Many listeners have asked how Craig and I record our weekly podcast, so here’s a quick rundown of our standard operating procedure.
When and what
By email, Craig and I figure out when we’re going to record. It’s usually a Thursday or Friday, late in the afternoon. In that email thread, we also decide what topics to cover. If it’s a Three Page Challenge, I’ll ask Stuart to send each of us PDFs of the entries he’s picked.
About 10 minutes before we start recording, I make a sketchy outline in Highland with reminders for myself: the episode number, today’s topics, housekeeping bits, and my One Cool Thing. If there’s anything I need to read aloud — for example, a quote from an article — I usually copy-paste it into this document.
Since Craig works in Pasadena and I work in Hollywood, it’s not practical for us to be in the room together, so we record the podcast on Skype. This is the part many people can’t fathom — we’re almost never in the same room together.
It takes practice to keep up a conversation when you don’t have the normal physical cues. The first few episodes were rough. But I think the podcast is actually much better for Craig and I being apart. Like the audience, we’re only hearing each other’s voice, so everything we’re communicating needs to happen in speech.
While Craig and I are talking on Skype, each of us has GarageBand running on our own computers to record only our side of the conversation. When we finish recording, we each copy our GarageBand project into the same shared Dropbox folder. From there, my assistant Stuart yanks out the audio and marries the two tracks in a vintage copy of Soundtrack Pro, which is where he does most of the real editing.
Many podcasts simply record the Skype call, saving the step of marrying the two tracks. But with all the fire trucks and street noise at Craig’s office, it’s very handy to be able to manage the two sides of the conversation separately.
One problem with recording two tracks separately is sync. We begin with a “1…2…3…go” so that we both hit record at the same time. We clap-sync as well. Despite all this, our tracks eventually fall out of sync, so Stuart has to nudge them a bit. I’m hoping Marco Arment will release his fabled track-nudging utility to the world. We’d pay good money for it.
Once Stuart has finished editing a track, he’ll put it back in Dropbox. I’ll listen to it and write up the text for the post, along with links and outro. All that gets added into a new GarageBand project, where Stuart also makes chapter markers. He exports m4a and mp3 formats, then uploads them to Libsyn, which hosts the files.
Every Tuesday morning, Stuart throws the virtual switch to make the episode live.
Nuts and bolts
For hardware, we started with Dan Benjamin’s really useful guide to podcasting gear, but ultimately made different choices.
Craig and I are each using Audio-Technica AT2020 USB microphones mounted on Heil PL-2T booms. (When I’m traveling, I pack the Blue Yeti USB microphone instead. It’s really good, but really heavy.)
For listening, there’s nothing better than the Sony MDR-7506 headphones, which not only sound great but seal well, keeping Craig’s audio from being recorded on my track. I like them so much that I’ll bring them with me on a trip.
For live shows, I record on the Zoom 4N digital recorder. Even if we’re using audio from a sound board, I’ll still aim the Zoom at the audience to gather crowd noise.
Podcasting versus blogging
Several longtime readers have pointed out that I used to blog more. Now two or three weeks may pass where I won’t have posted anything but Scriptnotes.
But I really don’t think the podcast has taken my attention away from blogging; life has.
I’ve gotten much, much busier over the last two years, and it’s been hard to stop everything and blog about whatever screenwriting topic arises. The standing commitment of a podcast each week is easier to keep up. It’s like working out with a partner — you show up because of the social obligation.
And as much as I enjoy writing, a blog is essentially a monologue. It’s been rewarding to have a dialogue each week.