Archive for April, 2010
Been a bit since my last post — nose to the grindstone and all. I’m breaking one of my personally blogging rules (don’t post on a weekend), because I had a quick thought.
Some of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook see I occasionally do #HappinessIs posts. This is something I did on occasion back when I maintained my LiveJournal account — I would say something that brought me a little happiness and ask others to comment with their own. Since I’ve moved into the microblogosphero, I’ve stopped explicitly asking and merely imply with the hashtag. Damn limitation of Twitter and all…
I do this because the Internet is filled with too much fucking bile, and I do it in order counterbalance some of my own bitterness. But enough implied asking, so here’s some explicit: join me. Something makes you feel good? Tweet and start with #HappinessIs. Maybe you’ll brighten someone else’s day. Hell, maybe you’ll brighten yours.
Seriously, people. There’s too much bile with people hating online. If you’re as sick of the Internet being a hate machine, help me here. Be the change we want.
Inspired by Fred Hicks tweeting about this awesome image.
If you’re reading this off of my site rather than Google reader or something, you might notice a little something different today. I finally have a proper look to my site, rather than one of the cookie-cutter WordPress themes out there.
Check it out and feel free to leave comments. If you like the design, the credit goes to the talented and patient Mick Bradley. If you hate it, blame me for saying “hey, I like this.” (And if you want to hire him, he tells you how to do so on his blog.) Either way, I’m sure we’ll (or at least I’ll) be tinkering with the site further, since I can’t not — I’m an editor and engineer, two pursuits that cause one to Not Leave Well Enough Alone. :)
Soon, I’ll edit my About page to actually have something meaningful there. But I wanted this done and up first, since one question I get (that I want to answer on my About) is “What’s up with the pig hat?”
Also, a huge thank-you to my friends who helped me critique various stages of the design. Albert & Nancy, Chris, Matthew, Amanda, Jess, those I’m totally spacing on and thus being an asshole to right now, I owe y’all a drink.
Some days, I am reminded of the words of Saint Eastwood, in his guise as the Avatar Callahan:
A man’s got to know his limitations.
Other days, I am reminded of a saying that Paul Tevis told me years ago:
When you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them.
At a glance, these might seem to be contradictory statements, but the more I think about them, the more I Get It. Together, those two statements are about keeping yourself — no, scratch that, keeping me — away from two extremes. By knowing my limitations, I remind myself not to take on 12 hours of work every goddamned day. Especially on days like today, when I woke up feeling groggy and haven’t completely sorted myself out. It’s when I don’t know (and by extension don’t respect) my limitations that I fall down, being useless to myself and to those I’m working for.
And by remembering not to argue for my limitations, I don’t embrace my failings. I don’t just sit back and beat myself up over those limitations that I feel hold me back. I look at my limitations, and see how I can adapt to cope with them, to fix them, or to learn how to accept those I cannot right now change. This is pretty key, because I have that fucked-up work ethic beat into me where I think “Hey, I’m not going to bed until around midnight. That means I have 14 hours to work today, right?!?” This mentality is as much a limitation as everything that seems to keep me from achieving it, if not more so.
(I’m also one of those people who sees “needing sleep,” “needing socializing time” and other “being a human” sorts of things as frustrating limitations. Maybe one of these days I’ll entirely accept those limitations, but I am still young and foolish.)
Not much more to post about here. I was inspired to write this because I’ve seen friends and colleagues either not know their limitations or argue for them. Figured it was time I paid those lessons forward.
Fred Hicks mentioned on his blog a bit about his stepping down as IPR’s customer service guy, and me stepping in. I’ve been IPR’s General Manager since September of last year. The entire time, I’ve characterized it as drinking from a fire hose. Just as I’m starting to get comfortable with my role as Brennan’s lieutenant, I have decided to turn the hose on a little harder by taking over Fred’s role as well.
In his post, Fred outlined some of the negative side-effects of a thankless job. And let’s be honest, customer service is totally thankless. So then, why would someone want this job? For one, being in such a role provides interesting insights into how a business like this works. I was a customer service/tech support guy years ago for a small ISP, and while the high points I think were obvious to me, it was the minutia that got my attention. I found it fascinating…when I wasn’t dealing with customer aggro. (Which, thankfully, my past experiences have helped me become a bit emotionally-teflon about such things.)
But, unlike when I worked at the ISP (and just needed a job because I was unemployed), I believe in what I’m selling here, in what I’m doing. I like a lot of the indie press folks and want to help them succeed. Even those I don’t know well I respect, because this thing we do — making and selling games — isn’t easy. So, while learning more about the business is interesting, I really took on the additional workload because Fred needed to pass the torch onto someone else, and I’m willing to take it up.
(I also have the advantage of having been an e-commerce app developer, so I understand far too well the technology.)
So I’m just going to have to widen my jaw to take more of the hose in.
 While Fred makes the superhero gag, I always make the “I’m IPR’s GM!” gag.
 If I wasn’t being serious, I would be torn between a Clerks & Fight Club quote here.
(No, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke. Or it’s the world’s most boring one.)
The other day, I was showing my business manager, Justin Smith, how I go about producing an episode of The Voice of the Revolution. We started talking at around 7pm as I did my pre-post-production (what I call it when I’m working with the files before I start editing). It wasn’t until 9pm that I actually starting editing the source files.
It was around 9:30 that I really wished I had just recorded the screen and our conversation, because I’m sure others would benefit. (As would I — I don’t lay claim to doing this as well as I could, but because amateur/self-production is so cloistered, learning better techniques is a slow process.)
So I’m going to start a series that I’ll update from time to time. I have a lot to say about making an episode of any of the podcasts I do, and packing that into one blog post is madness. This post will serve as an introduction, for you to get a sense of what it is that I do.
The Voice of the Revolution is, on average, a 40 minute show. I do my damnedest to keep it from going over 40. There are four segments of varying length, three of which are done by the two co-hosts via Skype, and the remaining one being an interview done by one of the co-hosts and a guest.
Recording the three co-hosted segments takes a 35-45-minute session. The interview on average around 15 minutes.
And it takes me around seven hours to make all that into the end product.
That’s three hours less than it took when I started doing The Voice on episode #19.
“Holy fuck, Ryan, that’s a long time!” you might say. I know some of my podcasting cohorts tell me that. However, in the real world, a ratio of around 10x-time is a decent rate of production. I’m pretty comfortable with that, given that I’ve put a lot of pride in my abilities as an audio producer. But what I’m doing isn’t complicated, it’s just time-consuming. Anyone can do what I do. And I want to show you how.
This initial post will talk about the software I use and my overall philosophy on content.
Even though I have a Mac, I haven’t found software that I’m happy with yet. So I keep an XP boot and run Adobe Audition 1.5. Audition isn’t available for the Mac, but if it was I would make sweet, sweet love to it. (And would actually bother to upgrade.)
Audition is a great waveform editor and multi-track mixer. For those who aren’t sure what I mean by that, a waveform editor is a program that manipulates the sound file — cutting, muting, adjusting, etc. A multi-track mixer is a program that lets you manipulate the way multiple sound files playing on top of and along side of each other.
(That’s a pretty simple description. I’m sure those who don’t know what I’m talking about are cringing at it. But then that description isn’t for you.)
That’s my main bit of software, my workhorse. But I use a couple other tools as well:
SoundSoap 2 is what I use to do some sound cleanup. But noise reduction and sound cleanup will need to be a post all of its own.
For doing all my remote calling work, I use Skype and with it PowerGramo Pro. I’ve been using PowerGramo Pro for years and it’s always been reliable. (Though, twice I fucked up by misconfiguring it, so user error is possible.)
And because I’m using Audition 1.5, which doesn’t handle .ogg files, I use Audacity to turn the .ogg files that Brennan sends me from his copy of PowerGramo Pro into .wav files. Otherwise, I stay the hell away from Audacity. It’s a fine program if you’re starting out, and I do recommend it for the newbie podcaster, but once you’ve been around the block a bit you’ll see where it’s frustratingly deficient.
Philosophy on Content
Justin was telling me that there’s a clear signature to anything I produce, that he can tell something is “a Ryan Macklin production.” Josh Roby once spotted that I started producing the Voice of the Revolution before we told anyone (which I think was episode 22 or 23, giving Brennan a few episodes to see if it worked out for him). That’s largely because of my take on content. (Which I’m pretty sure I talked about on this blog a year ago, when I was less consistent with updating it.)
Mechanically, I’m a subtractive editor — I cut what I don’t want from a source file to make my target file. But I don’t think of myself like that. I look at what I’m leaving in as additive, as having passed a litmus test for content. And that test is that it fits in one of the three categories:
- What’s said relevant information for the topic at hand (which is the point of anything I do), or
- What’s said adds to the speaker sounding human (and thus reduces listener distraction), or
- What’s said adds to the noticeable rapport between the hosts & guests (which serves as a proxy rapport between the speaker and listener).
This means I don’t cut every “um” and stutter. This means that awkwardly-timed laughter might actually stay in the file. This means I cut when one of us rambles off topic, unless that ramble helps build rapport and I’m not seeing that built well beforehand.
I came up with these rules a couple years back, and I talk about them whenever I do a podcast 101 type of panel. The latter two are actually things that forced me to stop editing every stutter, um, and pause in the source file — a bad habit I had for about six months.
Next bit of content: the end result is king. If the recording has to be shifted around and be “out of order” in order to make more sense for the end result, I do that. Nothing in the recording is sacred. The end product is everything. So I will occasionally re-organize the file by cutting and moving around (though that’s usually difficult, for a number of reasons that’s also its own post).
That’s it for now. I’m over my 1K wordcount limit, and I’m late on finishing up March’s Voice episode. Back to work!
(If you have a specific topic you’d like me to talk about, feel free to ask in the comments. I have several in mind already, but think of it as voting for which you want to see first.)
 If you have a suggestion on Mac software that is comparable to Audition, I would love to hear it.
 This totally betrays the sort of podcaster I am. While I’m happy to participate on rambly panel shows, I will never produce one.