What is a Pod Cast?

podcast.jpgA pod cast is a short sound or video recording. It may be part of a larger series of sound or video files dealing with a subject, with each short episode covering a single aspect of a bigger topic. Often, video pod casts tend to be short feature items from a TV news program.

Audio pod casts can be longer than video because of the smaller file size. They can be loosely or tightly scripted and range from highly professional productions like a radio broadcast or much lower in production standards (more "home made"). Sometimes pod casts are made with a microphone, or transferred from an audio recorder, or even from a mobile phone. The interview can be face to face, via phone or computer audio/video-conference. It can be published in a largely unedited or roughly cut version or polished up with an audio editing program -- it all depends on how professional you want to sound.

Audacity (already on the school network or available for free download to laptops) is useful and quite sophisticated audio-editing software that allows you to save files in a range of formats including mp3. You can create multiple tracks and mix voice and music and cut in questions or a range of answers to the same question from different interviews. Pod casts are stored in different file formats on your computer, depending on whether you want to feature sound, sound and still images or sound and video.

podo_logo_medium.gifOnce saved, a pod cast can be published (uploaded) to a web site and then offered as a download. One hosting site among many is PodoMatic. Your podcast can also be tagged as an item in an RSS feed, so that the audience can subscribe to the feed and then get each item automatically downloaded to their computer or iPod as it becomes available. Audio can also be "streamed" live on line.

A succession of pod casts can add together to present a developing point of view rather like a blog. A blog (weB-log) is an on line diary, opinion column or journal-in-progress, with daily, weekly or monthly postings.

You can play pod casts on any recent computer as they are in standard formats. However, you need a quite modern browser to subscribe to an RSS feed or a media player to play individual pod casts or video pod casts. For information on file formats suitable for podcasting, see http://www.sussexdowns.ac.uk/podcasts/dbpage.asp?pid=1117

Source: Notes adapted from webguide materials retrieved on Nov 5 2007, from http://www.sussexdowns.ac.uk/podcasts/dbpage.asp?pid=1116//

What are the features of an effective podcast?

Below are some samples of podcast interviews and discussions on themes similar to those you may be presenting for your Fertile Question. While your own audiofiles will be original, you may like to listen to sections of these to find suitable structures for your own podcasts.

  • Terry Anderson was a journalist for the Associated Press, captured and held captive in Beirut, Lebanon by Hezbollah from 1985-1991. He talks about poetry he wrote when he returned home after this experience.> http://wiredforbooks.org/terry_anderson.htm>

  • At the age of seventeen, Barbara Samson found herself infected with HIV. Angry, depressed, and unsure of her future, she wrote her autobiography, On N'est Pas Serieux Quand On A Dix-sept Ans (Nobody Is Serious when They're Seventeen). The book became a bestseller in France and has been translated into eight languages. Her story was also made into a film for French television. She talks about her experiences. http://wiredforbooks.org/barbarasamson/

  • A panel discussion with Gerald Nicosia, author of Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans Movement, Fred A. Wilcox, author of Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange. The discussion is moderated by Debra Kraus, an Agent Orange widow. http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/audiofiles.html#agentorange

  • What colour is the universe? Dr Karl answers questions about science in space exploration on ABC radio and talks about why his son is doing things that he finds rather odd. Dr Karl usually answers listeners' science questions on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Up All Night program. http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/fivelive/drkarl/drkarl_20071101-1448.mp3http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/fivelive/drkarl/drkarl_20071101-1448.mp3|]]

Why create an Audio-script?

Before you start to record, you need a very clear idea of what your audio product will look like.

Your Fertile Question response could be a written script of a real or imaginary interview. This gives you scope to interview famous and interesting people from the past, present or future that we might otherwise never meet. Of course, this needs to be backed by appropriate research, so that they are talking in character, but you could interview the ghost of Edison and have him comment on what has become of electricity, the designer of the first nuclear bomb, someone living in poverty and affected by a natural disaster around the world, an elderly person looking at how things have changed in the last 50 years, a young person in difficult circumstances because their life is out of control... The possibilities are endless!

You need to create
  • a storyboard
  • then a more complete script
    • with a single frame that focuses on each sub-topic you want to cover
  • which contains
    • an introductory and concluding section
    • title and all publication details, such as name of participants, date of interview
    • brief summary of topic (like an advertising blurb)
    • welcome to the participant(s) and audience
    • a set of open-ended questions (requiring more than a yes/no answer) -- Who...? What...? When...? Where...? How...? Why..? Do you think...? Would you say...?
    • some idea of what the response will be to each question and some prompts in case the interviewee hesitates or becomes confused
    • thanks to those who particpated
    • examples of events, jokes or quotations that might be included, but only if appropriate
    • a timeline, so that you can estimate the length of the total interview
  • You also need to make a list of all the equipment you will require and plan out your project actions and timeline in a logical sequence.
  • Link here to an example of an audio script, with sections and features annotated.