The Podcasters : Brad Fortin

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.

Brad Fortin is a Canadian podcaster (our third Canadian in this series) who is currently focussed on growing his own independent podcasting network.

What podcasts do you host?

My forray into podcasting began with my friend Tal. For a long time we floated around the idea of a podcast and finally got into it toward the end of 2012 with The Distraction. It started off as a tech site and podcast and slowly evolved into an interview show. We had quite a few good shows over its run but due to time constraints we weren’t able to keep a regular schedule and eventually decided to put the show on indefinite hiatus.

Then, toward the end of 2013 I decided to start my own podcast, with BlackJack, and hookers. Alright, no BlackJack, nor hookers, but I did start podcasting again. I actually started a few podcasts in the hopes of eventually creating a small network of podcasts, under the Two Mono Channels network. The name is a play on words from when Tal and I were chatting with Dan Benjamin of 5by5. We were discussing editing and quality, there was a bit of confusion about mixing, and the Two Mono Channels name was born from the confusion.

I’m still not quite sure which direction I’m taking with the network. In terms of content it’s all over the place with about a dozen ideas for podcasts, and a few episode ideas per podcast. In terms of scheduling I’m aiming for at least 1 new episode per month from the network. Eventually, if I get all my podcast ideas off the ground, I hope to have 1 episode of each podcast out per month. With up to a dozen podcasts that should work out to 2 or 3 episodes per week, which I think is manageable but might be a bit much if I’m trying to balance that with a full-time job. My current focus is on The Metacast, a podcast about podcasts and podcasting, and Handsome Bearded Gentlemen, a discussion show where beards and manners are optional but handsomeness is always assured.

The problem with podcasting is that there isn’t a very good way to make money from it. More than anything it’s a hobby for me right now. If I ever monetize Two Mono Channels I don’t want it to be through ads because I hate ads. I’ve had a few ideas for monetization but until I try them I won’t know how effective they are. I look forward to trying them out later this year.

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

I use my iMac as my recording machine. It’s a late-2009, 27″ (2560×1440), 2.8 GHz Intel quad-core i7-860 (the only iMac at the time with Hyper-Threading), with 12 GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon HD 4850 with 512 MB of VRAM, a 180 GB SSD as my OS X Mavericks drive, and a 120 GB SSD as my Boot Camp drive.

On the OS X side I have HiDPI mode enabled so that the screen behaves like a giant 1280×720 display, similar to how the MacBook Pro with Retina Display works. I also run most of my apps in Full Screen mode. I’m a monster. I keep Boot Camp for gaming despite the fact that the ATI 4850 can barely handle any new games unless I set the resolution to 720p.

I use a Shure PG27-USB as my recording microphone, which I got cheaply from a co-worker who didn’t need it. The only thing keeping me from “eating the mic”, as it’s commonly called, is a pop filter. Most of the time I have a pair of Apple EarBuds plugged into the mic as a secondary output for my Mac, but when I record I use my Bose QC-20s.

What type of room do you record in?

I record in my bedroom, of all places. Until I get my own place this is the best I can do and it’s worked well enough for me so far. It can get a little loud once in a while because my room is next to the kitchen, to the back door to the house, and to the bathroom. I try to schedule my recording away from those busy times, but once in a while you can hear someone doing dishes or running water in the background. I don’t mind it all that much.

Ideally I’d record from an office or recording studio (dreaming big!).

What software do you use for recording and editing?

I typically use Skype for the calls, Call Recorder for Skype to record the audio, and then GarageBand for editing. I don’t have very much experience with editing and GarageBand already has more tools than I know how to use so I don’t see myself upgrading my editing software until I have greater needs or a piece of software comes out that makes it easier and faster.

I’ve been told I should invest in a program like Logic or Hindenburg but that’s more than I’m willing to spend on a hobby that’s not making any money at the moment, especially when GarageBand already meets or exceeds my needs.

What do you use to host your podcasts online?

I currently use Squarespace (the all-in-one platform that makes it easy to create your own website, blog, or portfolio…) to host my podcasts, although I’ve also considered Simplecast for its simplicity, or Libsyn for its versatility and robustness.

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

The first step to recording any podcast is to create the universe.

When recording a podcast I like to start with some good show notes, or at least a good idea of what I want to record. It sometimes takes days, even weeks to come up with just the right set of show notes or show ideas. If there’s a guest I’ll get a hold of them and see how much information they need, such as the show notes, and schedule a recording time.

Once the show is recorded I split the tracks if I need to, then I meticulously arrange the audio files in a series of folders, backup folders, and Dropbox folders. Just in case.

After that’s taken care of I open an existing template for one of my podcasts or start a new one, drag the files in, and begin stripping the audio of all the parts I don’t want. It’s like taking a piece of wood, ice, or aluminium and carving it into a work of art. It takes lots of work, lots of time, and lots of patience. It also requires that I listen to the show multiple times, and parts of the show dozens or hundreds of times until it’s been put together correctly.

Then I export the audio, create a new post on Squarespace, upload the audio, fill out the metadata, and schedule the post for publishing.

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

The most important thing I’d like to change is portability.

Right now my life is split between living at home during the week (before and after work), and staying with my fiancé during the weekend. My biggest problem with this is that I can only go through most of my recording workflow when I’m at home during the week, either before or after work. The rest of the time I’m without my tools. Being able to bring them with me would give me a bit more versatility.

The alternative would be having my own place. My fiancé and I have been house hunting for over 2 years but still haven’t found a place that we like. Once we have our own place I won’t need my tools to be portable and I’ll be able to record in a better environment.

Neither of those would make my shows any better, but they would at least make the workflow easier for me.

I’d also consider getting a new Mac soon. My iMac is getting close to 5 years old, it’s running faster than ever thanks to my recent RAM and SSD upgrades, but the i7-860 and ATI (now AMD, that’s how long it’s been) 4850 can barely keep up with Mavericks. I’d like to upgrade to a 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display, but only if it gets a better GPU like Intel’s Iris Pro graphics or the dedicated graphics that the 15″ model can get. When I upgrade I want a machine that’s better than my current machine in every way, even if I’m going from a desktop to a laptop.

Also, if I could make enough money from this to hire someone to take care of all the booking, recording, editing, mixing, and publishing, that would be great.