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Give your Web site a voice

Interested in starting your own talk-radio show? Well, it’s never been easier. With the release of iLife ‘06, Apple turned GarageBand into an all-in-one studio for creating, editing, and posting podcasts.

Recording and editing your podcast

Content aside, the most important component of your podcast is your voice. To start a new voice recording, open GarageBand and choose New Podcast Episode in the dialog box. When the main window opens, select the Male or Female voice track, click on the red Record button, and begin talking into your microphone. When you’re done, click on the Record button a second time to stop recording.

Once you’ve recorded your voice track in GarageBand, take a few minutes to polish it up by removing flubs, pauses, and external noise.

Nixing Noise To reduce some of the ambient noise in your recording—such as the sound of your Mac’s fan or the traffic passing outside your window—use GarageBand’s built-in Speech Enhancer effect. Double-click on the voice track you recorded to reveal the Track Info pane. From there, click on the triangle next to Details, and select the pencil icon next to the Speech Enhancer effect. In the resulting window, adjust the Reduce Noise slider while playing back your track (see “Shaddup!”). When you’ve found the best setting for your recording, close the Speech Enhancer window to apply the effect.

Splitsville Inexperienced podcasters are particularly prone to vocal hitches, long pauses, and superfluous “ums”—all of which can make for tedious lis-tening. To eliminate these flubs, use GarageBand’s Split command. With your vocal track selected, go to Edit: Split and highlight a part of the track you’d like to trim from the timeline. Drag the selected region by its bottom corner to separate it from the rest of the track and remove it. Then drag the remaining pieces of the track together for a seamless edit. If you like, you can even select each part and choose Edit: Join to assemble the two parts into a single chunk.

Shaddup! Buried within GarageBand’s Speech Enhancer effect is a slider for noise reduction.

Making tracks

Although your podcast can contain a single voice track, why not create a richer podcast by adding voice tracks, sound effects, and music? These tips will help.

Jingle Jumble Using the included Jingles tracks can be a great way to add a little something extra to your voice recording. But you may not like any of the jingles included in GarageBand. In that case, you can use your own. Simply drag any digital audio file you like into this track, including unprotected music tracks from your iTunes library and sound effects found in the iLife Sound Effects folder (/Library/Audio/Audio Loops/Apple/iLife Sound Effects). To make these folders more accessible, locate them in the Finder, open GarageBand’s Media Browser (Control: Show Media Browser), click on the Audio tab, and drag the folder full of sounds into the Media Browser. Click on that folder in the Media Browser to see its contents in the Name list.

Goose the Ducking GarageBand 3 includes a new ducking feature that automatically raises and lowers the volume of background tracks when circumstances dictate—for example, when the lead voice drops out. However, some listeners find that GarageBand’s ducking lacks subtlety—the backing track comes up too abruptly when the lead voice disappears or takes too long to fade out when the lead voice returns. For more control over this effect, create your own ducks by manually drawing volume curves.

To do so, click on the downward arrow in the background track to reveal its Track Volume control. Click on the blue volume line at the spot where you’d like to begin adjusting the track’s volume, and again at the spot where you want the volume curve to end. Then drag this second marker to the desired volume level. Repeat this process at every spot where you’d like to raise or lower the track’s volume (see “Quack!”).

Play While Recording GarageBand’s Radio Sounds track is similar to traditional radio’s cart machine—a tape-based device that plays short sound effects, prerecorded segments, and commercials. To trigger the sounds within this track, go to Window: Musical Typing and press keys on your Mac’s keyboard. To add these sound effects to your podcast, make sure the Radio Sounds track’s small red Record button is turned on. This is a great way to trigger “live” sound effects as you record.

Quack! If GarageBand’s Ducking feature isn’t subtle enough for you, draw ducks of your own.

If you don’t care for the sounds currently mapped to the virtual keyboard, you can change them by double-clicking on the Radio Sounds entry in the Tracks column and, in the resulting Track Info pane, selecting Sound Effects. Choose a different sound effect—Atom Smasher or Comedy Noises, for example. This maps the collection of sounds to the Musical Typing keyboard. For even more flexibility, drag a Real Instrument (digital audio) track that you like to a key in the Musical Typing keyboard. This action maps that sound to the corresponding key on your Mac’s keyboard.

Pretty as a picture

Adding chapter markers and artwork can make your podcast richer and more easily navigable (see “Sights and Sounds”).

Size (and Kind) Matters When creating artwork for your podcast—specifically the episode artwork that will represent your podcast in the iTunes Music Store—use square JPEG or PNG images that are 300 by 300 pixels. To resize GarageBand’s episode artwork, double-click on the image to bring up the Artwork Editor window. Drag the image to reposition it within the window. Use the slider at the bottom of the window to zoom in and out.

Sights and Sounds GarageBand lets you add artwork to your podcasts, so you can create a multimedia presentation. You can even add URLs to photos, to send listeners online.
(Click image to open full screenshot)

Send ’em Somewhere Your podcast will be even more useful if you add Web links to it. To do so, click on the Podcast Track and drag some artwork from GarageBand’s Media Browser into the track where you’d like a link to appear—when you mention a favorite Web site, for example. This will create a new chapter marker. If it’s not already visible, press Command-E to open the Track Editor pane. Select the chapter you just created and enter a Web address in the chapter’s URL field. You may also want to enter the Web site’s name in the URL Title field (otherwise only the Web address will appear on screen during your podcast).

Publish or Perish When you’re satisfied with your podcast, you can publish it to your iWeb site by opening the Share menu and selecting Send Podcast To iWeb. Specify where you’d like to publish the podcast. iWeb then imports your podcast into a new entry page with placeholder text for a brief description.

Signing off

While these tips can help you make a cleaner, more professional-sounding podcast, they can’t provide the ingredients integral to today’s most successful podcasts—engaging content heaped with a large measure of personality. And that comes only from doing it time and again. Perhaps it’s time to get started.

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