Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What is Podcasting, and why is it happening to me?

This past May I attended a wonderful presentation by Rev. John McIver Gage of United Church on the Green in New Haven on using new media in ministry. One of his ideas involved podcasting. I was immediately intrigued and began plotting to create my own sermon podcasts. This post will detail the creative aspects of creating a podcast; a future blog post will go into detail about the technical aspects (and there are many, many technical aspects.)

The Riverton Sermon podcast is designed both for people who have missed a church service and want to hear some of what they missed, and for people who might be interested in checking out the church but want a "sneak preview." I start by recording a script based on the scripture lessons and sermons for a particular week. After a few attempts I settled on condensing the scripture reading and in some cases the sermon. After that I sometimes add background music and even sound effects. I use both traditional, familiar sacred music and evocative instrumental music. When a podcast uses music and sound effects, it is important to be certain that laws and rules regarding fair usage and crediting sources are strictly observed. Go to Creative Commons to learn more about obtaining free and low-cost music and effects for podcasts. Mostly I use music to accompany scripture and to enhance the conclusion of the sermon, but sometimes music feels right in other places as well. I enjoy experimenting with music and sound.

While there is a wide world of great music and sounds available for free use by Podcasters, more than once I have resorted to creating my own sounds at home. The art of creating sound effects using ordinary household objects is called "Foley" after an early pioneer, and you can learn more about it here.

Our sermon podcast has a unique combination of words and music we call the "Intro" and "Outro" for the podcast. It will remain the same, enabling the listener to know when a particular podcast begins and ends.

After the podcast is completed it is downloaded to Podbean, a podcast hosting service. It is possible to listen directly from the Podbean site, or to use Podbean as a portal to subscribe and download the podcasts using other services such as Itunes.

If you are thinking of creating your own Podcast on any subject, I would definitely encourage you to try it, although be warned that your learning curve may be pretty steep early on and that listening to your own voice is stern medicine for most people. Nobody sounds the same on tape as they do in their own head, so it can take some getting used to. Another useful tip is to observe a general schedule for podcasting. Most podcasts come out on a regular schedule (usually daily, weekly or bi-weekly.) It makes it easier to develop a base of listeners if they know when they can look forward to hearing you next! I personally have a number of podcasts I listen to regularly; ones you might check out (besides the previously-mentioned United Church on the Green) include Working Preacher (designed to help prepare preachers for the coming Sunday) and Being. Happy podcast listening and podcasting!

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