If you are reading Briztreadley, you cannot have missed the fact that launching a podcast is my big thing for 2015.
And I haven’t gone into any detail of the back story behind the decision. The podcast just appeared last week, after a month or so of discussion between myself and the other participants over the Christmas period.
But maybe some people are interested in how we got here.
At the start of 2012, I had an email from Phil Smith, weekend presenter for the ABC about his idea for a regular half-hour segment on cycling. Phil and I have been friends for about 30 years, so of course I talked to my boss about the benefits for Bicycle Queensland of getting our name out in the public arena, and went back to Phil with a resounding “yes”.
And over the next three years, most every week I rocked up to the ABC studios at South Bank just before 2pm on Friday, locked my bike to the public bike rack, and wandered inside. Most times Phil Smith was the ABC host, but other times I worked with Peter Scott, Chris Welsh and Craig Zonca.
And each week we got hold of interesting people to talk to, and report on, and analyse, in the wide world of bike riding. We talked to people making bikes and selling bikes, touring around the world on their bikes, racing their bikes of many different types, getting from A to B on their bikes, and those just enjoying riding their bikes for reasons that can be special and particular to one person, or universal and general across most of the population.
There is just an amazing amount to talk about to do with bikes.
In the middle of 2014 Phil took a long-ish break from ABC, and Chris Welsh moved into the chair. And the program segment, which originally was called The Sunday Spin, but by now was known as The Squeaky Wheel, just rolled on regardless. I knew Chris less well than Phil, but knew him as a keen commuter cyclist and occasional tourer, so I knew he would be pleased to carry on chatting about bikes.
But at the end of 2014, the ABC decided to make a change in its weekend programming. Chris Welsh was removed from the weekend timeslots, and that was the end of The Squeaky Wheel (and quite a few other program segments that we all thought were popular).
So Chris and I got together over a cup of coffee, and worked out a plan to carry on talking about bikes. And regular contributors Jordana Blackman and Nicholas O’Donnell were likewise keen to continue the conversation in another forum.
So really all that was left was the mechanics of making it happen.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how “do-able” it is to record a podcast of listenable quality with low-cost equipment. We’ve got 95% of the functionality and quality of the ABC studios in a spare bedroom at my home in Salisbury, at a tiny fraction of the cost.
The iPad and Skype provide the elements of the studio that once were tricky to replicate outside of a proper studio.
The first is live playback of other pieces of audio. On the Squeaky Wheel, and now on the Briztreadley podcast, we often play pieces of audio that are sourced from elsewhere, or are pre-recorded especially for us.
The device that does that in the studio is called a cart machine. Back in the old days, it was actually a machine that could play from any one of a whole rack of tape cartridges, which would be pre-loaded with the station ID, ads, jingles, interviews etc etc.
Of course at the ABC studio this is now a computer that plays the station IDs etc, and other pre-recorded audio at the touch of a button.
And now, there’s an iPad app that does exactly the same thing. Well, there’s a whole lot of iPad apps which do it, but the best one I have found so far is Bossjock Studio. It’s designed for podcasters!
So the theme music, and the “you’re listening to the Briztreadley podcast” bits, and the audio of a bike racer who has just won the stage … they are all pre-loaded into Bossjock Studio, and I plug the iPad into a stereo input on the mixer, and press a button in the program to play them. Simple as that.
You can record a podcast without this facility, and add the extra audio as an edit in post-production, but I like to be able to play the audio and have my studio panel listen along to it and react to it. It’s hard to react naturally to something you can’t hear.
Skype is the replacement for the ABC studio’s complicated phone system and also it’s TARDIS system of connecting with studio guests in remote ABC studios.The quality from Skype is usually slightly better than that of a phonecall, which is a win as well. So far every guest we’ve wanted to talk to has a Skype account, and I expect that to continue to be the case. For the super tech-heads, I provide a mix-minus feed back to the person on the other end of the Skype connection.
I use my iPhone as the Skype device, because we record on my Mac mini, and my iPad is used for Bossjock Studio, and the iPhone is the only thing left! The downside of the iPhone is that I’m then at the mercy of my wifi setup at home, rather than the Mac mini which is connected via Ethernet. But so far, so good. No dropped calls.
We record our four panellists, each on their own microphone, into the same small 10-channel mixer that the iPad and the iPhone are plugged into. The outputs from the mixer go to my Mac mini via a USB audio interface. I record the program on Hindenburg Journalist, which is a great program for editing audio interviews, and nearly perfect for this purpose as well.
So that’s how the magic happens. And the best bit is that we’re having lots of fun doing it! I hope that you (if you’re listening) are enjoying it too. Let me know what we can do better, or what sort of cycling content you want to hear. Email [email protected], or just ramble into the comment box below.
UPDATE: I’ve also started using an iPhone app called ‘Ringr’, so far the results have not been stellar, but the idea is a good one. Ringr records a double-ender via VOIP app, uploads the results to its server, and then forwards the merged file to the originator of the call. So each end of the call is recorded using the iPhone built-in mic, which should mean better quality than Skype.