Creating a Podcast + The Walking Dead! Part 1

As you can see by the title of this blog, this one is about two of my favorite subjects all rolled up in to one fun filled blog: “cool web stuff” and “The Walking Dead”.

To give a little background, The Walking Dead started off as a comic book (a great read in graphic novel form), and instantly became a must read by true die hard comic geeks. The stories being told were emotional, creative and compelling. The writer draws you into his zombie apocalypse world in an interesting and frightful way. But the story is more than zombie gore. At it’s heart it’s about people, and that’s what makes it captivating. I could go on and on about the comic, but I don’t want to get sidetracked. AMC (the channel that brings you Mad Men and Breaking Bad) picked up The Walking Dead and just wrapped up Season 2 with a bang. The season finale brought in 9 million viewers! What’s amazing is AMC is a cable channel which makes that number all the more impressive. To give you a comparison of a broadcast (over the air-free channel) CBS’s Two and Half Men average about 11 million viewers, and thats one of CBS’ top shows.

I just couldn’t get enough of The Walking Dead, so I went trolling Itunes for a podcast. I found a ton, but a few caught my eye. I downloaded 6 and started listening. Some were so bad, I turned it off before the 5 minute mark. First tip, don’t pull a Chris Farley from SNL and just say “that was awesome” over and over. Then I started listening to The Walking Dead’Cast by Jason and Karen, and I knew I found what I was craving within the first few minutes. Jason and Karen do the podcast the next day following the show, and then post it to Itunes (more on that later). I was astonished at a variety of things. The chemistry, Jason and Karen provide a good balance to each others personalities. The technical quality of the podcast. But what really caught my attention, Jason and Karen had interviewed cast, crew members and creators of the show. So think about that for a moment, these are two fans of a popular tv show interviewing the stars! I was amazed. I love the idea that this is possible in our internet age.

I shot Jason an email asking him if he would be willing to answer some questions for my blog. He gave an immediate yes, and the wealth of information he provided is astounding. So much so that I’m going to break this up over two blogs. If you are thinking about starting a podcast, this will give you a pretty good roadmap.

Here’s Part 1:

Ryan: How did you get started podcasting?

Jason:  I was a Lost fanatic and had been addicted to a couple of Lost podcasts, most prominently “The Lost Podcast with Jay and Jack.” As time went on I started thinking it would be fun to do my own podcast. I liked the idea of building community and connecting with an audience over something I was interested in. But I didn’t want to do it unless I had just the right thing to talk about. When I found out they were making my favorite comic book, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, into a TV show, it seemed like the right topic.

I needed a co-host, and my friend Karen was the first person who came to mind. I had gotten her into Lost and she listened to Lost podcasts, too. She and I also had watched a bunch of horror movies together. And even better, she has a bright and energetic personality, which I thought would complement my laid back, sometimes monotone style.

Karen was into it, and so I started researching how to do a podcast. There’s a lot of information online about how to set up a podcast, what equipment to use, how to connect with listeners, best practices, etc. We also got a lot of ideas and inspiration from Jay and Jack and other podcasts we listened to.

About a month later, we recorded our first episode. We were nervous at first, but it was a lot of fun. We decided to keep doing it until it wasn’t fun anymore. That was about a year and a half ago, and we’re both still loving it.

Ryan: Can you take me thru your process of putting together your podcast?

Jason: I spend about five hours prepping for each episode, about an hour and a half recording, and about three and a half hours in post. While the TV show is on the air, we do one a week, and in the off-season, we go bi-weekly, more or less.

To prep for a regular episode, I watch the show, then I watch again and take lots of notes. I collate listener emails and calls, usually editing them for length. I gather news about the show and edit it for length. I sometimes prep sound effects and usually prep a sample from that week’s episode to play at the beginning of the podcast. Sometimes I prep music and bits of audio from the news. If there are any contests, I prep updates for those. I write an agenda that has everything that’s going to happen in the episode.

We quickly go over the agenda. This year, we’ve started doing live broadcasts with a chat room, so we fire all that up and say hi to the chat room members. Then we start the recording. We have a couple of nice condenser mikes hooked up to an audio interface that’s connected to my Mac. I also use an iPad to trigger sound effects and audio clips.

During the recording session, I follow the agenda, but leave a lot of room for spontaneity. It’s important to me that the podcast feel authentic and in-the-moment. When broadcasters speak in a sing-songy voice and don’t sound like real people, I get disengaged. Sometimes I think talking like real people, flaws and all, might make us sound amateurish, but I’d rather that than be stiff or overly rehearsed.

Once we’re done with the recording, I listen to the episode and edit out any big slip ups or sections that didn’t go anywhere. I smooth out all the transitions between segments, add in music and sound effects, and make sure all the audio lines up. I run the audio through an app that levels out the sound, so there aren’t any jarring volume spikes or parts where the sound is too low to hear us. Then I export an MP3 file and an AAC file. AAC is an Apple format that lets you skip around through the different chapters (important when I’m about to reveal a spoiler and I can tell people who don’t want to hear it to just skip to the next chapter). The MP3 file is for listeners who’ve requested it because they don’t have iProducts or don’t want to use iTunes.

I write up a show description and give links to any URL’s we’ve referred to in the episode. I post the MP3 file to our site so people can download it directly if they want, and I upload the AAC file and update both RSS feeds. I ping Feedburner to update with the latest information from our feed, and finally I download the podcast in iTunes to make sure it’s all working correctly.

Stay tuned for Part 2 or as Jason and Karen would end their podcast: “Don’t get bit”…you’ll have to listen to their podcast for that to make sense 🙂

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