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In this episode of Sound Design Live I’m joined by the Chief Engineer at B2B Podcast Agency Pikkal & Co, K Bharath. We discuss podcast production and the dangers of outdoor production in Thailand.
- What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people making who are new to podcast production?
- What are the most important things to get right to make a remote interview go well?
- Tell us about the biggest or maybe most painful mistake you’ve made on the job and how you recovered.
- Podcasts: Beyond Markets, The Lux Travel Podcast, Insight India, Bring Back the Bronco, Real Narcos, Darknet Diaries
- Intro to the Phase Graph
This transcript was automatically generated. Please let me know if you discover any errors.
Welcome to Sound Design Live, the home of the world’s best online training in sound system tuning that you can do at your own pace from anywhere in the world. I’m Nathan Lively. And today I’m joined by the chief engineer at B to B Podcast Agency, Peacal and Co. Welcome to Sound Design Live.
Thank you, Nathan. Thank you for inviting me to the show.
You have made some special time in your schedule to talk with me today. So where are you in the world today?
So today I’m calling in from Singapore, my Homebase.
And what time is it there? Isn’t it like 10:00 p.m..
It’s ten, six to be exact.
So we’re like ten or 11 hours apart. That’s amazing.
All right. Thanks for staying up with me. I appreciate it.
It’s a pleasure. It’s a pleasure to be on your show. Nathan.
So bad. I definitely want to talk to you about podcast production and conducting remote interviews. I know you do a lot of that, but before we do that, what do you like to use as a reference for podcast sound quality? So do you have a favorite podcast or an episode that you think represents the height of podcast production for you?
So I would go back to this very famous podcast. He’s got probably one of the best set ups we had a studio last time, and we modeled the studio based on his microphone. The show SM, seven BS and mixers and all that. It was one of the best set ups in my opinion. However, I was focused more on the outdoor recordings. And one particular episode which I listened to was like, it got my attention and the audio quality of that really got my attention. That was this American Life, the 24 hours Golden Apple. They were recording it from the Golden Apple. And the quality of that, capturing all the soundscapes, capturing all the noises and everything. I thought that was good. Just at that moment.
A man in a Hawaiian print shirt and khaki pants walks by their table.
He hears the word employer, mistakes it for the word lawyer.
And then turns to Tom.
Are you a lawyer? No. Do you want to be?
And I thought that was how an outdoor recording should sound like, in my opinion. So I modeled a lot of it based on that. And that episode was done in 2000, if IEM not wrong, 2000. And so I searched online. I came across industry changing mixer, the roadcast approach at that point of time. And I pad that with the audio Technica BPHS, that’s the headset. So that’s like my outdoor go to settings, and that is probably, I would say the best audio quality I could get. The closest I could get to this American Life podcast, which to me is my reference point for an outdoor podcast. Okay.
So we’re going to get some more into the technical side of recording these interviews and podcasting in a little bit. But first, let’s go back in time and tell me how you got your first job in audio. What was your first paying gig?
I was just a fresh grid, to be very honest. I was just a fresh grate and came out. I was just like a normal unigrade looking for a job. And I stumbled upon this internship, I should say. Right. And I got the internship. And on the first day, I didn’t do formal education of like, sound engineering or anything. Everything I learned through my job, everything I learned through online courses, the best lessons, actually, when you’re doing it on the spot, making mistakes and learning from them. So first they did my show, my colleague taught me everything. And I would say the first paying gig, I should say the first day on my job.
And was this in radio broadcast or was it like a podcast studio or recording studio?
It was just a podcast studio. So it’s just basically the MGX ten if I’m not MJX tenu and a couple of at 2020s. Those were the first set up by it.
Okay. Lots of things have happened since then, but I was wondering if we could Zoom in on one point in your career where you felt like maybe something changed, maybe you made a commitment, maybe you decided to stop doing one thing and start doing another thing. So was there a decision that you made to get more of the work that you really love?
I was one week into my job, into my rule with pickle. And to me, I had to make a very crucial decision there, because if I left, I would have missed all the opportunities which I’ve gotten over the three or four years, which I really do not regret. And I think that’s the best addition. I didn’t leave. I decided to forgo that, say, job opportunity and grow as an individual and grow with the company to where I am now or to where we are now, actually.
Well, that’s great. I like that because most of the time when I asked someone that question, they think about a time in their life when they said, I can’t stay in this job anymore, I have to go somewhere else or I have to take this new opportunity. And so it’s rare that I think you are in a place and you have another opportunity and you say no to that and you say, you know what? I want to commit to this thing and see this through. So I think that’s interesting that you decided to stay there and you’re happy with that choice. And here we are today, and you had a bunch of experiences.
All right. So let’s get into talking about podcast production. So why don’t we start off with some mistakes? You’ve made a lot of mistakes yourself and now you’re working with other people and you’re seeing other people starting out and they are making some of the same mistakes. So what do you think are some of the biggest mistakes people making who are new to podcast production?
I got an idea of what kind of mistakes people make from the show that I did recently, Magic Mike. So I was a show host for Magic Mike, but I was speaking to other podcasts.
By the way, let me just interrupt you, because for people listening now, think about what you think this show is about, Magic Mike’s. At first you might think, oh, Magic Mike XXL maybe it’s about stripping, maybe it’s about beefcakes. And then you might think, no, maybe it’s about microphones, magic Mics or Magic Microphone, but it’s not either of those. So tell us what this shows about.
Basically, it’s where I speak to other podcasters to get their journey, to learn their journey and to actually understand what kind of software are they using to actually make their podcasting journey easier. They actually shared with me some of the mistakes they made. And I also learned what are the mistakes people make in general? Firstly, microphone technique. That’s the biggest killer in my opinion.
So how do you do microphone technique wrong? So I have a microphone here. So what could I be doing better? What could I be doing wrong? What do you see people doing wrong?
I guess. Firstly, they have it on a stand and they just put it at a desktop their desk stand and they just speak just very far away from it. Iem just going to show you an example. It’s something like this. Yeah. They think it’s like a webinar. They just have an expensive microphone, a good microphone, and they just be far away from it without realizing they should be actually like a clenched fish away. Or like I say, eat it like an ice cream. Usually with the microphones, you got to eat it like an ice cream because that’s when you really get there, you really get a great audio. Another one is when they start off their podcast, they buy an expensive microphone and after six episodes, they realize actually they’re not really into it. So therefore, portfolio happens. Then the microphone collects us. That’s another mistake. That’s another mistake. I noticed. Finally, for me, this is like completely hate this, but podcasters using desktop audio to podcast.
Okay. You mean the microphone built into the laptop?
Built into the laptop. That is a no go for me, because the lease someone can do is get a wired earpiece that has a microphone. It comes with a headphone, plug it in, and they can use that all airports, not the best. But I think to kick start your podcasting journey. These are good enough. These are really good enough.
Yeah, I have heard people’s, videos and podcasts just doing recording with the microphone built into their Apple headphones or something, the wired ones normally. And I feel like, yeah, you can get by with that. And that’s definitely better than whatever is just built in. So that makes me want to ask you about how you work on this or improve this with guests that are not at your studio, because I found that the problem that I run into a lot and that I’ve talked to other podcasters about a lot is that as much as we try to get our guests to do all the right things like use headphones, be in a quiet room, try to use the best microphone that you have, or at least something that is not like some really crappy Bluetooth headphones or desktop audio, as you mentioned. So we try to get them to do all these things. And then for me, somehow I don’t think it’s ever worked 100%. Somehow my guest always shows up with something slightly wrong. Either the room is too loud or they may have a microphone, but they’re not actually recording with that microphone. And I just don’t know if there’s any way to overcome that without me being there.
So I’m curious how you handle that. Do you do some kind of pre production work where you meet with them and you check all these things the day before? Yeah. So tell me a little bit about that. How do you overcome some of these issues of working with remote guests who have completely different conditions that are not in your studio?
So that is the key working pre recording, because one thing I learned through the hardware was you need to analyze where they are seated, where they are located. Because I tend to do Mike tests, I tend to do Mike test with all the guests who come on the show. Even if I’ve done a mic test with them, say, two weeks ago and they’re back on the show, I still do it again because the conditions change, the location change, everything changes. I don’t want to risk it. So therefore, what I do is I do a mic test at least three days before because then if the earpiece is not good or sometimes the earpiece microphone does not connect well, at least they have enough time to get something new before the recording. So that is one. And also always checking with them, are you recording from the same location? Because what tends to happen is sometimes they have an office space and then next thing they are recording from a meeting room and that meeting room is probably just filled with glass panels. So I’ve come across situations like that and it was terrible. It was like audio sounding in the bathroom.
So that was painful to hear. But during my test, ensuring they are recovering from the same location, just making sure that they have a good experience in the my test. So in the podcast, they are upbeat and they’re looking forward to it.
Yeah, that’s really smart because if you’ve taken care of some of those technical issues ahead of time, then you’re not worrying about those going into it. You’re focusing more on the content and the questions. So I don’t do that with this show. And it is a little bit of stress because, for example, you and I didn’t meet ahead of time and we’re just showing up here and I’m at home in my studio and I’m pretty confident with this set up that I’ve used a few times already. But it’s still a thing that’s distracting me a little bit from just having a conversation with you. And so if we would have done that ahead of time, then maybe I would worry less about that. Or the thing that I found that happens often is that I’ll get on the meeting with someone and you’ll start talking and I can tell that there’s a problem. Either your microphone is bumping into something or there’s too much background. But because I am now in interview mode, I become the interviewer and not the sound engineer, then I can’t be bothered with that stuff anymore. So it’s almost like if you’re going to wear multiple hats, you really have to separate them and figure out, okay, I’ll do the sound engineering stuff on this day, and then when I come in on the next day, I’ll be ready to just be the interviewer.
Yes, exactly, exactly. And this is something I learned through Magic Mike as well, because what I did was I tend to just go dive straight into the show and not tend to care much on the microphone because I was bringing out their journeys. However, one thing I learned is actually doing a pre call with them would help this because then what you’re doing is you’re a picking out how the audio sounds like and be just running them through the questions and all that. But of course, this depends on how much time we have to actually allocate for that particular show.
So great tips here so far. Broader, maybe let’s talk about something that’s really gone wrong for you. You talked a little bit about mistakes people making, and we talked about working with remote guests. Can you share a story with us about something that has gone really wrong for you? Maybe it ruined an interview, maybe lost some recordings that you had worked on or something like that. So what’s one of the biggest mistakes that you’ve made on the job?
I can vividly remember, too. This still sticks out in my mind, like it never goes away. So this was, I think, second month into my pickle journey, so that’s when I was a bit more trained in live streaming and podcasting. And then what I did was I confidently went and switched on the mixer. Everything was set up. There was a couple of live shows. So what I didn’t have was like somebody watching me monitoring in the background. So live show went on and everything. I went back home. Next morning I came in and I listened back to the audio, and I realized, hey, these are not coming up from the microphone. These are coming out from the webcam.
So basically, I did two live shows with the audio coming out of the webcam because I forgot to switch the microphone input to the mixer, which was the MGX. And I was like.
Damn, wow, what happened? I guess you had the recording and you still had to produce it.
So I think Luckily, I had a backup, because what I tend to do is I tend to back up the audio only into another laptop. So I recorded on the city. So Luckily I had an audio backup. I was able to change it.
I see on the second computer, you did have the correct input selected.
Yes, but it was a painful process because I had to lip sync the video and audio. I had to make a lot of changes to that. So it was painful, but it was a very good learning point, I should say, because every mistake is a learning point.
Right. You really need a checklist to force yourself to check those inputs, even if you assume that they are correct.
Yeah. I would say being an audio engineer in my case, it’s like being a pilot. You need those pre flight checklists and all of that to make sure that everything is going smoothly. And then while the show is going, it’s on autopilot. And the most important times of a show is like the start and the end.
That’s a good point. If we didn’t start recording, we wouldn’t have a recording. If we didn’t stop it and save it.
Then those are the two important. And my second, this was an event, and the event was nearing to its end. Everybody was packing up, and we had this very important guest who just came by and decided to do an interview with us. I had the Roadcaster in Meadcaster Pro. It needs power. Am I right to say that powered it up everything with the audio Technica BHS once and recording was going well. All of a sudden, the roadcast approaches, the power went off, and I was like, wait, what happened? I just stopped the interview, and I realized one of the electricians was actually taking out all the electricity and cutting power to everything because they were in the middle of the recording. Yeah. At that point, Luckily, I did not panic and I had a backup plan. I took out my Zoom H Six, plugged in the audio Technica, and interview still went on. However, I lost the first part of the interview. Okay. Because the Roadcaster does not save when it’s automatically shut off. But that was an experience because another key trait I think an audio engineer should have is like when something screws up, something goes south.
We should not bend gain actually just aim for the solution. Yes.
Throw up your hands in the air and just walk out.
That comes with a lot of, I would say, the experience and how many shows that you do because you’re there, and that teaches you a lot. I should say.
If you are a fan of audio Analyzer, then you may be interested in my next workshop on phase. It’s called Interest of the phase Graph, and it is all about making quick decisions without a PA. So this is appropriate for a beginner level. So if you’ve just started using an audio Analyzer or if you’ve been using it for a few years, but you’ve always been a little bit intimidated by the phase graph and you want to feel more comfortable with it and learn how to use it, then this could be for you. So the first class is on March 5. So it’s coming up here pretty quickly, and it’s going to happen over three sessions. And I found that it’s not a great experience for everyone when I try to cram everything into one day and just make it long and painful and so IEM going to spread it out. It’ll be three 1 hour sessions so that we have a little bit of time in between to digest, think about what questions we have, actually try some of this stuff out and see how it works. So questions we will answer. What are the optimal settings for the phase graph?
How do I practice when I don’t have a PA? How do I convert phase to time and time to phase? Plus, we’re going to have to talk about how to get proper valid data to begin with. Actionable data. What does it look like? How do we know if we have good data if we’re doing it? So if you’re interested in that, it’s sound design live. Comintrophasegraph. Or you can just look at the link in the show notes for this episode.
All right, thanks.
The place in Bali, and that’s a coworking space called Hubu Brightsmake in the Farm. And what happened was we went there about 07:00 a.m. We were recording a show for one of the Airlines interviewing people, and we just sat back. We’re trying to have our coffee. Next thing you know, the monkeys were coming around and trying to actually steal our gear.
Okay. Because they got inside somehow because it’s just open.
It’s just open for you.
Wow. So you looked over and they were going through your bag and they were about to take things almost.
Yeah. If I’m not wrong, we actually had to stop our recording because they were going to steal out there.
Wow. So were you able to complete the interview or you couldn’t anymore because it was too insecure. Wow. That’s hilarious. Yeah. So I haven’t been to Thailand, but I did spend some time in Nairobi and we did go out and do some camping. And so I have been in a situation where someone actually has to stay at the camp at all times because if you don’t, yes, the monkeys will come and steal your stuff.
That was one of the best moments.
I should say one of the best moments. But you didn’t even complete the interview. But it was really funny.
Okay, that’s funny.
All right. Brad, I want to ask you about a book recommendation, and it doesn’t have to be audio necessarily. But what is one book that has been immensely helpful to you?
The Bachelor. I’ve not been someone who tends to read a lot. I’m more of a visual person. So I’ve picked up reading and talking to you about something which really striked me because like I mentioned earlier, in a critical situation, an audio engineer needs to be calm, especially when there’s a solution. And that’s what I learned through Baggadilla is to focus on the solutions and not on the problems.
Sure. Yeah. And that’ll help you in any job, not just an audience.
So bad. What podcast do you listen to regularly?
Firstly, I have to listen to the podcast that we do with our clients, and that’s been really immensely grateful because I’m getting insights into the stock markets, for example, and what is the travel industry. So a couple of podcasts like Beyond Markets by Julius Bay, The Spirit of Lux by the Lux Collective inside India. So these are like very interesting shows and the stories are pretty captivating, I should say. Some other shows I go to, actually more towards seas based bring back the Bronco Rio Narcos. Another one I picked up recently was Darknet Diaries. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of that.
No. What’s that about?
So Darknet Ivy is talking about what goes on behind, say like Scams or True Crime, so I started picking up on that. I found it quite interesting, especially this True Crime podcast. I’m starting to show a bit more interest in that. Yeah.
Super popular right now.
Where is the best place for people to follow your work? I guess it would be your podcast, Magic Mike.
Magic Mike is one they can find me on BTOB Fmkb. That’s where all my work. That’s where all the podcasts will be.
Like K and B.
Just K and B. And you can connect to me via LinkedIn. To actually find out more about outdoor Studios or other recordings, I should say.
Awesome. Thank you so much for joining me on Sound Design Live.
Thank you, Nathan. Thank you for having me on the show.
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