How On Location is produced

By Martin Joergensen | February 11, 2009 5:00 PM | Permalink

martin-joergensen-recording.jpgSeveral people have asked me what gear, software and methods I use to produce the On Location podcasts, and after having replied to several directly and in our forum for podcast feedback, I thought it would be time saving to recap it all and expand a bit here.

I will go through it in the sequence I follow when I make my weekly shows. These are the typical steps:
1) Prepare, research and maybe script
2) Record on location and/or at home
3) Mix and edit the sound
4) Create and tag mp3
5) Create images for the slide show
6) Record mix and edit the sound for the slide show
7) Produce the slide show
8) Publish

In general I use a very low tech, dogma approach to the project, and try to keep gear, software and time used at a minimum.

The preparation phase can be everything from just coming up with a subject or theme and then talk and improvise my way through a simple shooting session to meticulously researching a subject, finding locations, getting permissions, finding models and all the other practicalities, which sometimes need taking care of. I rarely script my shows. sometimes I have notes, but when I shoot on location I just talk and tell what I do.

zoom-h2.jpgI record using a Samson Zoom H2 digital recorder. This is a handy little device, which at a fair price offers some great facilities and a really excellent sound quality.
I use the built-in microphones whenever convenient as they give the best sound quality, but when I need my hands free I plug in a set of Giant Squid lapel microphones, which leaves both my hands free.  I have both at stereo set and a single mono microphone.
I prefer recording and producing in stereo since many people listen to the finished show using headphones or earplugs, and the feeling of being there is much better in a stereo recording.
I record mp3-files in a fairly good quality with a bit rate of 128 kbits/sec and a sampling rate of 44 kHz. The recorder is capable of recording several higher mp3-qualities as well as able to work with wav-files.
The recorder saves its files on an SD card, and I load the files from the card into my computer using its built-in card reader.
A typical show consists of some 8-12 raw sections, which I then mix together.

audacity.jpgI mix, edit and trim the sound files using the free program Audacity on a pc. This program lets me import the different sound files, trim them, adjust for differences in sound levels, fade in and out plus add a host of different effects of which I use... none.
All I do is cut out the useless stuff, trim off some sniffs and eh's and on a few occasions remove wind noise, popping sounds and really noisy peaks such as car doors slamming, tripods being collapsed and cell phones interfering.
I mix in music as in- and outros and as small breaks in my endless stream of words. All the music to date has been from the label Magnatune except for one episode where I shot a band and used the band's music.

Creating the mp3
When I'm done I export the finished sound file in mp3-format, again in 128 kbits and 44 kHz. This produces files in a suitable size with a reasonably good sound quality.
After that I tag the file using Mp3Tag, another free program, which allows me to add notes and  images to the file. These notes and the images can be seen in many mp3-players.

Preparing the pictures
soundslides.jpgI the far majority of the shows I start collecting the images for the slide show while I shoot and record. Many times the recording stretches over several days, and when I'm done shooting one day I convert my images, select the best and put them aside for the show.
Sometimes I “construct” images with screen shots, overlays, marks and annotations. All that is done in Photoshop, after which the finished images are saved as jpg's.
I scale all images to 1200 pixels on the longest side, and the slide show program will do the rest.
I use the slide show program called Soundslides Plus, and I import the images into this program. I have prepared a Nikonians template that I use for all the shows. The program will create the thumb prints and other sizes needed for the show.
I order them in the sequence I want, and finish the row of pictures for the show. A typical show consists of 40-70 images.

Recording the sound for the slide show
Once sequenced I simply click my way through the show and comment as I see each picture. This process typically lasts 5-10 minutes, and when I have this raw sound file, I again trim, mix and adjust it in Audacity, add music and export it.
Once exported I can import the mp3 into Soundslides and all that remains is to synchronize the transitions with my staggering speech. With that in place I can export the whole production for the web. This will create a package with all the files needed for the show to run as a stand alone production.

I now upload all the files – sound and slideshow – to the Nikinian's server and only need to add the blog entry that announces it. For the sake of convenience and to reduce errors I have made a small program, which runs locally, and which takes all the basic information and creates the html that I need to enter into the CMS that runs the blog on the Nikonians. With that entered, I can preview and test and then finally publish or set the system to publish at a later time.
The blog software will update the blog entry, the different Nikonians pages and the RSS-feed that delivers to iTunes and many other services.