THE NUTS & VOLTS OF
by Edward B. Driscoll, Jr.
Over the past couple of years, podcasting has emerged as one of the great new
buzzwords of the Internet, bringing the same freedom to create personal audio
and video productions as Weblogs did for text at the start of the decade. (And
for a primer on that topic, see our article in the July ‘05 issue of Nuts & Volts.)
But perhaps even more so than
blogs, podcasting takes a few
moments to explain, both in
terms of its general concept, and its
benefits. Podcasts can be a great way
to use audio — and increasingly, video
— to express your interests and
hobbies. They’re not for everyone, of
course — some people make much
better writers than talkers, which is
why text-based blogging isn’t going
away anytime soon. But for those who
are better talkers than writers, they’re
worth experimenting with. And a heck
of a lot of fun, to boot.
What is Podcasting?
The MP3 file was invented in the
early 1990s as an Internet-friendly way
to save and distribute speech and
music. A three-minute song takes up
dozens of megabytes of space on a
compact disc; saved as an MP3 file,
its size is typically a much more
manageable three to eight megabytes.
Internet surfers equipped with increasingly ubiquitous broadband, can use
their Internet connection to quickly
download MP3 files.
Beginning in 2004, with the
success of the Apple iPod (Apple
claims sales of over 67 million iPods)
and numerous other MP3-oriented
portable media players, the word
“podcasting” took off as a way to
describe self-contained shows geared
72 March 2007
towards listeners with portable MP3
However, the term is somewhat
of a misnomer. An Apple iPod is not
required to listen to podcasts, as many
competitors make devices that can
also play MP3 files. And indeed, a
portable MP3 player itself isn’t
required; virtually every modern
desktop and laptop computer can
download and play an MP3 file, via
Windows Media, Apple QuickTime,
Real Media, and other programs. And
that’s a huge audience that can be
potentially reached with one
uploaded MP3 file.
What Should a Podcast
Since it’s merely an MP3 file, a
podcast can be anything from a three-minute song, to freeform anarchy.
However, the format has emerged as a
way to easily send prerecorded
speech over the Internet. In other
words, you can record anything from
a short personal greeting to a whole
news or interview show and distribute
it virtually without cost.
Someone wishing to create a
hobby-oriented podcast on the topic
of building electronic projects might
want to combine the following
• Opening and closing theme music.
• Spoken word introduction.
• Description of a project or engineering issue.
• Telephone interviews with friends or
interesting guest experts.
• Bumper music to open and close
the show, and separate segments.
Let’s explore the basics of how to
record all of these components.
The Three Elements of
Podcasting requires three separate building blocks: recording the
podcast; uploading it; and then
sharing the news of its creation with
the rest of the online world.
While it’s possible to record a
podcast with a traditional analog
audio recorder and then convert
it afterwards via computer to an
MP3 file, the vast majority of audio
podcasts are recorded via computer. It
doesn’t matter which program you
use to do the actual recording, as long
as the finished product is saved as an
For those with a background
in PC music recording, the audio
portion of a podcast should be
pretty simple. Currently, I’m using
Cakewalk’s Sonar 6 ( www.cake