Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Because I Want You To Know How Difficult It Is.

Well, first things first, Episode 2 of “Earth Concepts For Aliens” is up. Check it out here.

I thought just as a one off, I’d go through how I make each episode. I received a pretty good response for the first episode (15 downloads…WOOT! I’m famous!), so I just thought some of you might be interested in how it all works.

Well, Mypodcast.com is pretty intuitive, so I won’t go into that, but shall we say, the “production” of it.

Obviously, the first thing I do is come up with an idea. I chose the Earth Concepts idea, because it’s an extremely easy way to make fun of things, or point out how absurd they are. I also think it’s a pretty funny idea anyway. If aliens did make contact tomorrow, exactly how would you explain some of the crazy shit that’s going on?

Basically, I like the idea of looking at things like a total outsider, and it makes it much easier to be (arguably) funny.

So, when I come up with an idea, I write a script. I write very quickly and very roughly, and turn off the computer as soon as I’m done. I only go back a few days later. It’s amazing how much this helps. First of all, re-reading what I’ve wrote when I have some distance from it (IE, I’ve forgotten a lot of what I wrote) can fire off ideas I hadn’t thought of at the time, and sometimes it turns out something was only interesting and funny because it was 4am and I was exhausted when I wrote it.

Basically, after a few days, I re-read and do what I can to polish the script. Then I do a timed reading. I’m shooting for about 5 minutes per show, but I’ll go into the reasons for that time length a little later.

If it’s in the ballpark, I go ahead and record it.

I use Adobe Audition, it’s fairly easy to use, and has a lot of great features, as well as a ton of features that I have no idea what they do. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with a regular headset microphone, so sound quality isn’t great.

I do the recording as soon as I can after the timed reading, so it’s still fresh and I don’t stumble over words, but I try to avoid reading and re-reading it, because if you do, by the time you get to the recording stage, you’re bored shitless of it and want to go do something else…and that shows.

After recording, I line everything up in the timeline (making sure everything still flows where I fucked up and re-recorded sections). Then I add the music.

The music was a real problem and still is. It’s also part of the reason I stick to roughly 5 minutes a show. I wanted something in a 1940’s educational film. The kind of “Don’t do drugs” and “A woman’s place is in the home” movies they used to show at schools. The one I use on the podcast was the only one I could find online that was a) Free, and b) public domain.

In other words, I don’t want to fork out $50 bucks for a stock-music collection, and I don’t want to get sued either.

The problem with the track I have is twofold. The first is that it’s only about 2 minutes long, meaning I have to cut, copy and paste the same sections over and over…which is really tough trying to make it seem like one seamless piece of music. I also can’t pre-prepare it and use it over and over, because the actual podcast can vary by as much as 3 minutes per episode.

The second problem is that the piece has a freaking ton of range. Some parts are incredibly soft and barely audible, other parts are extremely loud and powerful. So, what I have to do is use the mixer the alter the volume as it goes up and down, walking the tightrope between audible and intrusive. (As Kato pointed out, it lends a certain ‘authenticity’ to the recording, without it, it’s just some dude talking…but it can also be distracting as hell if it isn’t mixed right.)

Finally, when I’ve got everything lined up, I listen to the whole thing start to finish to make sure I didn’t miss any lines, or have any ‘overlap’ between the tracks. Basically, if you move one of the sections in the timeline it could cover or be covered by another part of the track. I make any changes if needed, then go to the cleanup.

I stated at the start I’m stuck using a crappy headset mic, which means at this point the sound is very tinny and crackly. Luckily, audition comes with preset ‘restoration’ settings, which means just a few mouse clicks gets rid of the hiss and any pops and crackles, then I just use the EQ to remove the tinnyness and give my voice some bass.

I’m not 100% happy with the way the dialogue sounds, but it’s basically a case of the lesser of two evils. I can either have slightly muffled or tinny, weak sound with a lot of hiss. I prefer muffled.

Then, it’s just a matter of mixing the multitrack session down into an mp3, and uploading it to mypodcast.com. Luckily, Mypodcast automatically re-samples the audio into a compatible mp3 for you, so I don’t worry about setting the bitrate etc. For completeness sake, the MP3 I upload is a 128kps stereo Variable Bitrate file. I’m not sure what it is you actually listen to.

Then, I just fill out the submission form, which is the title of the episode, a brief description and rating, and it’s good to go.

Anyway, just before I get accused of being totally up myself, I posted this just for interest’s sake. I’m not intending this as a ‘how do guide’ or a ‘look at how good I am’ post.

I hope you find this post interesting, and I hope you listen to the podcast and enjoy it.


Kato said...

Thanks for the post, I think this kind of stuff is what's really great about blogs. You can say "Hey, I'm trying this, and here's the stumbling blocks I've hit so far." People can read it and see how you've solved your problems (or not) and even offer suggestions. Huzzah for the Internet.

As a suggestion, go ahead and make your podcast more visible here. You've got a sidebar here, post a link to the podcast page or something so that people who stumble across your blog (or frequent readers who don't happen to catch the posts in which you reference them) can still find the podcast.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kato-

You should add the podcast link to your sidebar.

MC Etcher said...

What's a podcast?

You have a podcast?

Is that like, where you have a cast on your pod?

Do they call wieners Pods in Englandland?

Why your wiener in a pod? How did you hurt your wiener?

Paulius said...

Ummm, forget your meds today, Etcher?

The fact you seem preoccupied with my 'wiener' is a little disturbing.

PS, in Englandland we don't call wieners 'pods', but we do call public libraries "Grunkling Chinkleburries"