By listening to this you acknowledge you are: Brian Davidson

I’ve been getting some annoying robot phonecalls recently on a daily basis. They always give me menu options to hear more, but never an option to tell them they got the wrong number (or some guy put down the wrong number). The robot leaves messages with half of their recorded message so when I was deleting a slew of them today I noticed one sounded very different from the rest, so I took a quick recording of it.

There’s something almost melodic in how the robot says the name and the message is pretty amusing in the way it reads like the worst EULA ever and that part of it sounds like the Miranda Rights being read to you.

Here it is, enjoy:
[audio:|titles=Brian Davidson|artists=Brian Davidson]

Anyone that wants to download it and put some beats or throw it into a mix is welcome to this direct link to the file.

How to record a kickass podcast between two macs — and cheap!

I’ve updated this with a lot more info over on my Fortuitous Blog: Everything I’ve learned about Podcasting

A lot of people ask me how I do the MetaFilter Podcast (warning: the podcast makes no sense to anyone outside of MetaFilter uberfans). I know they don’t mean “how do you do it man, you’re making magic over there every week!” but rather “what software and hardware does it take to make a decent sounding podcast?” After almost a year of regular podcasts and trying out different software and equipment, I’ve gotten the workflow down cold and I wanted to share the my way of making a good sounding podcast on the cheap. This works perfectly well for me being in Oregon and talking to my friend Jessamyn in Vermont over Skype, recording at both ends, then tossing it all into Garageband to complete the podcast. I read a lot of podcast how-tos when I set out to do my own, and almost all of them are mired in technical details about microphone quality and USB vs. mixer board audio wankery. Most every tutorial about doing a podcast interview focuses way too much on studio-like sound quality achieved through your equipment instead of through software and a bit of clever thinking. So without further ado: How to record a good podcast between two mac users on the cheap Software required:

Hardware required:

Though you might have heard bad phone interview podcasts with Skype before, having Call Recorder running on both sides of your interview will mean your interview partner will have a crystal clear recording just like yours. The cheap headset microphones are brain-dead simple to use on a Mac (plug-in, change audio prefs to use the headset for input and output, adjust the recording level) and produce perfectly good vocal recordings. I’ve used $250 higher-end microphones and had little audio quality improvement. This process assumes two people, each running Skype, Call Recorder, and having a USB headset microphone. The Interview Recording:

  1. Start a Skype chat between you and your partner
  2. Both parties hit the record button on their Call Recorder (I record on high quality, low compression AAC)
  3. Conduct your interview normally
  4. When interview is complete, end call, stop recording
  5. Call Recorder includes a directory of mini-apps called Movie Tools. Have your partner locate their recording file and tell them to drag it over the “Split Movie Tracks” application
  6. Have partner upload Track 1 of the split movie files to a server you can download the file from

Assembling the podcast in Garageband:

  1. Drag your copy of the interview recording over Split Movie Tracks to turn your recording into one file for each side of the Skype conversation
  2. Drag each resulting .mov file over another Movie Tools app “Convert to AIFF”
  3. Drag your partner’s half interview (that you downloaded from them) .mov file over Convert to AIFF
  4. Open Garageband, start a new podcast
  5. Duplicate one of the vocal tracks (my partner is female so I duplicate the default female track
  6. Drag your own Track 1 AIFF track into a Garageband track (my goes into the default Male Voice)
  7. Drag your own Track 2 AIFF track into Garageband, perfectly aligned with our Track 1 (this ensures the timings are exact for each side of your own interview recording)
  8. Drag your partner’s Track 1 AIFF track into the duplicated track in Garageband
  9. Garageband quickly analyzes each track and makes visual soundwaves to go with each track. “Line up” your Track 2 and your partner’s Track 1 audio files. The peaks and flat quiet area should look really similar (click screenshot below, view notes on the image itself) How to make a podcast (Figure 1)
  10. Once your partner’s vocal track is lined up (press play to hear all three tracks and your partner should sound like an almost perfect echo from their two tracks), delete your own Track 2 track. You now have two high quality recordings from each respective source, ready for continued editing into your podcast (you can level out the volume if one person was louder, clip out pauses and coughs together, etc)

How does it sound? To give you an idea of how it sounds, consider the following three sample recordings. The first is the worst possible: recorded Skype conversation where I dialed out to a phone and recorded the entire thing on my end (mp3 sample 1 96kbps) Second, here is what a standard recorded Skype call sounds like, where I recorded both sides of the conversation on my end, so my partner was recorded through Skype and even on my high bandwidth fiber connection, it does have artifacts (mp3 sample 2 96kbps) Third, here is the same interview segment as the second part, but with my partner’s local recording track thrown in and my recording of her track thrown out. Much better and to me, sounds like we could be in the same room, even though we are 3,000 miles apart. (mp3 sample 3 128kbps) Conclusion The basic premise of this approach is you can record a Skype interview without actually needing/using Skype. You are actually recording audio on each end independent of Skype, so you won’t suffer any sound quality problems due to Skype transport. So that’s it, for about $100 or so, you can have a pretty damn good podcast that sounds like two people sat in a room together talking and recording, even if they’re on opposite sides of a country.

Some lingering iPhone questions I haven’t heard answered anywhere…

So I’m thinking about getting an iPhone, but a few potential dealstoppers keep coming up and I haven’t seen much info on it even though it’s coming out in less than two weeks. Maybe some of you readers can help.

  1. Is there an airplane mode where phone functionality is shut off? The one place I find myself watching tv/movies on my iPod is on planes. Given the simple interface, so far I haven’t seen or heard that there are preferences menus that’d let you easily shut off your wireless phone functionality and just use the device as an audio/video player inside aircraft where phones are prohibited. Most smartphone/PDAs have this option.
  2. My existing iPod dock on my computer and the car charger/adapter I already have will work fine, right? When it was first announced, I believe Jobs said the iPod connector on the bottom was standard, but I’ve heard about companies making iPhone adapters for cars and I’m sort of unclear if I just simply use my existing Belkin iPod charger in the car (which also has audio out that I wire into my car stereo). I hope it all works.
  3. The interfaces all look fantastic, but is the music player going to be something I can use by feel? Currently I use an iPod in my car and I place it on a mount right next to my steering wheel. I barely have to take a finger off the wheel to change songs and I barely have to glance at the iPod to do it, letting me keep my eyes on the road. Given the iPhone interface, will I be able to change songs by simply clicking on the right side of the screen? Or am I going to be required to use CoverFlow at 65mph?
  4. Has AT&T announced their data plans for it? I can’t believe it’s less than two weeks away and no one seems to know if it’ll be $40 a month or $50 or $60 or more for unlimited data and a few hundred monthly minutes. They really do seem to be rushing this to market if they’re not openly sharing the plan pricing in advance.
  5. I’ve heard that every AT&T Wireless store in the US should get about 20 phones to sell on the first day, but I’m still concerned about availability. How is the 4Gb/8Gb split going to be in their inventory? 50-50%? Is the 6pm launch really going to happen? Should I line up in the afternoon? Can I get all my credit check/plan forms filled out before 6pm so I can just have the phone and leave the store at 6:01PM?
  6. Is there going to be a “turn off CSS” option in Safari for the iPhone? Sideways scrolling blows and I’m not going to use safari much if I have to point and drag all over the screen to read anything. I actually like my Blackberry Pearl’s browser because it ignores CSS and displays text versions of sites that are easy to read and navigate quickly. (also, I hope there’s a Gmail app coming soon for the iPhone, I’m not even going to use the default email client)

GarageBand’s podcasting limitations

Today I ran into the 999 measure limit in GarageBand. The app is built with music in mind, with a default of 120 beats per minute. When I dragged in a couple podcast tracks that clocked in at one hour and 14 minutes, I couldn’t hear all the way to the end and my waveforms weren’t showing up in the editor. Turns out it was too much information for GarageBand to natively display (despite that I’m on a quad processor desktop with 3Gb of RAM) and you have to turn down the beats per minute to 40. Once you do that, everything will magically work just fine.