Let’s build something amazing together.

ELEVATEDSTUDIO brings new stories to life and new life to stories. Our clients include Netflix, Sony Pictures Television, Comcast, and others. Principal and CEO Dave Finch has collaborated with The New York Times, Rolling Stone, O The Oprah Magazine, NPR’s This American Life and All Things Considered, NBC, WGN, The Modern Love Podcast, HBO, and more.

Elevated Podcast Production: A Marriage of Storytelling, Sound Design, and Audio Engineering for a Superior Listening Experience.

Sound matters. In voice media, whether it’s podcasts radio or audio books, the dialog has to dance and sparkle for the listener. This means crisp consonants, velvety vowels, and punchy plosives. It also means the absence of any spurious sounds that can distract the ear: excessive breath noise, dry mouth, clicks and thuds, room ambience.

ELEVATEDSTUDIO provides end-to-end development and production of podcast series for people and enterprises. That means concept development, writing, editing, production, and branding, all in a cost-optimized and proven model.

Audio Story Composition

EXAMPLE: MOORE’S LOBBY, EPISODE #2

This enterprise technology podcast was created by Elevated and EETech Media. In this example, EETech Media wanted “an episode about innovation.”

WHAT WE DID

  1. Story identification. Elevated conducted three separate 90-minute interviews with subject matter experts. After extracting common themes from each, we developed a narrative through-line that linked each segment together thematically.
  2. Copywriting. With the story arc identified, Elevated wrote the VO copy that would provide connective tissue between each segment.
  3. Sound design. Having determined the arc and connective narratives, Elevated curated a handful of transitional music selections invoking the curiosity and temptation of innovation. We thought pizzicato strings provided a good balance of curiosity and temptation without sounding cartoonish, and the occasional cello semplice lent a quiet veneer of seriousness. Or, in human-being terms, it just sounded really fucking good.
  4. Production. Engineering three separate segments recorded in guests’ homes with varying types of equipment required a few careful listens and some small compromises. We were able to achieve an episode that sounded smooth and unified.

Note: As you listen to this sample, you’ll notice that the majority of each segment is omitted for brevity and replaced with a ridiculous, little “fast-forward” sound effect. This is to save you 35 minutes. High five!

Hear the abbreviated episode.

EXAMPLE: UNIQUELY HUMAN: THE PODCAST

Uniquely Human: The Podcast is an original series about autism and neurodiversity, created by ELEVATEDSTUDIO and Dr. Barry Prizant, a world-renowned leader in depathologizing autism.

WHAT WE DID

  1. Concept co-creation and creative design. Elevated collaborated with Dr. Prizant to define the show’s purpose and principles, and to architect the episodic framework, community engagement strategy, tone, and audience.
  2. Copywriting. Elevated wrote the framework for this special inaugural episode.
  3. Sound design. Dr. Prizant, an amateur musician, wanted the episodes to incorporate music from autistic artists. Elevated developed an approach utilizing curated selections from autistic jazz musician Matt Savage. The goal was to balance the headiness of the episodes with something grounded and casual, as though it were background music in an Ozo coffee shop. The selections guide us through topical transitions.
  4. Production. Elevated developed the production and engineering workflows (but couldn’t convince Barry to soundproof his son’s bedroom floor-to-ceiling). Most of the editing involved re-sequencing the two-hour conversation into a focused, 45-minute episode. Mics on each host are large-diaphragm condenser mics.
  5. Infrastructure development and management. It occurred to us about a week before launching this series that we would want people to be able to hear it. Elevated created and has been managing the hosting services, website development, and social media assets.

Hear the full episode.

Making Stuff Sound Better

EXAMPLE: SALVAGING AUDIO FROM ZOOM AND HOME AMBIENCE

Another example pulled from the second episode of Moore’s Lobby is this tricky interview with Jianwen Shao. Jianwen was working at home, directly beneath a noisy cold-air return in the spare bedroom he uses for an office. Jianwen’s voice was captured on his iPhone Voice Memos app.

WHAT WE DID

  1. Normalize source audio to ITU-R BS.1770-3 loudness of (-16) LUFS.
  2. Initial noise reduction using RX spectral noise filter
  3. Configured gate to minimize ambient reverb and mitigate breathing, etc.
  4. VERY gentle RX De-reverb pass to mitigate noticeable room reflections coupled to speech
  5. EQ: Compensated 2k – 5k for speech clarity, attenuated heaviness from 250-900 Hz, gentle overall compensation for losses introduced by upstream de-noise and de-reverb filters.
  6. Modest compression (3:1) to help accentuate word attacks
  7. Removed mouth clicks using RX
  8. Added light reverb with very short pre-delay to smooth things over and still sound as though he’s in a room in his house
  9. Word and syllable reconstruction as needed (added a stronger “de” to “devices”, replaced some swallowed “the’s” with others of similar inflection but greater clarity, reconstructed “MDMESH”, etc)
  10. Reduced pauses, gaps, ums, etc
  11. Removed thuds, baby cries, phone dings, and other spurious noises

BEFORE

AFTER

EXAMPLE: SHOW UP AND LOVE (PODCAST)

Show Up and Love is a mindset podcast developed by my wife, Kristen. The show debuted in 2019 and earlier this year, she asked me to take over the recording, editing, and mastering.

WHAT WE DID

  1. Moved Kristen’s recording location to Elevated’s custom vocal isolation room
  2. Remixed the theme music for expanded stereo field beneath Kristen’s VO and to complement her speaking bandwidth with highlighted bass and high-frequency spectral content
  3. Re-recorded and mixed her new introduction VO
  4. Developed a standard effects chain preset for episodic consistency. This involved dialing in the right EQ, compression, and gate settings to preserve her vocal timbre while giving her enunciation just enough sparkle to keep your ears perked.
  5. Reduce pauses, gaps, ums, etc
  6. Remove thuds, baby cries, phone dings, and other spurious noises

BEFORE

AFTER

EXAMPLE: CONSISTENT, NATURAL BREATH CONTROL

As you know, amazingly, DSP engineers have not yet figured out a reliable breath-management processor. WTF! As a result, editing and mixing long-form spoken word assets can be tiresome without a good breath control strategy. I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with different approaches and, while it’s an evergreen work in progress, I’ve developed a fairly reliable and low-touch scheme for managing a talent’s breathing noises. I wanted the listener to hear natural breathing rather than eliminate it altogether. Check it out.

BEFORE

AFTER

HOW TO CREATE A PODCAST.

(GENERALLY)

CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT

Concept development

Clarity of audience

Episodic / serial outlining

Creative writing, scripting

Sustainable pipelining

Story editing

Attaching the right host, talent, writers, producers, directors, sound designers

PRODUCTION

Equipment / space procurement

Session engineering

Editing and clean-up

Sound design and mixing

Normalization and mastering

Video accompaniment

PRODUCTIZATION

Podcast audio hosting

Syndication

Branding

Publishing framework

Series website – ongoing

Sales and marketing support

Patronage ecosystem

GROWTH & MONETIZATION

Organic promotion (social media)

Paid promotion, list rental

Subscriber growth

Monetization model: sales, 501c3, indirect

Paywall offerings

1. DEFINE THE SHOW.

Build the positioning framework.

Elevated uses a specific method to help you get clear on WHAT the show is, WHO it’s for, and WHY it’s needed. The audience shouldn’t hear a show figuring out what it is for the first dozen episodes.

The output of this exercise is a foundational document agreed upon by all stakeholders.

Understand the tone of the series.

After the what/who/why is established, a similar and shorter method helps us to nail down the tone. This, in turn, helps us to architect the right sound for the show, including theme music, sound design, host, and even the minimal acceptable targets for guests’ audio quality.

 

Define episodic structure.

Is this a half-hour show? How many hosts will there be? Do you wish to have recurring segments? Is this a continuation-style series or do the episodes stand alone? Will this be a video podcast or strictly audio?

 

2. START WRITING. AND REWRITING.

Identify your topics, characters, and guests.

As a full-service creative studio, Elevated leads ideation sessions with clients to help with this step. We begin with a loose but structured brainstorm, followed by categorization and ranking.

If guests are an element of the show, this is the time to start lining up schedules.

 

Determine your editorial calendar and/or series arc.

The editorial calendar is used in all forms of traditional media because it works. With so many great ideas, topics, and guests, having an approved calendar to execute against frees up the writers, producers, and hosts to focus on creating their best content.

If your show requires an arc, you’ll want to flesh that out and sanity-check it for suspense, tension-and-release, and pacing.

 

Develop your production scripts and/or VO vopy.

Journalists: everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face…or seated in front of a microphone. How will the host greet the listeners or introduce her guests? How will she transition from one segment to the next? What are the must-have questions and remarks from her guests?

Showrunners: Trust your writers. And if you will be flying solo, consider workshopping your material with trusted colleagues. It’s vitally important to understand what’s working and what needs work.

Elevated helps by guiding your writers through ideation, story beats, and outlines – or by simply handling it for you.

 

3. RECORD AND QUEUE THE FIRST FEW EPISODES.

Patience sets you up for success.

It is so tempting to record “the first one” and upload immediately to LibSyn or Blubrry. Especially after you hear the final product with all the music scored and stumbles removed. But publishing the first episode without having the next half dozen shelved and ready to go will set you up for white-knuckling your way to every subsequent deadline. This raises your stress, inevitably increases production costs, and erodes the quality of your podcast ten times out of ten.

Spend this time working out the sound design with your engineer and producer.

 

 

Promote the queue.

Isolating highlight clips from the audio (and video, if you’re going that route) is one of the best ways to tease upcoming episodes. “Hey, I’m launching a podcast!” doesn’t really stoke anyone’s fires anymore. You need to hit them with something like, “Here’s one of my favorite moments from my interview with John McEnroe’s psychiatrist, which you can hear on Thursday’s episode.”

 

 

Maintain the pipeline.

It is a terrifying feeling when you realize you’ve run out of source material for your podcast. Maintaining your content and guest pipeline, with a minimum buffer of five queued episodes, is vitally important to the health and wellbeing of your podcast.

Unless you have a staff of writers and production assistants rivaling Letterman’s, in which case, take it day by day.

But if you’re reading this fucking webpage, you’re probably not Letterman.

 

 

4. DESIGN A SUPERIOR LISTENING EXPERIENCE.

The point is to tell brilliant stories brilliantly. In an audial medium, every second has to be intentionally composed out of respect for the audience. The purpose is to honor communicative intent.

It’s having the right theme music to frame your episodes, the right interior music to keep the listener engaged. And it’s giving thought to how the audio celebrates and supports the words being spoken: how far does the host sit from the mic? Is that pause just a little too short? Do we want that sigh right there?

 

Let’s build something amazing together.

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