How to start a podcast at UC Berkeley

Updated: Feb. 23, 2020

Anne interviewing Gemma in a courtyard

Anne Brice interviews staffer Gemma Givens for Berkeley News podcast Fiat Vox. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Hi, my name is Anne Brice. I’m a podcast producer and writer for Berkeley News in UC Berkeley’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs. I write, report and produce Fiat Vox, about people and their work at UC Berkeley, and I manage Berkeley Talks, a podcast that features lectures and conversations at Berkeley.

This is what I’ve learned along the way, and resources that have been useful to me. I am sure some of the things I do won’t work for you and probably aren’t the most efficient way, but it’s worked for me to this point. Resources are always changing and I’m discovering better ways of doing things all the time, so I will be sure to keep this updated as I learn more.

If you have suggestions or questions, email me at abrice@berkeley.edu.

NOTE: I will be on leave starting March 1, 2020, and will be able to respond to podcast-related inquiries again in mid-May 2020.

Recording interviews and events

1) Do-it-yourself

A) Equipment:

B) In-person recording techniques:

  • Always use earphones, mount and a windscreen.
  • Go someplace quiet. Put your headphones on, press record, turn up the volume and listen. If you hear whirring or humming, try to turn off whatever is making the noise. If you hear street noise or someone talking, move to a quieter spot if you can or at least point your recorder away from the source. You can edit out some background sound in post if it’s consistent, like a low hum, but it’s good to try to get clean audio because all editing causes audio distortion to some degree.
  • Ask the interviewee or interviewees to avoid touching the table, tapping a pen or playing with their keys. Some interviews are conducted in the field or outside. In these cases, try to decrease background noise as much as possible and pause the interview during loud disturbances.
  • Buzzsprout offers great advice for microphone recording techniques.
  • Record room sound or normal background noise where you do interviews to use during editing if needed.
  • Recording natural sound is a nice way to set the scene or give an example of something you mention in your story, eg. frogs ribbiting, flute music, peregrine falcon cakking, fire crackling, people chatting, Campanile chiming … you get the point.

C) Recording over the phone:

  • The easiest way I’ve found is to record audio over the phone is to download a free app — Voice Record Pro — available for iPhone and Android. Interviewees can download the app on their phone and record their answers into their phone mic.
    • It’s best to hold it about 1 ft from your mouth to avoid popping ps. I recommend recording in .wav (or .mp3 if your phone doesn’t have enough storage space for a .wav file). You can email or text the file from the app.
  • You can also buy Audio Hijack for your computer and record chats in Facetime, Skype or Google Hangouts.
    • The audio for Facetime is the least compressed.

D) Locations on campus to record (for free!):

  • The environmental design library has a recording room (Wurster Hall, 210D) that is open to UC Berkeley students, staff and faculty with a Cal 1 card. The room is acoustically designed for recording audio or video on your own equipment. Seats up to five.
  • The Berkeley Publications and Media Center offers registered student media organizations its office (MLK Student Union, Rm 177) for meetings and an adjoining studio for recording sound or filming. Media equipment is available for checkout from the Berkeley Publications and Media Center.
  • Students enrolled in media production classes (who pay a $60 lab fee for expendables) and graduate students in art practice can reserve a space in the Digital Media Lab. Kroeber Hall Kr 295 is set up as a digital editing lab, with an independent sound recording booth. 24-hour access.
  • DIY Media Service supports instructors who want to add video to their teaching techniques. Although this isn’t specifically for podcasting, it’s a good resource that I thought I should include.
    • This service includes studios in Dwinelle Hall and Berkeley Way West. Each studio is equipped with HD cameras, professional lighting, multiple backdrops, pen tablets and a variety of screen capture and video software; DIY media workstations (with audio editing software); staff to provide a basic orientation on the available tools and resources for learning on your own and consultation for those who need guidance on video strategy, workflow development, etc.

2) Hiring a technician

A) Recording in a studio:

  • The graduate journalism school has a studio available to reserve, along with an audio technician who can record an interview. You can submit a radio request online or call the North Cate Studio Manager at (510) 501-7713 for more info about the studio, rates, to schedule a tour or for your broadcast needs.
    • The radio studio rate is $140/hr with a one-hour minimum. After the first hour, additional time is billed in 30-minute increments ($70/half hour). Client requested connection tests (ISDN, etc) and client pre-scheduled connecting/dialing in early are billed as an additional one-quarter hour ($35).
      • Note: For off-hours bookings between 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. Pacific time, there is an additional $50 off-hours fee (per booking occurrence; NOT per hour). Off-hours also includes ALL bookings scheduled for Saturdays, Sundays and U.S. Federal Holidays. There is a 24-hour cancellation policy.
  • The Berkeley Language Center studio offers recording services available to the entire UC Berkeley campus. Technicians will record for $80/hour. The studio space is not available to rent. It’s open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. A 24-hour cancellation notice is appreciated.

B) Lectures and events:

  • Educational Technology Services (ETS) is available to hire. Email Jon Schainker jonschainker@berkeley.edu and Airdri Stoddart airdri@berkeley.edu to request an audio or video recording of a lecture or event on campus.
    • Generally, a one-hour event is $591 and a two-hour talk is $731, but rates may vary, so contact ETS for an exact quote. Additional mics are $10 per mic. ETS provides a transcript and has speakers sign media release forms.
  • The Berkeley Language Center is also available to record audio of events — lectures and panel discussions — for $80/hour. They don’t get media releases or provide transcripts. To inquire about hiring the BLC for this service, contact Keith Hernandez at kah@berkeley.edu.

Recording narration

I don’t have the best setup for recording narration. Ideally, you’d have a soundproof studio available where you can record. But many of us need a do-it-yourself solution. Here’s what I do and some tips:

Podcast production

  • The Advanced Media Institute at the graduate school of journalism has produced several campus podcasts, and also offers workshops and bootcamps to give you the skills to produce your own podcast.
  • Educational Technology Services (ETS) offers training sessions at $100/hour for anyone in the Berkeley community who would like to learn how to use recording equipment. Email or call Jon Schainker to set it up: jonschainker@berkeley.edu, (510) 507-2416.
    • Note: Recording equipment is not available to rent from ETS.

Media releases

It’s a good idea to get media releases from people you record — speakers and interviewees. Here is a podcast release form, where you name the podcast that the interview will be featured on.

  • Remember: The podcast release form only gives permission for you to share the content on the specific podcast listed. Here is a broader media release form.

Editing

  • Adobe Audition, which is what I use to edit my audio, is free for everyone on the UC Berkeley campus. Here’s more info about how to use Adobe Creative Cloud applications at UC Berkeley.
    • To learn more about editing in Adobe Audition, the campus community can take free online tutorials at LinkedIn Learning (formerly lynda.com).
  • Leave a second or two of silence in the beginning and end of each episode — some directories seems to cut off the very beginning if you’re listening to several episodes in a row.
  • It’s hard to know what file format to use when exporting your podcast. I noticed that my podcast episodes were sounding lower quality than others I was listening to, so now I follow these podcast exporting guidelines by Podcasting Pro. My podcasts have been sounding a lot better since I began following the guidelines.
  • Spext ($10-$21/hour) is another option for editing audio. I haven’t used it, but it comes recommended by UC Berkeley’s Advanced Media Institute. It’s an all-in-one platform for voice conversations that offers automatic transcription, voice editing and repurposing.

Music

  • Free Music Archive. Be sure to follow the requirements given by each contributing artist. Creative Commons licenses are the most common kind of license on their site. Read their license guide.
    • Note: The FMA has been going through some rough transitions in the past year — companies keep buying it and trying to revamp it, and it often doesn’t work as it should. I usually use instrumental music by an artist called Blue Dot Sessions — they have their own website where you can download their music. You can use any of their music for free as long as you aren’t making any money from your podcasts. If you are, then you need to buy a license with them.

Logo

When you open your hosting account, be sure to include a logo for your podcast and follow your podcast host’s specifications. We recommend that you follow UC Berkeley brand guidelines. Questions? Email chief marketing officer Ram Kapoor at ram.kapoor@berkeley.edu or creative director Hulda Nelson at huldanelson@berkeley.edu.

Hosting

  • We started off using Pippa. The hosting platform has since become a part of Acast and is hosted on Acast Open, and still offers great support, advanced analytics and unlimited episodes. Rates start at $14.99/month if paid annually and $25/month if paid monthly. At Berkeley, we qualify for 20% discount for the lifetime of an account, so to host one podcast, it’s about $180/year. (Those who started with Pippa before the shift to Acast Open will retain their original rates, which began at $12/month or $115/year.)
  • For a free option, SoundCloud is available. There is a limit to how many minutes you can upload, but it’s a fine option if you don’t have the funds to pay for hosting and you’re only uploading a limited number of podcast episodes.
  • There are so many places to host your podcast. You should find one that works best for you. Here is a list of other hosting platforms you might consider.

Transcription

To meet federal ADA regulations for accessibility, we need to provide a written transcript of each podcast episode. In my stories for Fiat Vox, I provide a written version of the transcript with photos below the audio player — it’s the same content, but written in the style of an article. Here’s an example of a Fiat Vox story. For Berkeley Talks, I publish the transcript in a separate post on WordPress, then link to it from the main post. Here’s an example of a Berkeley Talks post.

  • In a transcript, be sure to include:
    • All words spoken. If more than one person speaks, identify the speaker each time, either by name or more generically, eg. Speaker 1, Speaker 2, etc.
    • Other sounds, including sound effects, natural/background sound, music

Transcription services:

  • I use Trint (starts at $48/month) to transcribe my interviews for Fiat Vox. It’s pretty accurate, has time stamps, allows multiple team members to join and makes it easy to find specific phrases when I’m writing a script.
    • There are several other services that provide AI-generated transcripts, including Temi and Otter.
    • Spext ($10-$21/hour) is another option. I haven’t used it, but it comes recommended by UC Berkeley’s Advanced Media Institute. It’s an all-in-one platform for voice conversations that offers automatic transcription, voice editing and repurposing.
  • I use Rev ($1.25/minute) to create transcripts for Berkeley Talks. I post the entire 30-minute to two-hour lecture transcript, so I need these to be highly accurate. I also don’t need to interact with the transcript, like I do when I’m writing a script for Fiat Vox.
  • It’s also an option to use 3PlayMedia ($2.25/minute or lower, if you buy a bigger package) to have audio and video transcribed. It’s a UC-wide captioning vendor.

Submitting to podcast directories

Here are some of the directories to which I’ve submitted Fiat Vox and Berkeley Talks. Our podcasts are on many more directories, but I like how these look and work the best. Most hosting sites also automatically submit your podcast to certain directories.

  • Apple Podcasts
  • Spotify
  • Overcast
  • Castbox
  • Google Podcasts
  • Stitcher