Monday, July 24, 2006

Podcast Progress

So, although struck with a nasty case of hay fever, with Grace's help I
was able to put some time into the Boats of the Glen Carrig podcast this
weekend. Chapter 4 is published, chapter 6 is finished save for metadata,
chapter 5 needs only a short clip with Grace's voice, and chapter 7 needs
only a music credit clip. I should have seven chapters completed and
published in a day or two, out of seventeen -- that's not quite the
half-way point, but getting close.

I was able to get through these so quickly because the raw recordings were
complete, and so I just had to do the editing and mixing. It's a good
thing that I didn't have to record much text, because my voice wasn't up
to snuff, what with a packed head, dripping nose, and itchy throat.

I had also previously selected some thunderstorm, wind, and water sounds
from the Freesound project for use in Chapter 5, which features a
tremendous storm at sea, and that worked out quite well. I'm hoping to use
more of the Freesound clips in the future. My only problem with using them
is the question of how to properly give credit for the clips. I used three
of them in Chapter 5, in addition to the music and boat sound effects. I
could try to record that in the music credits, but although this is pretty
easy for the artists, albums, and web sites, I don't want to try to
pronounce attributions for three sound clips like this:

"By SpeedY (

I also can't fit the URLs into tags in the MP3 file -- they're just too
long. So I have to refer listeners to the show blog, that gives the
details. That doesn't seem quite right, though -- I'd like to guarantee
that the credit stays with the file. Those URLs, and the URL for the
project blog, should all be considered ephemeral -- what happens if
blogspot goes out of business, or the Freesound project closes down?

Creative Commons has a tool that allows you to add additional tags to your
MP3 file and link them to a web address containing the specific license,
but the fields aren't the de facto standard fields, and clients like
iTunes won't show them. Do I promote that emerging standard and use it,
even though most people won't be able to make use of it? Do I retrofit my
older files? For now, the answer is no... it already takes me far too long
to produce a finished MP3 file. But I'll keep it in mind.

I said I was able to just edit and mix the recordings I made previously.
That's true, but those recordings are not without problems. I was
horrified to find out that the Logitech headset, which I used without
problems for the first few chapters, has apparently started generating
audio dropouts. The raw recordings for chapters six and seven are littered
with glitches. Did I sit in the wrong position? Was it because I left the
wireless hub on in the same room? I don't know. Or is it just so cheaply
built I can't expect it to operate correctly for more than a few weeks?

This is incredibly aggravating. My earlier chapters recorded flawlessly
with this headset -- in fact, I bought the headset because of the endless
problems I was having with the Snowball microphone -- and my software and
hardware setup has not changed at all since.

I would try to re-record the trashed sentences, but that never gives good
results. I am very happy with the performance I got on those chapters -- I
was on a roll, and getting into the material. That's not always easy to
achieve. I'm generally trying to record when I'm tired, in the wee hours.
That's not very conducive to an energized vocal performance.

Re-recording also tends to sound quite blatantly "patched in." The
microphone position differs slightly, which changes its response; the
humidity and termperature varies (yes, this really has a noticeable
effect!) and the timbre of my voice differs slightly from session to
session, due to the state of my vocal cords, nose, and throat.

I really want this project to sound as good as possible, but I just can't
bear trying to re-record the trashed phrases, at least not now. Maybe I
will try it later. I'll probably have to redo whole paragraphs, and I'll
lose the flow of the original recording. Is it worth it? I don't know. So
far the only audience I'm trying to please with this project is myself.
I'd like to be able to look back on the project and say that I did the
best job I could, given my budget and time constraints.

I'm starting to think that the entire category of USB audio devices must
be fatally flawed. Is USB just not suitably reliable for audio?

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