The Sometime Seminar Podcast
October 18, 2013 3:42 PM   Subscribe

The Sometime Seminar Podcast
DaDaDaDave and I have a podcast of quasi-academic critical discussion, in which we talk at length about literature and sometimes other media. We're keeping a special eye on contemporary culture, but we'll also talk about stuff from the 18th and 19th and 20th centuries, in fiction whether highbrow or genre, poetry, and (largely Continental) philosophy. And we've taken occasional excursions into film and other media, from Dwarf Fortress to Django Unchained to MOOCs. We're trying for an eclectic mix of high and low culture, veering from difficult poetry to Game of Thrones and back again.

Our goal is to have the same kind of fairly serious discussion that you might get in a real humanities seminar, but with a bit faster and less stuffy presentation. (Like, we might assume you know who Deleuze is and what "modernism" means and that you have the patience to put up with a fair amount of close reading, but we're still just chatting and geeking out about culture and history, not delivering jargon-laden conference papers here.)

Unlike many podcasts, we're not expecting that anyone would want to listen to all the episodes of the Seminar in order — since listening to an episode on a text you haven't read/viewed/etc will probably be deeply boring, or mystifying, or most likely both. Picking and choosing the episodes that interest you is advisable!
Role: co-host
posted by RogerB (6 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I like this idea, and am going to listen to you guys talking about MOOCs.
posted by Jacob Knitig at 9:42 PM on October 23, 2013

I listened to a chunk of the Dwarf Fortress podcast and enjoyed it the other day!

But on a sound-production side, I found the difference in relative volume level between your two voices really jarring; in a quiet environment like my home office it's distracting but not a show-stopper, but in a noisier place like a car or bus or area with a lot of ambient noise it'd probably mean listeners having to constantly ride the volume to e.g. keep Roger audible but not have Dave blow their ears out.

I don't know if it was a one-off for that episode, but if it's a semi-persistent thing than I'd strongly recommend for future episodes that you find a way to normalize and compress both vocal channels so that you're both at the same basic perceived audio level. Happy to talk with you about my limited toolset on that front if you want.
posted by cortex at 6:50 AM on October 24, 2013

Thanks for the feedback, everybody!

It would probably be charitable to call our audio-production skills "amateurish," and any pointers are certainly welcome. We're learning as we go. I've been setting the volume levels by ear in GarageBand when I put our two-sided recordings together (and would love to know if there's a better automated way to do it), but listening back to that DF episode, I agree it's not sounding good there.
posted by RogerB at 10:03 AM on October 24, 2013

Simplest thing you can do in Garageband is a compressor effect to each vocal track; there's probably an unactivated Compressor already there in the rack on the Real Instrument > Edit tab. For just-talking stuff like this, I'll just turn that on and set the preset to like Vocal Compression Rock, which will fairly aggressively normalize things and help keep the quiet bits from being too quiet.

Another thing you can do in that same vein is add a peak limiter so that you can push up the levels sort of aggressively without worrying about the louder bits distorting horribly; I have the AUPeakLimiter effect in the list of default stuff I can add under Edit, try putting one of those on and pushing up the pre-gain to like +5db and that may help as well.

You can basically play with those a little and see if things feel a little more even as a result. It's a balance between squashing everything way too much and having that audio level mismatch; I find it helpful to try listening to my podcast mix for a little bit while there's some sort of obnoxious noise in the room, to see if I can satisfactorily set the volume on my computer to one level and feel like I'm hearing everybody reasonably well without blasting anyone too loud. If not, adjust the respective levels some more and try again.

The good news is that assuming your mic setups and mic positions don't change too much from recording to recording, once you get this tweaked a bit you can just use it as the same template of settings for each future episode.
posted by cortex at 10:41 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Good stuff! Downloaded a handful of interesting looking ones. Enjoyed the De Quincey and Dwarf Fortress ones so far. Definitely liking the standalone, pick'n'choose approach to podcasting.
posted by comealongpole at 2:37 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just to answer a question raised in the MetaFilter podcast (and thanks for the mention!), the average episode runs in the neighborhood of an hour — but the exact lengths range from around 40 min. to more than an hour and a half, since we're not really sticking to a format more specific than "once you have nothing else to say, stop talking."
posted by RogerB at 6:04 PM on November 2, 2013

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