Podcast Process. Part 1: The Shed

I’ve wanted to write about my process for producing Missed Apex for a while now but it seemed a little self-indulgent. However, now that over 1 of you has asked me to do so I feel fully justified in baring all. I’m also going to use this blog as something to share with the podcast community in the hopes that someone will either: A) give me some pro tips to unleash me to the next level, or B) learn something from what I do to bring their podcast up. This is a not a ‘How to’. This is just what I do.

The Shed

The Shed

The beauty of podcasting is that it covers such a wide range of activities and set ups, from people recoding themselves on phones all the way to professional entertainers in studios. I do also feel that this can do damage to the reputation of podcasting as it’s hard for someone new to the medium to find the best produced stuff and they may be put off by the lack of overall quality.

I have tried very hard to give Missed Apex the feel of a well-run professionally produced show. Clearly I haven’t had the budget of a studio and I know there are improvements to be made but I am proud of the quality we have and we’ve made every penny count. The old phase goes something like; Fast, cheap, good… Pick two. We went for cheap and good in the main with hours and hours poured into learning the skills required to produce a finished audio file with multiple international panellists that is recorded in front of a live video stream and chat room.

Considering I had none of these skills when I recorded my first podcast 4 years ago it has been an engaging and interesting journey to gradually increase my inventory of capability. I often have the moments akin to the one Neo had in the Matrix where he looks up heroically at the camera and declares, “I know Kung Fu”. (Except I look up from my laptop and declare, “I know how to embed a player”).

Most people want to speak into a microphone and have a podcast be created at the other end . However, you  soon find that the 'speaking into the microphone' bit is just a fraction of what you need to get the thing out of the door and delivered to people’s ears. If I go through the current process I have now, rather than log my progression to this point I think that will be easier to read. During that I may detail previous methods or how and why I came to do a certain thing. I hope I look back on this in a few years and laugh at own amateur efforts. So the following is my setup and beyond for the Missed Apex F1 podcast, YouTube video and Live stream.

The priority for every single recording is to have great audio sent to the recording device/software to work with. There’s a lot you can do in post-production. However, much like there’s a lot you can do to decorate a cake, if it’s not baked well it’s going to taste terrible no matter much icing you add. So when I sit down I strip everything down to the basics. Me in a room, with a mic, and the recording software. I ensure I have a rich full waveform being sent from my mixing desk into the recording software. 

The Shed: The podcasting shed is a real 3M by 3M garden shed. The previous owner used it as a rabbit house. The floating floor was rotten and the space under it was infested with thousands upon thousands of slugs. When I dismantled the floor I had to remove shovelfuls of slugs from the shed. It’s as horrific as it sounds. I replaced the floor with layers of insolation and concrete. The floor was now solid and somewhat acoustically isolated from the ground. The next problem is that a centimetre of wood doesn’t block sounds from leaving or entering the shed. To stop the sound traveling though the walls you need mass and layers. All these theories are of course my best interpretation from research. I have none of these skills through any formal training. I sealed the inside of the walls with putty and lined them with sheets of rigid insulation like you might find between brick work. This was just to make the room liveable and warm. Next I built an internal wooden frame six inches inside the extant shed wall and covered that with thick acoustic plasterboard and a layer of heavy rubber. Essentially I built a room within a room and filled the space in-between with insulation foam. The inner room had its own door made of the same materials.

With the doors shut you cannot hear even the loudest singing from the outside. This makes it an ideal space for my wife to rehearse without bothering the neighbours but crucially when you are inside nothing from the outside world makes it into the microphone. To stop echo I simply hung patches of foam around the room particularly on the wall I speak at.

Ok so that’s the shed covered. Oh dear I’ve gone on for 900 words. Better make this a series then. Let’s call this part one: How I created my podcasting environment.