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In this installment of our Behind the Streams blog series, we’ll hear from Michael Winkler, co-host of the Shattered Order Podcast, Twitch streamer, and official Blue partner.
Winkler (known as Wink to his audience) and his co-host Dan (AKA GoodNightPunk) stream weekly longform discussions about the massively multiplayer mobile game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, which Winkler edits into podcast form. We recently caught up with Winkler to hear about the evolution of the Shattered Order Podcast and his journey from podcasting novice to seasoned host.
How did the podcast start, and how have you built your audience?
Our podcast started as a discussion in our guild’s Discord community. My co-host put out a question asking if anyone was interested in doing a show for our 50-person guild. I saw it, and was very into listening to podcasts, so I volunteered. Initially we had 50 listeners. After a few episodes, people were telling us the content was awesome and that we should branch out, so we started posting our show on Reddit every week. We began to build our audience there, and of course, by word of mouth from our amazing listeners!
What is your current podcasting setup?
An iPad mini and a Blackout Spark SL into a Focusrite 2i2 interface. The iPad has a ground loop noise isolator between it and the interface, and the Spark goes through a press-to-mute box, just in case. The Focusrite is then connected to my computer via USB, and I use that interface to record each as a separate track in Logic Pro. The Focusrite has an output cable going to a Behringer Q1002USB mixer that is also connected to my MacBook Pro via USB. This is the interface I use for Skype. I also use a Logitech C920 webcam.
What pieces of gear are critical to your setup?
My MacBook Pro is the most important thing. When we started I was using an iMac, but having a portable computer has allowed me to be more versatile with editing and learning. The mic is also crucial, and I have a Yeti Nano that I use if I’m on the road and need to record.
How has your setup evolved from where you started?
When we first started the show, I had little to no experience with audio recording and editing, so I started by buying the Focusrite and a dynamic mic. It was very simple. Eventually I wanted to find a way to play sounds so that my co-host could hear them, which led me down a rabbit hole of experimenting, research, and testing. Eventually, I ended up buying an iPad app called Sound Byte to use as a soundboard—it’s super flexible and allows so much customization! Having a soundboard makes the show feel a bit more professional and fluid.
How many different things did you try before you settled on your current setup?
I tried a few different mics before finally ending up with my Spark. I tried multiple ways of getting the soundboard to work effectively, too. I bought another interface, tried using just a mixer, and tried using only my Focusrite, but ultimately the Focusrite with a mixer was best for me. One of my earlier setups had my soundboard and mic going in as one track and there was a constant hum coming from the iPad sometimes. It was horrific. I decided I must find a way to separate the tracks in the recording, which led me to my current setup. The other Band-Aid in that situation was buying a $6 ground loop noise isolator off of Amazon, which completely eliminated the humming sound I was getting from my iPad.
What were the biggest hurdles you ran into when you were first setting up your podcast?
When we first started, it was hell getting our two audio files to be in sync. Eventually, I would hold my headphones up to my mic and have him speak, then use the timing of that to line up those pieces of audio. Figuring out how to record the other person to make this process even easier took a while longer. Eventually, I found Soundflower, which might be the greatest computer application ever. It allows you to record an incoming Skype call directly into your DAW, which makes lining up your audio super easy if you and you cohost record your own audio.
What important tools do you use to make editing and broadcasting easier?
Skype, Logic Pro, Soundflower, and iZotope’s RX7 denoiser are the things that I couldn’t live without now. Logic Pro is what I record and edit with primarily, and it was a huge step up from GarageBand. Learning to use a loudness meter helped dramatically with editing. Due to my setup, I have three separate tracks recording into Logic: Soundflower acts as a ‘digital audio cable’ to output sound from Skype into Logic, my mic is on the second track, and my iPad is on the third track. Recording all of this on separate tracks mitigates screwups and allows me to have a backup. Since my co-host records his audio and my audio as well, we have two failsafes. iZotope RX7’s denoiser is amazing. It’ll cost you some money, but it makes filtering out background noise super easy and does a fantastic job—worth every single penny.
What have you had to learn in order to improve the quality your content?
We did an interview with the community manager for the game we cover, and the internet was not friendly to our episode. Harsh criticism sucks, but it’s also an opportunity to improve. This was when I started digging more into learning about compressors, noise gates, and EQ. I began to dig into what these three things were and started doing a lot of experimenting with using them and how to optimize them. That was the beginning of our show becoming much more high quality.
What processes do you wish you could do faster or more efficiently?
I wish I was better at efficiently cutting out long points of silence in our show, in a 2+ hour podcast, there are always spots with a little too much silence. Learning keyboard shortcuts for using Logic, or whatever DAW you prefer, will provide some of the best ROI of time with podcasting.
What platforms are you using to distribute your content?
We livestream on Twitch every week. Most people don’t watch the livestream, they listen via podcast apps. We upload to Soundcloud, which then distributes to the podcast apps, and also send our Twitch stream to our YouTube channel. We also do various SW:GoH strategy videos on YouTube as well, which are good supplements to our primary show.