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The Work Behind This Just In…

Many of you are familiar with This Just In…From Gen Con, which is doing its crowdfunding campaign at the moment. For those who aren’t:

This Just In…From Gen Con! is a special podcast produced live at Gen Con Indy. Hosted in 2012 by Rich Rogers and Alex, Steph and Ed from the Yellow-Menace Podcast, they work hard to capture the excitement and mania that is Gen Con — both for listeners who can’t make it and for those who sync their MP3 players at the show!

But that’s just the beginning of the story. This Just In was an idea that Paul Tevis has back in 2008, and over IM, he asked me if I’d like to be the producer on it. His plan was to get corporate sponsorship, which he did by talking with the folks at DriveThruRPG. And the first year of This Just In…From Gen Con was born.

I worked my ass off that year. We did shows at 11am and 5pm, Gen Con Thursday through Sunday. (These days, we don’t do the 5pm show because of hall logistics, and that’s what a wrap-up show’s for anyway.)

Here was my daily life at Gen Con 2008:

10am: (When the Exhibit Hall opens) Look around for something to talk about in an hour. Possibly also wrangle a guest.

11am: Get to the conference room that was our makeshift studio. Hook up our equipment (in the first year, my Zoom H4; in later years, my Zoom H4N) by connecting one of the mixer board XLR outputs that normally went into one of the speakers in the room into my device instead. Explain the format to my guests, including the in unison “This Just In…From Gen Con!” bit and how they shouldn’t feel obligated to chime in. I showed the hand signals for things like “you’re too close to your mic” “you’re too far away from your mic” “you speak next” and “dear god please stop touching the table I can hear that in my headphones.” Then we’d prep the guests by making sure they had something to talk about, and asking if there was something for them to plug.

11:15: Typically by now, we’d start recording. Sometimes we’d have an audience as as many as six people! But, of course, the live audience wasn’t the point. We’d record for 15-20 minutes. (We used to shoot for 10-15, but didn’t work well having two guests and two hosts.)

11:45: By now, the recording’s in the can. Paul’s free to go off to do stuff, and my job was to go do the audio production. Unlike Master Plan and my other shows, I didn’t edit this one for content or flow. No time to. But processing it still too time, to take a live-ish recording and make it not suck. This is where SoundSoap was handy for any recorded hum, and Adobe Audition was great for doing hard limiting. (I really dislike Levelator. It makes crap audio. But it’s free, so I can see the appeal to other podcasters.) Then I stick the pre-recorded intros and outros on, mix down to an MP3, add the ID3 tags & artwork, and then…

12:05: Struggle to find a place to upload it. The press room’s Internet access was okay, sometimes. In later years, I would sometimes just pay for Internet in my hotel room, but we didn’t make enough off of TJI in those years to warrant throwing away $10.

12:30: If I was lucky, the show was up and announced by now. Time for lunch!

1pm: Socialize with people, maybe get a convention demo in, something that was actually me-time.

4pm: Everything I did at 10am, starting all over again. Sometimes I would have already seen something be now, and sometimes I was just spending a couple hours hanging out with friends I rarely see.

5pm: The second show of the day! See everything from 11am on.

6:30: If I was lucky, my TJI shifts for the day were over, and I was a free man. (Though, that didn’t mean much on Friday night, when I went and did the ENnies, so I could talk about it the next day.)

So…between 10am and 6:30pm, I got around three hours to myself. And that’s if everything went well. Sometimes I had to scramble to find a replacement guest. And the last year I did the show, I also worked the IPR booth at the same time, so I didn’t have any real free time that year (and that lead to a couple shows that were late, because Kevin had problems doing the audio production on my laptop.)

That’s why I believe that This Just In is worth funding. They’ve hit their goal, and are working on a stretch goal: at $2500, they’ll bring on my former arch-nemesis, Clyde Rhoer:

…we will be adding a new team member, and additional coverage of Gen Con 2012! Clyde Rhoer, host of the awesome Theory From the Closet podcast, and one of the best interviewers in the RPG podcasting scene will join our team at Gen Con 2012, and will record a series of four long-form, Theory From the Closet-style interviews at the con, one for each day of the show!

Speaking of Money

The first two years, we got $350 (if memory serves). Paul & I split that on the first year, and I kept it on the second as the only showrunner that year. The third year, I entertained the idea of doing crowdfunding, but then Sandstorm offered my $500 for the show (split with Kevin Weiser that year, as my co-host). Still, it never felt like it was really worth it, because Gen Con is so expensive and I was running around working during half the event rather than actually enjoying it, which is why I handed it to Rich Rogers and Daniel Perez last year.

And that’s when I had really decent equipment and software for the gig, and accepted the pre-Gen Con and post-Gen Con shows as unpaid work. So when I see the $1500 and the four people involved, I see Rich and company as being far smarter about it that I was in years past, especially when I was doing all the production on my own. (Which caused said burn-out.) After IndieGoGo’s cut, after any equipment or software expenses, they have enough to split amongst them to make the hell of making TJI happen worthwhile.

After all, going to Gen Con can easily cost you a grand…if you’re doing it on the cheap. So TJI isn’t a money-making enterprise — it never will be — but it’s a damned good thing to support.

– Ryan

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2 Responses to The Work Behind This Just In…

  1. Thanks for posting this, Ryan. And yeah, based on my stint as host last year, it’s all that, and sometimes even more, as Rich and I added a new feature last year (the Daily Prep), tried to cast a wider net in terms of guests (which meant a lot more wrangling and people on mics during each show), and I pumped up the social media aspect to take full advantage of Twitter, etc.

    TJI is 100% a show worth doing, I truly believe that (especially this year where I’m back to being part of the target audience, since I won’t be going to Gen Con), but it isn’t a show that can happen without funding.

    I don’t know what shape that funding will take next year, but I’m hoping that by now people and companies can appreciate the benefit and impact of TJI so we reach a point in the near future where the show truly becomes sustainable. Because when that happens, the hosts will be able to do even more, and that’s gonna rock.

  2. Steph says:

    Mister Macklin, you are awesome! Thank you!