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Audio Fliters

Big Changes to the Podcast Format (Podcast 638)

How to Always Be Ready to Shoot (Podcast 637)
What's in the Travel Photography Bag (Podcast 639)

With Apple slowly phasing out the Enhanced Podcast format, it’s time to move on. Luckily there is something that I feel is much better, as I’ll explain today.

After a few episodes short of 600 that I’ve released in the Enhanced podcast format, it’s time to move on. I’m dedicating this week’s podcast to explaining the how, why and what of these big changes that I’ve just implemented, and I really hope you like what I’ve done.

The Demise of the Enhanced Podcast

First, let me explain a little background. I started this podcast at the beginning of September in 2005, initially starting with mp3 audio, but then from episode 40, after a lot of encouragement from the audience, I switched to Apple’s proprietary Enhanced podcast format, with the file extension m4a. I was a Windows user at the time and bought a Mac Mini so that I could use GarageBand as that was really the only way to create Enhanced podcasts without jumping through too many hoops.

Apple’s iPod’s and the Podcast app in iOS supported the Enhanced podcast format, until Apple themselves broke it in the iOS 8 update. It took three years until iOS 11 for Apple to fix the Podcasts app, making it possible for people to see images as I referenced them in the audio again. Over roughly the same time period Apple removed the ability to create Enhanced podcasts from GarageBand, so I’ve had to keep a copy of GarageBand 6 on my computers, just for the purpose of creating my Enhanced podcast each week.

The old GarageBand has gradually slowed down and now takes almost five minutes to start and since updating to the latest version of the Mac OS I now see a message saying that GarageBand will not work on future versions. Basically, the writing is on the wall for the Enhanced podcast format, so I think it’s time to put it to rest.

MP3 Chapters

I have to say though, that I’m very excited by something that Apple have done with iOS 12, and that is adding support for MP3 Chapters to the Podcasts app. MP3 chapters aren’t new, with the standard being around for about as long as the Enhanced Podcast, but therein lies the reason that I’m excited to see Apple add this support to iOS 12. There is already a much better ecosystem for MP3 Chapters than there has ever been for Enhanced podcasts. 

From now on I am going to be releasing one mp3 file each week, instead of both an m4a and an mp3 file, but the mp3 audio file now has chapter information and the images that I talk about are also embedded, just like an Enhanced podcast, but all players that support mp3 will continue to be able to play the files, even if they don’t support chapters.

More good news is that there are more applications both for iOS and Android that support chapters and some also supporting the embedded images as well, so it is with great pleasure that I have just deleted GarageBand 6 from my computers, and will from now on be using a great dedicated application called Podcast Chapters to add the chapter information each week before publishing just the one file that does everything we need.

Podcast Chapters

Podcast Chapters is a simple but incredibly useful application. It lives only to add Chapters to Podcasts, and it does a very good job of this. For a while now, I’ve been recording the Podcast each week in Adobe Audition, as this enables me to run some filters on the audio which help to improve the quality of the audio, but also enable me to remove some background noise that I was dealing with last year as some construction work went on nearby. I am also now able to leave the air conditioning on while recording, which helps me to avoid melting during the summer months here in Tokyo.

Podcast Chapters
Podcast Chapters

How Will Things Change?

I’m sure you are wondering how things are going to change, so let’s walk through this. As of a few days ago, I have removed the Enhanced suffix from the Podcast name, so now, in iTunes and other feed aggregators the podcast will be listed just as the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast. The feed for the Enhanced Podcast will remain the main feed, as that has the majority of our listeners subscribed to it.

I have gone back and converted a handful of episodes from 630 onwards to mp3s with chapters, and they are already being downloaded instead of the m4a Enhanced podcasts format. In any application that supports this type of feed information the new mp3 chapter format files will have a message saying that they have chapters and a link to a page with information on how to listen and view the images. This link will be a good indicator that you are listening to the new format.

Because I’ve been podcasting since before there were tools and web services to help manage a podcast feed, I actually developed my own admin console and database to manage my own feed, and I modified it last week to enable me to tag episodes with Chapters, so moving forward, this notification in the show notes that the episode has chapters will be automatically added to appropriate episodes, as you can see circled in red in this screenshot. Also notice how the link to the blog post is actually a link on some players, which is nice.

Overcast Screenshots
Overcast Screenshots

If you are already listening on an iOS device that is updated to iOS 12 you won’t really notice any difference, because the new format works exactly the same as the Enhance podcast did. The major benefits are really for people that were not able to see the embedded images because they didn’t use the Podcasts app or for Android users that didn’t manage to find a podcast player that supported the Enhanced podcast format.

If you have always subscribed to the audio only mp3 format feed that I also update each week, for the foreseeable future that feed will remain unchanged, but because I’m now only releasing one mp3 file each week, you will also see the chapter information and images if your podcasts player supports them, so you just gain the chapters without doing anything.

I might merge the two feeds at some point, but I can do most of that automatically without you having to do anything, so there isn’t really any point in going over that now.

Podcast Players that Support MP3 Chapters

What I do want to do is to take a look at some of the Podcast apps that I’m currently aware of that support MP3 Chapters. I’m actually going to be looking to you, especially Android users, to help me build the list out further. At this point though, I am aware of and have tested the following apps.

In the below image from left to right you’ll see the Pocket Casts app, Apple’s Podcasts app and my new favorite which is Overcast on the right. They all do a good job of displaying the images that I have embedded, but Apple’s Podcasts app doesn’t have any way to jump around between chapters, so it’s now without doubt the weakest offering of the three.

Podcast Players that Support MP3 Chapters
Podcast Players that Support MP3 Chapters

Pocket Casts is a really nice looking app, with a light and dark mode that you can freely switch between, and you have control over which chapter you listen to. Overcast is my favorite because it shows all of the information I want to see about the episode, including its title, the name of the Podcast feed, and the name of the current chapter below the photograph. Both Pocket Casts and Overcast have left and right swipe gestures that display the show notes, but Overcast has more information available with a view that even shows you all the chapters and how much of the current chapter you’ve listening to.

Overcast Chapters
Overcast Chapters

If I recall, Overcast is free with ads, but you can upgrade to Premium for around $8 a year. Unfortunately, Overcast is only available for iOS.  Pocket Casts was $4 I think, and it is available for both iOS and Android. I have been recommending an app called Downcast for viewing Enhanced podcasts, but unfortunately, at this point in time (Nov, 2018) Downcast doesn’t seem to support MP3 chapter images. It shows and can navigate between chapters, but the images are not displayed.

Desktop Players

I have yet to find any desktop applications that allow both playback of the audio and viewing the chapter images, but if you are at a computer, I would recommend just going to the post for each episode. There is an audio player embedded in every post, and the images can be viewed in context along with the manuscript and opened up to their largest available size in the Lightbox with a filmstrip, which is also a nice way to view the images.

Every episode has a short-link with the number of the episode, so for this episode for example, the short-link is https://mbp.ac/638. If you are subscribed to the podcast on a mobile device, you can just type that in to jump to the post, or head over to the Website and click on the Blog & Podcasts link in the top menu, and browse through the Podcast posts for any recent episodes that you’ve missed.

Of course, there is also a search button, the magnifying glass in the top right of all pages on the site, which should help you to find episodes on topics that you might be interested in. The search feature also has filters so that you can drill down to specific categories and even select the years that you want to see episodes from, all the way back to our humble beginnings in 2005.

Podcast Audio Archives Page

I guess to be thorough I should also mention the Podcasts Archives page which was the main way that I listed episodes on the site when I first got started, and before every episode got its own blog post. You can get to this page by clicking the Podcast Audio Archives link under the Blog & Podcasts menu. There is a link to download the podcast file for any of the episodes I’ve released to date, in case, for example, you want to download something for a trip during which you’ll be offline. Each section also has a link back to the post on the blog.

Audio Fliters
Audio Fliters

I needed a striking graphic for today’s post, so I took screenshots of all of the filters that I run on the audio, and dropped them into SmartSlider, the software that I use to create sliders for some of the pages on our website, and used some custom CSS to add some whacky perspective to each of the filter graphics. I added some parallax to each graphic as well, so that they wiggle around when you mouse over them, just for a bit of fun. Now that I have that though, I’ve placed it on the top of the Archives page, so check that out if you are interested.

Subscribing to Feeds

If you are new to the Podcast and don’t know where to subscribe, you can generally just search for Martin Bailey Photography in any podcast service like iTunes, and you should find the podcast. Unfortunately, I am not able to register the Podcast on Google Play, because Google has not made Podcasts available here in Japan yet. I keep checking in and will register when I can, but Google doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to open this up to us folks here in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Google Play Not in Japan
Google Play Not in Japan

Most services and players do allow you to subscribe to feeds manually though, and you can subscribe to this podcast direct with the following link.

https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/podcast.php

We also have a page https://mbp.ac/subscribe with lots of different ways to subscribe to the feeds listed.

Blog Posts by Email

I guess another thing that is worth a mention, is that you can also subscribe to our newsletter and select the Blog Posts by Email option, which will actually send you an email each week when a new episode is released. This is particularly useful if you are not subscribed to the feed, as it is a good reminder to come along and check out what I’m talking about that week, and some people actually just read the email and don’t need to come to the Website. That’s not great for my statistics, but I’m really more interested in you getting your weekly fix than building my stats.

Get in Touch!

Finally, I’d like to invite you to get in touch if you know of any audio players or podcast players that support MP3 Chapters with images. I’d love to build out a more comprehensive list of these players, so that people have more choices, be it for iOS, Android, Mac or Windows, or Linux etc. It really doesn’t matter. If you know of anything, please let me know.

Also, if you have any problems as we switch to the MP3 with Chapters format, do let me know. One thing you will have noticed is that there will have been a few duplicate episodes in your feeds around now, because I rereleased around five episodes as MP3 after originally releasing Enhanced Podcasts. If you delete the Enhanced podcast, it shouldn’t come back again. If it does, you’re deleting the MP3, so delete the other copy instead. 

Thanks very much for listening today. As usual, now more than ever I’d like to invite you to share a link to this podcast with your friends. I’m hoping that this change will make the podcast more accessible to people that ruled it out because it was an Enhanced Podcast.


Show Notes

Overcast for iOS: https://overcast.fm

Pocket Casts for iOS and Android: https://www.pocketcasts.com

You can find the Podcast Chapters app here: https://chaptersapp.com

Our various subscription feeds page: https://mbp.ac/subscribe

And you can subscribe to our weekly Blog Posts by Email newsletter here: https://mbp.ac/news

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes to get the podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


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How to Always Be Ready to Shoot (Podcast 637)
What's in the Travel Photography Bag (Podcast 639)
2 Comments
  • Tim L
    Posted at 11:46h, 07 November Reply

    Overcast is a great app. I find it much better than the standard iOS Podcast app. FWIW, I believe that ProfCast, available for Mac or Windows, can create enhanced podcasts. (I haven’t used it so I can’t promise there isn’t a limitation that I’m not aware of.)

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 13:55h, 07 November Reply

      Hi Tim,

      Thanks for letting me know about ProFast. There are now ways of creating Enhanced podcasts in addition to this and Garageband, but without Apple’s commitment to the format, I’m happy with my decision to leave it behind in favor of MP3 with chapters. It has everything I need, but without the requirement to release two different versions of each episode. Having one file that does everything is much better.

      Regards,
      Martin.

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