Radio documentaries are audio recordings that explore one topic or many themes in depth usually through a mix of audio and visuals. Radio documentaries can feature many different styles such as interviews and Q&A style, online lecture, or storytelling. They can also elicit many moods—they can be investigative, intimate, or light-hearted narrative documentaries. In general, radio documentaries can sometimes take many months of research and interviews to create and put together. As a result, each segment can be over 30 minutes long and can cover a single theme for a long period of time or episodes. For more instructions on the planning required recording your own radio documentary, look over this guide: Record your own radio documentary.
Podcasts are the most common type of radio documentaries and are especially popular among academics. “[P]odcasts are a natural fit for communication of academic ideas.”1 Podcasts can also be used as participatory research method (see Reading Riots—collaboration between the London School of Economics and the Guardian).
Tip: To reach the widest audience possible, each podcast episode should aim to be no longer than 10 minutes.
Whether you aim for producing a radio documentary or a podcast, the basic equipment you need includes:
You don’t need advanced tech skills to develop your own podcast. However, it does require good planning and knowledge of the equipment you will need to see it through. Below are the major considerations in planning a podcast:
You can record a podcast either by: voice recorder, smartphone, microphone, or through Skype. Below are some of the main things you should consider for each:
- Voice recorder: Surprisingly, you can record a podcast with a basic voice recorder. Therefore, if you don’t have one, ask around your department. Getting your hands on a voice recorder may be easier than you expect!
- Smartphone: If you have a smartphone, you can download apps such as www.audioboo.fm, a mobile and web platform that let you record, edit, publish, and share podcasts. If you have an iPhone, you can also download the IPhone PCM Recorder. Whichever, app you chose make sure to test it out and play around with the settings before you set out to record a full podcast.
- Microphone: Before selecting a microphone, you should consider what format most of your podcasts will be. The reason for this is that certain microphones work best for certain formats. For example, unidirectional mikes which filter surrounding sound are good for Q&A formats and online lectures. On the other hand, omnidirectional mikes work well for storytelling interviews where you may want to capture some of the surrounding ambient sounds, especially if you are interviewing someone out in the field. Another key thing about selecting a mike is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good quality mic. For more information about how to select a microphone for podcasting, you can refer to this article. Lastly, before going out and buying a microphone check in with your school to see if they have a microphone that you may be able to use.
- Skype: not only offers you the flexibility to call-in and record speakers from around the world but there are also several free or low-cost recording software for Skype. These are: Vod Burner, Call Recorder, IM Capture, Pamela, Skype Audio Recorder (for Windows), Piezo (for Mac), Wire Tap Studio (for Mac), and Audacity.
2. Editing the Recording
- Audacity is one of the easiest and best free tool to edit your audio files. Audacity includes features that let you adjust the volume, remove static or background noises, correct the pitch and others that will help make your audio more clear and professional sounding. Search in YouTube for quick video lessons on how to use many of these features.
- If you own a Mac, you can also use Garage Band, which comes free with most Mac computers.
3. Hosting the Podcast
If you want to host your podcast on your own site, first check with the tech department in your university regarding uploading the audio onto your site. If you don’t have a website, you can create a blog with WordPress and upload the audio there.
- Sound Cloud allows you to embed your player into a non-static web page on your blog or website.
- If you do not mind hosting your blog on an outside site, you should check if your university is registered at ITunes U and host it there. ITunes also has a useful guide on how to get your podcasts onto ITunes.
1 Mark Carrigan, Podcasts are a natural fit for communication of academic ideas, London School of Economics and Political Science, 6/10/2013.