Why Should You Go to PodTales?

On Sunday, October 20th at the Lunder Arts Center at Lesley University the first ever PodTales Festival will take place. A festival dedicated solely to audio drama and fiction podcasting.

“Our heart will always be like that little mouse logo;

small and cute, but happy and powerful.”

by Alex C. Telander

Something special is coming to Cambridge, Massachusetts: on Sunday, October 20th at the Lunder Arts Center at Lesley University the first ever PodTales Festival will take place. What makes PodTales special is that it’s the first of its kind: a festival dedicated solely to audio drama and fiction podcasting, and before you ask, yes, this does include RPG podcasts too.

PodTales is an arts festival, not a professional conference; it’s about the work itself and learning how people do it, whether you’re a fan or a creator (or both, as many of us are). PodTales’ goal is for you to walk out with a whole list of new shows to check out.

Now, why should someone attend the PodTales Festival, other than its free admission and it being the first convention tailored exclusively to audio drama? Well, I had a chance to ask a couple of the organizers behind PodTales all about the festival and what their hopes, fears, and dreams for it are: Alexander Danner is the festival director and Jeff Van Dreason handles exhibitor relations and the IndieGoGo campaign, which runs through July 14th. And yes, these are the guys behind the terrific audio drama, Greater Boston.

Where did PodTales come from and when was it conceived?

ALEXANDER: The Boston area is rich in active fiction podcasters, making it one of the geographic hubs of the form, so I’ve long thought it would make sense to have a major community event here. There was also a particular model of show I’ve been hoping to attend, but which doesn’t really exist—one more similar to an indie comics festival, where new and established artists intermingle, where the act of creating within the form is celebrated no matter the artists level of experience.

My biggest inspiration is MICE, The Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, which was founded by my friends Shelli Paroline and Dan Mazur. There’s a palpable joy in celebrating the craft in how MICE is run, and no con anywhere that ever made me feel as valued as an exhibitor as MICE does. That’s what I want for exhibitors at PodTales.

And we wouldn’t be here without MICE for more practical reasons as well. I had mentioned to Shelli just in passing how I wished there was a local show for fiction podcasting like MICE. And she came right back with, “Actually, we’ve got a second space available every year that we don’t use. And we’re already looking for a partner show to put there. You want it?”

That was too clear an opportunity for me to resist! And with MICE and Lesley University providing the festival space, creating PodTales became much more financially viable. At the same time as PodTales is holding its first ever show, MICE will be holding their tenth anniversary show in the building immediately next door. It’s going to be an amazing weekend for celebrating storytelling!


Alexander Danner

Did you come up with the name early on?

ALEXANDER: No! I spent months trying to come up with a name I liked. I tried to create an acronym based name, something rodent themed that would parallel MICE, but I couldn’t find anything that worked well. And finding a “storytelling” title that wouldn’t work equally well for a festival of non-fiction podcasts was equally difficult. When I hit on using “Tales,” that actually captured a bit of both those goals in a way that sounds fun. I know a lot of people are kind of hoping the prefix “pod” will die, but for the time being, it still communicates what we’re about with clarity, which is more important to me.

What are you hoping to achieve with PodTales?

ALEXANDER: I’m hoping PodTales will become a community event for fiction podcasters, as well as a contact point with their audiences. My experiences at PodCon suggested to me that our community really wants something like that, an event that brings us all together to share our admiration for each others’ work, to make new connections and form new collaborations, and to just get to know each other in real life. I think the strong sense of community our form has historically shown has been vital to the growth of our art form, but with the rapid growth we’ve seen recently, it’s getting harder to maintain a connection with the fullness of that community. I think having a physical world community event will help with that.

JEFF: We want to celebrate the incredible talent of audio fiction creators, in addition to highlighting the awesome possibilities that come with independent audio fiction as a genre. It’s a growing genre that deserves more exposure. It doesn’t necessarily frustrate me that many people automatically associate podcasting with nonfiction shows, but it is unfortunate. PodTales is our small attempt at trying to change that, in addition to making audio fiction podcasts on our own, of course.

What were your first steps in putting it together?

JEFF: A lot of this came from conversations Alexander had with the directors of MICE, whom he’s been involved with for years. Alexander has connections with the independent comics world (especially web comics) and his comics friends involved with MICE have seen how much audio fiction podcasting has taken off lately. They all see a lot of similarity between genres and audiences, and we feel it just makes sense to build off an already existing showcase of independent artists. We’re hoping the audience for MICE might also be interested in learning about PodTales, and vice versa.

So after those initial conversations, our first steps were figuring out how to do it. We had some meetings via Skype to plan who was going to be responsible for what. The thing with this kind of event is even the strictest, carefullest planning gives way to unseen problems popping up, and there’s more work that goes into this type of thing than I think anyone can realize ahead of time. Hopefully it doesn’t seem like a lot of work to anyone who isn’t actually working on it, though.

Jeff Van Dreason

How did you go about putting a team together, who does your team consist of, and what are their respective roles?

ALEXANDER: My team is pretty much self-selected. Anyone who offered to help out, I wasn’t going to turn down the help! But those people have been fantastic. Jeff Van Dreason, of course, I have plenty of history working with, and always like to have him involved in anything I’m working on. He’s taken charge of the IndieGoGo, and is doing a fantastic job. Amanda McColgan is our social media manager, and is just blowing me away with her ability to keep people excited about the show, keeping so many people engaged with us months before the show even happens. And more behind the scenes, my key advisors have been Jordan Stillman and Alex Yun. Jordan has been working with MICE for years, and is organizing their tenth anniversary festival, but she’s also been a huge supporter of PodTales from day one, and has made herself constantly available to share resources and her experience in running a similar festival. And Alex is just brilliant. At one point, Jeff scolded me for waffling on one of Alex’s recommendations, saying, “Look, if Alex gives you advice, just take the advice.” And I’ve learned that lesson, because it’s true: Alex is always right.

Where did the logo come from?

JEFF: The voice of Leon Stamatis himself! Braden Lamb designed that cute little mouse. In addition to being an excellent voice actor, Braden is an incredibly talented artist, and he’s been a comics artist for years now. In fact, his partner Shelli Paroline, is the co-director of MICE, so there’s already a solid foundation of crossover talent extending from MICE to PodTales, and given that we’re spinning off from MICE, it makes sense to have our mascot be a fiction podcast rocking rodent, right?

How is PodTales different from Podcon or PodX?

ALEXANDER: I haven’t been to PodX, so I can’t compare as accurately. But PodTales is going to be a much smaller show than PodCon. Our entire physical area could probably fit inside PodCon’s exhibit hall three times over. So I think it’s important that people with experience at other shows know going in that we’re working at a much smaller scale. It’ll be a much more intimate sort of show.

But also, we’re really inverting the balance between programming and exhibition. The big draw at PodCon was clearly the programming, which was plentiful, and full of well-known podcasters. And that’s great—the programming at PodCon was wonderful, and it was terrific to have so many options to choose between!

By contrast, the exhibition hall will be the heart of PodTales. By numbers, PodCon 1 had 15 exhibitor booths total, five of which were podcasts. PodTales currently has more than 50 exhibits lined up, every one of them representing a podcast or podcast network. The tradeoff, of course, is that we won’t have nearly as much programming, probably only two or three tracks. Though, with fewer programming events, we are going to work hard to make sure those events are entertaining and substantive! Our programming will also be built around our exhibitors, primarily highlighting the same people who are giving the exhibit hall life.

What do you hope attendees get from attending PodTales?

ALEXANDER: First and foremost, I want attendees to leave PodTales with a long list of new podcasts they plan to check out! Discovery is at the heart of our mission—we want to facilitate creators and audiences finding each other. But also, I want attendees with ideas of their own to leave PodTales feeling empowered to pursue their creative ambitions, and supported by a creative community that will help them find their way there.

JEFF: Discovery. Especially independent artists. New and exciting ideas and stories. We want people who’ve never heard of audio fiction podcasting to fall in love with the genre. We want people who do love audio fiction podcasts to find their new favorite shows, meet and learn from creators they know and love, and new, up and coming people as well.

What has been the hardest part of putting PodTales together?

ALEXANDER: Fundraising is always a challenge. Jeff has handled the IndieGoGo beautifully, while I’ve been working on cultivating partnerships with sponsor organizations. It’s a lot of searching for hard-to-find contact information, trying to pitch PodTales as an event various companies would benefit from advertising at, and negotiating mutually beneficial contracts. It can take a couple dozen attempts to cultivate one promising lead, and then weeks or months of discussions before an agreement is signed. Lesley University was with us from the start, which is great, and RadioPublic is a perfect partner for us. We’re close to signing a couple more sponsors, but this is an ongoing effort. But it’s also very important to meeting our aims for the show—we want to keep admission free and exhibitor fees low, but that means finding our funds from other sources. The more successful we are at working with sponsors, the more accessible we can keep the show for attendees and exhibitors.

JEFF: For me, the hardest part has been balancing how much to be involved. I love helping out, especially with something as exciting as this, and I’ve already committed to more than I thought I would originally, but I also need to step back from it soon. My personality sometimes pushes me to try to do too much, which I’ve been actively trying to change because it’s gotten me into a bit of trouble. I don’t have the time to co-run PodTales, unfortunately. But I set up and I’m running the Indiegogo campaign, and I’m helping with our exhibitor list and exhibitor relations, which I’m really excited about.

There’s also been a hard time just planning everything and getting the word out. Everything has to happen at once and it takes a lot of organization and coordination. There are only so many of us trying to do a huge thing, so things take longer than we’d like, but there’s not much we can do about that, unfortunately.

What has been the easiest?

ALEXANDER: Filling our exhibit hall! Starting a show like this, we’re taking a big gamble on whether there are enough people who see exhibiting at a festival as worth their time, especially since it’s not really an established facet of our process. But there was an abundance of interest, and we filled every seat we had available, then went back to our floor plan and rearranged to squeeze in a few more! And I’ve still got a few people on our wait list. This has really been one of the most encouraging outcomes we’ve had; it’s incredibly gratifying to know so many people are excited to show their work at PodTales!

JEFF: Working with exhibitors and our incredible featured guests. I’m really excited about everyone who is coming, and every single person has been a pleasure to work with.

Do you hope to make PodTales an annual podcasting event?

ALEXANDER: Yes! We’ve still got a long way to go before we’ll know if that’s feasible, but I’m definitely trying to build the show in a way that will make the process of doing the next one easier. If possible, I’d like to expand the show to two days as well. We’re keeping the scale small this year because this is our learning experience. But our hope is to grow from here.

What do you want to get out of PodTales?

ALEXANDER: I’m really hoping that this festival will contribute to spreading enthusiasm for fiction podcasting in general. Given our central location, free admission, and partnership with MICE, I’m hopeful that we will have a significant audience of people who are discovering fiction podcasts for the first time at PodTales. It’s really all about celebrating the art itself, and showing just how much we have to offer!

JEFF: I want it to be fun, diverse, informative, and safe. I want people to come and feel safe and celebrate our fabulous genre and have a great time. That’s it. I’d like it to grow and be sustainable too, but I would also like it to be sustainable in a way where I’m not as involved as much as I am now. I do a lot of the type of work that it takes to put on PodTales with my real job, and between my real job and this work, there’s not a lot of time left over for the type of creative work I cherish. So I’m really missing that right now, and we have two more seasons of Greater Boston to do, not to mention whatever comes after that. So I want PodTales to last forever, and I’ll always want to be a part of it. Maybe just not as much of an integral part as I am right now.

Five years from now, after this festival has exceeded goals every year, what does PodTales 5 look like for attendees?

ALEXANDER: Well, I’d certainly like PodTales to be a two-day show, and I’d hope to be able to move into a larger event space that can accommodate more exhibitors and larger audiences at our panels. (Probably the same space that MICE uses, once we’re ready to go out on our own.) But there’s a limit to how big I want it to get—I want to stay true to the missions of focusing on indie creators and keeping the show financially accessible to as many people as possible. This is an arts festival, not a large convention, and that’s how I want it to stay.

JEFF: I’ve gone to MICE for years and it’s absolutely grown, to an extent, and only gotten better every year. But it’s also been surprisingly consistent in its nice, niche, small, independent qualities too. I’m interested in seeing PodTales grow in terms of sustainability, kind of what I was speaking about before. And I always want more and more people to discover audio fiction podcasting, But I’d be lying if I said I wanted record breaking attendee numbers out of this thing year after year. I want people to come and be excited about this genre, and I’m involved because I love audio fiction podcasts and I want more people to discover them. But I also love how MICE is a small little show celebrating a unique type of independent art, and I’d never want PodTales to become this huge thing that feels like it exists solely for networking and business. That’s not to say that industry conversations aren’t important, they are, but I also don’t want to lose that independent spirit. So no matter what happens in five years, ten years, or fifty, I hope we just remain consistent. And I believe we will.

Our heart will always be like that little mouse logo; small and cute, but happy and powerful.


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Back to the Past

Let me take you back in time for a second. I know; you should be used to this now, since I write a show called Ostium all about time travel. But I’m going to take you back a couple of years, to the first month of 2017. The first two episodes of Ostium have been released and I’m feeling like I’ve got this podcasting thing just right and it’s all going to be smooth sailing from here on out …

Back to The Past:

Future Alex Has a Few Things to Say to Past Alex

by Alex C. Telander

Let me take you back in time for a second. I know; you should be used to this now, since I write a show called Ostium all about time travel. But I’m going to take you back a couple of years, to the first month of 2017. The first two episodes of Ostium have been released and I’m feeling like I’ve got this podcasting thing just right and it’s all going to be smooth sailing from here on out …

Continue reading “Back to the Past”

So You Want to Make an Audiodrama?

Many new podcast listeners decide to become creators and make their own shows, so we’ve taken a look at a couple of courses that will help you get off to a flying start.

By Alex C. Telander

Podcast listeners like to brag about the size of their ‘to listen’ list, how they’re not sure if they’re ever going to get totally caught up, because they keep finding new shows to subscribe to. There are new audio dramas debuting every week. Part of the reason for this is because many new listeners decide to become podcast creators and make their own shows. They either listen to a type of show they would like to try and make, or are encouraged in hearing so many great shows and want to make that idea in their head become a podcast reality.

But wanting to make an audio drama and actually releasing one are two very different things separated by a great divide. There is A LOT that goes into making a podcast, depending on what sort of show you want to make, and how much time and energy you’re willing to sacrifice to make it. Most creators end up sacrificing more than they can afford and steal from things like sleep and doing anything fun.

Let’s quickly list the steps to making a single episode of a show:

1. Write the episode.

2. Revise the episode until you’re happy with it.

3. Cast actors for the episode.

4. Have actors record for the episode, either together or separate.

5. Mix voice acting and dialog.

6. Add sound effects.

7. Add music.

8. Mix everything together so it sounds how you want it to sound.

9. Get podcasting host.

10. Release episode to the world.

So that’s just ten steps in making a simple episode off the top of my head. Yes, it’s a lot of work. For a lot of people – especially those being creative for the first time – it’s daunting and at times seemingly insurmountable.

If only there were some guide available for would-be podcasters to learn how to do it all and get lots of advice?

Well, there is. Actually, there are two amazing guides: Audio Fiction 101 from the Fear of Public Shame team, and Sarah Rhea Werner’s Podcast Now masterclass.

On August 14th, 2014, the first episode of an audio drama called Wolf 359 was released and podcasts were changed forever. As each episode and season was released, the show grew and grew in popularity, and it is now one of the most popular podcasts around, up there with Bright Sessions and the Black Tapes, boasting a five-star rating on iTunes with 2,150 reviews. The show dropped its last episode on December 26th, 2017.

Zach Valenti

Since then, the people behind Wolf 359 — Zach Valenti, Sarah Shachat, and Gabriel Urbina – have released a mini-series, Time:Bombs, under the name of Fear of Public Shame. In late 2015, the trio started talking about the idea of doing an online audio fiction course, then they put it on hold until fall 2018 when they started planning and in November they kicked it into high gear. Their goal is to impart some of their knowledge and experience in making an audio drama for those looking to make their own show. After a number months and a lot of hard work, the result is Audio Fiction 101.

Sarah Shachat

It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, whether you’re a complete novice at writing audio dramas, or have been doing it for some time, Audio Fiction 101 will have something for you. Now, it’s important to note that this online course is not about sound design, engineering or anything related to working with sound in podcasting. Audio Fiction 101 is about writing and storytelling and honing your craft when it comes to creating and writing an audio drama. It’s about knowing the advantages but also the pitfalls and hindrances of this genre of podcasting. It’s goal is to give you all the tools you need to make a compelling and popular audio drama.

Gabriel Urbina

The course is told through a series of videos over three hours in length, divided into three units. Unit One covers how writers think about storytelling: “Understanding the objectives narrative, shaping audience expectations, and what makes audio unique among storytelling mediums.” It consists of eight videos including: “The Science of Storytelling,” “The Art of Control,” and “The Limits of Imagination.” The introduction video is available for preview.

Unit Two gets into the details: “How to construct settings, write for sound effects, plot and structure, do effective world-building in audio, and more.” The unit features fifteen videos giving full coverage from the strengths and weaknesses of audio dramas to “Designing Great Radio Characters” to “World-Building in Audio.” If you want to check it out, a couple previews are available on the site.

Unit Three is all about getting you ready to start making your show: “How to outline effectively, strategies for getting a first draft of the ground, how to even come up with ideas, and more.” It features ten videos with interesting titles like: “The Fear of Public Shame,” “Outlines Are Your Frienemies?” and “It’s Not Over Till It’s Over.” There’s also a preview video for “Revising and Improving” to give you an idea what this unit is like. In addition to these three units, there are also appendices with resources on “inspiration and writing software choices.”

The practical side to the Audio Fiction 101 course is that all the videos are relatively short, in the five to ten minute range, making it a very versatile course: you can watch videos on your commute, or just before going to bed at night. You can do one a day or one a week and apply what you’ve learned; or marathon a bunch of them together unit by unit. The price tag isn’t too bad either: the whole course for $75, or four monthly installments of $20. There’s even a scholarship option available for those who can’t really afford it.

If you consider yourself an audio drama fan, then you’ve very likely come across the great show Girl in Space and its writer and lead voice actor, Sarah Rhea Werner. You may also know Sarah from her popular writing podcast series Write Now, featuring writing advice and author interviews. Sarah is also one of the few podcast entrepreneurs who has turned all her work into a full-time and successful job. She has been featured in Forbes and had her very own TED Talk. Now she’s going one big step further and offering everything she has learned and experienced in podcasting to you with her very own online course, Podcast Now.

Sarah Werner

The 12-week masterclass “will guide you, step-by-step, through the entire podcasting process – from strategy to launch and beyond.” What’s neat about this is you can choose an audio drama track or a nonfiction podcast track. It features eight modules with 52 video lessons. There are also downloadable worksheets to be completed and help you along as you complete each video lesson. Throughout the course Sarah will also offer weekly live office hours where you can “ask [Sarah] literally anything you want. No holds barred. Not kidding.”

The course covers the entire process of making your podcast beginning with ideas and plotting and writing, to recording and editing, to eventual publishing and marketing, using a “step-by-step action roadmap” and achievable goals so you won’t get lost along the way or become overwhelmed. As an extra aid, you’ll also get access to the private Facebook Mastermind Community group where you’ll be able to receive personal coaching.

Pricing for this immense and comprehensive course has an estimated value of over $4000, but is currently on offer for the special introductory price of $1500. An installment plan is also available with 12 payments of $150. Enrollment for the course will open once again for the second time June 3rd through the 7th and begin on June 10. After that the course will not be offered again until October when the price will likely increase.

Course Comparison

The obvious big difference between the Audio Fiction 101 course and Podcast Now course is the price tag. But the scope of the two courses is different: Audio Fiction 101 focuses on writing and putting together an audio drama with a series of short videos, while Podcast Now course helps you make your podcast, whether its audio drama or nonfiction, from initial idea to creating your show, to making it a success. If anything, both courses compliment each other relatively well, and if you can manage it, taking them both would provide you everything you could possibly need to turn your inkling of an audio drama into a popular and well-rated show.


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History is Gay Podcast Review

Think back to your history class: any history class you ever took from college to high school or even before: did you ever wonder whether a particular historical figure was gay or not? You can discover the truth with the History Is Gay podcast.

History Is Gay

By Alex C. Telander

Think back to your history class: any history class you ever took from college to high school or even before: did you ever wonder whether a particular historical figure was gay or not? I can only speak for myself as a cis white male, as I am one, but I can safely say without a doubt that this thought never once occurred to me. I feel one big reason for this is because the teachers and professors in the classes I took never talked about the sexuality of historical figures, nor was there a “gay history” class available for me to take. But another reason is because it never occurred to me. I regret this now.

Thankfully, there’s this wonderful podcast called History is Gay:

“where your hosts Gretchen & Leigh examine the overlooked and under-appreciated queer ladies, gents, and gentle-enbies from the unexplored corners of history. Whether shining a light on queer pirate adventures, emo lesbian Sappho, or your other faves from the pages of textbooks you never knew were queer, it’s time to bring our stories out of the shadows. Because history has never been as straight as you think.”

It’s all about that last line, because there have always been members of the LGBTQ community since there have been people in this world, we just haven’t been taught about it. Now I have a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing with a minor in Medieval History, so I’ve taken my fair share of literature and upper level history courses, and with each episode of History is Gay I feel I’m getting the same level of research and lecturing as I’ve received in any previous college course.


Gretchen

But this isn’t too surprising when we look at the hosts for History is Gay. Gretchen, who identifies as bisexual, has a degree in Church History and Historical Theology, as well as a degree in Hebrew Language and Rabbinics. Leigh, who identifies as queer, has a degree in European History and Theater, wrote their thesis on “ascetic medieval women and all the ways they messed with the patriarchy,” and also “flirted for a long time with slapping on an archaeology degree as well, because why not! Bones, yo. They’re so neat.” Both hosts joke about how extensive their outlines are always for each episode, which usually run over an hour in length, and feature a post on the History is Gay website listing all sources used in the episode, as well as various types of media whenever possible.


Leigh

After a short introductory episode where the hosts explain the format of the show, use of terminology and language, as well as what to expect with regards to formatting and schedule, Episode 1: Were Some Pirates Poofters, is all about gay pirates, both male and female. Episode 2 is Cloistered Queers, all about the gay monks and nuns of the Middle Ages. To make it clear they’re not limiting their research to the western world, the third episode is all about homosexuality in Imperial China. To date, as of this writing, there have been 23 episodes with most of them being over an hour in length. As an avid podcast listener, I’m usually listening to shows half that length, so when I saw how long the episodes were, I was a little hesitant, but as soon as I started listening I was instantly drawn in and completely hooked until the end. The hosts speak with such confidence and intelligence on the subject of each episode that any fan of history will become immediately caught up in it.

If you like history in any way, do yourself a favor and start listening to this great show, “because history has never been as straight as you think.”

Sit back and enjoy episode 1 right here and now!


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Time Bombs

Written by the dynamic duo behind Wolf 359, Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina, Time Bombs has everything one could want in a miniseries: a tight, compelling story line, some intense nail-biting moments, and plenty of wisecracks. And what’s more, it was created in a week!

Can You Make a Podcast in a Week?

by Alex C. Telander

If you’re a big fan of audio dramas, chances are you’ve come across the fantastic show Wolf 359. If not, it’s a engrossing science fiction podcast about a distant space station orbiting the star Wolf 359, and the various antics the incredibly talented cast get up to. The show ran for three years, was nominated for a Webby Award, has an untold number of fans and listeners, and is still a big favorite for many. Then a year went by and some of the writers and cast members decided they really missed working together, and started a new project together with a seemingly impossible – or perhaps just insane – premise:

To create, write, record, produce and release a podcast in just one week.

Welcome to the wacky and very unpredictable world of bomb disposal with the three-part show, Time Bombs. Enter one Simon Teller (voiced by Peter Coleman), a trained professional in the fine art of “explosive ordnance disposal.” It’s New Year’s Eve and the rest of the crew would rather be anywhere else, except for Teller who’s looking to disarm a certain number of devices before midnight and beat a “coveted departmental record.” Along for tonight’s oh-so-memorable ride is Tatiana Sobrero (voiced by Cecilia Lynn-Jacobs), a reporter doing a profile on this dangerous life. Will Mark Midland (voiced by Noah Masur) graduate from trainee before the new year rings in? Will Sobrero get the exposé she’s looking for? And will Teller set a new anti-explosive record before midnight chimes in?

Written by the dynamic duo behind Wolf 359, Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina, Time Bombs has everything one could want in a miniseries: a tight, compelling story line, some intense nail-biting moments, and plenty of wisecracks. Since the cast have worked together before, they have no problem forming a cohesive crew. The fact that the whole project was completed within one week simply boggles the mind. The good news is, Time Bombs is the first of hopefully many shows under the new flagship network, Fear of Public Shame. Shachat, Urbina and Valenti have also started a weekly show called No Bad Ideas, as they challenge each other to turn a bad idea into a decent story within thirty minutes, and then spend the rest of the show talking about their creative endeavors.

Time Bombs is a great place to start in giving these talented people a listen and from there you can start consuming their growing collective of great podcast.

Serial Meets Moonlighting – Arden Podcast

It seems each and every #audiodramasunday there’s a new podcast dropping about an unsolved murder where the killer is discovered and brought to justice within ten or twelve episodes. These types of shows – audio drama crime shows – are riding on the huge success of “true crime” podcasts such as Serial and S-Town and many others that continue to grow in popularity. And then there’s the Arden Podcast . . .

Serial Meets Moonlighting: The Arden Podcast

By Alex C. Telander

It seems each and every #audiodramasunday there’s a new podcast dropping about an unsolved murder where the killer is discovered and brought to justice within ten or twelve episodes. These types of shows – audio drama crime shows – are riding on the huge success of “true crime” podcasts such as Serial and S-Town and many others that continue to grow in popularity. And then there’s the Arden Podcast . . .

It began as an idea in 2016 when Todd Vanderwerff (Vox, A. V. Club) pitched his writing partner, Christopher Dole (National Theater Institute), with the tagline: “Serial meets Moonlighting.” Dole was immediately on board, and the two then brought in comedy writer Sara Ghaleb (Ruby LA House Team The Burbs), who apparently isn’t familiar with Moonlighting, but was just as excited. The result is a show that is in some ways like other crime dramas, and in many others completely unique and compelling.

The story is set within the glitz and riches of Hollywood stardom.

Ten years ago the renowned actor Julie Capsom ran her car off the road on a rainy night in Northern California, far from the safe and familiar environs of Los Angeles. No sign of her was ever found, she appears to have disappeared into thin air, while a headless corpse of an unknown man was found in the trunk of her car.

Now two unexpected people have decided to solve the case and explain it to the world on the podcast Arden.

There is Bea Casely, a reporter who knows how to follow the rules, but also knows some rules need to be bent every once in a while to get what you need. Brenda Bentley is a former police officer and now turned private detective, who has seen it all and very much wants to find out what exactly happened to Julie Capsom. The two, while not necessarily actual friends, are certainly acquaintances, and very competitive, but ultimately are willing to put their prejudices and feelings aside to work with each other towards this common goal.

Arden podcast is extremely well produced with limited but key sound effects, music that goes well with the dialog and moves the story along. The two main characters – Bea (performed by Michelle Agresti) and Brenda (performed by Tracey Sayed) – have a rapport and dynamic that is unique and special, and at the same time like any well-performing duo. The delivery of the lines, the acting, and the way they feed off each other is hilarious and makes the listener stop whatever they’re doing just to focus. Along with the rest of the cast, every actor is strong and compelling, so there is never a dull moment.

And to “cap(som)” it all off, Wheyface Industries – “the good people” – who owns the radio station and a good chunk of Hollywood, cuts in with some very interesting advertisements in each episode, such as an ad for Wheyface Industries itself [Arden Wheyface Industries Sound File], or the Wheyface Industries Dehydrated Drinks for Adults [Arden Dehydrated Drinks Sound File], or the new dating app Wheydate [Arden Wheydate Sound File].

In the style of the Amelia Project, A Very Fatal Murder, and The After Disaster Broadcast, Arden Podcast is an enthralling murder mystery that has ample humor and a dynamic cast that will leave you wanting more at the end of every episode. Do yourself a favor and download and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Alex’s Best Podcasts of 2018

I started listening to podcasts over five years ago, so narrowing down a best-of list is never easy, though I decided to make it a little easier by only picking shows that started in 2018.

By Alex C. Telander

I started listening to podcasts over five years ago. I began getting hooked on audio dramas around three years ago with the likes of Welcome to Night Vale, The Black Tapes, The Message, and Limetown. Since then I’ve had a continuously growing download list of audio dramas that seems to increase every week. Some shows I try and they don’t grab me; others I hang on for a while and then they lose me and I stop listening; and then there are the many that I devoutly wait for a new episode to drop each week.

The hashtag #audiodramasunday helps me a lot in finding new shows and makes me look forward to every Sunday, and not just because it’s a guaranteed day off from work for me: Creators and fans recommending on Twitter are a big way I discover and try out new shows. It helps that podcasts are a booming media and there are new shows starting every week.

Narrowing down a best-of list is never easy, though I decided to make it a little easier by only picking shows that started in 2018.

A little easier.

So here, in order of when they debuted, are my top six podcasts of 2018 (because I couldn’t get it down to a nice five).

“Desperate to find meaning in his life, troubled Matthew Leads takes a job as the caretaker of an Antarctic Research Facility. An atmospheric isolation horror following his struggles with mental illness, a broken heart and the suffocating presence of Station Blue.”

Created, written, and directed by Chad Ellis, who also voices the main character, Station Blue is a haunting show on many levels. Both the imagery and the tone of the show are icy and cold that helps to create an evocative atmosphere. There is of course the terror-filled nature of a man alone at an Antarctic Research Facility surrounded by miles and miles of ice and no other human beings, but the underlying subject the show wrestles with is mental illness.

Leads has never had anything come easy to him in his life, and to say he’s gone through a lot of shit doesn’t do it justice. Ellis imbues the character with life and empathy that leave the listener often moved to tears in his portrayal. With plans for two more seasons, I look forward to seeing where this show takes its characters (and me) next.

“A city of nightmares, horrors and shifting streets. I Am In Eskew is a fortnightly horror podcast, taking place in a nightmarish and ever-changing city. This show contains frequent scenes of body horror, bloodiness, and disturbing behaviour.”

When I listen to I am in Eskew, I am reminded of the “Hotel California” lyric: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” There is no place like Eskew, where every horror you can imagine comes alive and is possibly waiting for you around the next corner, or behind the next door. It’s a town where it always seems to be raining and you never want to end up in. It is the story of David Ward who is stuck in Eskew and must live its everyday horrors. A British audio drama that not only features familiar English weather, but a sense of supernatural horror that fans of the late bestselling author James Herbert will appreciate.

“We Fix Space Junk follows seasoned smuggler Kilner and reluctant fugitive Sam, as they travel the galaxy, carrying out odd jobs on the fringes of the law.”

Another engaging and very entertaining British audio drama, We Fix Space Junk has the whole package, from a great logo and catchy sound effects and theme music, to impressive acting, and a great storyline that gives listeners an unpredictable episode every two weeks. Kilner and Sam get up to all sorts of adventures across the universe, working for the omnipresent and domineering Automnicon. It’s a fun show that always leaves listeners endlessly amused.

“A podcast about podcasting”

Wil Williams (if you’re a podcaster and you don’t know who she is, you are seriously missing out and need to get that fixed right away) and Gavin Gaddis (The Pod Report, Red Light Library, Standard Docking Procedure) teamed up in the spring of 2018 to do a podcast about podcasting, which doesn’t begin to cover the depth and insight this show reaches.

With 20 episodes in the can, Tuned in Dialed Up runs the gamut from “Spoilers Ahoy!” episodes, to numerous featured guests (the likes of Lizette Alvarez, Elena Fernandez-Collins, and Erin Kyan), to incredibly important episodes on casting calls to ethics in podcasting to monetization.

Sometimes TIDU can get dark and bleak, but that’s because sometimes podcasting needs to, to talk about incredibly important subjects from trans representation, how creators should treat fans and how fans should treat creators, to listeners and actors with disabilities. I avidly await each new episode TIDU, because I always know I’m going to learn a lot.

“Arden Podcast: Arden is a scripted audio drama that’s both mystery and comedy. The 12 episode first season follows Bea Casely, a journalist, and Brenda Bentley, a detective, as they work together to solve the 10-year-old disappearance of starlet Julie Capsom.”

Definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. The Arden Podcast began with the tagline “Serial Meets Moonlighting,” and recently wrapped up its first season (yes, you do find out what happened to Julie Capsom). Bea (performed by Michelle Agresti) and Brenda (Tracey Sayed) have a rapport and dynamic together that is up there with Cagney and Lacey and Kirk and Spock. Timeless and forever entertaining.

Humor is always present to add a levity to the grim subject, and the sexual tension between the two feels at times veritably palpable. There are plans for another season and I can’t wait to see what case this dynamic duo tackles next.

“Of course there are bad ideas. Like, a lot of them. But any idea can become a good story.”

As a writer, it can feel somewhat condescending to hear bestselling authors talk about writing and how you get it done when they’re not too worried about where next week’s paycheck is coming from. No Bad Ideas is a different sort of writing advice podcast. It features a trio of greats from the hugely (and still) popular Wolf 359: Zach Valenti, Sarah Shachat, and Gabriel Urbina.

The first hour is spent turning a terrible idea scoured from the Internet into a compelling and entertaining (and always amusing) story. The second half of the show has the three talking about the state of their creative endeavors and it is always so insightful and humbling as none of three hold back and confess to fears and worries all writers have on a daily basis.

And there you have my top podcasts for 2018. Have you listened to them all? You should really check them out. Have some favorites of your own from last year? Let me know what they are in the comments below.

How are my Levels?

Auphonic is an online company that has made normalizing and equalizing your audio file as easy as a few clicks, a short wait, and then downloading your perfect sounding audio file.

Podcasting 101: How Are My Levels?

By Alex C. Telander

 

One of the most inviting aspects to making your own podcast is that there’s not really a rule book to follow. There’s no publishing house vetting what type of podcast you want to make, whether you’re doing it right or wrong, and the audio drama community is welcoming and incredibly inclusive and supportive.

So you’ve got your well written script, a variety of impressive sound effects, some great original music, and your talented cast of voice actors spread around the world all with their own microphones. The first episode you’ve just finished putting together sounds great and you feel you’re ready to hit the upload button and make your podcast a reality . . . except you just did a final listen and you noticed not everything is at the same volume.

You’re using three actors in this episode and in the dialog scenes one person sounds louder than the other; the music is too quiet, and the sound effects are too loud. You just want everything to be at the same level. You’re not really sure how to do this, and definitely not without it taking a long time . . . and you’re exhausted. You’ve been working your butt off the whole last week and you’ve got to be in to work early tomorrow. So what can you do? Enter Auphonic.

Auphonic Productions is an online company that has made normalizing and equalizing the many parts of your audio file as easy as a few clicks or taps, a short wait, and then downloading your perfect sounding audio file. And the real awesome thing about it is it’s basically free.

Auphonic was started by founder Georg Holzmann when he was at university, working on audio processing, signal processing, and audio engineering. He had been listening to a lot of podcast creators telling him the most difficult part is always the audio post-production. Holzmann started working with a podcast creator, looking to ‘automate his work flow’ and make the post-production easier. He worked on creating elaborate algorithms, especially with [the] adaptive leveler, which matches the loudness of different parts of a podcast, as well as developing other tools involving encoding, tagging, and the distribution of the podcast.

Holzmann decided to make a product out of it and applied for a grant in Austria, where he’s based, and formed a team. The first version of Auphonic was released in 2012 and was originally completely free, but once the grant expired, it was necessary to introduce a pricing model.

The beauty of Auphonic is you can create an account for free, and by doing so you automatically get two hours of free audio processing time per month. There’s a lot you can do with the many settings of this free account, but I’m going to concentrate on a quick and easy overview for now.

Auphonic’s Goal

The goal of Auphonic is to automate all the audio post-production once you have your music and dialog recorded, as well as making the steps after the audio recording is complete easy and efficient. The adaptive leveling algorithm classifies different segments for different speakers, as Holzmann explains, creating a balance between the speech and music parts, and when the two are playing together, “otherwise one would destroy the inner dynamic of the music.”

Auphonic is looking to make it so none of the post-production audio work needs to be done manually. It has also expanded its capabilities to include working with audio not just in podcasting, but also with radio stations, conference recordings, lecture recordings, and even television and film. Pretty much wherever dialog is mixed with music, Auphonic can be used.

Ever since its release, Auphonic has become a popular audio editing program to use, whether it’s with the online version, or the desktop app version. Users range into the hundreds of thousands.

Auphonic Quick and Easy

So you’ve got your free account all set up, you’re ready to make the most of your two hours of processing time, and you just want to make that first episode sound balanced and even. Where do you start?

You go into the New Production menu. Choose what file you wish to upload. Make sure ‘Leveler’ and ‘Loudnorm’ boxes are checked, choose your Loudness Target – there’s a setting for Podcasts and Mobile – and hit Start Production. And that’s pretty much it. You’ve done the hard work. The next screen shows an upload bar, as it uploads your audio file, and depending on its length this can take a couple minutes at most.

Then you wait a little longer. You can close the screen if you want and you’ll get an email when you’re audio file is all ready to download. A few minutes later you’re following the link to the page with a clear download link for your audio file. And below that is a cool looking graph showing where the volume was raised and lowered in your audio file. You can even click on an option to see the original version superimposed over the new one to show what was changed.

That’s it. Download your file and you’re ready to go. You can relax, knowing you’re audio now sounds leveled and great.

Auphonic’s Advanced Parameters

There’s a lot more you can do with Auphonic depending on your experience level and comfort with audio processing. The beauty of the program lies in the interface: you have the option of a very simple and clean layout that’s quick and easy to use, or a much more in depth display where you can customize exactly how you want your audio processed.

Firstly, your file can be either audio or video (here is a list of all the supported audio and video file types for Auphonic).

When uploading your file, you can choose to upload your audio via your computer or device, or via a website. You can choose a specific intro/ outro to add to the beginning/ end of your audio file through the same upload methods.

The next category is Basic Metadata, where you can choose the title for your audio file and select a file image to upload that will be attached to it permanently, along with details such as Artist, Album, and Track. Extended Metadata lets you create a subtitle, choose a genre and year, and create a Summary. After that you can add details about the publisher, URL, license, license URL, and Tags. You even have the option to create your own license.

Next section is Chapter Marks, where you can either import specific chapter marks that you already have in your audio file, or add your own. Once this has been done you can choose what format you want the final version of your audio file to be, along with choosing the Bitrate, adding a Filename Suffix if needed, as well as a few more tweaks.

There is also a handy section on Speech Recognition, which offers affordable speech recognition in 80 languages. You can register a speech recognition service and get it added easily; more can be found out about that here. Publishing/External Services such as Dropbox, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Libsyn (to name a few) can also be registered and added.

The final section, and perhaps most important, is the Audio Algorithms section. There are six options to play with in this category; the first four can be checked or unchecked, while the last two can be adjusted with a drop-down menu.

Adaptive Level: Corrects level differences within one file between speakers, music and speech, etc. to achieve a balanced overall loudness.

Filtering: Classifies the lowest wanted signal (male/female speech, base in music, etc.) and adaptively filters unnecessary/disturbing low frequencies in each audio segment.

Loudness Normalization: Adjusts the global, overall loudness to the specified Loudness Target (using a True Peak Limiter), so that all processed files have a similar average loudness.

Noise and Hum Reduction: Classifies regions with different backgrounds and automatically removes noise and hum in each region.

Loudness Target: Set a loudness target in LUFS for Loudness Normalization, with higher values resulting in louder audio outputs.

Reduction Amount: Maximum noise and hum reduction amount (in dB), with higher values removing more noise. In Auto mode, a classifier decides if and how much noise reduction is necessary (to avoid artifacts).

When I’m using Auphonic for adjusting audio files for Ostium I have all four options checked, with Loudness Target set to -16 LUFS (Podcasts and Mobile) and the Reduction Amount set to ‘Auto.’ And when I download the edited audio file, it sounds just perfect.

Auphonic Range

If you find that the two free hours per month for your audio work is not enough, there are two main options you can choose to add more time: you can pay a monthly, recurring fee of $11 for 9 hours, or $23 for 21 hours, or even higher totals of hours depending on what works best for you. Alternatively, you can get one-time credits of 5 hours for $12, 10 hours for $22, and a number of higher options. And if you’re looking for some Auphonic software to acquire and download, such as desktop apps, there are options for that too, which can be found here.

Auphonic Future

For the future, the team behind Auphonic is looking to build new leveling algorithms, with more detailed parameter settings, as well as building new desktop applications. They’re looking to develop the levelers to be more universal and not limited to just podcasts or speech audio. They are really looking to push the audio envelope: to work on improving and creating new things with audio.

Whether you’re a professional sound engineer or a complete novice when it comes to things that make noises, I definitely think you can’t go wrong with choosing Auphonic to magically make your work sound great.

PodernTimes and Alex C. Telander are not sponsored by Auphonics in any way.

Halloween Countdown: The White Vault

Welcome to Outpost Fristed, a cold and chilling place where we continue our Halloween Countdown with The White Vault

Halloween Countdown: The White Vault

By Alex C. Telander

Out in the freezing wastes at the top of the world, on the island of Svalbard, is a place you’d never want to be… Welcome to Outpost Fristed, a cold and chilling place where we continue our Halloween Countdown with The White Vault.

The White Vault is a found footage-style horror show that is both brilliantly produced and genuinely entertaining.

Photo Credit: Press Kit

An intrepid team of strangers is brought together by the enigmatic Sidja Group, tasked with taking care of an “equipment malfunction.”

Four of the characters are not native English speakers, and begin their reports and recordings in their native language, before switching over to speaking English. This really helps to create a tremendous sense of realism and immersion in the show.

There is a large variety of different types of recordings, from dictaphone, to camera audio, to journals and scribbled notes, all collected together and presented by the Documentarian.

There’s also a great variety of constant sound effects, doing a fantastic job of immersing the listener in this icy environment. Coupled with strange unknown sounds, and the characters audibly becoming more and more scared as the show progresses, it all helps to draw in the listener further.

The team consists of Walter Heath, a technician who’s pretty handy with recording equipment; Graham Casner, a confident guy who knows his way around the wild; Dr. Rosa De La Torre; a medical doctor; Dr. Karina Schumacher-Weiß, a talented geologist; and finally Jónas Þórirsson, the person seemingly in charge, and who seems to knows the most about the Sidja Group.

The White Vault is a professional, very well produced audio drama, with a variety of evocative sound effects and talented voice actors, and is skillfully edited together. Each episode immediately sucks the listener in, as they’re waiting to find out what happens next. Some episodes end on a bit of a cliffhanger, some don’t, but either way the listener is left really wanting more from this show.

Photo Credit: Press Kit

Season one started October 2017, and all ten episodes are now available. The first episode of season two dropped October 2, 2018, making now the perfect time to check it out, which you can do right here.

Also check out our previous entries in our Halloween Countdown right here and here.


 

alex telander aviAlex C. Telander is the creator and writer of the Ostium Podcast.

 

Discover more about Alex and the rest of the team on our About Us page.

Halloween Countdown: Palimpsest

We continue our Halloween Countdown today with Palimpsest, “a bi-weekly audio drama about memory, identity, and the things that haunt us”

Halloween Countdown: Palimpsest

By Alex C. Telander

We continue our Halloween Countdown today with Palimpsest, “a bi-weekly audio drama about memory, identity, and the things that haunt us”.

“Every story is a ghost.”

“Embrace what haunts you.”

If ever there was a show that really lived up to its name, this is it. A genuinely layered show, the creators have filled every scene, every moment, with extremely well-produced audio. There’s a complexity in both writing and sound design that keeps the reader completely hooked in, wondering where the story is going next, and what scary or horrifying things are about to unfold.

Season One tells the story of Anneliese, and her struggles with the death of her sister Claire when she was younger.

Told through a series of audio recordings that Anneliese makes at the recommendation of her former therapist, each recording gives her more confidence to reveal her secrets. Secrets like how she can still see Claire sometimes.

Just standing next to her.

There are also strange happenings in her new apartment, odd people that live there. Or, people that maybe don’t live

The series is written by Jamieson Ridenhour, and performed by Hayley Heninger. Hayley does a simply masterful job of imbuing the character with life, and performing the lines with such emotion that the listener experiences them right alongside the character – be it sadness, anger, or fear.

The entire audio landscape is simple but effective, and the music helps to add to the spooky and unknown nature of the show.

Season Two launched September 4th and will run bi-weekly for ten episodes, so now is the perfect time to get on board this unique gem.

It’s set in the nineteenth century and it tells the story of Ellen, a new maid in service to a diminutive, unique, and beautiful looking woman who could best be described as… a fairy? Find it right here

And if you haven’t yet check out previous entries in our Halloween Countdown right here.


 

alex telander aviAlex C. Telander is the creator and writer of the Ostium Podcast.

 

Discover more about Alex and the rest of the team on our About Us page.