colleague, or even just starting a web conversation like we’re doing right now, and then, putting it on the internet, like, those are the two steps of starting a podcast; and then they realize afterwards, that you can sometimes do that, but then you check the stats and there’s zero listeners, you check the audio and you’re playing it in your car and it kind of muffles a little bit here and there, it kind of crackles; there’s times where the person speaking cuts out or something like that; it might even sound harsh on the ears, like, whatever program you’re using might do some sort of equalization to make it a little bit more stick out, you know, stick out louder, and that’s can be very harsh if you’re listening to it in the car compared to your computer speakers, because the sound was equalized for computer speakers versus your car, stuff like that. And yeah, it’s so important because it’s true that a lot of people will get really frustrated at the fact that they thought that it would be a fun venture and then they get bogged down by the work part of it. And that’s kind of what Podmotion does, it allows you to have fun, and actually create content and create a message and create a community and talk to people and do the fun part, while basically the part that might deter you from continuing is handled by Podmotion. I think it’s an amazing service.

Kevin McCall:

Great. And what do you think would be, for somebody who’s already started, obviously, they’ve got some way of recording audio, is there anything that you would say would be the next best thing for them to do to improve their audio quality?

Liam Morrison:

Yeah, if you’ve already started, you’re already recording, I would say, probably, maybe look to hiring someone to edit your audio, that would be one thing, and if you wanted to look into it yourself, I would say, maybe like watch some YouTube videos about equalization, about compression, something simple like that can really improve the quality of the audio. Or even one thing that I often have to do on podcasts is something called noise gate or an expander, and what this does is it basically mutes the speaker when they’re not talking; so when there’s a certain volume that’s met it, unmute them, and then you can hear them speak; but then when it’s below that, it mutes them, and that way, it cuts out any background noise that might be a little bit of a lower level, which can kind of muddy up the sound of the podcast.

Kevin McCall:

Great. That’s great advice. Well, thank you for joining me today. It’s been a great conversation. I think anybody looking to start or grow their podcast, we’d be happy to work with them, and they could certainly benefit from the services you provide as an audio engineer and producer. And if anyone has any questions for either myself or Liam, feel free to contact us through the website. That’s podmotion.co, or reach out to us on Twitter @podmotion, or you can find us on LinkedIn or Quora. Again, it’s podmotion.co.
[00:16:17]

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