The Podcaster’s Audio Handbook – a review

The Podcaster’s Audio Handbook is a technical guide for creative people written by Corey Marie Green and published by Apress in 2021. This is a comprehensive book for the podcaster by an author who is an audio engineer from Melbourne, Australia and who specializes in podcasting and radio.

The book was technically reviewed by a Sound Production and Electronic Engineering person who has experience as a Station Technical Officer at 3CR a community radio in Melbourne. Her name is Rhia Williams.

There is no substitute for an expert when it comes to audio quality.

They simply know more than we ordinary podcasters.

The book helps us understand the trade-off between quality and the importance and value of your ideas. Sometimes it is just not possible to get good quality audio on the run.

However, in this book, Corey Green does spell out how to maximize the audio quality of your podcast or radio program.

Even though this is designed, as the title suggests, for podcasters, I think the book could  equally be used by anyone engaging in community radio broadcasts because the tools and output are pretty much the same.

If we look through the table of contents which is comprehensive sufficiently detailed to make an index not necessary. The book is broken up into eight chapters. 1. file formats and settings. 2. Gear part one – this chapter asks questions like when to record on a smartphones (it does not come highly recommended but sometimes it is all you’ve got on hand). 3. Gear part two, and it gives a comprehensive rundown on microphones and the importance of microphones. Chapter 4. is about getting a good take. Chapter 5 is recording inside: either in the studio or at home. Chapter 6  includes recording outside and how to pick the right location, using atmosphere to tell a story and plugging into other sound systems. Also an important part covers the effect of the wind. Chapter 7. is about recording remotely.

Ms Green talks about how to record Zoom meetings and doing interviews online without losing quality. She describes one-on-one interviews using software called Zencastr demonstrating how to record a phone call at both ends of the line. Chapter 8 is about editing and how to minimize it.  Chapter 9 is about music atmosphere and sound effects. In this chapter Corey discusses how to negotiate music copyright.

As you can see, this rough survey of the Table of Contents shows how comprehensive the book is.

Music copyright.

Ms Green writes: ‘There are a few ways to access music for your podcast without running into copyright issues. You can create the music yourself if you know a musician you can ask to use the music. You can pay a copyright management organization for a podcasting music license. Copyright management organizations handle agreements covering the use of copyrighted music all over the world. For example, if you’re making a podcast in Australia, you can pay an organization called APRA AMCOS to access music. They will distribute the royalties to the artists in Australia. or elsewhere through their overseas affiliates. The online mini license should cover most Australian podcasts. Organizations that collect and distribute music royalties operate in most countries.”

 I’ll just point out here that these royalties are miniscule. The musicians don’t get much of that money.

Corey addresses the important topic of when and how to layer music with speech.

When Corey layers music and speech she sets the initial level on the music track and then manually turns it up and down using a volume envelope as in the figures that she shows. There are excellent figures and graphics in this book showing exactly what the sound waves look like. In certain situations.

Of course, using music in your podcast can help maintain audience interest by breaking up long sections of dialogue or it can be annoying

Although defamation is outside the scope of the book I remember consulting the author about this important issue where a radio broadcast that I was about to make could have been interpreted as defamatory. And she very wisely pointed out to me that there is defamation Yes. Which is a risk. Of course your protection is always that you or your guest is telling the truth in your interview but then there’s the power of the other side, in this case a big organization what they will let you get away with and you have to balance that risk. She advised. Self censorship is often done because of fear that you’ll get into trouble with someone with a packet of money and lawyers will see you lose everything you’ve got. But as long as you check your story and make sure it’s accurate I think most defamation situations disappear.

Index
Now the book does have an index, which is excellent and very important in a technical book such as this. Just reading randomly through some of the the index entries: there’s sample rates and sampling your music, there’s transcripts, there’s voiceovers, there’s cables, inputs, microphone, balance levels, audio interface, accessibility. And Audacity – the main editing program that the author uses to illustrate how to go about making and editing a digital recording. It could be said that a book like this could be quite mundane and even boring but Corey Green manages to overcome this by using quite clever and funny cartoons that she’s drawn herself.

It’s good that the book is oriented towards women podcasters because after all, it’s a woman’s perspective Corey is presenting.

The Communist Manifesto of audio podcasting?

I’ll ask: ‘Is this the Communist Manifesto of audio podcasting? Well, probably not, but it certainly has a number of interesting stories in it that Corey experienced in radio and podcasting. For example, the author went out into the desert to follow around a group of people trespassing on a US spy base at Pine Gap.  Now that was above and beyond and quite interesting for the reader.

Corey does look at how to get sound out there in the wild west, so to speak. She uses a Zoom H5 portable recorder. It’s a well built unit with microphone inputs (XLR inputs) which is a big help when you are out in the field.

Yeah, I would have to say this is an entertaining and quite a novel approach by a person right on the cusp of this large industry that now boasts over 10 million podcasts in the world. So that’s a big audience. And I’m hoping that this book will get out there because it’s got so much useful information.

So there it is. I suppose I should make a disclosure. I worked with Corey Green at community radio in Brisbane 4 ZZZ fm 102.1. I was there for ten years and Corey was there for 4 or 5 years before moving to radio in Melbourne. We have been involved in quite a number of projects together since then. Corey is very easy to work with and very much focussed on the job.

I think I should quote her ending.

“This is the end of the book. My hope is that in reading this book, you feel empowered to get out there and make a great podcast. Podcasting is a wonderful medium for communication. It’s accessible, diverse, and it shows no sign of slowing down. I feel lucky that I have had had so many interesting experiences through radio and podcasting. And I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity to share my passion with you. You would you now have the opportunity to share your passion through podcasting, optimizing your audio quality is giving your ideas their best platform. It’s finding your unique voice and sharing it with the world. It’s connecting with people like yourself or people who are completely different to you, but want to hear what you have to say. It’s raising awareness of an issue. That’s close to your heart in expressing that creative concept that can only come from you. Getting a handle on the technical side of podcasting means you can start creating.”

As a comment for the editor rather than the author, I do not think it necessary to be telling the reader what is coming in future chapters of the book. That is what the table of contents and index are for. These days with digital editions and search engines the reader can easily skip to what she is interested in.

Ian Curr
4PR – Voice of the People
8 Feb 2022

The author, Corey Green, has a business called Transducer Audio, and provides a range of services for podcasters and radio announcers. Including editing, content development and training.

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