“Yes we have a podcast.”

tdtrs busIt’s amazing that it’s taken this long to write about something you would have thought would be top of my priorities for this blog given we are currently at Episode 16? Actually I keep meaning to write about it but never seem to have the inclination then suddenly I thought “What the heck?”

I’m a big fan of The Young One’s so pinching a line from the episode “Video Nasty‘ “Yes we have a Video Podcast”
It’s called The Dick Turpin Road Show although I prefer tdtrs for two reasons, firstly it’s a hell of a lot shorter title and secondly I’m always slightly embarrassed that it appears the show is named after me given it’s my IRC nick dick_turpin.

So how did this all come about? Matthew Copperwaite and I are big fans of IRC true some people think it’s an archaic form of communication but we don’t care what other people think. Matt and I met in the Linux Outlaws IRC channel around 2007 and hit it off straight away. I’d been thinking for a long time about doing a podcast but could never decide on who to do one with or even what format it should take, having grown up Linux wise, with LugRadio I knew I wanted to do a rip off of their concept which might make some people say “You bloody copycat!” but then we are only following in the great tradition of Open Source and doing our own fork of a project.

Matt and I are also big fans of Dan Lynch’s Rathole Radio a podcast of mainly free music, having attended RR Live 2010 we decided to make the trek to Liverpool for RR Live 2011 but with the slight twist of recording our journey to and from Liverpool, this was conceived to be a kind of ‘one off’ recording as it was painfully obvious we would be talking complete and utter bollocks. Neither of us had any decent recording equipment Matt had his mobile phone and I had my trusted Nokia N810 but hey we was young (OK Matt was young) and unaware of what we was doing.

I’m not going to go over the recording of our journey to Liverpool suffice to say the sound quality is terrible and we demand that people produce a fitness letter from their doctor prior to listening in fact the audio is so bad I refuse to release EP2 (The journey from Liverpool). Amazingly the recording appealed to a large portion of people most of whom clearly must have some form of mental disorder and so Matt and I discussed creating a podcast, we knew roughly what we wanted to do and already had the show name which is a mixture of my IRC nick and a road near Heathrow (London Airport) Matt sometimes travels along called Dick Turpin Highway the only stuff we didn’t have was proper recording equipment and hosting facilities.

Get your own site: The most obvious first step is to get your domain name .co.uk is pretty cheap and some registers do deals for as little as 00.99 pence even if you do little more than keep the domain parked you can still utilise it. At the time of writing this we are still using tumblr.com in conjunction with our domain name we followed a few friends in setting up a tumblr site as it is supposedly ideal for podcasting however personally I disagree the RSS feed is flakey and does not integrate with FeedBurner (If you use that Google service) you are pretty restricted to the templates but more importantly you’ll need to find somewhere to host your audio files anyway so you might as well set up your own site. Having said that we have managed to work with/around the tumblr site so I suppose I shouldn’t be too unkind, just as a side note we set up a Google apps account to use our domain name for the shows feedback emails: show@tdtrs.co.uk

Here have that: Sending one another stuff is a big time saver, when I say send what I really mean is giving each other access to stuff, we currently use DropBox in fact it’s my account and I just shared a folder with Matt or a guest Co-Host. From a moral standpoint I suppose we should use something like Sparkleshare but I like Dropbox, maybe later on we might change? Matt can drop his audio in our dropbox folder and any files or images we want to use during or after the show. We did try using Evernote and Google Docs for our show notes but Matt hated Evernote and I disliked the aliveness of Google docs so now we use a simple text document, it’s loosely set out with the sections of our show and over the course of the week we put ideas and comments in plus references to any feedback we might have. I know some shows use a wiki maybe we’ll see if Zim is any use but I suspect we would go back to a bog standard text file.

Get a microphone: You can record with anything, honestly you can. Matt was using his Netbook’s built-in mic and I was using a USB headset when we first started, OK the sound quality was not the best, as some people said Matt sounded like he was talking from inside and empty can of soup but if you have some skills with an audio editing program such as Audacity you can clean up the quality fairly well the point is it’s your shows content people are interested in not the sound quality although this will be something you will want to address as you gain more listeners you kind of feel obligated to reduce the destruction of people’s inner ear as you produce more shows. Matt and I have been extremely fortunate in that a mystery listener purchased the microphone equipment we needed from our Amazon Wishlist and we are forever grateful.

Ring me up: You don’t have to be living in the same street, town or even country this is the age of the Interwebs so you can use loads of web/broadband methods, we currently use Skype it’s basically a VOIP (Voice over IP) service that pretty much everyone knows although we will be changing to an Asterisk service fairly soon more because it’s Open Source than any quality issues. The one important piece of advice do not use Skype/A-another service over WIFI you’ll lose data packets, the sound will lag and it’s just horrible. This awfulness is compounded if you record the phone conversation using something like Skype recorder.

It’s in the can: When recording your podcast you have two methods you can just record the phone conversation making sure you both record just in case someone’s machine fails to take a copy this is how we started using skyperecorder  however as you get better, and as I said earlier, feel the need to improve your audio quality you will want to record your own voice stream locally. So Matt and I both have Audacity installed and record our own voice while still making our Skype call, so for me I still use the headset to call and talk to Matt via Skype but also use my Samson CO1U microphone to record my voice in Audacity, once the episode is recorded Matt drops his Audacity recording into the Dropbox folder and after it has synced I remove it to a local folder this has the benefit of letting Matt know I’ve got it.

Pass the gaffer tape: Editing the show used to be painfully slow it would seriously take me three or four days to complete mainly because of my lack of knowledge of Audacity and the poor audio quality. Most of the time was taken up with applying various filters to try to make voices audible at the very least, one big issue was not a problem and that was voice syncing however if Matt dropped out in the early days the only option was to cut that bad section and try to patch it back together. These days I have two tracks to work with Matt (left) and me (Right) this makes life so much easier you can clean up the sound tracks individually removing coughs and splutter’s and the odd wind breakage. Voice syncing can be a bit more testing, remember the audio is produced on two different machines so you may get some CPU slippage but after a while you can pick that up and time shift accordingly. At the start of our recording Matt places his headphones over his Mic and I emit a loud whistle this gives the sync point for the two audio’s I then listen through cleaning and editing and adding music or sound bites. tdtrs is produced in mono as most people seem to prefer that on portable players such as iPods etc.

And they’re off: Once you’ve produced your master piece obviously you need to upload it unless your hard drive has been hacked that is? Get it registered on as many locations as possible, at the minute we are on iTunes and Miro but I do want to see it on more sites. Every episode release I basically spam as many social media sites as possible as the more listeners the better and you mainly get those by word of mouth.

Why bother?: That’s a good question initially we did it as a giggle Matt and I are not experts we don’t want to teach anything to anyone we just like having a laugh. We try to keep to 90 minutes but it’s really difficult especially now people send us some good stuff, the main idea is to not take the show seriously it’s something to listen to while doing something else, neither of us envisaged allotting a regular recording and release date in fact some of our early shows was all over the place release wise but you kind of get bitten by the bug. I suspect Matt would agree with me we mainly do the show for ourselves and some close Internet friends who seem to have the same warped  sense of humour we do fortunately a wider audience has taken an interest in the show which is really nice, it’s unlikely we will become either rich or famous through the show but as Matt said the other day “I’d still do the show even if it was only us two.” so we will definitely be around for a good while yet.

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