Podcasting has grown to mean various things to different people and has even taking on some derivative names like screencasting, vidcasting and others. The main issue faced by content authors looking to create this type of content is not the content itself but how to efficiently record and distribute their content consistently and efficiently. Enter a little discussed service called Podcast Producer, which is freely included in Lion Server and has been included in the OS X server operating system since 10.5 Leopard.
So what is podcast producer? Simply put, podcast producer provides you or your group a set of tools to manage the input of podcast content (regardless of whether it is audio, video, screen capture or even images) and prepend your own opening video, add watermarks (if desired), format your content to the desired output sources (like iPhone, iPad etc.), post append a bumper video or audio to the end of your content then distribute your content to a clean website that is setup for RSS and iTunes syndication instantly. WOW, that is a lot of stuff and yes it is quite a bit of technical wrangling that podcast producer removes as a barrier to getting your content out to your audience while making your productions look more professional. This frees you up to focus on creating great content. So let's take a look at how we use this wonderful bit of technology and how easy it is to get up and running so you can get your content out to the world as soon as possible.
First let's split podcast producer into its two main components, the server component and the client component(s). The client component(s) installed on every Snow Leopard or Lion client machine in the utilities folder consist of Podcast Capture (both 10.6 and 10.7) and Podcast Publisher (10.7 only.) In Snow Leopard you were bound to use Podcast Capture with the Podcast Producer server service.
In Lion however, you can now publish your podcasts without using the server portion, you simply create your content and it will share it to your iTunes on your local Mac, email it to another person or list or publish it to the Podcast Library (on the server). This is the simplest process but lacks the power of the server components which provide the automated functions that remove all the tedium (i.e. re-encoding your video for multiple formats). The last client bit I want to mention is PCP Remote, an independent application developed by Maximillian Reiss that allows you to create an episode on your iPhone or iPad and submit it to the server for processing.
On the server side there are two tasks to accomplish, the first is setting up the Podcast Producer service. This is just a matter of using the setup wizard provided in the Server application on your lion server. The second is using podcast composer to set up your workflow, this is a simple drag and drop application that allows you to pick what types of input to expect (audio, video, dual source video etc), what if anything to add to the beginning or end of your episode, whether or not to add a watermark and what watermark to use (simply a 50% opaque png file), what formats you want to output from podcast producer and then where to send the output. Once this is set up and saved you can simply use the Podcast Publisher, Capture or Remote application to send your episodes to the server which will then process the steps you prescribed in the Composer application and the results will be posted to the Podcast Library and other outputs you specified in Composer.
Last but not least, the library provides RSS feeds of the episodes, which with a few clicks can be integrated into your existing WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or other content management system that provides a module/widget for parsing RSS content.
In closing, this article is a simplified overview of a great tool that doesn't get much press but is extremely powerful and helpful to content producers of all types, from schools publishing lectures, to independent artists producing tutorials, reviews or news.