Friday, December 19, 2008

Why is Manwolf so LOUD?

Lately Linda and I have been getting a number of inquiries as to why either, 1) I'm so loud on the BlogTalkRadio broadcasts, or 2) she's so soft. No, for you conspiracy theorists, I'm not trying to overshadow her in the show.

Most of you know that until very recently, Uncanny Radio was recorded from the studios of WBSD in Burlington, Wisconsin. In the past month , though, the weather had been getting bad out here, and Linda had been reluctant to make the long trek to the studio. Well, we solved that intially by making her a guest, but that left us with a new problem: the radio station can only call one person at a time, so if I have to call Linda, I can't call anyone else. (We're working on that, but...)

Coincidentally, at the same time, a new problem cropped up when our former archive host crashed, taking our entire library of shows down with them. (Most of those shows are still unavailable.) We did, however, find a new venue to host the archives -- Blog Talk Radio. And that solution presented us with several new opportunities as well: 1) we could use their system to return to our usual 2 hosts + a guest format, 2) we could also use the system to have listeners call in as well as the guest. Seemed like a great opportunity.

The trick, though, has been working the bugs out. The simple fact is that the BTR switchboard doesn't have nearly the same number or quality of controls I have in the WBSD studio. There is a similar ability to play clips -- like our intro/exit music -- but no ability to fade them in our out; they're either on, or off at whatever level they start at. Likewise, there is no ability to control the audio level of the callers to the service -- whether they're the hosts, the guests, or the fans. People who call in end up at whatever level they call in at. Worse, the earpiece quality -- that is, what the hosts/callers hear on their earpieces -- may or may not represent what's actually being heard "on air." Often, the are drop-outs that exist only on the phone lines. (You can hear me ask Linda to repeat things numerous times in our first BTR show, in the mistaken belief that if I couldn't hear her, the audience couldn't, either.)

Further, there's not even any indication of what the audio levels actually are, so the people calling in can, perhaps, adjust the volume on their end with any accuracy. So, every week the audio level of the show is a guessing game on my part. Linda recently upgraded her phone capability (so it now pretty much matches mine), -- yet, my audio is still louder and/or "brighter." Why? We haven't figured it out yet. Maybe it's my church-bred speaking voice.

People have suggested moving my mic further from my mouth. But it's on a fixed, inflexible pivoting arm (not bendable), and I've raised it up to the level of my eyes; apparently didn't help. Next: change the mic-in level on my computer (I'm using MagicJack to call in) -- I've pushed the level down almost to nothing; apparently didn't help.

So, what to do? Well, it'd be easiest if BTR would upgrade their switchboard to include some basic mixing levels -- but who knows if they'll do that. I could try putting a small windscreen over my mic, if I can find/buy/improvise one. (That's probably worth a try.) Or I can go back into the studio at WBSD and use the tried & true methods. But that still leaves us with the problem of 2 hosts + 1 guest can only use one call-in line. And the weather precludes Linda coming in.

I'll take suggestions, but you should realize that I'm pretty good at this stuff (not perfect), and I've already tried every solution that quickly sprang to mind -- and a few that required some pretty deep thinking. I could go in and manually fix all the audio levels for the show in post-production -- but that would take literally hours, and nobody is paying me to do it. Frankly, I can't afford to put in a lot more free time on this show.

So, until we can solve this problem -- and we'll continue to work on it -- you have to ask yourself: Is Uncanny Radio worth having even with curent audio flaws, or would you rather not have the show in its current format at all?

Yours -- Steve "Manwolf" Sullivan


irene13 said...

Steve and Linda, we really appreciate all your efforts in getting and keeping the Uncanny radios on the air. Just so you know, yes, we too hear the skip in audio and so thanks for having Linda repeat. We don't want to miss a single word! Here's wishing you both (and your families) a Hearty, safe and warm Holiday! Cheers

Anonymous said...

I believe most people, myself included, tune in /log in for the interesting, imaginative and amusing conversation. The audio glitches do not eclipse the show’s content so I will keep listening as long as you’re talking.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the audio problems don't marr my enjoyment of the show, and it's content makes it one of the best podcasts of it's type- you don't have to sit through hours of in-jokes to get to the intresting stuff, which is a problem with a lot of other podcasts. Linda sounding a little distant acutally makes Beastwatch sound a bit spookier!