Grace & Steel Ep. 84: Production Notes

I read this tweet from my co-host about Grace & Steel Ep. 84 and thought, “Well? I guess I should say something about this in my production notes. But what?” I’m not exactly sure what the technical problems were and I didn’t bother to find out. I only know they delayed the podcast.

KMG chooses the guests. In preparation, he tells them how to set up their computer to record. To assist him, I’ve posted a set of instructions how to use Audacity. But KMG only turns to me if he encounters a unique problem or if the guest has a question he can’t answer.

In the set-up for the James Lafond interview, KMG and James had the benefit of third-party assistance from someone named Lynn Lockhart. Based on an email or two that KMG forwarded to me, I concluded Lynn was the one who was dealing with the technical difficulties mentioned above. She did a fine job. I was kept informed of the overall progress, but essentially out of the loop on the details.

Grace & Steel use a three-recording method for our podcast. One recording is a capture of the conversation through Skype. This is split into two channels, with one conversationalist on the right channel, and the other on the left. KMG does this using a program called Total Recorder on his computer. (NOTE: We used to use the program Pamela.) At the same time, he makes another recording on his computer, in Audacity, and this is of his half of the conversation only, in mono. The Audacity recording is higher quality with a greater frequency range, so it’s more natural sounding. Audacity runs independent of Skype, or “outside” of Skype, so it is not affected by any of Skype’s potential problems–drop offs, or one person cutting out when the other person interrupts.

During the interview, the guest makes a mono recording in Audacity of their side of the discussion, outside of Skype. So, to recap, for the podcast; there are two people talking through Skype. One is making a recording inside the Skype program of both sides of the conversation, and both people are making a recording of themselves outside the Skype program.

After the interview, three files are sent to me, two from KMG and one from the guest. In a DAW (I use Sonar) the Total Recorder stereo file becomes a guide to sync up the other two higher quality mono recordings into a conversation. The system gives me independent control over each voice and so I can twiddle knobs to compensate for differences in microphones or room noise. Also, when I finally blend the two tracks, I can pan to my preference, each side 30%.)

Besides giving me independent control of each side of the conversation, the three-recording system gives me 2 versions of each half of the conversation. So if there are problems—glitches, drop outs, etc.—I have backups.

With the Lafond interview, the biggest hiccup came at the end of the process as James attempted to send his file. Normally, I get the files an hour or two after the end of an interview. This time it took about a week. At one point, KMG phoned me to say that James told him he couldn’t upload his file because it was too big, 10 gigs. I didn’t understand this, and neither did KMG in fact, because the file should have been, even its uncompressed wav form, not over a gig. What he did to create a 10 gig file, if that is indeed what he did, we still don’t know. However, I wasn’t too concerned about all this because by this time I had checked the Total Recorder file and knew we had a good back-up.

A few days went by. Finally, I got a call from KMG telling me that James managed to upload the file, but then he added, “I think we killed his computer.”

I checked my email. Along with the file, which was now a normal size, James sent a note;

Kevin, I am really sorry this took so long. I eventually had to send it from a flash drive. It would not go from my old desktop.


I thought, “I don’t get it.” Because, well, I don’t. From a flash drive? You mean, through another computer?

But, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The file had arrived. James gave a great interview. My co-host did his usual bang-up job. So what if it took a little longer to post. Well worth the wait.

Part of what we’re trying to do with the podcast is bring new voices into the cultural conversation, or, to put it more properly, we’re trying to add another, audio dimension to personalities who are already involved in the cultural conversation, just not on a podcast.

Come to think of it, that being the goal, it’s surprising we haven’t screwed up more computers.