Behind the True Crime Podcast Phoebe's Fall

Q&A WITH PHOEBE'S FALL PRODUCERS

As well as winning the Documentary & Storytelling category at the 2017 Australian Podcast Awards, Phoebe's Fall picked up gold at the New York Radio Festival, and have now returned with a new true crime podcast Wrong Skin. Siobhan McHugh and Tom McKendrick share their experience in the Q&A below this photo.

 The Phoebe's Fall team at the series wrap event: Back row: Tom McKendrick, Michael Bachelard (host), Richard Baker (host). Front: Siobhan McHugh, Julie Posetti, Tim Young.

The Phoebe's Fall team at the series wrap event: Back row: Tom McKendrick, Michael Bachelard (host), Richard Baker (host). Front: Siobhan McHugh, Julie Posetti, Tim Young.

Aus Pod Awards: What is your podcast origin story? Do you have a podcast 'spirit animal'?
Siobhan McHugh: Phoebe's Fall was the inspiration of host Richard Baker, whose antennae were raised when he covered the inquest into Phoebe Handsjuk's death. He'd heard Serial and thought, that's a good listen, and audio is easy (famous last words!), so I'll make a podcast.

What preparation goes into an episode before you begin recording?

  • Hosts Richard Baker and Michael Bachelard block out a rough paper script on Google Doc (we worked out a thematic episode format first off). This has voice on one side (interview excerpts from the transcripts, narration), and suggestions for additional audio on the other (music, actuality, archive).

  • Consulting producers Julie Posetti and Siobhan McHugh close-read script and suggest changes – e.g. enhance narration for spoken word format, go back to interview tape and listen for how paper edits will work, additional sound elements to add texture and pace.

  • Producers Tom McKendrick and Tim Young pull together a rough mix in studio

  • Hosts record narration and get input/feedback from team

  • After a critical re-listen, changes made to get optimum pace and impact and mix is finesse

  • Tom publishes to iTunes etc and the marketing/promotion starts

What mics, editing software, studio gear and facilities are used to produce your podcast?

(Answers from Tom McKendrick, Phoebe's Fall Senior Technical Producer)

Studio: Yamaha MG10XU mixer. Sennheiser MKH416 P48 microphone with Samson PS01 pop mask. Room - The Age video studio.

Field: Sony FS100 (camera) body with 2x Sennheiser K6/ME66 microphones on floor stands. Zoom H1 audio recorder.

Editing: Adobe Audition CC 2018. Macbook Pro/iMac

Team: Tom McKendrick, Head of Video/Audio, Fairfax Media. Tim Young, multimedia producer.

 Siobhan McHugh presents the Documentary Style category at the 2018 Australian Podcast Awards in Melbourne.

Siobhan McHugh presents the Documentary Style category at the 2018 Australian Podcast Awards in Melbourne.

What aspect of podcasting takes up the most time? How time-consuming is it?

Logging/transcribing and getting familiar with all the audio:  interviews and actuality. Working out an episode’s content, then editing it, listening back and re-editing it, while also getting the aesthetics of the mix right.

What advice would you give to a podcaster who's just starting out?
Understand audio as a medium. It’s not “video without the pictures” and it’s not print. It’s its own thing – timing is a vital aspect, close mics on interviews are good, wind noise is bad – as we found out along the way – and you have to write like you talk.
 

Please complete this sentence: "I feel most connected with my audience when..." people stop you in the corridor and want to talk about the podcast.

Where should people start if they want to discover Phoebe's Fall? Episode One.
Feel free to insert plug for your next episode or series.

WRONG SKIN -  dropped 11 July. It’s about a young Aboriginal couple in the remote Kimberley of WA, involved in a forbidden relationship – which ends in suspicious circumstances. It’s also about how power and culture work in the most ancient civilisation on the planet.