How to Create an Audio Podcast for Almost Nothing

podcast_1

One of the things I’ve really become immersed in the past few years is the new “podcast” revolution that is slowly taking terrestrial radio to the path of obsolescence. I work a job that requires me to do constant repetitive tasks for close to ten hours a day, and that isn’t made any better with the sounds of hushed talking and rustling paper  in the background. After getting tired of listening to music for a few months, I took the plunge with podcasts, and haven’t looked back. When I started this website, I toyed around with doing a podcast about British science fiction, and although I haven’t “pulled the trigger” quite yet, I have something planned.

Last year, I became an infrequent collaborator on one of my buddy’s podcasts, The *Nixed Report, and it blew me away how easy it was to create a decent podcast for basically nothing. One look around online overwhelms a person with tons of “tips articles” and recommendation lists that seem disingenuous. Sure, I could throw down hundreds of dollars all at once, but why? Could it be that this article is a referral link? Are you trying to prey on my ignorance? Stuff like this puts a prospective podcast hobbyist in a land of overpriced microphones and software designed for radio studios and music production. Making a podcast with these tools would work, but it would be like driving a Bugati Veyron to work.

I recently began a new podcast for another group of friends called Triangle Face Podcast, and right now I’m going to walk you through how to make a similar amateur podcast. This the real cheap way to do this, not a sales pitch like so many others!

Here’s the Software you will need:

Here’s the hardware you will need:

  • Some sort of computer, I use a crappy outdated laptop.
  • Microphones, I bought three of these and a splitter, I bet cheaper mics would suffice, but these had a great Amazon rating.

And finally, These websites need your attention:

I opted for this set-up because it’s FREE, One could simplify this guide considerably by signing up for something like Podbean or Libsyn, but I couldn’t justify the cost. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to be the next WTF with Marc Marron, so anything spent on hosting is money wasted. This way you can try to find an audience, and who knows, you can move your set-up to a better system if it takes off!

Step one – record your podcast with Audacity. This is usually the hardest part. For Triangle Face Podcast, we just yammer away for around an hour and post it as is, but others go for a “slicker” presentation and edit the audio drastically. I’d look at some Youtube tutorials for the basics, but Audacity is pretty deep if you want to utilize it more. If you know what your doing, (we don’t…LOL) you can make yourself talk like a robot in an opera house if you so desire. I spent some time messing with a podcast intro including audio snippets and a robot voice generator I found online. I fade this intro and an outro onto each episode and it basically sounds faux professional almost immediately.

Step Two – Export your audio to a .Wav format. then “balance the noise” with Levelator. We will do a lot of re-saving this file, so make sure you save your original file just in case something goes wrong! The reason we are saving a .Wav file and not an immediate MP3 is because Levelator only plays nice with uncompressed audio. what Levelator basically does, is it takes the audio and makes any peaks and valleys sound the same. That way places where you start yelling or talking quietly don’t sound bad or deafen your audience. This should create a file clone called “whateveryoucalledit.output” which is your new file to mess with.

Step Three – Take your output file and load that back into Audacity. Once you “Levelate” the sound, take this file and open it within a new instance of Audacity. From here, export this file as an MP3, you should notice your file size will drop considerably. ours go from 700 mb in .Wav format to something like 50 mb .Mp3s! be sure to fill out those meta tags!

Step Four – Upload this file to Archive.org. Be sure to fill out all of your meta tags once again and let it rip. Once you have your file in there go to the area that I have highlighted in red and click. This is the URL you will be using next.

arhive-org-screen

Step Five – WordPress stuff. What you need to do is create a simple WordPress page, what I can recommend is laying the skeleton down, then making it look pretty later. Your main concern is tagging each episode with something like “podcast archive” that you can pull up later. I try to follow a simple format for each post utilizing a picture, a description, and a link. The link has the same text as my title, but you can’t see that from this image.

wordpress
In order to get your link to work click the little icon that looks like a chain link on your WordPress text editor. Once you are able to past your URL, paste the link from your Archive.org page from Step Four, but remove the “s” from the “https://blah” THIS IS IMPORTANT, if you don’t remove this the feed WILL NOT work.

Step Six – Add to Feedburner. When you post  your blog entry on WordPress, be sure to arrow down and take a look at your tags below the post. You should see the one we discussed earlier, I chose “podcast archive”:
wordpress2
Click on this and copy the URL. When you set up your feed on Feedburner, this will be the feed you are submitting. This way, each time you make a new post and label it “podcast archive” it gets added to the list. Feedburner is pretty straight forward, but make sure you fill everything out and add an appropriate picture. This way when you do the next step, it’ll look nice! Make sure to look at your feed by clicking this button to see if it’s “pulling” from your WordPress account:

feedburner

Step Seven – Submit this feed to iTunes. We’re almost there! open iTunes on your computer and look for the “iTunes store”. Click on the “podcast” header at the top, and look for a section on the right labled “submit a podcast”.
itunes

By all means, iTunes is not the only service for Podcasts, but it is the most widely used. you can try to get these on other services like Soundcloud if you so like, but we ultimately went with iTunes. The submission to iTunes is a bit finicky, and you’ll know if something is wrong pretty fast. This is where I discovered the “https” thing and had to work-around that whole ordeal, thankfully if you follow my guide you won’t have to! It takes a few weeks for a podcast to get approved, but once it does it will be easily searchable on iTunes, and the iTunes website – thus making you look like somebody important!

itunes-search

If you have any questions, or even any suggestions to make this how-to better – feel feel to drop me a comment! I am by no means an authority on this topic, but figured out a way to make a podcast with my friends for nearly nothing! Ignore those guys trying to sell you the moon and follow my guide for the real deal.

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My Experience With WordPress’s Word Ads Service

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...

I signed up for WordPress.com‘s relatively new advertising service, Word Ads, quite a while ago and it has finally paid off. When I checked my Paypal balance today, I had over $100 waiting for me, paid out by WordPress themselves. This made me punch the air in happiness, as I’m a one guy operation, and have a full-time job, so it’s not like this blog is something I can devote my life to. For those that do not know, Word Ads only pays after you hit a threshold of over $100, so this was for one year of having these ads sponsored by them. One would assume it’s not worth your time, if it took me that long, but that’s not really the case. The truth is that it was my fault that I wasn’t getting great payouts at first. 

For like six months, I was stubborn and did not optimize my blog with a theme that really utilized the service. In fact, this led to me getting measly $2.00 per month payouts. I’d occasionally check my ad placement, and discovered a terrible ad that was like “get your Missouri Driver’s license” was my main sponsor. After I spent a “crapload” of time making my site look better and switched themes, I got better ads and as a result have been getting around $20 a month for the last few months. I’ve seen big stuff like World of Warcraft and even Walmart pop up. If I can maintain this trajectory, I might be able to really make some cash for my blog. I’m not expecting anything huge, but if I can make my bills less of an issue and make overtime a non-issue at work, I’d be so happy. And me being happy = more blog posts!

I’m writing this because a quick Google search for “tips for Word Ads” results in many cranky users that expected to become overnight millionaires with the service. So far, persistence has paid off for me, and I’m enjoying the ride. This is an unsolicited Word Ads minor success story, if you have any questions, or concerns feel free to consult WordPress.com’s Word Ads page here, or drop me comment, my experience might be helpful I suppose.

How To Watch British Television in America

An easy guide on how to watch all this stuff I keep yammering on about!

We live in a very interesting time for entertainment consumers. Gone are the days of only having a small selection of television channels to watch on any given day. First, the home video and DVD markets opened the floodgates on older and far more obscure programming to watch. This was followed by internet streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and those dreaded Peer to Peer and bittorrent clients. No longer is the consumer shackled to the whims of a TV executive or commercial entity. For the most part, barriers are falling and e can watch what we want, when we want,how we want.

This blog covers one particular type of media – UK science fiction and other “genre” programming. A lot of the stuff I cover is readily available to Americans on pay services or home video releases, but what I want to do is give a general overview on how I watch all this stuff. Don’t fret if you are a reader that doesn’t live in the U.S., most of these tips can help you out as well no matter what country you live in.

dvd_region_codes2

Look for one of these on the back of your DVDs

Region Codes, and how to bypass them.

As many science fiction fans may have noticed – shows licensed from UK companies such as Doctor Who cost about twice or even three times more than most U.S. television shows. This can be particularly bad if you are on a budget and don’t want to break the bank. Yes, a few of these shows are available on Netflix (e.g.Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, and Day of the Triffids) but some shows that I plan on eventually getting such as the Tripods or Blakes 7 will probably never come out here or be released on a streaming device. You can obviously download things and burn them, or watch programs on your computer, but if you are like me, this choice is never as good as watching a good quality image whilst sitting in a comfy chair. This is where region-free DVD players some in.

stupid

this is what happens when you try to play a disk on the wrong player (Photo credit: williac)

So what are DVD regions? They are an archaic policy adopted by home media companies decades ago to promote policies such as price discrimination, disallow reverse importation, and control costs with staggered release dates. For example, in America a company can get away with selling a seven year old season of Doctor Who for around $79.99 due to the niche market and limited exposure. In the United Kingdom this would be ludicrous, and as such, it is much cheaper. Anyone in their right mind, when confronted with such a price difference, would just order these DVDs from England. This is what they are trying to stop. America is called “region 1” and the UK is “region 2” so neither can easily watch each others home media very easily. If you pop a foreign DVD into your personal DVD player it will have an error message, this is the same with personal computers,game systems and just about everything else that would make you happy. Here are maps of the DVD regions and Blu-Ray regions. 

DVD-Regions-map

DVD Regions

Blu-Ray Regions

Blu-Ray Regions

My recommendation to anyone that may decide to watch some harder to find UK shows is to do one of the following two things:

Region-Free DVD Players

Region-Free DVD Players are big business in some countries(Photo credit: Hikosaemon)

1) Cheap Method: It’s a little known secret that most, if not all cheap Chinese-made DVD players are actually region-free, and have their region locks installed via software within the factory. In the past I used to get DVD players from Digix or Coby for around 20-30 dollars. These players were pretty crappy for the most part, and honestly aren’t worth it unless you can’t swing what I will post on option 2. I remember having this one particular model of Coby DVD player that would work fine until around the six month mark, *boom* – broken. The trick to using one of these is to do a little research. Websites like DVD Help have listings of DVD players and whether they can be region hacked or not. Most of these are simple to hack, as a numerical code on the DVD remote usually does the trick.

2) Best Method – depending on how much one wants to spend, visiting a site like Region Free DVD is the best option. Tired of dealing with cheap players, I plunked down 100 dollars for a Toshiba regionless HDMI up-scaling DVD player, and will never look back. Not only is the picture better in just about every way, but the player itself is tailored for wide screen TVs and widescreen media, like most UK TV.

The reason I recommend getting one of these players is pretty self explanatory with the numbers. Here are the prices and availability of one show Life on Mars, and its spin-off/sequel Ashes to Ashes.

Amazon.com

LOM Season 1: $49.99-$79.00

LOM Season 2: $49.99-$79.00

A2A S1: Not released

A2A S2: Not released

A2A S3:Nor released

Total $100.00+ for 2 seasons, Ashes to Ashes not even announced for release as far as I know.

Ashes to Ashes (TV series)

Ashes to Ashes (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amazon.co.uk

(as of today’s exchange rates)

LOM Season 1: $15.00

LOM Season 2: $15.00

A2A S1: $15.00

A2A S2: $15.00

A2A S3: $20.00

Total $80.00 for 5 seasons, all episodes complete, there are also combo packs of all three Ashes to Ashes seasons, and both Life on Mars seasons that could bring the price down even more. 

And now you can see why I do this, and shipping isn’t bad either – maybe 8 bucks for most DVD orders to reach the U.S. If you don’t care to get a new DVD or Blu-Ray player, there are also computer programs that disable region codes on PCs. Technically you can watch foreign DVDs on there as it does allow for a VERY limited amount of region swaps, but be careful. If you keep switching regions, it will eventually permanently lock into one. Most computers can be toggled around six times before this happens. 

But lets say you don’t care about actually owning these shows, is there a way to watch these on TV or on your computer? Why yes there is!

Cable TV Alternatives

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

There are three major streaming services in the U.S.: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. These three companies have become my lifeline lately, as I decided to “cut the cord” a few years back, and drop my cable subscription. Needless extra channels and ever-increasing prices were getting to be a headache,and I’m glad there was an alternative to cable and satellite. While there is a bit of cross-over, all three companies have their strengths and weaknesses in price and availability. In a general sense, Netflix is better for movies, Hulu is better for TV, and Amazon Prime is like a weird cousin of both – having VERY popular TV shows and movies, but less of them.

Hulu

Hulu (Photo credit: Evan Hamilton)

Netflix gets big props for having licenses for some of the bigger shows like Doctor Who and Top gear. With the latter, they even have all of the 20+ seasons (minus the first) all ready to marathon. Hulu has been bringing quite a few UK comedies and dramas over as “Hulu Exclusives” such as Rev. and Whites as of late. Other shows like Moone Boy, Misfits, and Pramface have been getting quite a bit of traction on there as well, bringing what could be considered “more obscure” shows to a new audience. Amazon Prime is the oddity here. They have some huge shows like Downton Abbey and things like Sarah Jane Adventures as well as next day purchase options for the NEW episodes of big shows. This year, I spent 2 bucks a pop for Doctor Who series 7, something that I could have pirated, but chose not to.

amazon-prime

Considering that my monthly cable bill used to run some $120, these companies are awesome. Hulu is $7.99 per month, as is Netflix, and Amazon Prime is $79.99 yearly. There are other perks for the Amazon subscription including free two day shipping on everything, so if you are a heavy Amazon user, I don’t know why you wouldn’t use this service.

Public Broadcasting Service

Public Broadcasting Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kickin’ it Oldschool

For our penultimate section I decided to bring up regular old TV, whether it be network, cable, or satellite. This is not my preferred method of watching UK TV, but it will definitely do in a pinch. For years, the Public Broadcasting Service has helped many an Anglophile get their fix. I grew up watching comedies like Keeping Up Appearances, Mr. Bean, and Monty Python just to name a few. My local PBS station still runs a Saturday block of UK TV all sponsored by some very passionate fans. Some of the videotapes they use look pretty bad now, but if you haven’t seen the show digitally remastered you will be none-the-wiser. Some PBS stations even run shows like Doctor Who and Red Dwarf, so keep an eye on the schedule. Outside of that, cable providers have a decent amount of UK TV, especially if you have BBC America on your cable plan. The problem with “regular TV” is that most US TV execs love to remake everything that is popular rather than airing the original.

bittorrent

“By other means”

I won’t lie, I sometimes obtain TV episodes from the internet. Whether it be a bit-torrent client or YouTube,if one is internet savvy enough pretty much anything is obtainable online. For older shows that are out of print on DVD and impossible to legally obtain over here, I have ventured onto torrent sites quite often. be warned, this is NOT legal at worst and kind of a  gray area at best, and could land you in trouble. I would never download a Hollywood film or adult film using these sorts of programs, as shady litigation “honey pots” are out there to tempt people into breaking the law. Another option is using proxy servers or streaming sites to access UK-only TV providers. I haven’t really dabbled with this, and have no real opinion on the use of these programs or the results.

So there you go fellow anglophiles, I hope this helps you navigate the wondrous world of British television much easier, and gives you some new stuff to watch. If you have any questions on show availability, or tips on how to watch something, please feel free to ask, as I may be able to help.

Columbia House: An Easy Way to amass a Large Doctor Who DVD Collection

I’ve had friends ask me how I was able to afford all of the Doctor Who DVDs that I own, which to be honest isn’t a ton, but to them it is impressive. My secret is that I’ve signed up for Columbia House on two occasions to take advantage of their introductory package. The last time I did it, I had to pay for one DVD and got four or so for just shipping. My total bill was in the neighborhood of around $40 USD, which is a LOT better than the $150 or so that it would have been if I simply paid out of pocket. There is one major drawback, in that one has to fulfill an agreement and buy more DVDs at club prices to “make good”, but it usually only ends up being 2-3 DVDs which is still a good deal. Right now they have a deal where you get 3 DVDs for a buck each, then have to buy 5 more in five years. This isn’t as good as my introductory offer, but check back often as they change these up a lot.

They do hound you with their director’s selections that one has to reply to, or you get some utter crap in the mail, but if one stays vigilant you can really save some money. Here is a list of the currently available serials for 9/16/2011:

Delta and the Bannermen
Four to Doomsday
Brain of Morbius
TV Movie
Pyramids of Mars
War Machines
Terror of the Autons
Masque of Mandragora
Kinda
Snake dance
Curse of Peladon
Attack of the Cybermen
Three Doctors
Time Meddler

There are also a handful available for club members only, mostly collections and boxed sets.

Region-Free is The Way to Go!

As many science fiction fans may have noticed – shows licensed from the BBC such as Doctor Who cost about twice or even three times more than most U.S. television shows.  This can be particularly bad if you are on a budget and don’t want to break the bank.  Yes, a few of these shows are available on Netflix (e.g. Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, and Day of the Triffids) but some shows that I plan on eventually getting such as the Tripods or Blakes 7 will probably never come out here or be released on a streaming device.  You can obviously download things and burn them or watch programs on your computer, but if you are like me, this choice is never as good as watching a good quality image whilst sitting in a comfy chair.  This is where region-free DVD players some in.

 

My recommendation to anyone that may decide to watch some harder to find UK shows is to do one of the following two things:

 

1) Cheap Method: It’s a little known secret that most, if not all cheap Chinese DVD players are actually region-free, and have their region locked installed via software within the factory.  In the past I used to get DVD players from Digix or Coby for around 20-30 dollars.  These players were pretty crappy for the most part, and honestly aren’t worth it unless you can’t swing what I will post on option 2.  I remember having this one particular model of Coby DVD player that would work fine until around the six month mark, *boom* – broken.  The trick to using one of these is to do a little research.  Websites like DVD Help have listings of DVD players and whether they can be region hacked or not.  Most of these are simple to hack, as a numerical code on the DVD remote usually does the trick.

2) Best Method – depending on how much one wants to spend, visiting a site like Region Free DVD is the best option.  Tired of dealing with cheap players, I plunked down 100 dollars for a Toshiba regionless HDMI up-scaling DVD player, and will never look back.  Not only is the picture better in just about every way, but the player itself is tailored for wide screen TVs and widescreen media, like most UK TV.

 

The reason I recommend getting one of these players is pretty self explanatory with the numbers.  Here are the prices and availability of one show Life on Mars, and its spin-off/sequel Ashes to Ashes.

Amazon.com

LOM Season 1: $49.99

LOM Season 2: $49.99

A2A S1: Not released

A2A S2: Not released

A2A S3:Nor released

Total $100.00 for 2 seasons, Ashes to Ashes not even announced for release

 

Amazon.co.uk

(as of today’s exchange rates)

 

LOM Season 1: $15.00

LOM Season 2: $15.00

A2A S1: $15.00

A2A S2: $15.00

A2A S3: $20.00

 

Total $80.00 for 5 seasons, all episodes complete

 

And now you can see why I do this, and shipping isn’t bad either – maybe 8 bucks for most DVD orders to reach the U.S.