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May 16 Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 16, 2017 – Sundress Podcast, The SAFTAcast, goes on indefinite hiatus.

Host Scott C apologizes for lack of communication.

Binghamton, NY – On March 24, The SAFTAcast celebrated its third “birthday” with episode 71. Aside from a couple of promos in the weeks that followed, there has been nothing from the show – no episodes, promos, or social media communication. This had led to speculation that the podcast has been abruptly abandoned.

SAFTAcast host Scott C would like to apologize for this “radio silence.” He agrees that it was not fair to keep listeners and fans uninformed for so long.

“I’ve heard from listeners, former guests, and friends that they miss the show and who were surprised it went quiet with no notice,” said Scott C. “Unfortunately, I’ve had to devote myself to some unexpected personal matters this spring. Due to their sensitive nature, I did not say anything on social media about the show, either directly or through the podcast’s website.”

Scott C adds that The SAFTAcast prides itself on being a unique program and knows listeners demand a certain level of quality from it. He feels the show would suffer if he is not able to completely dedicate to each episode. As such, The SAFTAcast will be going on an indefinite hiatus, effective immediately. It hopes to return this summer but is not setting a specific date at this time.

Scott C and The SAFTAcast would like to thank the listeners and fans for their support throughout the past three years, and the podcast looks forward to continuing its mission of getting to know writers, editors, and publishers beyond their creative works.

 

Scott C

SAFTAcast host and coordinator

saftacast at gmail dot com

@saftacast

facebook dot com slash saftacast

Anatomy of a Promo – Part 3 of 3: Microphones and [studio] Magic

All SAFTAcast promos are done “in house” and by me alone. That means not just the scripting or the uploading and posting, but everything in between, including all of the voice work.

I won’t go into much about voice work here, except to say that I only know three things: I don’t know that much about it, I’m not a professional, and everything I can do is purely from growing up as a class clown and mimic.

That’s not to say I don’t think about creating characters when I sit down to record. I like each voice, each role to have a distinct style and personality. For a one-off, like the Master of Ceremonies (MC), I’ll try to pin down a personality type and then “act” it out with my voice. I envisioned the prom MC as a “slightly nervous, ineffectual High School administrator” and recorded his voice softly, with slight halting and pausing in his delivery, along with making sure to include some vocal “deadwood” such as “um” and “uh.”

Scott C’s voice needs no thought. I’ve refined that character over a decade; the voice is instinctual.*

Promo 4

Recording is pretty easy. On the tech side, I just use a Blu Snowball mic, with a windscreen, and Audacity. And I record the characters separately, doing two or three takes for each line of dialogue so I have the option of splicing multiple takes together.

Normally, I take the voice overs and start editing them immediately, but for this promo, I wanted to see if I could get the “battle” SFX right first. This was the key moment in the script and if it didn’t come together, the rest wouldn’t work.

Promo

I started out by pulling a bunch of SFX, editing each to be in mono and have same sample rate [44100khz] before laying them out in separate channels in Adobe Audition 3’s multitrack mode.** Doing this allows me to increase/decrease the volume of particular sounds, create custom volume envelopes, decays, and fades, and adjust the timing of when a SFX comes in.

By the way, everything I do on The SAFTAcast is in mono at 64/44 bit rate. This does lead to a small loss of audio quality, but it keeps the file sizes low for cloud storage and people on mobile devices.

After I was content with the “battle scene,” I mixed all the channels down into one, saved the file, and pulled up the voice work for editing.

But before any vocals can be used, the dry file needs to get wet.*** My recording space – and desktop system – generate a lot of ambient noise. Therefore, the first thing is always to clean the recording using an Adaptive Noise Reduction custom setting.

Then I separate all of the characters into different files, and cut, splice and paste the various takes in each one to get the recordings I need.

From here on, the process becomes all about assembly – putting the various pieces of the promo together. I open all of the components in Audition, dump them into the multitrack and begin putting things in chronological order. Just like the battle montage, doing it in multitrack allows me to see each piece as both separate and part of the whole; to adjust volume and timing.

Most of the time, I would consider the promo finished here; do a mixdown, save the file, and be done with it. But with this one, I hated the promo on playback for two reasons: Something felt “missing,” and the whole thing just didn’t sound right.

Two cups of coffee and multiple re-listens showed the answers. What was missing was an additional exchange between the MC and Scott C. The MC needed to come back in and try to take back the microphone, to reinforce the idea that “this isn’t what a prom king does.”

A quick record and edit later, that issue was solved.

Promo 2a
[The red circle indicates the inserted lines.]

As for not sounding right, the promo was flat, lifeless. There was no sense of setting, space, or location. The world that this promo took place in was not a home office or recording studio, but a civic center ballroom.

To fix that, I took a sample of the voice overs and played with multiple reverb presets, finally deciding on “Bigger Room Ambience,” when I then applied to each clip that appeared in the “flashback” portion.

A few more re-listens and timing adjustments later, the promo was mixed down into a single track and normalized to .1dB volume.

Promo 3

Five minutes later, after naming the file and adding the proper metadata, the track was done and uploaded to the SAFTAcast servers, ready to be enjoyed by everyone.

From genesis to completion, “King Prom the First” – which clocks in at 2m36s – took 6.5 hours of work to make. I say that only to point out that a lot of work goes into the show that the audience never sees (or, rather, hears). Writing this blog post series, I wanted to show that process, the machinations behind the scenes.

The SAFTAcast – promos and episodes alike – is done out of love.

Love for the medium of [internet] radio.

Love for our listeners and entertainment, for breaking up the doldrums of someone’s commute, housework, or chores.

Love for our guests, each one a cool person with kick ass traits and interests.

Love for the show, its goals and aims of building bridges between writers and writing organizations. For wanting to be something different among the myriad of writing/writer based podcasts out there.

And if fending off camels and amorous computers, dealing with rude phone calls, or hosting bad game shows helps us be different, then we’re gonna keep doing it.

 

*Long story, but yes I consider “Scott C” a character and not me.

**I use Audition for editing for a couple reasons: I like their interface better than Audacity and Audition is based on Cool Edit Pro, the platform I learned on many years ago. Why I use v3 is because I grabbed it when Adobe gave away their CS6 suite for free for a very short time a few years ago. Yoinks!

***These are audio terms. “Dry” is a recording without any added effects or processing, “wet” is the opposite. Kind of like pre- and post-edited footage.

Anatomy of a Promo – Part 2 of 3: Creating the Promo

Most SAFTAcast promos begin the same way: I remember I have to make a promo and then panic, scramble to do it.

Well, not exactly. Promos can be tricky and inspiration strikes when it strikes. I may have a promo in mind the day after an episode goes live, or I’ll get an idea when I’m in my car going to the store, or the day before it needs to go up on the site.

That was the case with “King Prom the First” [for Episode #53 – Sarah Ann Winn]. I had been mulling over some ideas, but none of them felt right. Either the concept wasn’t interesting enough, or the core premise was flimsy, or the idea wasn’t fully formed. The day before it was scheduled to go live though, I caught a break over my morning coffee:

Promo. Promo. What to do.

Well, it’s graduation season. Maybe commencement speech? Nah, did that last year.

Could make it a yearly thing; record a new commencement speech each May.

Nah.

It’s also prom season.

Hmmm. Proms. Proms. What are some things about proms?

[Creates internal word bubble list connecting to the word “prom”: juniors, seniors, music, dancing, dating, formal wear, “promposals,” my own prom, limos, kings and queens, etc.]

Hmmm. Prom king. What does a prom king do? Just stand on a stage? Lead a dance? Make a speech? A proclamation? Wait, do prom kings issue edicts?

Idea! What if I was chosen as prom king – and took it literally? What if made a decree?

Hmmm. What would I declare?

“No more pants!”? Eh. Funny, but kind of simple. And doesn’t work for audio.

[Thinks back to previous Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones]

Wait. Kings wage war. What if I called for a war?

Ooh! But who to fight? Another prom? Another school?

No, kind of did that last fall with “Homecoming/Good Boys.”

[Takes a sip of coffee]

Ok. I got it. Premise: I am made prom king and make the class go to war against a random group over something.

 

Once the basic premise is in place, the next step writing a script.

Promo 6

I use “script” in the loosest sense of the word. They’re more like sketches of an idea used to help flesh the details, determine how complex the promo will be, what music and sound cues I might need, etc. For “King Prom the First,” this meant deciding the scene would be my own senior prom (1997, Traditions at the Glen, Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”) and the story would be a combination of en media res and flashback.

The scripts also don’t follow any specific format. In the above image, there’s no bold nor italics, nor indication of timing like “intro 3s.” [Meaning: “The intro here is three seconds long.”] The only quasi-standard thing I did was double-spaced one section to make it easier to read when I recorded.

Once the script is written up, I collect the sound effects (SFX) and music cues into a temporary folder for easy access. At this point, though, the promo is still nothing more than an idea. The next step is making it real, which I’ll go in depth about on Saturday.

Anatomy of a Promo – Part 1 of 3: Why Promos?

Recording

One unique thing about The SAFTAcast is “the promo” – a one-to-two minute vignette that ideally tells listeners who the next guest is going to be.

These promos are unique in that no other podcast I know of – writing or otherwise – has them. Mini-episodes are common, though. Gilbert Godfried’s podcast, for example, releases a full length show every weekend, but also puts out a half-length one mid-week. And Citizen Lit, our kind-of/sort-of “sibling,” alternates between full and mini-episodes.

But no one routinely drops a two-minute “commercial” for their own show.

The SAFTAcast promos were born out of necessity. When Sundress prepared to launch the show in 2014, one of the important questions was the release schedule. We settled on a bi-weekly program, but that raised the question of what to do on the “off” weeks. In order for anything to thrive on the internet, a site has to pump out regular content and be consistent. In other words, we couldn’t afford to lose listeners for half the year by having no content.

Enter the promo. When I worked in college radio, the station was obligated to play at least one promo every hour. These promos could be for any campus or community non-profit group or event, and they could take any form/be any style as long as crucial information was there (who, what, when, where, etc).

It made sense, then, to alternate our show with an advertisement for its next episode. We could put out content every week, and listeners/subscribers could keep up on the show’s guests or programming changes such as hiatuses.

Originally, the promos were going to have a single template: I would tell the listener who was on the next show, mention a couple of topics we discuss, and remind the audience to come back in one week. And the music bed would be an edited cut of Jonathan Coulton’s “Dance, Soterios Johnson, Dance.”

But just before we launched the show, I had a brain flash.

Sundress had given me complete creative control of the podcast and so I abandoned the “cookie cutter” promo idea before the first episode. Instead, I decided each promo would be its own entity and give the listener something different every week. (Which creates even more of a listener hook when you think about it. “What’s the promo going to be this week? What’s Scott C doing now?”)

So far, each promo has followed that “be original” rule. But there are some additional, internal regulations I have for them:

  1. The promo must reference the show. Ideally it mentions the next guest and some topics, but the words “the SAFTAcast” must appear somewhere in the piece.
  2. It can’t be too long. Target range is one-to-three minutes. Promos are meant to be short.
  3. It can’t be offensive toward any person or group. Self-deprecating humor is fine, though.
  4. Like the show, the promo should not tread into sex, politics, or religion. It can use stylistic elements of these, such as the “Bible Time with Rev. Scott C” or the candidate speech in “It’s a Wonderful Scott C,” but the promo does not condone or condemn anyone for their personal beliefs.
  5. Most importantly: no matter how weird or strange the premise, if the promo idea doesn’t entertain or amuse me, it’s not worth it. If I don’t giggle when thinking it up, it won’t get made.

These guidelines have served me well and help make the promos one of the most fun elements of The SAFTAcast. In the next part, on Thursday, I’ll delve deeper into the creation of a specific one, showing how it came about, from conception to execution.

Happy 50th Birthday to WHRW, 90.5FM

Heads up! There’s a new episode inbound this weekend, with guest Gemma Cooper-Novak!

But we at The SAFTAcast would like to take a few minutes out of your today and say congratulations.

Before he became the host of our podcast, Scott C was a college DJ at WHRW-Binghamton. On February 4, 2016 the station marks its 50th year anniversary. It now stands as one of the few remaining free-format FM stations in the US, and we at this podcast hope it continues for many more decades.

To kind of celebrate, Scott C culled through his archives and pulled six of his personal favorite “carts” (tracks used to either: Identify the station’s call letters, promote a local non-profit, or deliver a public service message).

So, congrats WHRW! And now, regular visitors, enjoy some vintage, pre-SAFTAcast Scott C!

Beyond his own shows, The Cosmic Muffin Radio Show and The Days of Wayback, Scott C was a regular panel member on the channel’s weekly quiz/game show, The Mad Trivia Party. When they did a show on Maundy Thursday one year, the show opened with this skit.

Shows that may have had suggestive content had to air a disclaimer once an hour. Here’s Scott C’s legendary (at the station) “Movie Mix” disclaimer:

Scott C did not write this Public Service Announcement – the “AIDS Microphone” – but he did save it from being lost on an old, analog tape by re-recording it from memory one afternoon.

Station IDs!
1. Scott C was unsure what he was going for here, but it worked.

2. One of Scott C’s first forays into soundscapes and envelopes (techniques he’s used in SAFTAcast promos)

3. Toward the end of his time at the station, Scott C was just recording seemingly random gibberish with the tagline “WHRW-Binghamton: It Doesn’t Always Have to Make Sense.” This is not even nearly the weirdest one in the set.

Shut Up

Happy birthday WHRW.

Be on The SAFTAcast at AWP 2015!

Heads up!

The SAFTAcast will joining Sundress Publications and The Sundress Academy for the Arts at the 2015 annual AWP conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the week of April 6th.

Stop by table #527 to:

  • See some of the awesome people of Sundress!
  • Pick up Sundress titles, and get a couple of them signed by the authors!
  • Get your official AWP2015 Sundress swag (ain’t telling what that is – but it’s neat)!
  • Be on The SAFTAcast!

Wait, what?!

For a future episode, The SAFTAcast will be recording exclusive, five-minute interviews with ANYONE and EVERYONE who wants to be on the show. To participate, just stop by table #527 during the days and times below, and look for Scott C (the guy with the microphone and backwards SAFTAcast hat).*

SAFTAcast open interview schedule:
Friday, 4/10, 1-3pm
Saturday, 4/11, 12-2pm

*If Scott C is not recording at the Sundress table, ask the Sundress staff and they’ll direct you to him. He’ll be nearby. Promise.

Promo – 2/18/2015 – Updated

Hi everyone.

Unfortunately there was a technical issue with this week’s promo, so we have removed it. We will be fixing the problem soon and should have the promo up by this weekend.

We at the The SAFTAcast apologize for any inconvenience.

 

We would also like to apologize for the multiple typos and grammatical errors in the first version of this update. Would a cop of coffee make up for it?

New Year Message – Postponed (Until Next Year)

Hi everyone.

The craziness of the December holidays, combined with an unforeseen tech issue or two, has made us unable to do what we originally planned to do for a post today.

Come back Thursday night for a very special audio message, featuring a bunch of guest stars. Until then, dear listeners, have a joyous, raucous, fun-filled, and safe holiday. And follow The Dude’s wisdom and abide.

IMG_2357

See you during the bowl games!

Promo – November 26, 2014!

Next week’s guest is poet Darius Stewart.

That’s the promo. Seriously.

In place of your weekly audio promo, enjoy this holiday message from our show host, Scott C!

BONUS content!

The last promo was kinda scary, no? Well, truth be told, we actually made an alternate version of it, one that sort of unravels the creepiness of the “official” one. Give a listen – and let us know what you think. Which version did you like more? Tell us on our Twitter account (@saftacast) or on our official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/saftacast)

[audio http://www.sundresspublications.com/saftacast/Promo10292014ALT.mp3]

Download

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