Audio Submission Guidelines
This page is archived for historical purposes.
The Conversations Network ceased operation of its websites as of the end of 2012.
- Value. More than anything, your program must be educational, inspirational and entertaining.
- Timeliness. Avoid news or other short-lived programming. Your submission should have a useful life of at least three months.
- Format. Two formats we avoid are case studies and vendor/product pitches. The former are the bread-and-butter of the traditional trade publications, and to be honest, they're boring. The latter are what you get from those sponsored webcasts, but not from The Conversations Network.
- Length. Our most popular program length is 30-45 minutes. Many listeners burn shows from The Conversations Network onto 74- or 80-minute CDs, so if a program is longer than 70 minutes (thus allowing for intro and outro) it may need to be edited prior to publication.
- Source. If you're recording an event, always use a feed from the public-address (PA) system.
- Microphones. You must have a microphone no more than 12" from each speaker's mouth. The #1 reason we reject programs is recordings made too far from microphones.
- Q&A. The same microphone-distance rule applies to question-and-annswer sessions. If you don't get a mic in the questioner's face, we'll probably have to edit out both the question and the answer.
- Media Lengh. It never ceases to amaze us, but we get a large percentage of recordings in which someone (usuall an audio-visual contractor) lost a few minutes of a session while changing tapes or discs. Always use a medium that's longer than the session, and don't forget to start with a fresh disc or tape at the beginning of each talk. Don't assume your A/V contractor will get this right. Many of them just don't seem to understand that they need to hit the Record button before the session starts, and that they can't record a 90-minute session on an 80-minute CD. Discuss this with your A/V contractor in advance!
Media and File Formats
We don't just post recordings as-is. We run them through a broadcast-quality post-production process that includes equalization, normalization of levels -- originals should be recorded at levels safely below peak -- noise reduction, intros and outros, and a mastering process that includes hi- and lo-pass filters and compression to optimize the quality of the resulting MP3 files. Because of this process, we need high-quality originals, not finished MP3s. Below are the formats and media we can accept, listed in the order of what has worked well for us in the past:
- Audio CD format is very convenient for you and for us. But due to the 80-minute limitation of audio CDs, this is not a good choice if your sessions are planned to be longer than 60 minutes. You can send us the originals or copies, or you can rip the CDs to MP2 format (see below) and send us the files electronically.
- DVD recordings are also a good way to go. The same comments above regarding CDs apply to DVDs. Plus, if you want to send us files rather than disks, you will have to extract the audio and convert ("resample") from the DVD sample rate of 48,000Hz to 44,100Hz before MP2 encoding.
- MP2 files can also be created directly by some new recorders, and they are an excellent choice, particularly for sessions planned to be longer than 60 minutes. Make sure you us our standard recording parameters: 44,100Hz sample rate and 128kbps, mono. If you record two microphones to separate tracks, use 256kbps, stereo. Send us the original MP2 files. Don't decode the MP3, edit it and re-encode. Doing so will cause undesirable artifacts. Note: MP2 is MPEG-1 Layer II, not MPEG-2. MP2s are compressed files, but unlike MP3s they are suitable for decoding, editing/processing then re-encoding as MP3s. The simplest way to create MP2 files is to download the drag-and-drop encoders available free from PRX.ORG. We'll give you an FTP account on one of our servers where you can upload your files or you can copy them to disk and drop them into the mail.
- MiniDisc recorders from Sony and others also work well. The new HiMD (one gigabyte) devices can record up to 8 hours on a single disc. MDs use a lossy format, but the quality is quite good, and the excellent ALC (automatic level control) in the Sony recorders make this an excellent choice. It's probably best to send us your original discs, but if you'd prefer and you've got the proper model recorders, you can also transfer the files to a computer then re-encode to MP2 per the above specifications.
- WAV or AIFF files are also acceptable. Use a 16-bit sample size and 44,100 samples/second (44,100Hz). The resulting files are huge, however -- nearly 320MB/hour mono; twice that in stereo -- but they preserve the most information and increase our options for post-production and encoding. WAV and AIFF files are too large to transmit electronically. You will have to copy them to CD or DVD and send the discs to us.
- DAT or Digital Audio Tape is also a high-quality original format. Just watch out for the limitation on tape length. Don't skimp on tapes. Start with a fresh tape for every session.
- VHS HiFi Audio is the next-best thing to digital. If you're looking for a low-cost way to record a conference or other event, grab your home VHS video recorder with HiFi (FM) audio, and feed the PA mix into the recorder's line inputs. Make sure you're actually recording audio by listening to a playback, as some VHS machines refuse to record audio unless a video signal is also present. The HiFi audio on VHS is quite good, and it comes with the advantages of a 6-hour inexpensive recording medium and on most machines, a good automatic level control (ALC).
- MP3 is one of the least desirable filetypes and is generally unacceptable. That's becuase MP3 is a final format, intended for decoding only for playback not for intermediate processing and re-encoding. MP3, like JPEG, is a lossy compression algorithm and multiple decode/re-encode steps accumulate artifacts. A 64kbps MP3 decoded and re-encoded can sound as bad as a 32kbps file encoded only once. After poor microphone technique, the most common reason for a program to be rejected is that we get it already encoded as an MP3. If your only option is to record directly to MP3 format, use the highest bit rate possible (no less than 128kbps, and preferably 192kbps or more). Please submit files encoded in MP2 (see above), not MP3.
- Cassettes -- yes, those old things from the 20th century -- can even be used in a pinch if the tape type matches the recorder and both are of good quality. Never use cassettes longer than C90 (90 minutes).
In many cases the audio is the easy part. A complete program on The Conversations Network also includes:
- Photos. A photo of each speaker, the larger the better, 125h x 100w pixels minimum.
- Biographies. A bio of each speaker.
- Descriptions. A long description for the detail page, and a short description used for The Conversations Network home page and RSS feeds.
- Permission. Not only must you have obtained permission from others to record their voices, you must also get their okay to post your recording on the Internet. If you're producing an interview, just ask your subjects -- on the recording -- for their permission to record them and to post the results on The Conversations Network. If you're recording a conference or other event, you'll need a written release.