Thinking about Sound, Podcast Pre-Production
Readings & Writings
99% Invisible, a podcast hosted by Roman Mars, describes itself aptly as being about “…all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” Much of what I do in my career is invisible by nature—both literally as I write code that gets interpreted or compiled into the actual interface a visitor uses, thinking from an accessibility-first design perspective, and by working closely with a team of designers to build the best research-based UX (user experience) possible. All of this work can be thought of as invisible, but not unnoticed.
While planning to record my own podcast it is abundantly clear just “winging it” will be doing myself and my listeners a disservice. By doing the upfront research and planning I can instead produce an “…invisible podcast script [that] comes across so naturally that the listener thinks it’s been ad-libbed.” (Anderson, 2020)
A natural sounding yet professional podcast is my ideal result. My plan is to utilize my experience improvising onstage, giving conference talks, and what I’ve learned during my college education. At Anne Arundel Community College I remember advice from my Public Speaking 101 course that sticks with me to this day regarding professional speech structure; “Tell me what you’re going to tell me, tell me, tell me what you told me.” While this advice could be simplified down to “Introduction, Content, Conclusion” — the same structure used for nearly all creative or professional writing — the specific wording my professor provided made it more personable.
Furthermore, in that same class we learned to write flexible bullet point speech outlines. The organized yet improvisational nature of a flexible outline has been my strategy for a decade now. There are pros and cons to this approach, as Colin Gray (2020) points out, “…your voice becomes a lot more active, a lot less monotone. The problem, of course, is that there’s a significant chance that you’ll miss things out or perhaps get something wrong. It’s also much more likely you’ll go a bit off-track, talking on a tangent and wasting a bit of time.” To combat this, I practice and refinement my content until it becomes second nature — knowing that perfection is the opposite of progress and my next attempt will be better than the last.
Research to Inform
Before recording my own podcast it’s good practice to listen to some others. By doing so I can understand some things I enjoy, aspects I feel could be done better, or generally understand what’s out there to forge my own path.
- 99% Invisible I’ve already introduced in the prior section above. Impressively at over 400 episodes, yet not one of my regular podcasts I return back to very often. However, this podcast has always stayed in the back of my mind for its clever name accompanied by a beautiful brand. My interpretation is that this podcast takes itself very seriously, perhaps even too much so. I do really love mixing they manage on audio recordings incorporated from other sources, as they intentionally sounds like it has its own space to breathe while given meaningful context.
- Stuff You Should Know is a podcast voiced by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant with a simple, yet well executed, premise; pick an interesting podcast and present it in a way even more interesting than its basic research material would suppose through fun banter. The podcast has been around since 2008 with 1500 episodes and it really shows with how relaxed the authors communicate the content. A shining example of tireless practice to produce an effortless feeling product. Personally, this is a podcast I’ll continue to return to when I want to fall asleep and rest peacefully at night — for better or for worse as this does mean the podcast can feel so relaxed it’s delightfully boring at times.
- Adeptus Ridiculous is a smaller podcast of a few dozen episodes of Warhammer 40k lore. It has a beautiful dynamic between Bricky the Loremaster and DK the Warhammer Noob, as they are self titled, where one person with a ton of deep knowledge on the subject speaks excitedly about their passion to someone excited to listen along. It’s really easy to ease into the role of the Noob as we listen along with DK. The musical intro is deep gothic and appropriate to the theme, though there is a lot of silence as there’s no background music during these hour long stream of consciousness podcasts. It’d be intriguing to apply this format to other gaming mediums like TTRPG’s but in shorter bursts with more quality control.
Next week I intend to record a podcast on prepping a spooky TTRPG game session. With the lessons learned in the prior sections I’ve put together the following Pre-Production Planning Document which includes; a creative brief, a mind map, notes, and a rough script. Wish me luck!