Last night I went to tune in for the next episode of The Orville. We ended up getting home a little late from a family thing but that was okay because we live in the age of the DVR, right?
I hit play on the episode and found myself staring at the Broncos vs. Cowboys game. Seriously. They delayed the newest episode because of a football game.
Not that this is surprising. We’re talking about Fox here. A network that’s as infamous for preempting its programming for sports as it is for cancelling promising shows before they really have a chance to get off the ground.
Fans had the same frustration with Firefly back in the day. I remember the same frustration with shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. There were times when it was impossible to tell when your favorite show was going to air because Fox was busy catering to the almighty sports demographic at the expense of fans of their original programming.
It looks like the more things change the more things stay the same. Sure I can watch the episode streaming at Fox’s website, but it’s frustrating that’s even a thing fans should have to deal with on a new show. Especially a new show with a distinct split in the audience where a lot of people are still trying to make up their mind.
I’ve been looking forward to The Orville since I first saw that Seth MacFarlane was doing an homage/spoof of Star Trek. The show is right in my wheelhouse. I’ve been a huge trekkie my entire life and I’ve been a fan of MacFarlane since the first time I saw Family Guy when it first premiered. Combine the two? Well you have something that I’m very much looking forward to!
The previews for The Orville really wanted to build it up as a comedy that had more in common with MacFarlane’s other works than it did with Star Trek. The Internet really seemed to want The Orville to be a rehash of Galaxy Quest, though I thought those comparisons were flawed considering Galaxy Quest’s unique comedy stew had a healthy dose of fandom culture and winking nods at the ridiculousness of the show’s premise in its ingredients rather than being an in-universe straight up parody.
Which is to say that going into this I figured there were going to be a lot of people who were disappointed with The Orville based on their expectations. It looks like the critical reaction has been pretty negative, but then again the critical reaction to anything MacFarlane does tends to be pretty negative. I’ll admit his stuff is something you either like or you hate, but if you fall on the “like” side of that dichotomy then the humor in The Orville is more hit than miss.
The best part, though, is that you don’t even have to be a fan of MacFarlane’s comedy to enjoy The Orville, because at its core the show isn’t a comedy. It isn’t a spoof of Star Trek. No, more than anything it’s a return to the roots that made Star Trek the wonderful thing that it was. It’s an optimistic take on humanity’s future with a more realistic and smartass approach to how the characters interact, and I really enjoyed it.
The first episode, Old Wounds, hits a lot of beats that will be familiar to anyone who has seen a pilot from a science fiction show that debuted after Star Trek: The Next Generation dominated the airwaves and helped to usher in a new golden era of scifi on television. Characters are introduced. Interpersonal relationships are defined. A bit of old conflict is introduced. A new bad guy shows up and there’s a macguffin of the week that moves the plot along.
I don’t think the specifics of Old Wounds are all that necessary to cover though. It would be a perfectly serviceable episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the humor infused in the show really adds something to it. Say what you will about TNG and how groundbreaking it was for its time, but it could be a lot more stuffy and buttoned up than its predecessor. In many ways the interactions between the crew on The Orville feel more natural. There’s a workplace banter that I think better reflects how life would proceed on a ship like that, even in the far future, and in many ways it hearkens back to some of the lighter moments of the original Star Trek.
The Orville isn’t the rapid fire comedy that Fox desperately wanted people to think it was based on the advertising. It isn’t a straight up parody of Star Trek that the Internet seemed to so desperately need. What it is, though, is a loving homage to everything that made the best of Star Trek so great. Some might call it a straight up copy, but I really enjoyed seeing a show that got away from the dark and gritty tone that has taken over science fiction in the past decade and even tainted Star Trek to some degree.
The Orville is a return to a bygone era of televised scifi. It’s a show that depicts a bright future where humanity is doing well, and it does it with humor that shows a world that feels a lot more realistic than most of the dour scifi that’s been on the airwaves in the past twenty years.
I can’t wait to see where they go. Old Wounds was promising, and I think this show has the potential to develop into something amazing. Watching it felt like sitting down to watch an episode of TNG when I was a kid, and I welcome a return to a more optimistic take on the genre.
Nods to Trek:
The Orville isn’t a straight up Star Trek spoof, but there were plenty of nods in the episode that I enjoyed.
The door swishes and beeps were all very familiar.
The friendly deadly orc was a nice twist on the holodeck.
The shuttle flight that revealed the Orville was straight out of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including music cues that were spot on while being just different enough to avoid copyright infringement.
MacFarlane’s speech to his crew was another scene straight out of The Motion Picture.
The musical stingers featuring the ship floating through space when they came back from commercials was a spot on moment from TOS and TNG.
The standoff with the enemy captain at the end bore more than a striking resemblance to the prefix code showdown with Khan in Wrath of Khan.
The shuttle ramming into the shuttle bay at full speed was a fun nod to Sulu doing the same in Final Frontier.
The Orville leaving the dock to a rousing orchestral score was perfect. It brought to mind similar scenes from various Trek shows and movies while also being its own thing, which is really the whole episode in a nutshell.
Asking the weirdly framed alien to move just a little was funny. It brought to mind all those episodes of TNG where Tomalak stood just a little too close to the viewscreen for comfort.
The moment where they start airing their marriage grievances to a confused alien commander who actually engages them on the subject? Hilarious.
The discussion of the parting one-liner at the end was pretty funny too.
If I had to give Old Wounds a letter grade it would probably be a solid B to B+. Not all the jokes hit and it’s clear the show is still finding itself, but the promise of a show that depicts an optimistic future with a dash of realism and humor is enough to have me really excited to see where they go with this! And MacFarlane is the golden boy at Fox, so if anyone has the power to keep an ambitious show like this going long enough to find its feet, something that even TNG didn’t do until towards the end of season 2 or the beginning of season 3 mind you, he’s the guy.
I have a cautionary tale for you today and a moral.
I was looking to decorate a corner of my basement in a Godzilla theme about a month back. I got autographs from Haruo Nakajima who played Godzilla in the original and many subsequent movies as well as Tsutomu Kitagawa who played the Big G in Godzilla 2000.
As part of that redecoration I ordered a nice looking wall sticker from SmackMyTeeUp.com that featured a silhouette of the Tokyo skyline with everyone’s favorite lizard stomping through it. I was excited. It was going to look awesome.
It never came.
I did some digging after a month had gone by with no sticker. They said it was supposed to be there in a week or so. They sent me a tracking number that never ended up tracking anything. And in doing that digging I realized that the website was a fly by night operation that had already gotten in trouble and closed up shop under one name before opening SmackMyTeeUp. There are numerous complaints out there about them doing exactly what they did to me to other people as well.
I tried getting in touch with them but they didn’t answer emails. Go to their website now and it’s a parked GoDaddy domain. Obviously they were looking to hoover up as much money as they could from people before disappearing and starting over again at a new site.
I initiated a chargeback with my bank and the lady there sent them a few emails that they never answered. I got my money back through the chargeback, but it’s annoying to have to mess with that in the first place.
The moral of the story? Always check out the reviews on a retailer before you order from them. It’s not something I’ve had to think of since I usually order from older established sites with a record, but a simple search in this case would’ve revealed I never should’ve ordered from those assholes in the first place and I would’ve saved myself some time.
Always do your research online. Especially where money is concerned!
So I just got done reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autiobiography Total Recall that tells the story of his life from his early days until the late 2000s when it was published. I have to say I came away from the book inspired. Say what you will about the guy, but he has a work ethic. He saw a goal, decided he was going for it, and didn’t let anything like doubts or second guessing stop him once he set one of those goals.
It’s inspiring stuff, and it’s inspired me as well. I’ve had a few projects that I’ve been kicking around and I’ve decided that I’m going to try a new experiment. I call it the Year of Busting My Ass.
What does that mean? Well it’s actually pretty simple. It means I’m going to come up with some goals, and for the next year I’m going to bust my ass to make sure those goals become a reality. It won’t be the first time I’ve done something like this. Having my daughter home with me watching her and working has reminded me of the most productive time in my life back in 2014 when I was busting my ass writing, working a full time job, and helping to take care of my brand new son.
Basically it’s when I feel a time crunch that I’m at my most productive. At least that’s the idea. So here are the goals that I’d like to accomplish week to week for the next year:
Write 5500 words a day every day with breaks for holidays.
Set up a regular schedule of posting under my romance pen name every six weeks, alternating slightly between niches and working on two at a time so that I’m getting something out every three weeks or so.
Get back into a regular schedule with my steamy romance/erotica pen name so that I’m releasing a new short/novella of around 20k-25k every three weeks.
Publish a new episode of my epic fantasy comedy podcast every week.
Publish two audio chapter episodes of my supernatural thriller/urban fantasy/horror comedy audiobook podcast every week as individual episodes.
Publish an episode of my writing motivation podcast every week.
Exercise for an hour and a half every day and get back into shape, because this tubby look isn’t working for me.
Clean up my diet and start eating a more healthy and balanced diet to support my desire to get in shape, because this tubby look isn’t working for me.
Get seven to eight hours of sleep a day.
Make $150,000 in the next year from all of my writing and podcasting efforts.
Are all of those doable? Maybe, and maybe not. I think they’re certainly possible given past performance. It’s just a matter of buckling down and actually doing in the work.
I’m gonna be honest here. I’ve been in a bit of a slump this past year and a half. It started with my grandma getting sick and ultimately passing at the end of 2015, then we moved to a new house in the middle of 2016 which took move of my time than I’d like even though it was totally worth it. My dad was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago and died at the end of September 2016 which did a number on me even if I wasn’t willing to admit it to myself at the time. Then my wife got pregnant which we were totally trying for, but having a pregnant wife and then a new baby in the house is a surefire recipe for messing up even the best planned schedule.
In short there’s been a lot that’s happened in the past year and a half and I feel like I sort of dropped the ball. I got used to coasting along with the success I’ve already achieved even though I knew that success wasn’t going to be enough for me. I still have things I want to accomplish in my indie career, and I feel like getting to the point where I have a good full time income I can use to support myself and my family is only the beginning.
It’s time to stop with excuses. It’s time to buckle down and get shit done while also maintaining a work/life balance. It’s time for the year of busting my ass.
September 2016 was a really bad time for me where I didn’t get any work done because I was dealing with a terrible loss and being there for my family. September 2017 is going to be the month I get back the old me who worked his ass off to get where I am now, and hopefully achieve things beyond anything I could’ve imagined when I was quitting the day job.
I’ve been spending a lot of time getting acquainted with microphones over the past couple of years. I’ve gone through several different microphones while attempting to launch a writing podcast and each time life got in the way and I ended up not launching.
I got really serious about it back in April of this year though. Starting a podcast is something I’ve always wanted to do and there are two that I’m working on launching. I’ve been waiting, though, because I tend to be a perfectionist when I’m launching a new project and I’ve been trying to find the perfect microphone for a home studio setup.
Which brings me to today’s post and a lesson that I learned the hard way. Which is better for a home studio? Dynamic or condenser?
The short answer is a dynamic microphone all the way, but there’s a longer version of this that takes in some nuance you’ll need to consider if you’re putting together a home studio of your own for podcasting or audiobook narration.
Dynamic Microphone Pros
Not as sensitive so they will have a much lower noise floor
Because of that lack of sensitivity they work well in home studios that aren’t perfectly noise proof
Tend to be a lot cheaper than condenser microphones
Dynamic Microphone Cons
The lack of sensitivity means that there is some vocal nuance they won’t pick up which can be a problem for audiobook narration where that nuance can be important
A lot of the more popular dynamic microphones are quiet which means you’ll have to have a good audio interface that can provide a lot of clean gain. Alternatively you can get a gadget like the Cloudlifter that adds clean gain to your signal, but it’s another cost on top of already laying out some decent money for a good dynamic mic.
A lot of dynamic microphones are designed more for radio work than for audiobook narration. The practical upshot is that they tend to be very “boomy” with emphasis on the low end, think that big radio voice on the local Top 40 station. This can be taken care of with a high pass filter, but it’s still a consideration.
Condenser Microphone Pros
They have all that vocal nuance mentioned above. There’s a reason why a lot of voice actors and audiobook narrators prefer condenser mics
Condenser Microphone Cons
Condenser mics are sensitive. Ridiculously sensitive. I have a neighbor with a muscle car a few houses down and every time they started it up the Rode NTK I was working with would pick it up. It would also pick up mouth noise that drove me to distraction and was ultimately the reason I abandoned my condenser. That sensitivity might be great in a professional studio, but it’s not going to work as well in most home studios which aren’t acoustically clean.
Condenser mics are expensive. The Rode NT1A, the microphone recommended by ACX for getting started in audiobook narration, is reasonable at a couple hundred bucks, but they only go up from there. Condenser mics can cost as much as a cheap new car unlike their dynamic brethren which tend to cost maybe five hundred bucks at the most.
I absolutely loved the way the Rode NTK sounded. It had that crisp condenser sound to it and it picked up nuances in my performance, but ultimately the sensitivity was the deal breaker for me. No matter what I tried it picked up too much background noise and too many mouth noises. I realize the mouth noises are more of a performance problem than an equipment problem, but I eventually settled on a nice dynamic that didn’t pick up any of that and saved me a ridiculous amount of editing time.
In the end I went with an Audio Technica BP40 dynamic microphone after trying out several mics. Including some industry standard mics that underwhelmed me, but that’s a subject for another post. The BP40 had the best sound with my voice, and best of all it shows a lot of that condenser nuance but in a dynamic mic that doesn’t pick up room noise or mouth noise or a house fly farting on the wall of a house on the other side of the street.
If you’re thinking of setting up a home studio for podcasting or audiobook narration and you have an environment that’s less than acoustically ideal then a dynamic microphone is definitely the way to go. Condensers might look all shiny, but ultimately you need to go with the tool that works and not the tool that looks the nicest.
I should really start doing these daily writing updates again. I’ve had to start really regimenting my time because I’m taking care of my daughter during the day. It’s one of the perks of working for myself, but it also means I have to be a lot more careful about how I spend my time.
And I need to spend some of my time building this blog. Both because it’s fun and because it’s part of the whole long term strategy I’m working on to publish stuff under my own name.
So with that in mind, here is what I accomplished yesterday to advance my long term business goals:
Romance: 2044 words
SciFi Romance: 2039 words
Erotica: 1007 words
Paranormal Thriller/Comedy: 2041 words written, 2400 words revised
Fantasy Audio Drama: 1049 words
Total daily word count: 8180
I really ran into some frustration with this yesterday. I’ve been trying to get my recordings to work with a Rode NTK Large Diaphragm Condenser microphone. For those unfamiliar with audio there are two kinds of microphones that are used for audiobook and podcast narration.
Dynamic microphones are less sensitive and have a little less vocal range and nuance. They’re the kind of microphone preferred by podcasters, livestreamers, etc. because they provide that big boomy “radio” voice.
Condenser microphones are way more sensitive but they pick up a lot more nuance in your voice. So they’re popular with audiobook narraters and voiceover artists because it catches more of the performance.
The problem with condenser mics is that super sensitivity also means they can pick up everything which isn’t necessarily a good thing if you’re in a home studio where the kids are playing down the hall and the neighbors are out chatting and your wife is watching CSI: Miami in the bedroom on the other side of the house. You inevitably pick up the sound of play, the neighbors, and Roger Daltrey screaming to punctuate David Caruso making a clever murder related quip.
I’ve been trying to make the Rode NTK, a wonderful microphone with a great sound, work, but I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s just not right for my setup right now. A small walk-in closet in an out of the way part of the house that ain’t a studio no matter how much I gussy it up.
Basically I’m spending so much time “fixing” things that sneak into the recording in post-production that it’s causing major delays and making it so I couldn’t release my big audio drama I’m planning on a reliable schedule, so I think it’s time to move back to dynamic mics for now and see if the results are any better.
Because right now I’m way behind the schedule I want to stick to, which is frustrating.
That’s the thing about being an indie though. You’re going to run into problems like this, and part of the fun and the frustration is figuring out solutions to these problems. Sometimes you get it right and it’s amazing, and sometimes it’s days of frustration. Yesterday was one of the frustrating days on the podcast front, but here’s hoping that won’t last much longer!
Marvel’s Defenders is the new hotness over on Netflix. Their latest bingeable masterpiece tailor-made to get people to keep renewing those Netflix subscriptions.
As a huge geek it’s the sort of show that should be catnip for me, but I’m just not feeling it. Y’know what I am feeling?
There’s just so much new stuff coming out and I have to wonder when it’s going to get to the point that the superhero trend starts to fizzle out. No pop culture fascination can last forever even if it does have the power of the mouse behind it running it into the ground.
Netflix is the perfect microcosm of this. I watched Jessica Jones and really liked it. The only problem? When I went back to watch it again I wasn’t as interested, and I realized that the only thing that kept me coming back to that show was David Tennant who provided the first truly menacing villain any on-screen Marvel property has seen since the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe became a thing.
I tried Daredevil. Everyone was raving about it, but it felt like more of the same. I forced myself to watch a few episodes, but then it got to the point where I got distracted by something else and I never came back to it.
Iron Fist? I didn’t even bother with it when it hit Netflix. I did catch parts of a few episodes because my brother in law is obsessed with the Netflix Marvel stuff and I happened to be over at his house for something on the day he was binging it.
The snapshots I saw of the show convinced me it wasn’t something that I needed to sit down and explore in its entirety.
Maybe it’s just that I’m getting too old to really appreciate the new pop culture hotness in a way I would’ve when I was younger and had more time on my hands. There was a time when I got on the hype train for things like this, but I guess I was burned enough times that I’m willing to let the hype train leave the station without me and I’ll wait to see if it’s going anywhere worthwhile before I give something a try.
I keep seeing people saying wonderful things about the Netflix Marvel stuff, and I just don’t get it. I guess it’s not for me and that’s fine. Difference is what makes the world go ’round, after all.
Mostly it makes me feel old though. I’m at the point where I have to carefully ration the time that I do spend on pop culture stuff. Between running my own author business and two kids, including a newborn that I’m taking care of during the day now because fuck paying $1400 a month for someone else to watch a newborn sleep all day at daycare, I find myself spending less and less time on stuff that doesn’t capture my attention and imagination right away.
Maybe that’s getting older. Maybe I’ve just lost patience for stuff that isn’t immediately gratifying. Either way, I think I’ll be giving Defenders a pass.
I just found this out yesterday because I’m terrible at keeping up with media and what’s in theaters. I hardly ever go to see anything in the theaters these days considering we pay an exorbitant amount of money to have all the movie channels.
But I heard the Lion King is back in theaters for a very limited run at AMC. Like it’s going to be gone by Thursday in most regions. I guess the big splash was last weekend.
I’ve got my tickets! I’m taking the older kid to see it in the theater and I’m stoked! I haven’t seen it on the big screen since back in the mid ’90s when it had its first run. I came close when I was youth supervisor at a library and used my power of movie selection to show it on the projector there, but it wasn’t the same.
So if you have kids or if you just love the movie you have a couple of days to go see it if there’s an AMC theater near you!
So I have one hell of a huge sense of accomplishment. After months of effort I’ve finally got the first episode of an audio drama podcast I’ve been working on in the bag and it’s something I’m happy with.
It’s been quite the journey to get to this point. So far I’ve had to:
Get audio equipment I was actually happy with.
This might not seem like much, but it ended up taking a good chunk of time. I started out with an Audio Technica 2100 back when I was just thinking of doing a podcast about writing. I then upgraded to a Shure SM7B but for a variety of reasons I could never get that mic to work the way I wanted it to in a home studio setting.
I finally did a microphone shootout of my own and tried a bunch out to see which one worked. There are a lot of mic recommendations out there, but I found that ultimately it takes trying a microphone out in your setup to see how it’s going to work for you. Not all microphones are created equal and suited to the wildly differing environments in a home studio.
I ended up settling on the Rode NTK which I loved, and I’ll probably end up doing a post about my microphone shootout for anyone else out there who’s interested in that sort of thing.
Setting up my home studio
This also took some time. I initially set up my studio in my basement where I keep my office. The problem with that is my fish tank is in the basement along with our furnace which creates a lot of noise. I tried a couple of band-aids to try and get the microphone to work in my home environment, but ultimately I had to change where I worked to suit the recording setup rather than trying to get the recording setup to work in a suboptimal location.
So I moved all my stuff up to a walk-in closet attached to a guest bedroom that hardly ever gets used. The clothes in the walk-in closet were perfect for dampening sound, and it’s on the other side of the house from where most people are living so I can close the door to the closet and the room and have a pretty quiet environment without any sound treatment which is great. Recording in the closet studio has seriously improved the quality immensely.
Of course moving to that location wasn’t without issues. I had to install a monitor in there because the fan from my laptop was making too much noise. So now I have my laptop sitting outside the closet on the other side of the door where it can make all the noise it wants and it doesn’t get picked up by the mic. Meanwhile I have a bluetooth keyboard, magic trackpad, audio interface, microphone on a boom arm, and my iPad set up on a little laptop desk that faces a monitor bolted to the wall.
It works surprisingly well aside from an uncomfortable folding chair, but what can you do?
Learning Adobe Audition
I started out with Audacity and I really wanted to like it, but there were just too many things about it that annoyed me. I’ll probably do an entire post of its own comparing the two, but suffice it to say the difference between Audacity and Adobe Audition is like night and day and well worth the $20 a month Adobe charges. Plus I’m already familiar with Adobe and how their software works so it wasn’t much of a learning curve there.
It was a learning curve getting used to working with audio though. I worked through the entirety of Adobe Audition Classroom in a Book because I wanted to do this right and make sure I knew the software I was using inside and out. I was working through that around the time my daughter was born so it took a month or two to get through the whole thing, but that book is indispensable for anyone considering getting into audio.
Another book I picked up more recently is Making Tracks: A Writer’s Guide to Audiobooks by J. Daniel Sawyer. He goes into just about everything you’ll want to know if you’re interested in doing audiobooks, and all his lessons work just as well for podcasts. Which is great for me since I’m going to be trying out a podiobook model to start and see where things go.
Get used to the idea that yes, that’s what my voice sounds like
This was probably the biggest hurdle of the whole experience. I hear these narrators with these clear voices that don’t have much in the bass range, and with my voice I just didn’t like how it sounded. I tried a couple of different microphones and messing around with settings in Audition and eventually…
I came to have peace with the way I sounded. My wife told me it just sounded like me, and she eventually got annoyed when I would play two different files from two different microphones or processed two different ways. She claimed they mostly sounded the same, and I realized that I was overthinking things and I needed to get down to recording and working rather than spending time obsessing over making everything absolutely perfect.
Totally worth it
I’d say all that effort was worth it. I finally have an audio product that I can be proud of and that doesn’t have any lingering audio issues I encountered when I was working with Audacity. Sure I had to learn a whole heck of a lot to get to this point, but if you’re in the independent creator business you have to have a lifelong love of learning or you’re not going to make it very far in the business.
And I’ve discovered that I love working with audio. I enjoy getting into Audition and editing things, and I’m stoked about future projects and hope that all this investment will be worth it as I try to break into audio. Today wasn’t the first step in that process, but it was a big step!
Oh boy am I stoked for this. Stranger Things was singularly awesome when I saw it the first time around and I can’t wait for the sequel to drop in October. This Comic Con trailer in particular? Perfect. There were so many moments where I got goose bumps that I lost count.
Plus all that Ghostbusters goodness. This is shaping up to be awesome!