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Mike, Mark - You've mentioned in one of your podcasts that you just might be the only podcasters who do not talk about their setup since it is not really relevant in your topic.

Even them, would you be so kind to let us know what setup you use? Because you sound great, even when you were podcasting along the beach. Pretty please?

mauzenne's picture

"Because you sound great, even when you were podcasting along the beach. Pretty please?"
 
How can I not respond to that? ;)
 
We have two set-ups really; one when Mark and I do a double-ender (most of the time), and one when Mark is visiting and we're in the same room.
 
For the double-ender ... We have our "conversation" on the phone. Mark is recording his end of the show using a Perception 100 microphone with a M-Audio USB Mobile-Pre preamp into his laptop running Audacity.
 
I record my end using a MXL 990 microphone into a Alesis Multimix FX (non-USB) into a Soundblaster Audigy2 soundcard into my laptop. I also record using Audacity (in the process of experimenting with Adobe Audition, but haven't used it yet on a podcast).
 
When we're done recording, Mark uploads his end (WAV file) onto the web server, and I subsequently download to my computer. Since Audition doesn't have RMS normalization, I then run both of our sound tracks through Sony Soundforge to RMS Normalize our individual tracks (get them to the same perceived volume).
 
Then I import both tracks into Audacity and align the two tracks. This, by the way, is a real pain. I couldn't figure out why it was so difficult until I had coffee with Doug Kaye of IT Conversations a couple of months ago. I didn't know that, because of different clock speeds in each computer, even if you synch up the beginning of the two files, over time they'll drift apart. Over a 40 minute show, it can be as much as 5-10 seconds! So ... one must "synch-up" the different tracks *several* times over the course of the show.
 
Then, I do all the editing ... take out, as much as possible, kids running around upstairs, creaky chair, heating kicking in, etc. (Hint: turn off air conditioning or heating before starting to record. Second Hint: Remember to turn it back *on* when you finish late at night in the middle of winter ... improves marriage considerably ... I learned the hard way).
 
Then I record intros, outtros, etc. and run through same RMS leveling process. Then put all the tracks together in Audacity, add music, align everything ... and finally export as MP3. One additional note: I've recently found that the quality of the MP3 is *much* better (compare last show to about a month ago) if I use the command-line version of LAME vs. using Audacity to convert to MP3. I get more control of the process and there are a couple of things one can do to improve the quality (using a lowpass filter, for example). So after exporting out of Audacity as a WAV file, the LAME settings I use are something like this:
 
lame -q 0 --lowpass 10 --resample 44 -b 64 ./manager-tools-2006-03-06-WAV.wav ./manager-tools-2006-03-06.mp3
 
Then I used MP3tag to add all the MP3 tags and upload to the server. Create the show notes and link to the mp3 file and I'm done.
 
When we record together, same process except Mark's mic goes directly into the mixer and no synching up of our voices required.
 
That's it (I think). What did I miss?
 
Mike
May 5, 2006 Update: About 3 weeks ago, we bought a Marantz PMD670 Recorder for Mark's use when recording remotely from me (most of the time). Given his travel, this works great for him (great recorder and very portable) ... in addition, we were having some quality issues (a strange limiting of his signal at -6db) with his M-Audio Mobile Pre pre-amp. I think the April 24, 2006 (Retention) was the first podcast we recorded with it (his side only). My opinion is that it's a 100% better than the previous set-up.

chuckj's picture

Mike:

I'm amazed at the amount of time/work required for the technical stuff. Plus you guys obviously plan a little for each cast and have "day" jobs as well.

My hats off to you and Mark for the supreme effort this takes. As a regular listener I appreciate what you guys are doing. Hopefully Mark's "book" will reap the big payoff for you both.

ChuckJ

MattJBeckwith's picture

I do love the fact that you don't talk about podcasting on your podcast but I have been dying to know how you do that. I agree, great audio quality! Although I've never heard an A/C, I did recently hear a faint siren in the background. I was driving home and heard it. I turned it off and looked around but saw no lights. I was relieved when I backed it up and heard it again.

Again, thanks for getting all pod-techy on us!

- DT

mauzenne's picture

Now, THAT was funny ... the visual of someone listening to a podcast, hearing a siren in the background, and getting all sweaty and nervous had me chuckling! The practical joker side of me has my brain working overtime. :-)

Thanks for sharing that!

Mike

Mark's picture

Folks-

Most of this is way over my head, but I just thought I'd add my one cent.

First, that siren was from my end! I chuckled at that. My office is about a quarter mile from the local hospital. I have a small office, and while I'm on a quiet street, I'm only 200 yards from a bigger thoroughfare through our little town. If there's an ambulance call in this little town, it will go by my office. (thank God for the "by".)

Second, you can rest assured that ALL the technical stuff is completely Mike's doing. He is serious about our technology, and has that rare ability to understand the many variables that go into our show, and choose wisely which to emphasize.

From my perspective, what Mike does is magic. And, I could be wrong here, but there seems to be a lot of discussion about equipment in the podcasting world. Now, before I go further, let me admit, I don't listen to a lot of podcasts. I tried it, and found them not terribly rich in value for me. Mike suggests some sometimes, but for the most part, I just don't listen.

A big reason for that is that I am a management consultant, and that, gentle listeners, is ALL I THINK ABOUT. I don't think too much about podcasting, other than in terms of how it helps me and Mike help you get better as managers. To that end, I guess I know more than most, but most of that is just listening to Mike tell me what we're going to do technically.

FYI - The only distinctive change I've heard in our technology efforts is the recent switch to LAME, which I don't even think is hardware, but I am not sure.

Lest you think I don't care, please reconsider. I do care deeply about how we deliver our product to you. Folks, this is my life's work, and it is the only professional legacy I care to leave the world. I want you to have a brilliant, magical experience every time you listen.

And that's why Mike's my partner (or I'm his). I'd trust him with my life, so some technology seems like a small thing. ;-)

You wanna know something funny? I don't listen to our casts when they're done. I have them on my PC, but have NEVER listened to one completely. That's how much I trust him (and how silly I think my voice sounds).

Anyway...the equipment piece is NOT the value Mike brings. Even though there are a lot of acronyms in his answer, alluding to an equipment focus, what he REALLY does is spend hours with our raw shows turning them into what you hear. The post-production he does is HUGE.

We try not to make too big a deal about it, but you can safely assume that I am writing 4 - 8 pages of shownotes (single spaced) in advance, and he is spending equivalent time afterwards turning words into speeches.

We'll always have free podcasts, because we love this stuff. Honestly, the thank you notes we get from you, and questions prefaced with pretty please... let's just say they're priceless, double entendre intended.

One of the funny things that's happened to us as we have pursued this effort is a different perspective on comments to the effect of "I don't have time to do this manager stuff". The costs to Mike and I related to Manager Tools are not insignificant, and our time is valuable. My time for many years has had a very specific price associated with it, and I apply those economics to lots of decisions regularly. Mike can tell you: I just say no. [On the other hand, Mike will also tell you I give the shirt off my back so often I'm indistinguishable from an idiot.] IF WE HAVE TIME FOR THIS, managers have time to improve.

You can safely assume that we have given up over $100,000 in real income - CASH - this past year to invest in Manager Tools. We're not rich - that's a lot of money. [I hope that's not the idiot part.] And we'll continue doing this for many years, because we love the results you get with it. We want you to be great as managers, and it breaks our hearts, in a way, that no one else is doing this.

And just maybe, we'll have some revenue generation at some point pretty soon. ;-)

Thanks Mike for all your hard work!

Mark

CuCullin's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]FYI - The only distinctive change I've heard in our technology efforts is the recent switch to LAME, which I don't even think is hardware, but I am not sure.[/quote]

LAME is LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder (recursive acronyms are common in the open source world).

As an free/libre open source supporter, I'm very happy to see that Audacity and LAME are involved. Simply knowing that free software is doing its job in helping and supporting those outside the general geekdom is, despite my lack of involvement in those projects, very pleasing to see.

We definitely appreciate all the time and effort you guys put in, no doubt about it :D

Brent's picture

Out of curiosity, Mike, about how long does it take you to go from hanging up the phone with Mark to uploading the MP3 to the web server?

mauzenne's picture

Well, if I get right to it -- which I often don't since we often finish recording in the wee hours of the morning :-) -- on average, about 3 hours.

This, of course, is more than matched by the amount of time Mark puts into putting together the show notes. ;-)

D's picture

Hi Mike - I was just thinking about the quality of your show today while I was finishing up the second part of your Brainstorming episode. Sounds like you and I have a lot in common ... I'm the geeky one in the pair on my show as well. Your last post was a couple of months ago. Do you and Mark still record this way or have you moved to a different method? Lee and I record together so it's a no-brainer but I have been doing a lot of interviews on my show and mostly use Skype and an application called Pamela to do the recordings with. The quality is great when it is a Skype to Skype call - not too bad but not great when it is a Skype to land-line call. I spend so much time editing my podcasts as it is I can't imagine the hassle of trying to match the two sides of the conversation up! Until I read your posts out here, I never would have guessed! You do an great job!

mauzenne's picture

[quote="D"]Do you and Mark still record this way or have you moved to a different method?[/quote]

D, no changes, other than the 2 we did while I was at the beach recently. I had to use the M-Audio Pre that Mark used to use prior to getting the Marantz. It has some awful characteristics (like clipping all signal above -6db) that makes it difficult to work with. It's obviously broken, as it didn't always do that, so don't take that as a general slam on M-Audio devices.

Mark and I have yet to do a show over Skype (the double-ender is working well for us), but those I talk to in the community say it's much better than using a standard POTS line.

At this point, I don't see a lot of changes in how we do the show ... we've got the process down and given all we're trying to do, I can't afford to climb another learning curve any time soon! ;-)

Good luck to you and Lee on the podcasts ... let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

regards,
Mike

datz's picture

...then you could save Michael some work by using Audio Hijack Pro, latest release enables you to capture both sides of a call, either as one file or as two seperate files, then lots of options for filtering etc.

[url]http://www.rogueamoeba.com/audiohijackpro/[/url]

and then there are all those Mac specific GTD goodies... get switching, its a great OS!

mauzenne's picture

I had a question recently on the set-up and given that I receive that question fairly frequently, I thought I'd update this thread with the latest details.

[b]Changes:[/b]

1. I noted back in March that I was testing Adobe Audition for the post-production work. I love it and have been using it since April for all the post-production work. Although expensive, the flexibility and capabilities are great. Although I think there are SOME improvements to quality as a result of some of the capabilities of the software, the greatest benefit by far has been the time saved as a result of a better, more productive work-flow.

2. Occasionally, I use Soundsoap Pro to remove background noise from the audio. It's a great utility and has saved my bacon more than a few times.

[b]Additional Note:[/b]

I didn't mention it in my original post, but we were predominantly hosting the audio files on our own server (GoDaddy). As bandwidth skyrockted, we ended up moving much of our mp3 files over to a host specializing in serving podcasters (http://www.Switchpod.com). They've treated us very well and we're pleased with the service so far. Although I would much prefer to have all the files hosted on our server (remember, I'm a High D/High C ;-) ), it became impractical. In addition to bandwidth costs, serving all the files from the primary server was degrading performance for users of the website and discussion forums.

Mike

noahcampbell's picture

Hi Mike,

You mentioned bandwidth as a limitation for your archived content. Why not use bittorrent to seed the download. That way the content is relatively available for those that want it.

-Noah

mauzenne's picture

Thanks for the mentioning the idea!

About 2 months ago or so, we moved most of our audio file hosting to Switchpod (http://www.switchpod.com). This has largely resolved our bandwidth issues.

The current issue isn't the bandwidth of the content, but the size of the RSS feed; include too many podcasts in the feed and the RSS file size becomes unreasonable (and the feed IS hosted on the main site and downloaded a LOT). Unfortunately, bittorrent wouldn't solve that particular issue.

thanks!

Mike

sholden's picture

One suggestion that I have is for anyone doing any audio work to consider using Gigavox's Levelator (www.gigavox.com/levelator) especially if they are recording interviews with different mic levels for those participating.

Before this tool I was using a Mac tool called Sound Grinder which is good but is shareware ($40) for RMS.

Steve
www.technewsradio.com

66pbass's picture

Hello,
Long time listener, first time posting. I am a professional musician that also manages a second band within our organization. Mike and Mark, I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate the consistent quality of the audio in the podcasts. I subscribe to podcasts made by musicians and audio engineers that don't match the clarity and intelligibility that you are getting.

On a second note, I wanted thank you for the great teaching. Manager tools is the only education I've ever had regarding management, and it's been immensely helpful in my development.

Thanks again! Keep it up!
Shawn

mauzenne's picture

Thanks, Shawn ... your comments are much appreciated!

Mike

Mark's picture

Is this the post where I finally feel truly holistic when I say,

Shawn: YOU ROCK.

? :wink:

I think it is!

Mark

bsayer's picture

Mike,

You and Mark talked about technical changes that lead to quality improvements. How about an update to this thread since it's been a while?

----Ben

mauzenne's picture

Hmmm, let me think ...

1) As Steve suggested above, we're using the [url=http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator]The Conversations Network (work formally done under Gigavox) Levelator[/url] on EVERY show. I agree with Steve, almost a must-do if you're podcasting. Helps tremendously in ensuring consistent levels throughout the podcast.

2) I mentioned before that I had moved almost exclusively to Adobe Audition for editing the podcast and made use of SoundSoap for removing noise. I almost ALWAYS now use SoundSoap in the podcast. I remove some fairly consistent background noise from Mark's track (he has an electrical power unit outside his office that consistently results in some background noise). I also always put some level of gating on each of the tracks (i.e., eliminate any audio below a particular db level). When one of us is talking, the other microphone is dead for all practical purposes. Note: I forgot to do this once and was quickly told about an echo (the result of Mark's voice coming through my telephone headset and back into MY microphone).

3) We adjusted Mark's levels down. Although we have his recorder (Marantz) set-up to automatically compress if he goes about 0 db, the compression does reduce the dynamic range of his track. We adjusted his levels down so we don't have that issue. A simple, obvious change, but given that I'm typically not seeing his levels as we record, I didn't pay enough attention to it.

4) Created loops of the background music for both the intros and outtros. I can now essentially match the length of the background music to the length of the intro. Before, I had only a 15-second, 30-second, and 60-second music track. For example, I once had an intro that I could not get less that 33 seconds. Since I had to use the 60-second version so the music didn't end prematurely, we ended up with 27 seconds of theme music after the intro ended. And, yes, I DID get some non-MT feedback on that one. ;-)

5) A month or so ago, I moved to doing all the post-production work in 32-bit audio, vs. 16-bit, only converting to 16-bit in the final steps. Yep, probably a lot of unnecessary high-C behavior on my part, but I can't help it -- doesn't add much time to the post-production workflow (although makes storage of archives a bit more troublesome) and *may* increase quality. ;-)

6) Built a new office/studio to isolate myself from some of the ambient noise on my side. I used to record right outside the location of the heating/air conditioning. I now have at least a couple of walls between me and the units. This has probably done more to save my marriage than improve the quality of the podcast though. Routinely forgetting to TURN THE HEATING BACK ON after recording a podcast on a cold winter's night was NOT conducive to marital harmony.

I'm sure there were others, but that's all I can think of off the top of my head for now.

Mike

WillDuke's picture

I don't know about others, but I never really thought about the audio quality of the casts. I've always taken it for granted.

When I started thinking about it, and reading about what you do, I realize that you guys do provide a high quality audio experience.

Thank you. My tired old ears appreciate it.

asteriskrntt1's picture

Maybe Shawn and his bands should record some MT theme songs, an MT music video, maybe some entrance music for the conferences? Just a thought :P

*RNTT

WillDuke's picture

Music video! I just got an image of Mark doing the robot and maybe a little moon-walking. Then Mike can get break it down on the floor. :lol:

sholden's picture

Mike,

Care to share the microphones you and Mark are using?

Thanks!

Steve

cowie165's picture

[quote="WillDuke"]I don't know about others, but I never really thought about the audio quality of the casts. I've always taken it for granted.

When I started thinking about it, and reading about what you do, I realize that you guys do provide a high quality audio experience.

Thank you. My tired old ears appreciate it.[/quote]

Will a good comparison would be to download an episode of the Cranky Middle Manager with Wayne Turmel. The content is generally worthwhile but MAN it's tough to listen to after a MT episode!

Thanks blokes for the time and effort you spend on sound quality. I appreciate it as much as Will does.

(but it does make me look at my USB microphone and feel like I'm married to the unattractive cousin!)

Mark's picture

Our quality is good because Mike works hard at this, for all of our listeners.

Sometimes, success is just plain old smarts and hard work.

Thanks partner.

Mark

leerosen's picture

Mike,

Quick question on Audition -

You have your track and Mark's track. Do you edit in the multitrack view and group the two clips so they don't get out of sync or do you you create a mixdown and edit them in one clip? I may not really understand enough to even ask this question but I could really use some guidance. Thanks.

Lee

mauzenne's picture

Lee,

I keep them in separate tracks. As a result, I can eliminate most of the times we talk over each other, or background noises that occur on one of our ends when the other is talking. Frankly, I've found this such a benefit that editing is actually HARDER when we (rarely) get to record in the same room.

If you group the two clips together to keep them in sync, you'll find it harder to apply edits (e.g., if you split a clip and try to mute one person, you'll end up muting both until you un-group them). I've found the easiest way to keep them in sync during editing is to "Lock in Time" (Clip -> Lock In Time) each clip. AFTER I've completed the edits, I then group them together before removing the Lock so I can then slide the combined clips up or down the timeline.

I hope that made sense .... let me know if not!

regards,
Mike

SteveSherry's picture

Mark & Mike,

Really love the work that you do.

The sound quality is awesome, and only bettered by one thing. The quality of the advise.

This is the ONLY podcast I listen to regularly.
Generally its on the way to work in the morning, so i arrive all ready to start the day.

Please, please, please keep up the good work. It really is appreciated.