A Podcast for All

A few months ago, I was introduced to Mila Atmos, a writer and public speaker interested in creating a podcast on civic engagement. On January 20, we launched her show, Future Hindsight. I encourage any person, U.S. citizen or not,  interested in learning about what it means to be involved with the government to listen. Her guests are insightful on topics very relevant to our current political climate.

And the audio production and theme song ain’t that bad either, if I do say so myself! 😉

Best Setup for Remote Guitar Lessons

My guitar teacher John Pondel used to live in the Bronx while I lived in Queens. He is an excellent player and teacher and very much worth the hassle of a long train ride, an inter-boro commute any New Yorker would know the pain of at about 1.5 hours each way on a good day…

But now he lives even further away in Westchester and I figured it’s “the future”, so let’s meet online. We initially tried meeting on FaceTime. It didn’t go well, mostly because of the echo and noise cancellation on the audio. Guitars vs. voice vs. audio cutout vs. video lag made it difficult to focus.

This weekend I tested out a new setup which I think works well: mic and guitar going directly into my audio interface, then a pair of headphones (no inline mic), and Skype as the connector. The reason Skype is better than FaceTime that it has more granular audio controls than Facetime, including the ability to turn off the “automatically adjust microphone settings” feature.


My configuration was:

vocal mic (MXL 990 Michael Joly Hulk Mod) ->
mic pre (LA-610) ->
interface (UA Apollo 8p) ->
UA Console app ->
System Audio ->

The guitar went

direct into the interface Hi-Z (UA Apollo 8p) ->
UA Console app ->
UA Fender ’53 Unison emulator plug-in ->
brainworx Tuner plug-in ->
System Audio ->

The UAudio Console software is great because it allows simple internal routing of system sound to different channels, as well as individual gain for those channels.

Here’s another necessary evil: pdf lesson files and a second screen. I had an old Jamey Abersold jazz book and John had a newer edition. We got very confused for 10 minutes trying to figure out why my scales on page 9 were different than his page 9 scales. Being together to look side-by-side, it would have been obvious.

I took a moment, sent him my PDFs of the jazz standards I’m working on, and we immediately got working. That left another bump: a pdf on the screen means John gets plopped in the corner of my screen in a tiny little box. I couldn’t see what chord inversions he was using. So I got out my iPad and used that for the PDFs on my music stand. NOW we were cookin’.

The frosting on this lesson cake was a means to record. In the past it, was very easy to bring an audio recorder to my lessons. But now, it’s easier: QuickTime Screen Recording. Audio AND video. Don’t forget to add the audio:

Surround Sound Podcast?

Lately, I’ve been working on a lot of podcast editing. But something has been bugging me about content delivery: its still just stereo. And sometimes just mono.

A recent technical passion of mine is to understand the mechanics of surround sound, ambisonic sound, and how to bring those formats to listeners. My ideal is to embed an audio file into either a flat, rotate-able video or AR experience that people can focus on the audio, solely. Or, to deliver a head trackable audio file that works for surround sound files. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be multi-channel, such as 5.1, or even full ambisonic. It can be just rotational binaural and give a nice spatial affect. But since I now have in my mic arsenal both in-ear binaural mics and a tetra-capsule ambisonic mic, I am shooting for the moon while keeping my feet on the ground.

My CoreSound TetraMic and an Orah 4i

So, is there a method to deliver ambisonic or surround audio to an iPhone or Android device for a podcast?

Audio compression seems to have stalled at mp3 for content delivery. AAC files are nice, as are Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, and the like. But what about standalone AC3, the compressed version of 5.1? How could that be delivered sans video? There are no players for AC3 for mobile without video. Heck, there’s not even a Mac desktop version. Is this a pipe dream?

I bit the bullet and I purchased Waves NX, a bluetooth head tracker that works with Waves’s iOS app, effectively acting as a VR headset minus the visuals. If a sound is encoded to be behind or to one ear or the other, moving your head will focus the sound accordingly. But it appears to be a closed system. I’ve reached out to their support team to find out how if they plan to open it up to content creators.

Maybe all this is too much too soon. The recorded music industry has moved on to streaming stereo, no surround sound plans yet. Even though the forthcoming update to AppleTV will include Dolby Atmos, the consumer end of things just isn’t there yet. Plus, who wants to spin audio around your own head when mono is fine on the commute to work?

My conclusion is there has to be a need. Or a visual cue. No one is going to pay attention to complexity if it isn’t warranted. More to come as I head down this path.