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Podcasting News: Sound Levels are Important, Maron vs. Radio

This week’s podcasting news is mostly just light and fun. Though I’ll start with the very serious business of sound, which is pretty essential to podcasting.

Though not expressly about podcasting, per se, public radio producer and journalism professor Adam Ragusea just published a well-researched commentary piece for Current all about audio levels, and why you’re doing them wrong, and why it matters.

The problem is that listening to public radio terrestrial broadcasts, online broadcasts and podcasts exposes many listeners to an inconvenient to aggravating amount of volume changes. Those variances can cause some content to become nearly inaudible, especially in noisier environments like a car, forcing the listener to up the volume, only to be blasted out when a louder segment follows. It’s also a problem for people listening to podcasts in a playlist or with an app like Stitcher or Swell, where one show might be much quieter or louder than the one preceding it.

Even though there are some baseline standards on the books for the public radio satellite distribution system, these really don’t address the perceived loudness. As Ragusea explains, perceived loudness is different than the actual numerical loudness, as expressed in decibels, because we perceive different frequencies differently.

That’s why experienced radio producers with a background in music production still rely on their ears to adjust levels in the final mix, rather than trusting the visual waveforms and level indicators they see on the mixing board or editing app. He talks with Dylan Keefe–formerly of the alt rock band Marcy Playground–who is technical director for Radiolab, and Rob Byers, technical coordinator for American Public Media, who are both working on ways to standardize audio levels in public broadcasting (which, of course, is increasingly becoming public podcasting).

Any current or aspiring podcast or radio producer should read Ragusea’s whole article, and listen to his full audio interview with Keefe and Byers.

Podcast Tour Documentary To Release in Fall, Promoted by Podcast Tour

The “I got fired” tour movie is close to becoming its own genre. First, in 2011 there was the release of Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, documenting his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour that followed his firing from the Tonight Show in 2010.

This year’s SXSW saw the premiere of the documentary Harmontown, which follows the podcast tour that Dan Harmon embarked on after he was fired from the NBC sitcom Community, which he created. Now that film is set for theatrical and video-on-demand release this fall. Harmon will go on another podcast tour to promote it.

Maron vs. Radio

Because I no longer have cable TV, I’ve unfortunately missed most of this season of Maron on IFC. However, choice bits and scenes do get posted to YouTube.

A colleague called my attention to this recent clip where Maron defends podcasting to a pair of morning show DJs live on the air. I only wish that these TV-world DJs’ tired schtick and sound effects weren’t so close to reality.


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