Posted by John Irwin
on July 16, 2012 | No comments
Skype is your friend
It’s not really fair that I ask you to record something in part 1 without telling you how to do that. As everyone in KritzKast is located in different parts of the world we started off trying to get a recording in mumble. The results were mixed to poor. The slightest problem with the internet would give one of us a crackling robot voice and various other little problems ensued. It may just have been that at the time we weren’t investing energy in to post production but we weren’t satisfied. We messed around with a few other applications but in the end we settled on Skype. I’m glad we did. Skype is wonderful for podkasters.
For one to one interviews it is especially simple to achieve good quality audio results. An application we’ve taken to heart is MP3 call Recorder. Once you have it installed it can be configured to record all Skype calls at 128bit stereo. Your own audio is recorded on the left channel and all incoming sound is recorded on the right channel. I’ll talk about audio editing applications in a minute but in essence you’ll end up with two reasonably good recordings of audio that may be cleaned up, edited and shipped out with almost no skill or effort.
So that’s a two man kast sorted.. lets all go home. *le sigh* It’s never that easy. In KritzKast we have a rolling host list of three to five presenters. Even interviews rarely involve less than three people. The limitation of MP3 Call Recorder is obvious. While the left channel will only ever have your own audio the right channel will record everybody else.
So I should take a moment to explain this problem. In normal conversations people who can see each other are able to perceive small gestures; be they leaning forward, a glint in the eye or simply opening their mouths. There’s a wealth of information that you take on board when you’re chatting with people in real life. On the internet, even on a video call, that information is lost to you. So two people will often respond at the same time. Again, in small groups most people can elect to tune-out from those who they think may be less interesting by positioning themselves in such a way that they are either closer to or in a positionally clearer path to the people they do want to hear. Even if it’s just a case of their head turning to face them. In recorded media though this isn’t possible. KritzKast’s final edit is in joint stereo so the left and right speakers play the same track at the same time. The projected audio appears on a flat plane no matter who originated it. Effectively even two people talking together over each other makes it very difficult for the listener to tell what’s actually being said by any one person.
I’ll go into some detail in a later post about how we edit the audio, suffice to say that we’ll silence or cut out the audio of one presenter when two are talking at the same time. This is only possible when you have each person recorded to a separate track. For this we use GoldWave to individually record our own tracks. I suppose any recording software will do but we are all Windows guys so that’s the best choice for us. Unlike MP3 Call Recorder, GoldWave isn’t free. There is a long trial basis so you can get used to it and when you’re done with the trial it’s super cheap to register considering how powerful a utility it is.
The first time you launch gwave you’ll see two boxes pop up. Just close the red control box and it’ll form a tool bar in the main window. Hit F11 to get to properties and jump to the “Record” tab. On the bottom left hand corner set the record mode to “unbounded” before jumping to the “Device” tab. Here you’ll want to make sure you are recording your mic (not using the webcam or anything else connected to your PC with a mic element). Set your Mono Source to “left channel”. That should be enough to get you started.
This podkasting malarkey is no small topic and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve taken my sweet time about getting round to post about how we do it. In the next post I’ll write about coordinating a group of casters, cleaning and leveling the tracks ready for the big edit. I may even talk about hardware, you never know your luck.
**Coming soon in part 3 – coordinated recording**
Posted by John Irwin
on July 11, 2012 | One comment
This is what we do
At time of writing KritzKast has recorded 176 episodes. Initially running once a month(ish) it quickly became obvious that we needed to run to a regular schedule in order to both keep and grow our audience. While we were good at talking even in the early days, it wasn’t much fun to be the guy doing the edit. The audio quality was brutishly bad and we were loosing as many listeners as we had gained with our content. It took a while to work out how to record, clean and edit the show into a format that works well and is easily repeatable.
We started the organisation, The PodKast Company Ltd in order to allow us to work with other companies and help new podkasters realise their dreams. So, this is what we do at KritzKast each week to give us the output you love.
I’m going to skip over a few things that are important for a podkast to work. Fear not, I’ll come back to them in later posts. For now though we’ll start with the simple things:
It all started with an idea. We were chatting each week about what was going on in our TF2 Clan. We were talking on mumble and having fun with it. The conversations went back and forth, work was done and fun was had by all. I think the three of us all had the same idea the same week, “Let’s do a podcast!” And the rest is as they say, history. Oh those rose tinted nostalgic spectacles. The important thing was the idea. In the case of KritzKast the idea was to have a place to talk about a game that we all loved. For you that game may be DOTA2, Minecraft or Star Craft 2. It could be a genre of gaming, a platform or a review of other communities. To be completely honest what you’re looking at each week can be as simple as on-going projects in the gaming world.
In many regards we lucked out with TF2. Even back then Valve Software were pushing out updates on a regular basis (this was back before hats, the steam workshop and trading) and there was a quickly establishing community. The game had legs so years on there’s still enough content coming out on a daily basis that we always have content for the show. Whatever you what to podkast about make it something you’re already enthusiastic about, something you love. If things go well you’ll be talking about it for years to come. If it turns out this was a passing fad for you, then your show will suffer for it, your audience will leave you and the work you’ll have put in to building everything up will have been for naught.
So this is going to be something you’ll be doing for a while. Think about your school or job, your social life, your gaming life, your health. If you’ve still got time after all of that to research, record and edit a show then you’re probably more organised than I am, or you’re better at lying to yourself. How often you and your co-hosts record and push out content will be dependant on all the above but it’ll also depend on what everyone else is doing. With KritzKast we can rely on the TF2 community to come up with interesting things even when Valve don’t have an update that week. We can afford to make KritzKast a weekly podkast but the guys at Asemble have to wait for a few weeks to have enough Portal 2 content for their show.
We didn’t start with a regular schedule. The first few episodes came out once a month, then once a fortnight, then once every six weeks before we finally buckled down to the weekly format. Our audience would find the show, subscribe, not see anything for a few weeks then unsubscribe, never to return. As much as we say we’d do this even if we didn’t have an audience, a steady or growing audience offers us the chance to do amazing things.
Just do it
The last thing I’m going to talk about here is the first thing you need to do; it. Like the first paragraph of an essay, the first time you try and record your podkast it’ll be crap. At the time you make it you’ll probably think it’s amazing, the best thing to ever happen to anyone’s ears. Trust me though, it won’t be. It’ll be crap. The sound will be full of hisses and pops. You’ll be waffling. Every third word will be “err”. You’ll trail off into giggles. You’ll stutter and there be long blank spaces of dead air. Trust me on this, it’s crap. KritzKast episode 000 was crap, and we thought it was brilliant. But we made it, and that’s the main thing. You can’t learn how to make a good or successful podkast by reading blogs, even this one won’t help much, a little maybe, but not much. You’ve got to learn by experience.
Figure out what your show will be about and sketch out a plan for that content in advance. Keep #000 down to no more than 10mins. Record it then leave it for a day before you come back and listen to it. Don’t bother sharing it with anyone, just regard it as a first take and record the same show again. #000 take-2 will probably still be really bad but at least now you have something you can share with your mates. Get some feedback and build from there. Use the positive feedback to decide what’s good and the negative to decide what to spend more time working on or throw out completely. We were lucky enough to have Clan VenGeaNce and they ripped our first efforts to shit. Thanks guys.
Posted by John Irwin
on June 30, 2012 | No comments
You know how it is when life gets in the way of a really good game? That’s how it has been for me and Work in Progress. So too for Parable and the team behind PubComp.
For those joining the story now, PubComp was an ambitious project to provide a platform for non-competitive and competitive players alike. It was to have been an enhanced version of TF2lobby, allowing players to jump from casual play directly into a highly configurable match at the drop of a hat.
The project was began in summer of 2011 and was supposed to have seen an alpha release later that year. But here we are, months later with everything seemingly forgot. It’s far from unusual to have ambitious projects scrapped mid flow but this one held such high promise and had drawn together some incredibly dedicated and driven people. The day of death is a hard one to pin down, even while the programming group where failing to meet deadlines the community group were supporting competitive collaborations across the world.
Most of the original staff are still playing and working in Team Fortress 2 related activities. Though reports of their demise have not been greatly exaggerated, it may be that the dream of PubComp lives on.
Update: PubComp is now dead – see my final interview with the dev team