A listener asked how to add chapters to a podcast recently, and I promised him that I would create a post on the blog for this, so that it would answer the question for more people. So, Andrew, this is for you!
Why Add Chapters To Podcasts?
Before we talk about the ‘how’, let’s cover the ‘why’. Chapters add physical breaks to an audio file, most usually audiobooks and podcasts, but technically, you could add it to songs, spoken recordings, anything you like. The benefits of adding chapters to a podcast are huge, though. You basically are giving your listeners a way to jump (or more often, jump back) to a specific point in your podcast. With Coverville, this allows listeners to listen to a particular song over, if they wish, or to skip over a song they don’t like (whaaaa?) and go immediately to the start of the next song.
Chapters also allow you to add album artwork and links to each section, so you can provide listeners with a visual, as well as a way to link to additional content on the web at each segment.
However, the big caveat for chaptering your podcast is it requires that your audience listen to the show on an AAC-compatible device. AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) rose to prominence with Apple’s iTunes and the iPod, but it’s not exclusive to Apple. Microsoft’s Zune, Creative’s Zen Portable, and even handheld game players like the PSP and the Nintendo DS all support AAC format. Some other benefits of AAC include higher fidelity and smaller file sizes. You can find out more, and see additional compatible devices at this Wikipedia article.
Jumping to chapters is extremely easy. When you’re playing a chaptered podcast in iTunes, you’ll see a new menu, Chapters, in your menu bar. Selecting that menu, brings up a list of the available Chapters in the show, and allows you to jump right to which ever one you want, simply by selecting it.
On the iPhone and iPod Touch (and presumably the iPad), you get a visual list of the chapters, and can jump to the desired one by simply tapping it.
How To Add Chapters To Podcasts
Personally, I use GarageBand to add chapters to my shows. It’s an easy-to-use interface, and if I need to do any editing of the show, I can do it in GarageBand as well. GarageBand is a part of Apple iWork suite, which comes free with all new Macs, and can be bought here (~ $70). There are other pieces of software, both on the PC and Mac that can do this, and I invite readers to post links to tools they use in the comments.
For this, I recoomend that you start with an uncompressed audio file, such as an AIFF. As you export your audio from GarageBand, it will compress to the AAC version, and if you can avoid re-compressing your audio, you’ll maintain clean audio quality. Of course, you can also record your podcast in GarageBand, which keeps you from having to import a compressed file, and allows you to edit and add chapters all in one step. Very nice.
1. In GarageBand, create a new podcast project. I suggest closing the Media Browser and removing the automatically-included tracks (with the exception of the track titled “Podcast Track”, of course), to give yourself plenty of room to work.
2. Drag your audio file into GarageBand. After a few moments, depending on the size of your file, you’ll see it added to your project.
3. Click the Podcast Track at the top.
The bottom portion of GarageBand will give you an album art field, as well as a (currently empty) list of Chapter Markers.
4. Drag a piece of generic album art into the large “Episode Artwork” field on the left. This art will be used for any portions of the podcast where you don’t have alternative album art, and will be used as the general graphic for your show.
5. Using the play and pause buttons or the scrubber in the top field, get to the first point in your audio file where you’d like to add a chapter mark.
Personally, and based on user feedback, I add a marker at the following points: the point at which I pre-announce a song, the point at which the song starts, the point at which the song ends, and after I back-announce the song. Here’s a diagram for you visual thinkers, like myself:
6. Once you’re at the point in the audio where you’d like to place a chapter mark, click the Add Marker button at the bottom.
You’ll see a new line added to your Podcast Markers list. This is where you’ll add the information for that chapter. Let’s look at each of the columns of the chapter mark line.
Time: This field shows you the time in the show that the chapter begins. You’ll generally never need to edit this field.
Artwork: This is an alternative chapter art field. You’ll want to drag the album art for the specific chapter into this field. What’s nice is that you can not only drag graphic files from your computer, you can also drag images right from web pages right onto that field to add artwork. Nice!
Chapter Title: The first of two title fields, and the most important. The contents of this field are used as the only listed title in iTunes, on your iPod. Again, based on listener requests, I put both the song title and artist into this field since in many cases, it’s the only title you’ll see.
URL Title: The contents of this field will appear for the links that your listeners can click in iTunes.
URL: If you’re talking about a product or a song in your chapter, and you want to give your listeners a way to jump right to a web page where they can find out more about – or purchase – the topic, you can enter the URL here, and it will appear in iTunes as a link on top of the album art when that chapter is currently playing.
7. Repeat the process of adding chapters, titles and artwork throughout your podcast. Make sure to save often.
8. Once you’ve finished adding chapters, select Send Podcast to iTunes from the Share menu. This will bring up a dialog that allows you to name the enter in the specifics of the podcast file. Most important are the following two pop-up menus:
Make sure that the Compress Using: field is set to AAC Encoder, the only format that will maintain your added chapters. The second field allows you to change the bit rate of the produced file. If you’re including music in your show, you should choose Musical Podcast, which outputs the show in stereo at 128kbps. For spoken word podcasts, you can drop down to a smaller rate, which will drop file size.
Once you’ve made your selections, click the Share button. After a few minutes, the show will be added to your iTunes library, where you can add ID3 tags and meta data.
Comments? Questions? Additions? Please let me know!
[added: Here’s a link to a Windows product called “Chapter Master”: http://rightwordsoft.com/products/chaptermaster/default.php]