Tag Archive for podcasting

The Autumn Blues: GroupGrok and Other Mistresses

I’m currently experiencing Silver Medalist Syndrome. I just receive a wonderfully complimentary personal rejection from the Missouri Review.  Lots of lovely words were followed by the word “no.” A year ago I would have been thrilled, now it makes me head for the hot cocoa. Over the last few months, along with the slew of form rejections, I’ve received a handful of “almosts” and an acceptance of an old flash piece to a magazine whose Fall 2011 issue seems just a little overdue.

Why haven’t I been blogging? I’m sure that’s the question early mornings at the Kuerig coffee machine. A list of important things I’ve been doing instead.

  • Utilizing our new Netflix streaming to watch Dr. Who until eleven at night (after tucking the kids into bed).
  • Obsessively playing with noise levels and sibilance issues on my soon-to-be-launched Small Beer Press podcasts.
  • Working and reworking GroupGrok.com for its launch next month.  Yes, this new site is one bitch of a mistress.  Mostly because I haven’t done web work in years and it’s, well, “changed” in the intervening years.  Plus it doesn’t help that it’s a shoestring and bubblegum endeavor.  What the hell is with this browser-based editing?  I want my pro tools back.I’m going to be blogging with four writing friends.  I am amazingly thrilled that all of them want to do this.  So of course it makes all the sense in the world to spend my time on a project that has no school, work or internship related deadline.
  • The final time suck? Thinking about work stuff.  You know, my actual day job.  It’s been feeling decidedly neglected and is demanding its full share and some until I once again prove my love.
Daily writing just doesn’t stand a chance at the moment and I really resent it. I love my family and I chose my family, but the thing about families (if you love them) is that you can’t ignore their needs just because everyone else is breathing down your neck.  I need my little cadre.  I even enjoy their company.  They make me inordinately happy. In return, they need my time.  So it goes.

Avoidance and obsession.  My writing is lagging and I can’t help but wonder if the reason that I’m adding yet another spinning plate with the whole GroupGrok.com thing is that my mental space is already overrun. Actual creative work is nothing but a visit to the Head Bangers’ Ball, so why not increase the noise?   Until the floodgates finally have the space to open at least I can do something constructive in the the writing “arena.”

GroupGrok.com and the Small Beer Press podcasts are going to be amazing. Really and truly.  I feel so lucky to be involved with both projects, but the caterpillar babies, the Rampant and that parade of skeletons also need my attention.  The dead, despite what everyone thinks, don’t have all the time in the world.  Their stories move forward just like those here on earth. My one and only job is to listen.

Learning Hurts My Brain

I’m spent more time than I want to admit (at least to my writing self) working through the basics of creating a reasonable vocal track.  God, I’m even using terms like “vocal track” and “gain.” Don’t be fooled.  I am stilling scraping forward to even a rudimentary understanding of what the heck I’m actually doing.

This then is my final pass.  I’ve recorded half of J. M. McDermott’s “Death’s Shed,” editing as best I can.  I will record the second half this weekend, using my current level of middle-school-boy finesse.

So what are my current “best practices” and why am I even telling you my theoretically patient reader?  Basically, I am terrified I’ll forget how I managed to produce even this mistake riddled track.  Except for the softness (which I can’t seem to fix without distorting the audio), it sounds pretty good.  Could be delusion on my part, of course.

Death’s Shed by J. M. McDermott

How I Arrived at This Fabulous Production Value

Mic: Snowball.

Location: Mudroom.  The mic sits on the far right corner of the desk.  The laptop, prone to long outbursts of crazy-burring fan-noise, is pushed as far to my left elbow as possible.

Me: About a foot and a half from the mic.  My khaki-green water bottle sits at my feet.  A thick orange extension cord runs from the desk, through the bottom crack in the door into the kitchen.

Software: Audacity 1.3 for Windows with the Spitfish plug-in and the LAME encoder installed.

Settings: I start with a gain of 9 while recording.  After I finish recording, I select a stretch of silence and run the denoise effect, then I run the amplify effect setting the peak to -0.1.   Then I run the Spitfish effect to try and fix my sibilance.  Finally, I adjust the gain so that the monitor shows the track running at a max of about -0.6 (close to the right edge without any red lines appearing).

Tip from Jim Kelly:  I record as a single track. Whenever I make a mistake, I pause for a long stretch so I will be able to find and delete the error later, then I resume speaking.


Audio Quality Tests: Yes, It’s a Testing Tizzy

My first recording seemed like it went well–for a first recording.  And really that’s the problem.  If SB Press (and later on, perhaps, just little ol’ me on my own blog) publish audio, it needs to be better than a “good first attempt.”

So I went ahead and purchased a snowball mic.  Jim Kelly, podcaster extraordinaire, agreed to listen to my first attempts with the old mic and give me an assessment. (Yes, he is a terrific guy.)  He noticed two big things 1) too much background noise and 2) my s’s were far too prominent.   He suggested I adjust my distance from the new mic to see if it helped.

So here are the three sample tracks  1) old first attempt (old mic) 2) new mic at a distance of 1 and 1/2 feet and 3) new mic at a distance of 3 feet.

1. Original track (snippet).

Death’s Shed by J. M. McDermott.

2. Snowball mic at 1 and1/2 ft (snippet).
Death’s Shed by J. M. McDermott.

3. Snowball mic at 3 ft (snippet).
Death’s Shed by J. M. McDermott

My Two Questions:

How is the background noise?

Have I tamed those s’s enough?
I think not. I’m trying to figure out how to work an Audacity plug-in called Spitfish that de-esses tracks, but so far no luck….

I really had no idea I had this “s issue” until yesterday.  Now I hear it every time I speak!

More Technical Details of My Recordings Than You Really Want to Know:
So here’s the current issue, Spitfish isn’t picking up any sound to de-ess. I think it’s because my recording levels are too low. When I record with the input setting to maximum in Audacity, the recording level hangs around -24 decibels (not the -6 decibels suggested in the user manual). The audio peaks seem to sit somewhere between 0.15 and 0.2 (not the 0.5 “ideal”).

I’ve got my mic on setting #1 (for single voice recording). Because of the sibilance issue, I’m experimenting with recording between 1 and 1/2 ft to 3 ft from the mic with a gain setting of +10 (tracks samples above).


The Snowball Is in the Mail

As part of a grad-school assignment, I’ve become embroiled with the world of podcasting.  I spent Saturday morning shut in our mudroom, surrounded by Tom’s piles of junk (old clothes,  grass-smeared sneakers and more shopping bags than any one family needs).  I sat on a step I’d covered with a torn t-shirt while my laptop rested on top of a large plastic bin full of dog food.   In other words, my first studio.

Our two cats were fascinated. They spent most of my recording session scratching at the closed door.  Other than that, it worked out pretty well.

Play to your strengths.  Advice for life and writing.  My school friend J. M. McDermott kindly offered his story “Death’s Shed” for my first audio attempt.  Other than that, I was on my own.

I love figuring things out.  Yes, I’m one of those self-starter types, and, with the internet, there is always plenty of instruction available on whatever I’m trying to learn.  Last summer, my daughter and I watched a series of eHow videos on knot tying, then she climbed the maple tree in our front yard. I held the laptop over my head with the video on replay while she attached her first rope swing.  A moment made of “awesome sauce.”  My first podcasting attempt had much the same flavor.

The recording of Joe’s story came out well, I think. (I’m hoping to have more on that topic in the near future.)  The hardest part was figuring out the editing.  I got the job done, but that’s about all I can say.  It felt like I was trying to alter a digital image by adjusting the color one pixel at a time.  Inelegant and rather ineffective.  However, I stuck it out until the end.

Now with that first recording under my belt, I’ve decided to go ahead and purchase a real mic.  I just ordered Blue Microphone’s Snowball mic along with a pop filter.  Yep, I can see it already.  I’m going to spend at least an hour figuring out how to attach the filter and playing with the various sound modes before I actually get any real content recorded.

Next on my list, figuring out how to record a phone interview.