Blog Archive

Monday, August 25, 2008

The AndyCast Show: Podcasting with Andy Bilodeau

Andy Bilodeau is writer and host for The AndyCast comedy podcast. When he isn’t podcasting Andy provides web support for a scientific publisher. His wife, Vivian, is a part-time podcaster and full-time University Professor. They live in Maryland, USA with their five year-old son.

Q. When did you first become interested in podcasting?
A. I'm not sure how I heard about podcasting in the fall of 2004 but I listened to Adam Curry's the daily source code as one of my first podcasts and he referenced a few others, like Dawn and Drew and Nate and Di, and I thought...hell...I could do at least as bad as those...
Q. How long did it take you to decide what sort of podcast you wanted to begin with? What shaped this decision?
A. At first it was going to be sort of an audioblog... but after 2 episodes, a friend tactfully said, "You suck," and that I should do what I do best... make people laugh. This was both heart breaking and uplifting at the same time. I came to the realization that I'm not a "turn on the mic" and talk person ...and that's ok...
So, from there it was a comedy/variety show until I got the WORST compliment ever... Someone said "Wow, you'd make a great DJ".... which is NOT what I was hoping to do with the podcast... after that...the podsafe music was dropped and I focused more on the comedy skits...
I was really working hard to create 2 to 3 skits per show... I'm really proud of the early shows, but it would take 6+ hours to put a show a very wise and wonderful woman said "Why not stick with what you're doing the best, the Uninformed Biographies and you'll be able to have a life!" that woman was my wife, and her suggestion really set up the show the way it is today...
The uninformed biographies were a real hit right from the beginning... they evolved out of my sheer ignorance of other podcasters and my utter shyness to contact them and ask them about themselves. So, I decided to make up a back story for them and the rest as they say is history.
Q. Do you let the content determine the length of each episode or vice versa?
A. Generally the content will determine the length. I like to shoot for 20 minutes... but I won't add to hit the mark, nor will I edit to hit the limit. It is just a marker in the sand so to speak.
Q. Where does the 'punch-line' sit in all of this?
A. Basically... I try to come up with the punch-line of the Uninformed Biography. For example, in show #55 Sylvain's last name is Grand'Maison which in French means "big house" that became by "punch-line" and I wrote the story around that idea...
Q. How do you prepare for each episode?
A. 2 double scotch and a beer chaser... not really… I actually only script the uninformed biography's ... I want them to sound a particular way, and aside from the occasional ad or skit, the shows pretty much roll out by themselves. I sort of prep the show over a period of time...I'm finding that the actually recording and editing time is what I'm lacking.
Q. So time is obviously a factor. What do you do when you aren't podcasting?
A. Outside of podcasting I'm a full time husband full time Dad and I have a full time job working for a scientific publisher doing web support…
Q. So how does your home life and occupation affect the content in your podcast?
A. Occasionally real life events may trigger a good joke or a good situation that could lead to a full blown story… but pretty much my family life and work are not common sources for my show. I pretty much exist in the world of make believe and embellishment. Anything resembling reality tend to be frowned upon.
Q. In your episode 55, your wife and son lent their acting talents for the show. Did they need much persuasion?
A. My son has never been one to shy away from any sort of social situation, the fact that it was recorded was a bonus. He did his whole bit in one rehearsal, one take and zero editing.
My wife has her own podcast the CLIP podcast, and it was no effort to get her to participate.
Q. Your wife also has a podcast? Tell us a bit about how it differs from your own.
A. Hers is the Critical Literacy in Practice podcast. It is geared toward teachers and parents on how to use critical literacy in everyday situations. It's based on one of her areas of research. She's been at it 2 years now.
It's a totally different genre than mine but she's passionate about the topic and has a great presence and voice on the mic. She still enjoys it but, as with me, she finds it hard to find the time to create and record. She's a fulltime university professor, mom and her time is very limited. We're both hoping to be able to carve more time into our schedules to produce more regularly.
Q. So, does that mean you have a studio?
A. Sort of... I like to record in my tiny basement office ...the acoustics aren't the best, but it's not horrible. My wife tends to record using our Zoom H2 portable recorder up in her office. We have thought about improving the sound quality and turning my office into a true studio but we've neither the budget nor the time to do that just yet. I find that I sound better on the condenser mics and my wife sounds better on the H2. We lucked out that way.
Q. Tell us a bit about the equipment that you've used in the past: software and hardware.
A. Software is easy... it's been Garageband basically from day 1. I tried to use Audacity since a lot of people said it was easier than Garageband, but I could never get a stable version on the Mac. So I really have grown used to Garageband and I don't know that I could switch to something else at this point!
As for hardware, I started recording using an iPod and the iTalk... The sound was awful… but it worked. I then bought a Griffen iMic which allowed me to use a headset mic and that worked well for a short while but it wasn't the sound I wanted.
So my glorious wife suggested that I get some good mics... this was before she'd even considered podcasting, so we found a very good deal on 2 Marshall mics, an Alesis USB mixer and that's our primary rig. We have the H2 and an iRiver for mobile recordings and we've also picked up a Shure mic to use with the iRiver for a much better portable recording. I've been using the mics and the mixer about 2.5 years and they've served us very well.
Q. So, by your best estimate, how much did the software and hardware that you are now using, cost?
A. Software... free. It came with the Mac. Hardware… close to $500, I would say all together.
Q. How did you go about picking a host for your podcast?
A. Well...since I'm about the only person I know that could deliver the jokes I wanted them to, it was an easy choice…
Oh, you mean site host...
In the beginning I was hosting the blog and media files myself at home. This was fine since I had fewer than a hundred listeners. It wasn't that huge of a deal.
Once my wife started podcasting, i knew she and her audience would provide more of a load the current set up so we changed our media storage to Libsyn, but we still host the Wordpress blogs at home. This gives us maximum control of our blog sites without all the bandwidth that serving up the MP3's entail.
Q. What sort of plan did you get? How much did this cost?
A. We started with the 100 MB plan for $5. We've since added some other podcasting ventures and upgraded to the 512 MB for $20 a month. The nice thing is that it's a rolling upload limit and unlimited bandwidth...
Q. What sort of method do you use to upload your episodes?
A. Libsyn's web based utility and ftp.
Q. There is other content used in your show, such as music and sound effects. What sort of costs are you looking at for these components?
A. As much as possible I try to use podsafe music and the bulk of the sound effects were built into Garageband. I have use the Free Sound project on occasion.
Q. Did you learn how to podcast through trial and error or some other method?
A. Totally trial and error. the books didn't start to roll out until after I had already been stuck in my ways. The Portable and Podcasting Expo in the Fall of 2005 was the first time I was able to meet and talk with other podcasters. it was surreal mixing and mingling with people who's shows I listened too. I was so star struck but i did learn a great deal from the sessions and from side conversations about techniques and skills.
Q. How long did it take you to get the hang of using the hardware and software?
A. The hardware was pretty easy... Aside from talking into the wrong side of the condenser mic one time, it's pretty idiot proof... Garageband... Well that's another story. The newer version is much more intuitive and logical than the early versions. There is still no true waveform editor in Garageband, but I've been able to do pretty tight editing with relative ease.
Q. Now that we've discussed hardware, software & web-related resources, tell us about your influences, comedic and otherwise.
A. Huge influence of the physical comedians... 3 stooges, laurel and hardy, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton... I’m also a huge fan of the British humour of Monty Python, Mr. Bean, the 2 Ronnies, Benny Hill, as well as Steve Martin, Richard Pryor and Weird Al.
Q. So, how would you describe your journey since becoming a podcaster?
A. Eventful, joyful, never-ending FUN!
Q. No regrets?
A. Not a one!
Q. Any future plans for your podcast?
A. More of the same... I've had some people off to write and record Uninformed Biographies so those may be sent out in the feed at some point... oh and I plan on doing an all nude show in the near future... no video just audio... so there is that to look forward too...
Q. So, the evolution theory for podcasting?
A. I think (and hope) that EVERYONE will be a content creator and we'll be able to hear stories from everyone on any number of topics.
Q. What do you think will be greatest hurdles for this coming to pass?
A. Universal broadband access... as you know, dialup just can't cut it...also more robust wireless and phone networks will speed global adoption.
Q. So, any pearls of wisdom for others looking to get into podcasting?
A. I personally think the biggest hurdle is getting the first one out. so many people are worried that it'll be awful...I find that we are our own harshest critics. Post the first one as soon as you are able. “Ummms,” “Ahhs,”, stumbles... everything. People are far more forgiving if what you are telling them is important to them. Have the balls to put the first one out...they get easier and easier as your skill and confidence build.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Keiko on Creativity

Leonardo Da Vinci is well known for his creati...Image via Wikipedia Creativity... You know what it means but the creative process can be long and tiring for anybody willing to create something. So, what does creation actually entail? Well, obviously planning is often involved, but the resources used can certainly differ from project to project, and this is part of what we will be discussing in this blog. The purpose of this blog is to talk about the process of creating a work, in whichever format that takes, from the ground up. It doesn't matter if its music, a work of fiction, a work of art, a website, a podcast, an idea or anything else; if you can create it, its worth discussing.
If you are a creator and would like to talk about the act of creating something (nothing lewd, of course), I would love to interview you. You can contact me via the gmail address found in my blogger profile. Be sure to let me know a bit about yourself, include links as you deem necessary, and anything about your experience in your given work. The most convenient method of interview will likely be through GTalk, so feel free to let me know if this would appropriate and I will send you an invite using the program. Otherwise, be prepared for an email-based interview.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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