At last! Potty talk that could save your life.

I know you’re just dying to hear the outcome of my colonoscopy I had a few weeks ago. But first, let me tell you about the preparation for it.

At noon the day before the colonoscopy, I took four little yet very powerful pills that put me in the bathroom exactly one hour and ten minutes later. The process had begun — but not with the vengeance my friends and family had said it would be. It was just a simple bathroom break from producing music tracks at my keyboard. However, at 4 PM I started drinking 64 ounces of Gatorade lemonade mixed with a powder laxative. Not long after that I was in the bathroom for the next three hours. Although I had minor stomach cramps for about 20 minutes, the colon cleansing process was not a bad experience. I had plenty of reading material, including a newly arrived audio catalog. I was in hog heaven, thumbing through the catalog looking at microphones.

Let’s speed things up a bit. The cleaning out the colon process was not bad at all. Everyone, and I mean everyone, who had gone through the process told me the day before a colonoscopy is the worst day. Even my mother got in on the act and told me her gory details. Thanks a lot, Mom.

Okay, now for the day of the colonoscopy. First of all, we had a really bad storm with thunder and lightning at about three in the morning. With my eyes wide open, all I could think about was, “I hope the doctor is getting a good night’s sleep. I wouldn’t want him poking that instrument through my colon because he didn’t get any sleep due to this damn storm!” I managed to get about six hours of sleep, so I figured the doctor did, too.

When I woke up, I made a pot of coffee for my wife. I didn’t get to drink any, though — not until after the procedure. Speaking of my wife, Cathy (yes, the female voiceover talent here at Audiobag.com), she was wonderful while I was cleaning out my colon. She made me broth, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, and even brought me home a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I visualized those flowers as they were rolling me in for my colonoscopy. Earlier in the morning I listened to a podcast about hypnosis and how one should imagine walking down a path of flowers. So, that’s what I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to listen to the rest of the podcast before having to leave for the clinic, so I had no idea what was at the end of that path.

I went to a top-notch day surgery center in Austin. The staff was excellent; quickly and efficiently directing patients to the right place. Okay, now let me explain the procedure. Wait! I can’t! They knocked me out. I can’t remember a darn thing. It seemed like I was only in there for five minutes, but my wife said it was longer. I felt no pain. Not even the feel of a miniature camera sliding up the ‘ol gazoo. Nothing I tell you. Whew!!!! Before I knew it, they were wheeling me back into another room for recovery. The doctor came in and informed me (well, my wife actually) that I had no polyps.

Can life get any better than that? And that’s what it’s all about. Life. A colonoscopy can give you more time to live. And that’s what I want. I’ve got a lot more podcasts to edit and radio sweepers to voice. So, send in those orders. You owe me, man! I just gave you the best description you’ll ever read about a procedure every man and woman should have after they’ve reached 50.

Damn, I’m not 13 anymore

For my 13th birthday, my father gave me a job as a DJ on the radio. He was the manager of KAZZ, an Austin radio station and the first FM station in the United States to play rock music on a regular basis. I was “Swinging Jack” — a name that today would get me unwanted email from kinky couples everywhere. But back in the 60s, it was an acceptable term to use if you thought you were cool — which, of course, I thought I was. After all, I was a lucky thirteen-year-old that got sudden notoriety at my junior high school. My father worked the control board for me that first day. I’m amazed that he didn’t laugh at all the silly things I said. Instead, he sat next to me and gave me the support I needed to succeed as “the youngest DJ in Texas” (that’s the way they promoted my new show).

My father died when he was 54. I thought my father looked old when he died. But then, cancer does that to you I suppose. After I got out of the shower today, I looked long and hard into the mirror. I really looked closely at the bit of gray coming into my wavy hair. I noticed the wrinkles under my eyes and the droopy skin around my jowls. Damn, I’m not 13 anymore.

Yesterday before heading out to a restaurant with my wife, I put on a new short sleeve Hawaiian-looking Perry Ellis shirt I bought on a sale rack at Dillard’s in Austin. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I looked like Brian Wilson in that big, short sleeve shirt. I said the words out loud, “I’m Brian Wilson.” However, to add to the quirkiness of my proclamation, I repeated it over and over, “I’m Brian Wilson. I’m Brian Wilson.” My wife walked by and rolled her eyes. After a few more minutes of walking around the house and talking like a … um … thirteen-year-old, I went and changed my shirt to an old favorite of mine that I bought at Kohl’s two years ago for $9.

There is no real audio point to this little post today. It’s just therapy you understand.

P.S. — If you want to hear what I sounded like back then, here’s a brief audio clip of me signing off for the day, followed by my brother (“Rim Kelley”):

https://audiobag.com/jackjosey_rimkelley.mp3

My Sally Field moment

I had a private Sally Field moment the other day after I came out of the closet. First of all, I should tell you that the closet I came out of had an Audio-Technica microphone in it. You see, it’s my sound booth, which is a major part of my audio production company that, thanks to all the newest whizbang audio gadgetry, consists of only two people — my wife and me. We specialize in podcast imaging and editing. In other words, we produce podcast intros and outros for podcasters, and then we edit their shows. Besides doing voice work and editing, we also occasionally produce the music we use in our productions right here in-house. And I mean literally in-house because our studio is in our house in Georgetown, Texas (just north of Austin).

Using Acid Pro software, a Yamaha MOTIF 6 keyboard, and an E-MU X Board 25 midi controller, I can create a 30- or 60-second music track in about an hour. I try to offer music a bit more on the quirky side because I find that podcasters like off-the-wall kind of stuff. Because each music track I create is custom, I start off with the podcast script in front of me as I sit at my computer listening to various music loops. I first decide on the genre. For example, I just completed a podcast intro for a high school podcaster in Louisiana who asked for music that sounded like Whitesnake and ZZ Top. I knew right away that I would be using electric fuzz guitars, an edgy bass, and rock drums. After laying down about six audio tracks in Acid Pro consisting of electric guitar, bass and drum loops, I fired up the Yamaha MOTIF 6 keyboard — a great keyboard for studio production — and picked an overdriven electric guitar to use for the main lead. After a about three tries, I liked what I came up with up on the keyboard. So I was ready for the final mix.

Song endings are always difficult for me when working with Acid Pro. I usually have to do some chopping of instruments at the end of a song to create a solid ending. However, the client wanted the music to fade, so I created about 64 seconds of music and then faded it down at 60 seconds. When finished with a music track, I always try to come up with a name that describes the song. In a rush, I called it Don’t Mess with Texas because ZZ Top is from Texas. Later I renamed it High Energy.

After completing the music track, I recorded the voice work for the podcast intro. Unfortunately, I had two things going against me. It was late in the day and my voice always sounds strained late in the day. And on top of that, the Saharan dust that somehow made it’s way to Central Texas was wreaking havoc on my throat. I recorded my voice anyway, edited it, and mixed in the music using Adobe Audition. I processed the heck out of it to compensate for my strained voice. I then did the ultimate bad thing: I uploaded it to the Internet, emailed the client that it was ready (well under my 48-hour turnaround time), and I went to bed.

The next day I woke up feeling better. I listened to the podcast intro again and HATED IT!!!! I was embarrassed that I had produced it. After one quick cup of coffee (warm liquid on the throat helps the voice sound better but I confess that coffee is not the best choice), I stumbled back into the sound booth (the closet) and recut the voice work with a much-improved voice, dropped the new voice track into the mix, and posted it online as a revision, as I call it. It could just as well be called saving face because I was really disgusted with the first version. I quickly wrote the client and explained why I did a revision and gave him the link to the new download page. I started planning the next project while waiting anxiously for a response from the client. Later in the day, after coming out of the closet for the umpteenth time between voice takes, I checked my email and found this reply: “You are the greatest! I have not begun my podcast, but your services have encouraged me to go full speed ahead. I am sure I will be contacting you again for more work very soon.”

Whew! I lucked out. He liked it. He really liked it! Sorry, I was having that Sally Field moment I referred to earlier. Although I was worried that the client would feel like he got mediocre voice work, I was also worried he would not like the music. And yet, it was a good ending to a project. Time to check my email to see what my next project will be.

How audio affects our mood

I was sitting in one of those brown wooden chairs in a Barnes and Nobles bookstore yesterday skimming through various audio magazines when suddenly there was a loud crash of dishes breaking as they hit the floor in the backroom of the bookstore cafe. The noise was so startling, I expected to hear crying next. Because I was reading about audio, I started thinking about the sounds we hear on a daily basis. With the exception of the hearing-impaired, we’re bombarded with thousands of sounds every day. And many of them are unwanted.

I started wondering what it would be like to live in a rural community or, even better, in the woods all alone with only the sounds of nature. Would I be less stressed? Probably. Because I love big city amenities, I have to take the bad with the good. On this day, the bad was the loud noises coming from what is normally a fairly relaxing bookstore.

Sounds influence my mood and I imagine your mood, too. I was in a peaceful mood until I heard the crash of breaking dishes. Then suddenly my mood changed to one of anxiety and stress. So, if sounds have that kind of control over me, they’re pretty darn powerful, aren’t they? Audio can control us — even manipulate us. How can we use audio to better our lives? What kind of sounds would have changed my mood back to a peaceful one after the crash of the dishes? Perhaps something like this:

A recording of Steve Erkel asking, “Did I do that?”
Colonel Klink yells, “You vill clean up dis mess!”
Ten seconds of violins pizzicato plucking a happy cleanup tune.
Then an announcer says, “Bounty Paper Towels clean up even the toughest spills.”

Was that a commercial or just a brief bit of entertainment to put customers back into a good mood? I wouldn’t know and I wouldn’t care. But I believe it just might have worked. It would have put a smile on my face and got me back into the right frame of mind. Oh, and by the way, I would have had a positive image of Bounty Paper Towels. Audio. It’s effective when it’s used the right way at just the right time. I made a mental note to always strive to offer the best sounds I can to everyone around me, including my clients. It will make for a nicer world.

How we turn a raw recording into a polished podcast

When we receive a recording that needs editing and enhancing, it’s usually an MP3 file. The first thing we do is open it in Adobe Audition and convert it to a WAV file so that as we periodically save it, we’re saving it as an uncompressed file. In other words, we’re not throwing away vital data by continuing to save it as an MP3 file. We need it to have enough information to “manipulate” (i.e. enhance) so that it sounds its very best when we’re finished. Next, we adjust the volume to have it sound as loud as possible without sounding distorted or unnatural. We continuously adjust the volume as we work on the recording, so volume adjustment is an ongoing procedure.

After that first volume adjustment in Audition, we open it in SpectraLayers and remove low frequency rumble (usually 80 Hz and below). If there are obvious plosives (popped P’s) that we can see on the spectral display (they look like little downward spikes usually below the 100 Hz line), we erase those with the eraser tool. We save the file and move on to the next and most important software we use.

We open the recording in iZotope RX 8 (the current version at this posting) and start the meticulous task of cleaning and editing the recording. We start by sampling the room noise (when no one is speaking) using the Spectral De-Noise tool. We’re careful that we don’t reduce it more than 12 dB because we want the people speaking to sound natural. Over manipulation of a recording can give it a robotic sound.

When we’re satisfied that we have reduced the background room noise sufficiently, we start at the very first word spoken in the recording and move word by word through the recording, removing clicks, breath noise, thumps, cars passing, computer alerts (like incoming email), and verbal flubs. So, basically all sounds other than voice are removed or reduced in the recording. Sometimes we rearrange words so the person speaking sounds coherent. For example, if a person forgot to add an S to a word meant to be plural, we copy an S from elsewhere in the recording and paste it to the end of the mispronounced word. Our job is to make the people talking sound their very best. Just a quick note here: we don’t rearrange words in an old recording (for example, someone’s grandmother speaking) because we are trying to preserve authenticity.

After we’ve completed our combing over a recording and feel confident we’ve edited and enhanced it the best it can sound, we then mix in an intro and outro if one is available. By the way, Audiobag also creates intros and outros. We then save the final presentation in the format requested by the customer. We give the customer options to choose from on our Script and Instructions form (which the customer filled out when making a purchase from us). We explain on the form that a 320 kbps MP3 files is the highest MP3 quality they can get, but a 128 kbps MP3 file will download and stream more quickly and smoothly. Of course, the customer can also choose to have the finished presentation delivered to them as an uncompressed WAV file and then convert it to whatever format(s) they want.

Many people don’t realize that a 45-minute recording can take 3 or 4 days to edit and enhance. You can find faster turnaround time from other editing companies, but it probably won’t be the cleanest it can be. Like a fine wine, great editing takes time. If you’d like to learn more about Audiobag’s editing service, visit our Editing and Enhancing web page, where you can also hear samples of our work and place an order.

When should you consider buying a new microphone?

I can tell when a podcaster is using a poor quality microphone (or an internal computer or smartphone microphone) versus a high-fidelity microphone. The voice sounds tinny on the poor quality mic. In other words, the high frequencies are there but very little, if any, low frequencies are present. Also, the dreaded popped P, known as a plosive, raises its ugly head. And often there is an ear-piercing sound on words with an S (“sibilance”). As an audio editor at Audiobag, I can remove or reduce plosives and reduce sibilance with post-production enhancing. However, I can’t add something that’s not there: low frequencies. So, the voice is going to be missing warmth. And there’s only one way to correct this problem. You need a decent microphone. The type of mic you choose depends on the sounds around you other than your voice. Oh yeah, and your budget, of course.

The first microphone I purchased for our old studio back in 1987 was a dynamic microphone, which is not as sensitive to sound as a condenser microphone. The reason I chose a dynamic mic back then was because we were recording our voices in the same room where our reel-to-reel recorder was located (yes, Audiobag started out in the days before digital audio) in a studio in downtown Georgetown right next door to a fire station. Talk about noise! So, I purchased a Shure SM7B*, a dynamic mic. All these years later, the Shure SM7B is one of the most recommended microphones for podcasters. One reason is because most podcasters are not recording in a soundproof room. A dynamic microphone tends to knock out distant noises (like your kids yelling, the dog barking, or the sound of the furnace in the background). These days we use a condenser microphone for the voice work we do at Audiobag because we are in a quiet soundproof room (with no analog equipment, thank you very much!). A condenser microphone has a thin diaphragm which is more sensitive to detailed sound than a dynamic microphone. In other words, the words that come out of our mouth are picked up quite nicely by a condenser microphone, as well as other sounds. Luckily, there are no other sounds in our soundproof room.

So what microphone should you buy? Well, that comes down to your budget. I recommend spending at least $100 on a new microphone. And be sure to get a wind filter while you’re at it to knock out the popped P’s. If money is not a major concern, then you might want to start around $400. With that said, I’ve done a lot of testing of microphones and I’ve found that spending more doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a better-sounding microphone. If the microphone doesn’t sound right to you, send it back. One side note here: I’ve enhanced podcasts where the podcaster used an expensive microphone and yet I still needed to roll-off some of the low frequencies because it was too bassy. So, keep in mind that adjustments to your voice can be made in post-production to make you sound better. And if you need that done, as well as removal of verbal flubs and extraneous noise, check out Audiobag’s editing and enhancing service. Yep, that’s a not-so-hidden plug for what I do for a living. I make podcasters sound their best.

Listen back to your recording. Is it the best your voice can sound? Think about your listeners. They expect quality.

* Note: As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Before recording anything, do a quick volume test

I’m somewhat (or “kumquat” as I tell my wife — she rolls her eyes) an expert at editing unwanted noise out of audio recordings and video and the number one sound I remove or reduce is room noise — mainly hiss caused from not having the record volume turned up enough. Dang! That was a long sentence and probably should be edited. But let me continue with my thought.

It’s always a good idea before recording to check your microphone level, making sure it’s hitting into the yellow but not the red on your level meter. If it’s in the red, you’re going to have distortion. The good news is that if you’ve already recorded some audio in the red that resulted in distortion, we can reduce it at Audiobag (yes, a little plug for our editing and enhancing business). In fact, I just worked on a recording yesterday that was so distorted, you could see it on a spectral display from outer space.

The simple point here is it doesn’t take a lot of extra time to set recording levels. Maybe a minute of your time. You’ll get a much cleaner sound recording.

If you’d like to learn more about our audio editing and enhancing service, visit our audio editing and enhancing page at Audiobag.

 

 

 

How to Write a Podcast Intro

It’s relatively easy to write a podcast intro. If you go with a 30-second opening for your show, you don’t need more than 75 words. In fact, 50 words would be better. Alright. Let’s get started.

Begin with a welcome of some kind. Here are a few:

  • “Welcome to The Bike Show, a podcast about … “
  • “Podcasting from Austin, Texas, welcome to The Bike Show.”
  • “Streaming from…”
  • “Coming to you from deep in the heart of Texas, welcome to The Bike Show.”

You get the idea. Let your listener know where you are and the name of your podcast right up front.

Next, tell her a little about where you’re podcasting from. For example, “Podcasting from Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world and home to the world’s largest urban bat population, country music singer Willie Nelson, South by Southwest, and the University of Texas … “. Although this isn’t necessary, it helps your listener know what is interesting to you.

Of course, the most important part of your opening should explain what your podcast is all about. “This is The Bike Show, a weekly podcast about bikes and the people who ride them. Hear interviews with special guests and bike news from around the world.” Your listener will now realize that you’re going to have guests that talk about bikes, as well as bike news from all over the world.

Wrap up your podcast intro with the name of your host or hosts, and add a brief description. “And now here’s your host, author and bike expert — Bob Johnson!” And presto! You’ve got your podcast intro written and ready to send to Audiobag for us to produce. Here’s a full sample:

“Podcasting from Austin, Texas — the live music capital of the world and home to the world’s largest urban bat population, country music singer Willie Nelson, South by Southwest, and the University of Texas — this is The Bike Show, a weekly podcast about bikes and the people who ride them. Hear interviews with special guests and bike news from around the world. And now here’s your host, author and bike expert — Bob Johnson!”

 

 

Cleaning up a 48 year-old jazz recording

imageOur pet project at Audiobag is cleaning up recordings made almost a half century ago by Sonobeat Records — the company who introduced the world to Johnny Winter, Eric Johnson, and other great musicians who either lived or passed through Austin in the ’60s and ’70s. One of my personal favorite recordings was released digitally today on iTunes and Amazon.

Continue reading “Cleaning up a 48 year-old jazz recording”

When radio towers become obsolete


towerIt’s a cold hard fact that making money is more important to radio station owners and investors than being the best they can be. Don’t get me wrong. Making money is vital. However, when making money trumps being your best, radio stations become mediocre. The proof is in the production room where sloppy mistake-ridden commercials make it to the air, and in the control room where fewer and fewer actual live shows occur because shows are voice-tracked days in advance. So the DJ forgoes being fun or interesting and instead reads uninteresting PSAs or station promos (which most listeners could care less about) in order to quickly whip through the six shows he needs to record in one sitting.

Continue reading “When radio towers become obsolete”