Monday, March 19, 2007

The Story of LITA Candidate Podcasts

The LITA blog currently features several podcast interviews with candidates for office in the current round of ALA related elections. I was asked by the folks on the LITA BIGWIG group to help out with the project and thought some out there might be interested in the gory details of how it got done. So here they are.

The questions for the interviews were developed at ALA Midwinter for consistency. I did ask a couple of related follow up questions in some cases to get folks talking a little more but tried to keep them to a minimum.

The interviews were conducted through Skype and recorded using a very cool program called PowerGrammo. PowerGrammo is a plug-in that allows you to easily record both sides of a Skype call. The free version works great of two person calls. I used a Logitech USB headset on my end for talking and listening.

The recordings were exported as .WAV files and run through another cool, free program called Levelator to even out the recording levels. If you're doing any sort of interviewing for podcasts, either over Skype or in person, I would highly recommend Levelator. It saves a ton of time evening things out and making the volume the same for different voices. All editing was done in Audacity and final product saved as MP3. Then the BIGWIG folks got them on the blog. I think they use a WordPress plug-in called PodPress to manage audio/ video content on the blog. It integrates content very nicely and gives lots of listening options.

A couple of things I learned from the project: I did some preliminary chat with the interviewees to get them feeling comfy talking before starting (which is a very good idea) but should have paid a little more attention to background noice and things in that process. I noticed some rattling, breathing and such on a couple of the recordings that I think could have been eliminated with a couple of easy suggestions about mic placement etc. Nobody's fault but mine on that.

Give very, very explicit instructions about the tech side of how it is going to work to the subjects. I think I could have eliminated a few questions and uncertainty by giving a little more technical info in my initial emails. I think this would have helped and saved a little bit of everyone's time. Also, recommend up front that subjects use a headset instead of a desktop mic. It gives a lot better sound and consistency.

Make sure to encode projects like this at 41000 Hz or some multiple there of. Since the LITA blog uses a nifty Flash player to stream content, I had to make sure to change the rate in Audacity to avoid the Alvin and the Chipmunks effect that happens when most Flash players like PodPress or the Odeo player try to play a file encoded at a rate like 48000 Hz. Fortunately we knew about this ahead of time so no time was wasted re-encoding. As far as I know.

That's all I can think of right now. I actually had a great time working on this project and got to talk to some interesting people in the process. So thanks Karen, Michelle and Jason for getting me involved.

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At 3:36 PM, Blogger David said...

OSR: This one is really pretty hard. There's a long running indie band that has a couple of songs with titles similiar to the title of the post. One on a recent album and one on an album from the late 80s.


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