Podcasts are an audio medium, so a produced piece needs to fill in all the details that our other senses would normally pick up on. How do you tell someone that it’s night or day? Or if you’re inside or outside? Maybe you’re telling a story about a sea captain on boat. Does the narrator just say, “Captain Davy Jones walked a across the deck of his tugboat?” Is that the best, most interesting way to relay that information? Probably not.
Audio may at first seem to be a limited storytelling medium, but it’s actually superior in many ways because of its limitations. All you need to do is engage the audience with your words, your voice and the sounds you use to illustrate your story. Those are all things you can control.
In an ideal world, the podcaster would be able to record all of the sounds she needs in one place, preferably a studio. This would allow her to control the environment and ensure that the quality of the audio recording was perfect. But to tell a bigger story, she needs to get out of the studio and into the real world because that’s where all the good sounds are.
Remember Captain Davy Jones? Imagine leaving the dock aboard his tugboat. The water crashes against the side of the boat. Seagulls squawking overhead, a foghorn sounds in the distance as the boat’s engine putters steadily below. Captain Jones sees you through the window of the bridge, opens and slams the door. He’s left his mate in charge. Clop, clop, clop, he galumphs down the the steps and lands with a thump onto the deck. “I’m ready for my interview. What do you want to know?” he says. All those sounds, familiar or unusual sounds, his voice, tell a story and set the scene.
Instructions: For this exercise, you’re going to tell a story using identifiable sounds. The total length of the interview will be two minutes, but 60 seconds of that needs to be an interview. The subject can introduce himself and describe some of the actions, but the majority of the scene-setting needs to be told through recognizable sounds. You’ll also need to illustrate the subject’s actions as he’s describing them, like the sound of a mechanic opening the hood of a car and starting to work on the engine. There will be no voiceover narration from the interviewer or music to set the mood. The more you can tell the story with fewer words the better.
As you’re doing this project, keep several things in mind: Make sure that the audio levels are consistent among the various elements. If you’re recording outside, put a foam cover on your microphone to keep the wind from interfering with your recording. Don’t just string sounds together; tell a story, with a beginning, middle and end. Make it interesting. Draw your listeners into the scene you’re setting. And have fun. Podcasting should always be fun.