The Podcasters : Sean Chin

This is a continuing series in which I interview great podcasters to learn about their podcasting setups. While the content is always the most important aspect of a podcast, the technical craft in bringing that content to the listeners also deserves attention. I hope this series will illuminate that critical piece of the puzzle.

Sean Chin is an up and coming podcaster from Toronto, Canada, who is deep into the music and pop culture scene.

What podcasts do you host?

Hello Linus! Thank you for having me in this fantastic podcasting series.

I currently host and produce the Capsule Podcast on Live in Limbo. This show is all about music, film, and pop-culture. I like to think of it as an audio extension of the photo and text-based website. The publication is now five years old and I thought it would be a good time to spice things up. Since starting Capsule at the beginning of 2014, we have been fortunate enough to talk with some phenomenal musicians and artists thus far. And can’t wait to feature more! Right now, we are attempting to put out two episodes per week.

In the past, I co-hosted a campus radio show called Detuned Radio. This show lasted for a good three years. While it obviously was not a podcast, I feel that it gave me a relatively solid foundation of how to present my self “on air” as we like to say. I also got to learn some really interesting things, such as mic technique, how to operate a mixer, and conduct interviews.

In the future, I would actually like to take part in a whole bunch of podcasts. As you may have noticed, there are a lot of topics that I’m interested in.

What’s your physical rig? (Computer, Mic, headphones, other accessories.)

I currently do all of my work on a mid-2010 MacBook Pro hooked up to a Dell Ultrasharp U2412m. My MBP has 8GB of RAM, which is seriously not enough for what I do anymore.

My sword errm…mic is an Electro-Voice RE20. It is incredibly overkill for podcasting. But it is also a radio broadcasting industry standard. I learned about this mic from my time in radio and luckily got a sweet deal on it. It is also the same mic that Radiohead front man Thom Yorke enjoys using for studio vocals. The EV RE20 is mounted on Rode PSA-1 arm, which is really smooth and flexible. Even though the RE20 has some built in pop filters, I still suited it up with an foam windscreen. And to add protection from vibration, I have an Electrovoice 309A shock mount.

The audio interface between my MBP and RE20 is a Zoom H6. This is brand new product that can host up to six XLR inputs and has physical gain knobs. It’s powerful yet incredibly compact. This is useful for doing shows and interviews on the road versus carrying a giant mixer.

The headsets I monitor with are the Audio-Technica ATH-A900X. They are very comfortable and neutral sounding. It’s great for listening to music and editing my podcasts.

What type of room do you record in?

I record in a medium sized room/studio in my house. There are two windows and hard wood flooring, which probably doesn’t help enhance the sound quality. There isn’t too much echo or other random noises that would ruin my recordings. But I know that I should probably add some sound proofing material on the walls.

What software do you use for recording and editing?

Currently, I use Skype for connecting with guests and have Ecamm’s Call Recorder running in the background. I record my own end and then edit in Logic Pro X . I take show notes afterwards on Byword for Mac in dark mode.

What do you use to host your podcasts online?

I am hosting all episodes of Capsule on the 400mb plan from Libsyn. It’s pretty good so far. It’s reliable and fast. I really like the statistics that package provides as well.

From there, I created a custom category RSS feed on Live in Limbo’s WordPress CMS using the PowerPress plugin. And then that RSS feed is read by iTunes, Instacast and other podcatchers.

What’s your basic workflow for recording a podcast and taking it to the published stage?

Oh boy, where do I begin? I guess it all starts off with a topic or theme of each episode of Capsule. If we have a special guest, then we base the discussion around their thoughts, industry insights, and their new music or project.

From there, my co-host Andreas Babiolakis and I do quite a bit of research before the podcast session. We like to ask questions that artists have not really been asked before to keep things fresh and interesting.

We typically record on Wednesday nights or Saturday mornings. But a lot of time this is flaky, because it ultimately depends on when our musical guest is available. And you know how those types are.

We start recording about fifteen to twenty minutes prior to the scheduled time, just to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

I get asked this a lot. But I never ask our guests to record their own end of the podcast session. In my opinion, it puts too much friction on their part. And they are taking time out of their already busy schedules. So, I am very grateful for that as is. Can you imagine asking David Bowie to record his side of the conversation in GarargeBand?

After the recording is finished. I split the .MOV file made from Skype Call Recorder and then convert it to an .AIFF file. Then, I import that into Logic Pro X with my pre-made template and add my own track. The template I have has separate tracks for me, the co-host, the guest, and bumper music.

When the entire episode is edited, I save it as .AIFF file for archival purposes. And then create a 128kbps stereo .MP3 file in iTunes. Lately, I’ve been uploading this .MP3 file to Auphonic, which does a really awesome job at applying adaptive limiting, compression, and noise reduction (AKA I’m too lazy to do it myself). After downloading this normalized file, I add metadata to it with ID3 Editor.

This “master” 128kbps .MP3 file is then uploaded to Libsyn, which I then insert into a new post on Live in Limbo, along with a graphic and show notes. Podcatchers will capture that RSS feed and disseminate it.

Would you like to change anything about your current podcasting setup?

As a digital photographer, website runner and now podcast producer, my old but trusty MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM just isn’t really cutting it anymore. Even with Mavericks.

I would love to get a 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro with 64GB of RAM. That is definitely overkill. But I also use it for heavy duty tasks such as editing RAW files in Photoshop and HD footage in Final Cut Pro X.

While the Zoom H6 is great for recording multi-tracks. I found this really neat mixer called the Presonus 16.0.2, and it connects to your Mac via FireWire (or Thunderbolt adapter) and can record multi-tracks. And it has enough inputs to allow you to do a “mix minus” for telephone call interviews with a Telos HX2 Hybrid. It’s a hobby, but I love it.

If you’ve found me interesting, please feel free to follow me on Twitter @SeanChin and my personal blog.