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Podcasting Tricks: The Log
Image by the queen of subtle, via Flickr
First, I should say that this isn't a podcasting trick I invented. I learned it from Ira Glass and Jessica Abel, who collaborated on an excellent comic called Radio: An Illustrated Guide. (It's not in print right now, and thus crazy expensive, but should you ever find yourself in the position of obtaining a copy, do so immediately because it rocks.)
Okay, so that said, what's a log? It's something rather unromantic and extremely useful: it's a rough written transcript of a recorded interview. I just sit at my computer with the headphones on, listen to the recording and type what I hear into a text doc. I don't worry about getting a word-for-word transcript, mind you; I just get down the broad strokes of what's being said.
A recent log I made of my interview with Brian R. Jones.
Why is a log useful in podcasting? Well, not all interviews proceed along an orderly path. In fact, some of the best interviews proceed along the most un-orderly paths. You know how a great conversation goes sometimes – you careen around among lots of topics, and you circle back to certain ideas several times. Good conversations are often wild rides, and fun to participate in as a face-to-face experience.
But podcast-listening is still a linear activity. You can only listen to a podcast from beginning to end; you can't easily skip around.
Image by crows_wood, via Flickr
…Which is why some interviews, in order to become more pleasant and coherent listening experiences, need a little re-arrangement. Sometimes I need to move the questions and answers around so they follow a more logical progression of ideas. Sometimes they need moving about so there's a more coherent progression of time. Sometimes, I'll take that digression my guest had answering Question #5, and move it to the end of their answer to Question #2, where it makes more sense.
So, to be clear, I'm not taking anything my guest says out of context. I'm building an easier-to-follow story for my listener.
The log is an excellent tool for making an interview more coherent, because it makes audio visible. When I'm listening to a 40-minute recording, it's actually a lot of work to keep track of what got said when. The minute I have a log in front of me, I can easily see what needs to be moved where.
Image by Carl Spaulding, via Flickr
…It's actually hard to show you the magical effect logging can have on an interview without making you sit through a lot of uncut audio. But I'm far too, um, detail-oriented to make you do that! Take my word for it, okay?