How To Make An Episode Of 301
Firstly, ensure that you have completely forgotten about the episode you made last week. deleted it from your rain. I for example have yet to listen back to the MSN episode since I uploaded it last week. I do know however that I’m proud of it. And need to remember to say hello to all the new listeners as well as the stalwarts.
Then reflect on the fact you didn’t even think about the fact you needed to make a podcast for at least the last 5 days. Instead you lived your life, read books, browsed the web, and tried your hardest not to waste time on social media. Because that leaves space for thoughts and ideas. Make sure you write them down. More than one episode has grown out of a scribble in a notebook or line in the 300 word daily diary you keep.
Yesterday, Thursday. Spend all day running topics and ideas though your head. What have you been thinking about? Anything interesting? Get into bed Thursday night and remember to mention that it’s your birthday on Saturday and it would be cool if the people who listen to 301 could leave a nice rating and a review on iTunes for you as a nice present.
Go to sleep.
Wake up Friday morning.
It’s now or never.
Sit down at the computer, open up google docs and wait for it to load. Click on the empty subheading 20-29 in the document outline that you added at the end of last week. Watch it scroll down past the 30,000 words of the script you’ve written so far this year and feel a fleeting proudness at your accomplishment. See the empty page in the document.
Avoid starting work by standing up and going to make tea. Choose a flavour that won’t make your mouth make smacking noises. Definitely avoid any kind oat or soy milk.
With a fruit tea in hand, sit down again and crack your knuckles theatrically and start typing. Brain to page. Don’t think just type.
Take a breather and highlight your script so far. Hit CMD shift c. Realise that you’ve only written 418 words and sigh. Make a note with a little asterisk to record a sigh to cut in. Wonder if it will sound any good.
Keep typing more of the script. Once you have made enough episodes you’ll know that 350 – 400 words is about the right length to have introduced and concluded the first idea. Given that each script comes in about around 1000 words you need to make a decision. Is today a show that has three beats in it or just two? Are they separate ideas, or are all the beats part of a larger augment? It’s funny. Once you get up to about 500 words which is where we are up to in the episode now, you already need to start to think about sticking the landing for the show.
If you have been listening along for a while, you’ll know some shows sometimes don’t conclude or it feels a bit forced. This is usually because you’ve had to cut out a few hundred words somewhere out of the episode to make time.
Reflect on how last year you would push the script up to sometimes 1100 words and just speak really really fast. But you know it doesn’t really work week after week. Save the info dump for an episode like the Warhammer one you made. Episode 20-07 if you’re wondering. Think to yourself that 301 works better when it has a little bit of space.
Feel good about getting a reference to a previous show into today’s episode. Bonus points if you are building on a previous argument.
Check the word count again. About 300 words left to go. Decide at this late stage you wanted to do more with the audio than you intended. Pull out the field recording mic and run to the kitchen.
Get the room divider out from behind the couch and do the delicate dance of boxing yourself in between the chair and the arm of the couch that’s mere inches behind you.
Drape the blanket over the divider and Start to get hot immediately. Wish you’d worn shorts. Place several cushions up against the wall behind the laptop in line with your face, Place another in the corner of the room down the side of the desk to stop sound reflections
Open Garage Band. The most important part is to nail the opening “well well well“. Levels might need tweaking, take a sip of water. Not too much as you’ll get mouth noises on the mic. Then launch into reading the script.
Record the whole script in one take. Don’t stop the recording at any time. If you screw up a line or a word, just pick up at the beginning of the last sentence and start again. It’s no worries. You’ve learnt to talk into the microphone in a way that’s easy to stitch together.
When you’re done you’ll know you have an easy day if you have a continuous file about 8 minutes long. Look at the clock and see you only have 18 minutes left.
Start the edit. Apply the podcast patch you’ve been refining for this recording location. Compression, low pass filter, Eq etc. Cut out all the silences, coughs, sneezes. Follow the script as you listen though and pick the best takes from any lines you fumbled. Usually you’ll come in at about about 5mins and 10 seconds. Go back to the beginning again and cut microseconds out between every sentence until you get to time.
As you do. Reflect on the fact that about 80% of every episode of this show arrives to the listener as a first take. written, recorded and edited in one hour by you. Jay Springett.
The above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.