One Weird Trick: Markers

I'm a workflow nut, and talking about the ways we get things done is really exciting to me. I'd like to take the opportunity, occasionally, to share some podcasting tips I've picked up over my years of running the network. This week, I'll tell you about Markers.

We put out a lot of content at Duckfeed. The central statistic that drives our Patreon campaign is that we averaged about 24 hours of podcast per month in 2013-- and that number isn't going down.

Edits used to be a very real and very tiring timesink for us. A three hour recording session would prompt a six hour editing session, because our workflow was as follows: Record one big long file, and then listen to it and edit in real time.

We quickly stopped overediting the minor imperfections that result from natural conversation. But still, there are things that will harm the finished product that need to be taken out... Coughs, awkward pauses, and re-takes as we mess things up or misspeak are a few examples. When you don't have a record of where those problems arose, you have to assume they'll pop up anywhere. You can read the waveforms to a certain extent, but that won't take you far enough. A bathroom break is readily apparent, whereas a coughing fit isn't.

This workflow isn't sustainable at the level we're working at. We had to find a way to bring edit times way, way down without hurting the quality of the shows.

Enter Markers.

I've modeled the recording and production workflow for after Dan Benjamin's setup at By recording each show's Skype call into a multitrack DAW like Logic Pro, we can get right into the edit without needing to pass a lot of files around (I'll explain how we do this in a future article, if you'd like). Editing in Logic is fast, easy, and makes a lot of sense... but Markers are the fulcrum of that particular lever.

During the recording session, I can tap CTRL-K at any given time, and it leaves a Marker right where the playhead was. Later, when it's time to edit, all you have to do is go back to that point and review the audio.

What do we Marker?

  • Show beginnings, endings, breaks
  • Logical breaks in the structure of an episode (segments in The Level, areas and boss fights in Bonfireside Chat, levels in Watch Out for Fireballs!)
  • Obvious Extrasode or Appendix material.
  • Sponsor reads
  • Mistakes that would make us sound like dummies
  • Awkward pauses around subject changes
  • Overtalk / Crosstalk
  • Coughs and "Yeah" circles.

The result is a tidy edit decision list. By identifying these edit points on the fly, we can create a polished final product without investing a whole workday into editing a 2 hour episode. If it's Gary's turn to edit, I make a list of the markers and drop them into a text file in Dropbox along with the raw audio from Skype.

To illustrate the value of this process, let me jump to the present day. We normally record Bonfireside Chat on Thursday nights, which gives us plenty of time to edit the show and release it to backers on Saturdays. Our guest this week, the wonderful Dave Klein, was unable to record until this afternoon (Saturday) due to the fact that he was attending E3.

Thanks to diligent Markering, I was able to edit a full 95 minute episode in a half an hour, getting the episode out to backers on time, while still having the evening to hang out with my brother and niece. Improved workflows improve lives, people.

I don't know what I expect you to do with this information. If you're a podcaster, I would really recommend recording in such a way that this approach makes sense, because it has been a huge help for us. Let me know if you like these workflow posts, and I'll drum up some more. Like I said, I have a lot of passion for talking about how to get work done.

Thanks for indulging my nerdy fixation!

  • Kole