This morning’s to-do list contained ‘set up podcast of university lectures’. It didn’t sound very difficult. A classmate uses a rather cool Olympus gadget to record each week’s talk, and I knew it should be easy enough to get these online. Of course, I also knew that ‘easy’ jobs always turn out to be way more complex than is reasonable. Except, not this time. In fact, it was worryingly easy.
- The original files were in WMA format, and I wanted MP3 to ensure maximum compatibility. Lame, the daddy of all MP3 encoders, just spat noise – possibly in disgust – so I used WinFF. It probably would have been possible to convert them straight to MP3, but I needed to edit first without losing quality so converted them to wave.
- Audacity handled the 600mb wave files without a problem, so I trimmed the lectures and stripped two 30min film excerpts, then re-saved as another wave.
- I like Lame, so I used its (undocumented) ‘voice’ preset to encode the wave files into roughly 56kbps MP3 files, which shrunk the 1gb .wav down to 30mb. That’s just silly. I couldn’t detect any quality difference, albeit only using computer speakers. Old stalwart Winamp handled appropriate ID3 tags.
- I knew little about setting up podcasts, but an easy solution presented itself when I remembered that WordPress can handle all the feed technicalities. I shoved a basic install onto an old domain name idling on a kind friend’s bandwidth-friendly server and created a post for each podcast, linking to the MP3 file in each. WordPress figures out from this that you’d like the file added as a media enclosure, and creates a podcatcher-compatible XML feed. In theory this was all I needed to do.
- Just to be sure, though, I dropped the feed into the I-can-do-anything-with-feeds FeedBurner, which cheerily provided browser interfaces etc., download numbers, etc.. I was able to subscribe in iTunes thirty seconds later – it worked first time!
It sounds more complicated than it was. The only problem was with the WMA conversion, but it took all of a minute’s googling to find WinFF. All the above is completely legal – rare, when working with video/audio encoding tools – and, apart from the web-hosting, free. I’ll have to watch the bandwidth – I reckon the 20 students in my class should be ok, but if the 60 full-timers find it I could be in trouble.