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My Podcasting Setup ~2011ver.~

Having done a first version and then a ~2010ver.~ a year later, after upgrading a few things, it made sense to follow-up with a… (wait for it)~2011ver.~ post. So how ’bout them podcasts, huh?

When we last checked in on the setup, I was considering cleaning out one of the extra rooms in our finished basement to make a quasi-“recording studio”. The room was a moderate disaster of half-empty boxes and miscellaneous extra crap from when we first moved in, but it would likely make for a fantastic recording area — low ceiling, closing door, a desk was already there, and the wireless signal reached all the way down there from two floors up.

Well, the room got cleaned out, and we have been recording down there for a few months now. I couldn’t ask for much better out of such minimal work! Here is an updated, general view of the area:

With the overview done, let’s dig into the hardware! I again have to preface this by saying that I don’t actually know anything about audio or any type of engineering, so this is all self-taught, trial-and-error based on moderate research and reading. I’m probably doing stuff wrong, I’m probably doing it all inefficiently… but it seems to be working out so far. Take my advice and recommendations with a modest-sized grain of salt.

One of the most important upgrades has been from the Behringer Eurorack UB802 (~$50-60) mixer to the Mackie 1202-VLZ3 (~$300) mixer. In addition to the two additional XLR inputs (which means no longer daisy-chaining something like Jeff’s mixer when he comes for a “Manga Review of Awesomeness”), I have much greater control over just about everything. It’s just an all-around better mixer. As I read in the reviews, I noticed a better sound with the same microphones I was already using, and there was a noticeable amount of less noise in the output signal — when tweaked properly, it is essentially whisper-quiet.

The output is still going from the “Tape Out” via the Behringer U-Control UCA-200 which came with my work mixer — no, I’m cheap and still haven’t purchased my own stand-alone UCA-202 (~$30) or similar device. This is one area that I may eventually upgrade. I’m not sure how or what I will do, since a dedicated Firewire setup is above and beyond what I need, but it feels like there might be a better way to get the audio to the computer with even better clarity and possibly normalization. Currently, the U-Control takes over as the input device, so switching Windows’ properties for what handles “in” and what handles “out” lets me use that for input, while still using the laptop’s on-board sound for output to headphones (to listen to test recordings and/or anyone on Skype).

Over on the microphone side, everything is basically the same as it has been for well over a hundred episodes. I am personally still rocking the MXL 990 condenser microphone (~$50-70), which is held up by a Samsom BT4 boom stand (~$40).

Within the last couple episodes, I have been keeping a duplicate of that same setup around for the wife so as to avoid using the Shure microphone (see below). It’s not that it’s a terrible microphone, but if I have something that’s so much better, why not use it? Having identical microphones in use (instead of both a dynamic and a condenser) also seems to help the levels and who gets picked up how much on which microphone across the room.

For when the extra microphone is absolutely necessary, I have at least tossed the Shure 8900 dynamic microphone (~$50) on an On-Stage MSA-9508 side boom (~$10-15) and gooseneck extension so it is far more adjustable in terms of position and comfort, instead of directly on top of the old RadioShack Heavy Duty Microphone Stand with Cast-Iron Base (~$30). The RadioShack stand with a larger mic clip and the boom extension also doubles as the Rock Band accessory of choice for guitar + vocals, so it all works out in the end.

In terms of headphones, I use the simple but serviceable Sennheiser HD201 (~$20-30) headphones. They are closed-ear with a super long cord, and they sound crystal-clear enough for the recording quality that I work with every week, so I haven’t felt the need to go nuts in this area.

You will probably notice some other stuff in the room that handles I guess what can only be called “logistics”. Perhaps you wonder how it is that we all read notes on the “Manga Review of Awesomeness” (OK, Jeff just uses his iPad, now…) or e-mails. Do we print out notes? Of course not! A second monitor mirrors the display from the laptop for others in the room to keep up with the general show outline. I am really tempted to put a flat-screen TV up against that wall on the left in the future, though — not only would it be incredibly bad-ass, but it would give the entire room a larger, more convenient view of the screen, too.

To just wrap up this section of the post, here is my general view of the room each and every week:

So what about the software and actual recording? Not much has changed in that area, except the effort I ask of my usual participants coming in over the Internet.

Everything is still recorded and primarily edited in Audacity. 44 kHz, mono. Done and done. I also still use the Call Graph plugin to record Skype conversations, but rarely in the same way as described last time around. Previously, I would take its 11 kHz output with my own track in the left channel and other side in the right channel, kill my track, turn the other track mono, re-export it, and use that as the secondary audio track to edit with, which isolates the other side of the conversation and lets me cleverly edit around any inadvertent talking over each other, etc.

These days, because all of the regulars (Julian, Heath, Jake, Corey, etc.) actually know how to use a computer, I simply ask them to record locally on their own side, as well — that’s the second track I use (after recording they send me the audio, usually as a high bitrate MP3, rather than the needlessly larger WAV). I still use Call Graph as a backup, and usually to line up the two separate tracks. I place my own local track up top, bring the Call Graph stereo track below it, and then the other person’s local track below that, line them all up, kill off the Call Graph track… voilà! It sounds far more complicated than it actually is — since Audacity lets you zoom in to insane degrees, I can line up the tracks to the tiniest fraction of accuracy possible.

By not using Call Graph (never mind its 11 kHz limitation, despite its amazing convenience and other customizations), we avoid any of that traditional “Skype noise” — you don’t hear someone’s call quality drop with their Internet connection fluctuations. In addition to that, by actually editing the show, we can avoid any excessive talking over each other, usually done by accident due to minor audio delays — I will typically just say, “Oh hey, start that sentence again.” It’s little stuff like that which folks may not even specifically notice, but I hope makes an impact in the back of their head somewhere while listening and comparing to other shows.

After editing the tracks (which have already been noise-removed prior to editing), I spit the product out to Levelator to even things out. I still bring everything into a project file in Adobe Premiere to line up the bumper music — it’s one of those relics I can’t let go of. The block-based dragging and snapping, along with a pre-edited bin of all the bumper music, makes it very easy to cut the sections apart. I usually leave a 10-second gap in between sections while editing to make it easy to visibly tell in Premiere where the sections need to be spliced with the jingles.

I may upgrade the software some day (likely Adobe Audition), but I figure until I know more about how audio actually works, it’s not really worth sinking the money into software.

About those other folks, though — what are they all recording with these days? Well, the two most relevant folks to note here are Julian and Heath.

Julian uses the Elecom HS-NB01UBK (~$30) headset that he picked up over there in Japan. As you have been hearing lately, it catches the bass of his voice quite well. It picks up a fair amount of background noise, but I am able to kill that off with some basic filtering in Audacity well enough. Since I am editing with multiple tracks, that means I can also just silence out an entire area on his side if I need to. I ask that my co-hosts don’t rely on that and practice proper microphone etiquette and all, but at the end of the day, you cannot control when the little one decides to yelp!

Then there’s Heath. Up until recently, he has been using whatever generic headset he’s had lying around (he tells me it was the Logitech USB Headset H530). You may have been able to hear it (even though I try to cut around it as much as possible), but it would randomly peak when he would start talking, and it picked up a rather huge amount of background noise — it’s the kind of headset that works fine for gaming and casual conversations, but not for podcast discussions. With all the great content him and I planned on bringing to the podcast in the future, this just couldn’t last. In response to some random chatter on Twitter, we made it known that we were looking to upgrade Heath to some actual audio equipment. Our buddies Lemmy and Ryan came through with some donations that covered it all… within minutes! Heath would really have no need for a mixer setup the way I have things, so we decided to go with a dedicated USB setup for just himself. In addition to a generic pop-filter and the same Samsom BT4 boom stand (~$40) that I use, we went with the USB version of my microphone: the MXL 990 USB (~$100-150). Unfortunately, the USB version of the microphone comes with just a little stand that would never work for the way we like to actually be comfortable while recording, so to complement the mic and boom stand, I sent him an old, only-semi-broken MXL 90 shockmount (~$35) that I had from my first microphone (I had since gotten a replacement as a gift). One of the screws was slightly stripped, and the inside rubber portion needed a little glue, but all-in-all it was in perfectly fine shape! Appropriately so, Lemmy wanted a picture of Heath’s new recording setup… and so did I for this blog post!

Here’s what the good sir had to say about it:

I’m loving the new setup, and the audio quality is SO much better! After messing around with things, this is the setup I finally settled on. It’s somewhat like what I was using before, only my Logitech headset is now replaced with my new fancy microphone and boom stand. The MXL 990 USB powered condenser microphone is plugged into my laptop on the left, whose only purpose is to record the mic audio in Audacity. The laptop is also used to connect to Skype if I’m recording with anyone else over the world wide web. I then use my personal desktop computer to look up references while recording; typically there’s Kanzentai on one screen and Daizenshuu EX on the other. I would record on this computer, but Audacity tends to crash once I hit the stop button. Luckily my mouse and keyboard are Bluetooth, so I can set the keyboard in my lap if necessary. Of course I just use my headset as head phones while recording. But more importantly, there’s usually a beer just to my right on the desk and there’s a mini fridge full of it behind me.

So that’s pretty much where we stand. I don’t feel the need to really upgrade a whole lot more on my end, with the possible exception of eventually having four of the same microphones so even Jeff doesn’t have to bring one over. Oh, and some more folding chairs would be nice. Maybe a new desk eventually, too. And a mini-fridge for beer convenience. Do they make silent mini-fridges…?

(NOTE: We did not consult each other re: mini-fridges prior to writing this…)

I guess we should also treat Jake to upgraded equipment at some point in the future. Julian, too, if and when he ever makes his way back to the states.

My Podcasting Setup ~2010ver.~

It has been over a year since I last wrote about and shared how the magic of podcasting goes down at Casa de EX. A lot has changed since then, but I just have not gotten around to writing up a new version. Our buddies over at the Unofficial One Piece Podcast asked the other day what we were using for a mixer, and when I pointed over to that blog entry, I realized just how out-of-date it was!

So here we go. I am happy to present to you the ~2010ver.~ of “My Podcasting Setup“. As always, I do not claim to actually know what I am talking about. I am probably wrong with much of what I do, and writing about how I accomplish it is most likely only perpetuating bad habits and sharing mis-information.

Oh, well.

I have killed two computers over the course of doing the show for Daizenshuu EX. First I blew the sound card in our Shuttle, and then its power supply died. Both are easy fixes, but it just sits over there on the other desk because I have been too lazy to open it up. Once that went down, I shifted over to using Meri’s old desktop from ~2000/2001 as a secondary recording rig. I tossed Ubuntu on it, and as described in the prior article, I used it to line-out for a dedicated Skype track recording.

All that is old hat.

Over on the Mac, Jeff uses a great application called Übercaster to record us locally and any extra, isolated audio tracks (such as Skype, bumper music, etc.). I’m running a standard ol’ Windows XP install both on my desktop and my laptop, and I have gone with a little Skype plug-in called Call Graph. It just works. When running alongside Skype, it automatically records the entirety of a call once one begins, recording your own audio in the left channel, and the other side (be it a single person or a conference call) in the right channel, spitting out a stereo WAV (or MP3) the instant you conclude the call.

Near as I can tell, though, it only records at 11 kHz — even if you tell it to record a 44 kHz MP3, it still records an 11 kHz WAV which it then converts to a 44 kHz MP3. This… is mostly serviceable. When you have folks like Julian who are just running a standard Logitech headset, anyway, the frequency of the audio file is not really taking much more of a hit than it already is due to the hardware. When we are done recording, I take the WAV into Audacity, split the stereo audio track, delete the left channel (myself), tell the right channel (Julian) to act as mono, and export the new, entirely-isolated audio track. Voilà.

(If I am recording with someone who knows what they are doing, I sometimes just have them record locally on their own end and send me their final audio once we are done recording… though I always am recording a back-up just in case.)

What about my own, local track, though? That I do not allow Call Graph to handle — I still record in Audacity at my standard mono, 44 kHz dedicated audio track. The two tracks (my own local track + Skype track) are easy enough to line up in Audacity for editing later on, either through a “1, 2, 3, clap!” or just from doing this for five years and understanding how a conversation is supposed to sound.

I still use a combination of Levelator and Audacity’s built-in noise removal for my post-processing — nothing special there. I am also stuck in my own ways by using Adobe Premiere to line up the segments with their respective bumper music tracks for the final mixing and export. I just really like the block-based dragging and snapping for that final step, I guess.

With that in mind, though, let us turn back over to the hardware.

The driving force behind everything is still my Behringer Eurorack UB802 (~$50-60) mixer. It is a great, compact little guy with two XLR inputs, phantom power support, decent gain/volume control, plenty of line-in and out support, etc. The UB802 seems to go through phases of being available versus unavailable, but the standard Behringer 802 (~$60) is something I picked up for Jeff over the last holiday season, and it is essentially identical to my own.

The main difference these days is that I have indeed jumped over to using a USB device to grab out the audio, rather than running an analog RCA-to-1/8-inch line-in cable. The Behringer U-Control UCA-200 actually came with the (larger) mixer that I use at work. It is their standard pack-in version with mixers, but the stand-alone UCA-202 (~$30-35) is what you will typically see for purchase online. I had spoken before about how the device takes over as the entire sound device for the computer — for example, I was unable to listen to the audio I just recorded through my headphones while it was plugged in. Once I stopped being an idiot and looked around a bit, I found that I could tell Audacity to still use the internal sound card for playback and use the U-Control device for recording, allowing me the same convenient usage I had always experienced.

For any recording where we need more than two local microphones (such as a “Manga Review of Awesomeness” or something for vgconvos), I no longer daisy-chain the RadioShack mixer into the Behringer. Instead, I have Jeff bring over his 802 and daisy-chain that into my mixer. We use the same process of RCA cables going from “Tape Out” on his to “Tape In” on mine that would have been used from the old RadioShack mixer, but now it is done with higher-quality equipment. It still introduces extra analog noise that I would rather not have to deal with, however. I have my eyes set on the Mackie 1202-VLZ3 (~$300) mixer with its four XLR inputs and non-Behringer, genuinely-high-quality parts. Behringer stuff is “OK”, but I have had a few issues here and there with the mixers to the point where I probably will not buy their stuff again.

Over on the microphone side, things are still pretty much the same… with the exception of what holds it for me. I am personally still rocking the MXL 990 condenser microphone (~$50-70), though these days it is supported by a boom stand. I am fairly certain it is the Samson BL3 (~$30), due to it not coming with a mic clip… but I no longer have the box to double-check that. Whoops. Sorry. The MXL 990 is just a tad bit heavy for it, but adjusting the three-legged support and balance of the boom extension will grant you just the right placement for comfort and not-falling-over-ness.

The main reason that the microphone is hanging on its side is because I accidentally stripped the screw-tightening mechanism for the shockmount, and have not felt like spending the money for the replacement MXL-90 shockmount (~$35) just yet. When you can buy the microphone (which itself comes with a shockmount) for just a couple bucks more, it is difficult to build up the desire to spend money to replace one that is just hanging on its side and not entirely broken.

Meri is still rocking the Shure 8900 dynamic microphone ($50). It is quite the handy mic to have around, since its included XLR-to-1/8-inch audio cable plugs in to the video camera I use at work, giving me a choice of a either a lapel mic or a hand-held mic. I double-wind-screen for Meri since her “pphf” sounds are a little harsher than my own. She is also still rocking the RadioShack “Heavy Duty Microphone Stand with Cast-Iron Base” (~$30), though it may be time to upgrade her to the Samson boom stand — they are just so nice to have! Comfort galore!

I guess the last thing to address is live recording and broadcasting that we occasionally do. Lately we have been using Stickam for no particular reason above any other service. We tend to broadcast Lo-Fidelity live more than anything else, mainly because it is just the two of us in one local recording area, so anything that happens can be broadcast with no extra effort — everything is right there in one place. When you start tying in things like Skype streams… sure, it can be done, but it requires more effort than it is really worth for such a budget setup like our own. Live recordings typically have two computers: one is a standard podcasting station like any other show, and the second is usually my laptop running the webcam. Our mixers have the “Tape Out” / RCA output that we typically use to output to the computer, but there is also the “Main Out” — I run a variety of cables and cord adapters to get that 1/4-inch stereo output down to an 1/8-inch plug. This runs to the line-in on my laptop, mirroring the exact same sound that is otherwise heading out to another computer for the main podcast recording. Sure, there is some (negligible) extra noise being introduced/lost going through all those adapters, but since that particular stream of audio is exclusively going to the live broadcast (and not the archived version for editing/release), it is not that big of a deal.

The next upgrade is going to be the room in which we record. Since moving into the new house, all recording has been done up in our loft. This is where we keep the computers, the old TV, CDs, DVDs, etc. It is a fantastic location (minus all the cat destruction, like my poor chair), but it is in a very open area. Sound bounces all over the place. When we have any more than two people, it starts sounding very “airy” in the recording, both due to the number of people (and thus the number of mics to adjust and compensate for) and the voices bouncing along the ceiling and down to the living room.

We have a finished basement with several rooms. Right now, “the brown room” (which is the second room off the main area) is a disaster of storage space. Boxes, appliances, and assorted things of nothingness take up all the space. It is perfect for a little recording studio, though. It is just the right size, the walls are not tall, the door can be shut… lovely!

Our Wi-Fi reaches down there, and since an entire show can be done with just one computer, there is nothing stopping me now from cleaning up that space and creating a great little recording studio in my basement. I might even get some extra sound-proofing padding for the walls… can you imagine how hot looking that place is going to be?! Speaking of “hot”, that is another perk to setting up shop in the basement — heat rises, and our loft starts boiling in the summer. The basement? Cool as can be!

I think that more-or-less covers how everything is rolling right now. Does anyone have any questions about any aspect, or better yet, suggestions on ways to do things even better? Specific articles to read to bolster some mad audio skillz? I still consider myself a total audio n00b, though I think I have a couple other skills that I have picked up over the last couple years that at least helps put together some decent shows…!

“Rocket Knight Adventures”: Genius Level Design?

You are going to get a little bit of meta-material and genuine game analysis in a single post. That is awesome.

A few years back when I first pitched the idea of “vgconvos” to Andrew and Jeff, one of the first show concepts was to give the other person a somewhat-obscure game from your youth that was played extensively, allow them to play this game they otherwise had never heard of for somewhere between two weeks and a month, and then get back together to talk about it later on. This concept semi-evolved into the “Record Exchange” every nine-or-so episodes over on Lo-Fidelity, but it just never happened with video games. The main reason was that we are all simply at a point in our lives where we cannot guarantee that we will have the time to get together every month to do a podcast, never mind dedicate a couple weeks to a video game and then come back to also talk about it…!

It is still an incredibly worthwhile idea for a show, and one that has somewhat been done in a couple different ways, such as the “Backlog” or “Game Club” sessions on things like Rebel FM. I really wish it was something we could do on a regular basis, but it just cannot happen. Andrew and I even had a few games that we would have used to toss at each other (Boomer’s Adventure in ASMIK World from me, and Rocket Knight Adventures from Andrew). I just absolutely adore the idea of giving something (a video game, an album, whatever) that has such a deep meaning to you… or at least just some rose-tinted memories… over to someone else with zero familiarity and seeing how it holds up.

I have always kept the idea in the back of my head just in case something came along that would work out for the website. You know from reading our posts and listening to our shows that we are no strangers to diving back into older games, either just for the heck of it, or to legitimately see where this modern era of gaming all came from if we happened to miss a step along the way. You have seen me write about FPS games from ten years ago, and most recently, what many consider (myself among them now!) the best 16-bit Japanese RPG ever created. Sure, Andrew and Jeff may or may not have played some of those, but it was more a conversation with myself that you all happened to be able to peer in on.

This one is a little different. Not entirely, but a little bit.

I stumbled across a new store called Game Trader at the Quakerbridge Mall here in New Jersey. If you did not stop to look at some of the cases, it looked like any other generic GameStop-esque store… but then I saw the old video games! There was a splattering of the standard, big NES games and such, but one particular game caught my eye, and I walked out of the store pretty content with myself!

About $7 scored me a copy of Rocket Knight Adventures, a cartridge I have not seen sitting around on any retro-store shelves in quite some time. Remembering that it was a game Andrew would have potentially tossed my way, and also knowing it will soon be seeing another sequel/revival for modern download services, I snatched it up.

I am fairly sure I had never played the game before last weekend. Andrew and the rest of the Internet always spoke highly of it, so I settled in with the ol’ SDTV in the loft for some old-school gaming action. I would like to go on record as saying that my Genesis controller extension cable was one of the best purchases I ever made in the 1990s, and it was a nice help in getting my rear-end reaching to the couch instead of the floor.

I was expecting something like a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog with some of the other typical 1990s mascot platforming action all mixed in nicely with some Contra shootin’ and slashin’ (courtesy of Nobuya Nakazato)… and that is exactly what I got.

The enemies seemed a little sparse in some of the levels I reached, but there was a really nice balance of standard enemies, terrain obstacles, boss fights, and more. In fact, it seemed rather spastic in how often it would toss those different elements at me, and I could never really be sure how “far” I was into a level. I would be swimming and attacking enemies that shot scattering, blue lasers at me… only to find myself wading through a single screen of a terrain obstacle before I was then on another to the next area.

It felt as if the level designers all came up with interesting little ideas completely independent of one another and then hastily had to stick them all together toward the end of the design process. “Hey, you… you worked on a water level, right? Me, too. Let’s just put them next to each other! Oh, and put that mine cart level right after us.

The obligatory 1990s platformer mine cart level should have been obnoxious, but I found myself both cursing and laughing at it — much like a Mega Man game where part of the fun and challenge is remembering all of the nuances to avoid and jump over, I had a genuinely good time dying, instantly repeating the level, and getting just a tad bit further each time.

What really blew me away, and what I will talk about with anyone who will listen, was — yet again — another obligatory stage for a 1990s platformer: the lava stage. The only enemy is the lava that continuously rises and falls, giving you ample opportunity to run across to the next ledge that places you just out of reach. If you are paying attention, the game gives you an immediate hint at where this level is going… but for first-time players who are not being particularly observant (like me!), a tiny bout of confusion followed by the “Aaaaaaaaa-HAH!” light bulb moment is what follows.

You soon reach a point in the level where the overhang begins to obscure your vision of the ledges in front of you, eventually blinding you completely. How on Earth are you supposed to get across?! Impatient players may charge up Sparkster’s flying attack, used on prior levels to bounce around and over top high ledges. If you simply take a moment to analyze what the game presents to you, its genius soon makes itself apparent.

It seems so simple, but I cannot think of a way to describe it other than it “blew me away”. Much like Andrew and I have discussed about Sonic games (specifically Sonic 2), you are forced to slow your ass down and actually analyze your surroundings. Without paying attention to the reflections in the lava, which is shown as soon as you start the level (there is that genius game design at work), it would be impossible to progress through the level.

You have all the tools at your disposal, and the game hands them to you in bits and pieces as you need them — it is the platformer equivalent of something like the typical Zelda game design, where with each new weapon or tool you think back to areas that were previously inaccessible.

Kudos to Rocket Knight Adventures for impressing me seventeen years after its original release. Now if only there were more tunes in the game… goodness, does that music get repetitive and over-used…

Yes, one little aspect of one stage in an old video game prompted me to write a blog entry. That is just how I roll, folks. Fun little things that I notice and care not if anyone else gives a rat’s ass about is what drives my Internet content creation. I cannot be the only one, though, right…?

How about you all? Is Rocket Knight Adventures a game you also hold in high regard? Was this a game worthy of our original podcast idea as Andrew suggested? Am I crazy for wanting to write about it just because of a silly lava level?

Podcast Episode Coming – Your Thoughts Are Requested!

I certainly do not claim to be a podcasting expert by any stretch of the imagination. Even after doing this for a bit over four years now, I still run into random tech problems and sound quality issues that I can not always perfectly troubleshoot, though I do the best I can.

The spontaneously-combusting XLR cables are not my fault, though. I swear.

I know it has been well over  a year since the last podcast episode (if you could call it that) for this blog, but I made it a point to say that shows here would be when I have something to say, and I would not do them just for the sake of doing them. That being said, I actually have an idea for a show to do. It is incredibly “meta” (and specifically about podcasting), but that is OK with me if it is OK with you! You have read before how I have upgraded equipment over the years, and what my typical workflow is for producing a show. That was a while ago, though, and a few things have changed.

I really want to do an updated version of that, but more from the audio end of it rather than a text-and-images description. It fine and dandy to talk about it, but what does it all sound like…? Sure, you could compare the earliest episodes of Daizenshuu EX‘s podcast to some of the most current ones, but that would be a pain to do.

What I am planning on doing is recording a few segments, under very controlled (read: “ideal”) situations in terms of surroundings and acoustics, to showcase exactly what my different microphones really sound like, and how that makes a difference for the listener. With myself more than anyone else you will be able to tell how upgrading and tweaking a few things can make a huge difference — it’s no secret that my regular male co-hosts Jeff and Julian have amazing, deep, booming, perfect radio voices, where-as I have to over-compensate.

Not that I can’t form a coherent sentence, or anything like that. Oh, Hell… if you’re reading this blog, you know what I’m talking about!

In a nutshell, I have a pretty good idea of how that part of the show will go. You will hear the different types of mics, positioning from them, what the most basic of software can do to help with it, blah blah blah. What about the other side, though? Is there anything about the behind-the-scenes production that you are interested in learning about? Not necessarily the tech behind things… but the research, methods, reasons, schedules, time-sinks… that kind of stuff.

In general, is there anything about any of the shows I am involved with (Daizenshuu EX, lo-fidelity, vgconvos) that you are curious about? Why we do the things we do and how we do them? Let me know! I will probably pull Jeff on that later segment to answer with me, because he’s just such a swell guy.

More DBZ Fan Entitlement Issues

I just threw out a quick tweet about this, but I wanted to share a little more detail about the situation.

Since about July 12th, we have known that the upcoming PS3/360 game DragonBall: Raging Blast will have a new vocal theme song performed by Hironobu Kageyama called “Progression“. Listings for a CD single of the song only began appearing online on September 27th. The game is not due out until November 10th (North America) / November 12th (Japan). The CD single is not due out until November 25th.

Here is just a taste of some of the most recent search engine referrals over on Daizenshuu EX:

  • raging blast theme mp3
  • dragon ball raging blast progression
  • dragon ball raging blast op song download
  • hironobu kageyama progression download
  • progression raging blast
  • progression kageyama hironobu mp3

To be fair, not all of the above-listed searches were specifically for an illegal download of the song. Also to be fair, the song has been featured in a limited capacity in trailers for the game; in fact, I was able to sample out a very short version of it to use as the closing for a recent podcast episode.

But seriously? We are months out from the game’s release and the song’s physical release. These people really think they are going to find a download of it? And with those kinds of terrible search queries…?!

We’re In The Movies

I’m pretty sure that on episode seven of the podcast we mentioned playing You’re In The Movies on the Xbox 360. It took me forever to re-borrow the game (and then its camera, because you can’t even get to the main menu without it) from Andrew, but I have finally exported and uploaded our masterpiece.

Starring Jeff as the evil overlord, and also Andrew, Meri, and Bryce as… well… whatever it is they are.

Yeeeeeeep. Sorry about the page-breaking with the embed.

Hey, we should record another podcast episode at some point in the near future.

Thoughts On Donations?

This is a subject I am heavily conflicted on.

Ever since the dawn of Daizenshuu EX (and VegettoEX’s Home Page and Ultimate DBZ Links Page before them), I have done anything and everything in my power to keep things as “real” and “transparent” as I can with the site. I have never asked the community for anything, and do not expect anything in return for running the site. There have been plenty of generous “donations” over the years (for example, our buddy godofchaos has been hosting the podcast for us free of charge, and we’ll be porting over the forum to his server in the near future; many years ago our old buddy Scott, or SREDBZ, used to host our website for us). We’ve even had prize donations for website contests. These have always been unsolicited, mean the world to us, and make the community a better place.

I’ve had people ask about monetary donations in the past, but I’ve always struck them down. This is for fans, BY fans, gosh darn it! Things are a little different now. I’m not a 16-year-old punk kid starting a links page. The wife and I are lucky to be two educated adults with full-time, well-paying jobs, but there’s no denying what the current economic situation is.

Time to be a little realistic. Especially with our first home purchase entering the picture, one can’t help but wonder what a couple extra bucks would mean.

There are new guide books coming out. There are new CDs coming out. Shipping from Japan ain’t cheap. Equipment could use replacing and upgrading. Thinking about trying some new conventions.

Despite never having done so in the past, I’m seriously considering putting up a PayPal “Donate Now!” button over on Daizenshuu EX. Part of me feels… ya’ know, so what? Tons of other websites, blogs, and podcasts do this (including some of my favorites). I even paid for a premium version of a podcast for a while before it unfortunately passed on, and I didn’t think twice about supporting it. I tossed a couple bucks over to the CO-OP guys right after they got laid off from 1UP.

The other part of me freezes up and feels like a total sell-out. It goes against everything I’ve tried to do in the past. I feel like we are in such a (comparatively speaking) great, financially-secure place… what right do I have to ask anyone for anything, even indirectly like this? What reason do they even have to take me seriously?

So I guess that’s what my question is. What reason(s) do you have for even taking such a request seriously? If you saw that button pop up, how would you feel? How do you think the rest of the fanbase and community, the ones who don’t take the time to respond but are just as important, would feel? What would you like to see done with any donation you may or may not make, regardless of how little or grand it may or may not be?

I’m definitely waiting to hear your responses. It’s not as important or dire as I think I’ve made it out to be, but your thoughts and responses are genuinely welcome. I’m going to cross-post this on the Daizenshuu EX forum (there’s obviously a larger reader base there right now), but please feel free to leave blog comments. If you would rather privately send your thoughts, go ahead and just send them on over to VegettoEX@aol.com.

Thanks so much, everyone!

Website, Podcast, & Future Plans

I would feel guilty about writing a non-content post like this if I hadn’t just written a pretty decent one yesterday… ^_~. I definitely wanted to get some thoughts out there, because I believe it is extremely important to be transparent and open with how projects are going. If you are here and reading, you probably care and probably want to know… right?

BLOG ENTRIES:
This is one of my favorite parts of having this site around, and is something I had wanted to do for years (being that I wanted to just have a regular ol’ gaming blog). While this site was launched as a combination blog/podcast offering, I think it is very important to have both and I try to put just as much preparation and effort into one as I do the other. Blog entries are also things I can do from work, from home, while on the road… Sure, this is all obvious stuff, but I also think it’s worth actually saying (typing?) aloud to re-enforce that it’s available to me whenever, and I can, should, and will have fun doing it!

PODCASTS (GENERAL):
As the e-mails and blog comments have indicated, some of you are wondering when the next podcast is coming out. That’s a good question! The holiday season, traveling, etc. ended up killing off the December show, and now we are coming to the end of January. D’oh! Back when I was a much younger Mike running websites as a teenager, a two month period seemed like an absolute eternity. Now-a-days (especially in the midst of a house purchase), two months goes by like… well… picture me snapping my fingers here. There ya’ go. Just like that. I’m not sure that our plans for December’s/January’s episode even make sense any more (a reflection back on 1998’s games… ya’ know, looking back at ten years ago) simply because now we’re into 2009, and Retronauts ended up getting out an episode on it, themselves. We have plenty of topics we have tossed around to each other (Jeff is dying to do a show about game soundtracks), but is there anything in particular you would like to hear the group discuss?

PODCASTS (FORMAT):
Speaking of which, does the format of the show interest you? Don’t take that question as meaning that I don’t like it; I’m actually pretty indifferent about the format of the show. I personally love topical discussions, and so that (by default) ended up being part of the show. The standard “Hey, let’s talk about the games we’re all playing!” is pretty standard on every single gaming podcast, but I find myself enjoying that part of every show (both my own and other shows that I listen to). I think it’s safe to say that this will always be in there, but how do you feel about it? Since we aim(ed) to have a monthly show, we were shooting for a 90-120 minute length of the show). How about that? Do you want longer or shorter? Hopefully not longer…!

WEBSITE:
I guess you could also call this “layout”. Something I’ve been wanting to do for a while is move away from the we-clearly-adapted-the-default-WordPress-theme for a design of the site. I really like the custom theme I incorporated over into my personal blog. You can see that I have a thing for individual entries having their own surrounding “block”, and I’ve always wanted to get rid of a sidebar and drive all navigation up top. If I can swing some free time, you may see me experimenting with the look of the site. Do not be alarmed. Do not adjust your television sets.

So that’s that, now you know, and knowledge is power.

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