Today I’m going to walk through how we create our sermon podcast audio files for Crossway Church. The software we use is free, so you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars just to have a podcast. We use an audio editor called Audacity, a post-processing utility called Levelator, and iTunes, and so the sections below deal with the steps for using each.
Editing the Audio
The first thing you’ll need to do is install these programs, and then open up the audio of the sermon you captured in Audacity. Open Audacity, select File, Open, and navigate to the audio file.
If the audio file is in stereo, the first thing you’ll want to do is to split the stereo tracks. To the left of the waveform is a grey box with all the information about the audio file in it. Select the drop-down arrow next to the file name and choose “Split Stereo to Mono”. Next, close one of the split tracks so that only one remains. This is the one you will edit.
The next thing we need to do is to is apply a noise reduction filter. This is important because Levelator will process this audio better if there is low background noise. Find the longest portion of the audio track that appears to be silent—make sure there are no voices, and highlight that section. Go to Effect, Noise Removal and click the “Get Noise Profile” Button. Next, highlight the entire file using CNTRL+A, and then go to Effect, Noise Removal again. The default settings under the “Step 2” section should work fine for most situations, so just press “OK”. Audacity will process the audio and remove the background noise from the entire file.
Finally, edit the file. Do not include music or sound effects yet. When you’re finished editing, export the file to WAV. Go to File, Export… and make sure the “Save as type” dropdown box is set to “WAV (Microsoft) signed 16 bit PCM”. Save the file.
Sweeten the Audio and Finalize the Podcast
Next, we need to sweeten the audio so that it sounds more pleasing to the ear. Open up Levelator. Then click and drag the WAV file you saved from Audacity over the Levelator window and release. Levelator will sweeten the audio and output a file of the same name with “.output” suffixed into the file name. So if you dropped “myaudio.wav” onto Levelator, it will output “myaudio.output.wav” into the same folder as the original file.
Open the output file in Audacity and play back a little of the file in different sections to make sure that it does not sound like there is a lot of static. If there is, you probably need to run through the noise reduction process again and ensure that next Sunday the audio feed is captured at a loud enough volume.
Finally, add whatever music or sound effects you need to and export the file again. This is the file we’ll convert to MP3 with.
You can convert the file to MP3 from Audacity, but you need to install a codec, which can get pretty technical. So we’ll use iTunes instead.
Converting to MP3 and Uploading
Open iTunes and in the top left-hand corner click on the grey and white double-rectangle and select “Preferences”. Toward the bottom of the window that pops up is a section that says “When you insert a CD”. This section is somewhat deceptively named, but go ahead and click in Import Settings. Make sure “Import Using” is set to “MP3 Encoder”. Then set the “Setting” to whatever you wish for your podcast. We use “Custom…” with a 128 kbps stereo bit rate, a 44.100 kHz sample rate, Mono channel, with “Smart Encoding Adjustments” and “Filter Frequencies Below 10 Hz” checked. If you don’t know what any of this means, just copy my settings. Then click “OK” 3 times to close each window.
Next, navigate to the Music section. In the left-hand corner below the double rectangle icon is a drop-down menu. Click it and select “Music”.
Drag your finished WAV file onto iTunes and release. The file will be copied into iTunes’ music library.
Locate the file, which will probably be categorized underneath “Unknown Album”. Right-click on the file name and select “Create MP3 Version.” This will take a moment to convert, but when it’s done it will appear in a new album named after the file name. Locate that file, right-click on it and select “Show in Windows Explorer.” You can now cut this file and paste it to where you can easily find it again.
Name the file however you want and then upload it to your web host. CrossWay uses a nice WordPress plugin called Sermon Manager (Click here to read all our sermon plugin reviews here.). This is pretty self explanatory, and it includes some documentation that should help you get started right here. When you add a sermon, you can upload the podcast audio file from the “Add New Sermon” page.
I should make note of one thing, however. The featured image is not the podcast cover image. The featured image is an image that is featured on the website only. To set a podcast cover image, you should create your podcast feed through Google feedburner. Under the Optimize tab on feedburner is a service called “Feed Image Burner”. Click on that and make sure that “Specify custom image URL” is set as the Image Source, and then type in your custom image URL into text box below that. Title and link your image as well, and then click the “Save” button. The image you use should be 1400×1400 pixels to conform to the iTunes podcast standard.
Once you have this all set, you’re ready to produce podcasts!