Photoshop, Audition, and my very own microphone.

Photoshop, Audition, and my very own microphone.

Since Lani and I started recording StoryWonk Daily in 2010, we’ve recorded something like 350 hours of podcasts. That is more than two weeks’ worth of audio, if you don’t take time to sleep; if you listen for eight hours a day, it will take you almost 44 days to listen to our entire archive. Right now, we’re recording something like six and a half hours per week, so by the time you finish the whole archive, we’ll have added another forty hours or so.

That’s a lot.

We get a surprising amount of correspondence about our recording set-up and studio, so here’s an explanation of how we do the thing we do, and how we produced hundreds of hours of shows. This may get a little complicated, and this may not be the best possible work-flow, but it works for us!

The studio, seen from behind my desk.

The studio, seen from behind my desk.

All great podcasts begin with great microphones. After using a pair of Samson C01UCW Studio USB mics for a couple of years, we recently made the switch to MXL 770s, which we run through a Behringer Xenyx 802 Premium mixer into my custom-built PC running Windows 10. We rely on Adobe Creative Cloud for a lot of our creativity software and productivity tools, and, luckily, it includes the best audio software in the entire world, Audition, so we use that to record. I have master files for each podcast — blank versions of each show with the music, timer markers, and so on — so when we’re ready to record a new show, I take a copy of the master, and start recording.

After doing this for so long, our recording sessions are generally pretty clean, and we don’t have too many edit points in the average show. I don’t process our audio much before we release the show — I use Audition’s noise removal tool to take out some of the background noise, like cars on the street or our cat, Hermione, meowing outside the studio door, and then I run the show through a simple compressor to balance out the audio levels and make it a little more listener-friendly.

The reverse angle, looking toward Lani's famous recliner.

The reverse angle, looking toward Lani’s famous recliner.

When the recording and editing is done, I export the MP3 file, and upload it to our LibSyn account. While that’s happening, I open up Photoshop and put together album art for the episode in question, then upload it, write the post for StoryWonk, and hit the big red (more of an orange, if I’m honest) publish button. There are usually Twitter and Facebook updates to send out, and then I copy the album art and the audio track into Adobe’s Premiere software, and export a video file suitable for our YouTube channel.

The amount of time each recording takes varies wildly. If we’re doing an episode of The Light Bulb, then we might have bullet points that we want to cover; if we’re recording an episode of Dusted or The Scot and the Sassenach, then we have to watch every episode of Buffy or Outlander at least twice, compile the beat-by-beat breakdown, come up with the talking points we want to explore, and so on. On average, one hour of produced audio takes between two and three hours of preparation, and one to two hours of recording, editing and processing. We can put together an episode of The Light Bulb, start to finish, in about ninety minutes; an episode of Dusted might take six hours, spread over two or three days.

And that’s it! If you’re curious about other aspects of our production work-flow, then get in touch — this is the first behind-the-scenes post from the StoryWonk Studio, but not the last!