The Podcasters: James Smith

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.

James Smith is podcast producer and sometimes host, who has a deep knowledge of the technical aspects behind making a quality podcast.

What podcasts do you host?

Currently producing The Verse podcast which is hosted by Justin Gibson with regular crew members James Griffiths and Alec Fraser. I also occasionally appear on the show. We also just recently joined Fiat Lux, the podcasting syndicate headed up by Ben Alexander

The Verse is a weekly podcast where we discuss an episode from the Whedonverse. It pretty much means anything attached to Joss Whedon is fair game. Right now we’re working our way chronologically through everything which means were just passing through season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We’ve actually mapped it out and if we keep putting out one episode a week, we’ll be going for about 8 years.

Though we haven’t put out an episode in like a year, I’d like to ressurect my first podcast, hosted with Griff, called Twobiquity. It was just a show where we could catch up and chat about what we’d done in the last week including TV, movies, music, you name it, we’d cover it.

The final podcast is Unbiquity, which is outtakes from both of those shows. Sometimes the outtakes are better than the actual show.

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

So I use my MacBook Pro with retina display for all aspects of the show. It’s a beast maxed out with 16GB of RAM and a 768GB SSD. Once a show has been edited, I usually transfer it off to a Drobo FS that’s sitting on my network at home.

In terms of recording equipment, I’m using a Samson C01U which was given to me as a gift a couple of years ago. It’s a decent mic and does the job. It used to be on a static arm, but I managed to rig it up to an Ikea TERTIAL Work Lamp and use it as a boom. It’s noisy if you move it during recording but I generally set it and I’m golden for the episode

I’ve had my Sony MDR-V6 Headphones for about 6 years now and they’re still as good as when I bought them. They’re a great set of headphones and are only about $100.

What type of room do you record in?

I just record in the third bedroom in the house which we’re using as a study. It’s nothing special but there is carpet on the floor which helps to mitigate some of the echo.

What software do you use for recording and editing?

I’m using Logic Pro X to record and edit the show. We use the double-ender technique where each person records their audio locally and then we sync it via Dropbox. If I’m on the show too, I’ll record a local sync track using Audio Hijack Pro so that I can match up all the audio files a bit easier when it comes to editing. I know a lot of people like to use Skype Call Recorder but there have been way too many times when people have lost entire podcasts because it was being used as the only recording method.

Shush is also a great little Mac app which lets you assign push-to-talk or push-to-silence to a function key. iZotope RX 3 plugin works amazingly well in Logic and the Dialogue Denoiser is a lifesaver. I’ll also use iTunes to convert to Bounced AIFF from Logic to a HE-AAC (tiny file size and no discernible reduction in quality) file for the final upload.

What do you use to host your podcasts online?

Squarespace – who doesn’t. Feedpress handles the feed – need to do this if you want to move hosts, etc.

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

It’s slightly different depending on whether or not I’m on the call. As said above we use the double-ender recording technique. It’s longer to edit because of syncing the files initially, making sure that they don’t drift, and uploading, etc. But better quality and doesn’t rely upon the Skype Gods as much.

If I’m recording with the gang, I’ll also use this nifty Logic workflow to add markers to the episode for easier editing.

Each co-host has a Dropbox folder that’s synced with me where they drop their uncompressed AIFFs of the recording. If I’m not on, someone else will also record a sync track.

In order to keep in touch, we’ve switched from private messaging in App.net and over to Slack for internal comms. Let me just say this, it works brilliantly and if you’re not using it, you should be.

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

I’m pretty happy with everything at the moment. The only thing that I’d probably upgrade would be my mic. I hear good things about the Rode Podcaster.

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One thought on “The Podcasters: James Smith

  1. Great post. So I’ll park my comment here. I read something on affordable luxuries generally. Got me wondering Is Cook recommissioning Apple from computers for the rest of us to the best in tech for the rest of us?The first mission statement has held up for thirty years. Altho Apple dropped the word computers from its name years ago, its mainstay products are still computers traditional computers, with storage, processors, and screens.New tech might not have storage, processors, or screens. Just sensors (nearables) connected to servers (farables) through hubs (hubbles), that is, phones and tablets.The corollary would be the best in tech for the rest of us us including China. Sounds like China is a big part of Apple-think these days.Not cheap tech. Its about great tech. The best tech for the rest. The purveyors of cheap tech did not and never would create the iPhone, the Mac, or the iPad. Cheap is a good thing too. But cheap doesnt get you great, whereas as great engenders cheap.Ah. Heres whats in my gut: As we watch the world shift toward inequality and as the wealthy run the show more and more, great, simple, useful, and affordable tech is kinda subversive, yes? The iPhone proves that great does good all around.

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