A Year of Podcasting

It started simply enough. I was excited for the premiere of Digimon Adventure Tri and was reminiscing with my friend Chris about the first season. I made a pretty straightforward suggestion: “Hey, Chris…do you want to try a podcast?”

“Hell yeah, I do,” was his response. I then extended the invitation to some friends on Facebook to get another cohost or two, and got a few responses. We hastily through something together, and on October 26, 2015, after adrenaline pushed me through a weekend filled with recording and editing, I published the first episode of The Digicast on YouTube.

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since then. In that time, we’ve put out 8 episodes of The Digicast, 7 episodes of Third Seat by the Window (5 as “The Bugcast,” with one of those being a special anniversary episode), 1 episode of MeganeToast (with the second one on the way soon), 2 experimental live episodes of Dropped!, and 2 guest spots on other podcasts. That’s 20 podcasts in the space of a year, which is way more than I thought we’d put out. And when I say “we” put out those episodes, I mean it, because, while I’m technically the guy running the ship for all these (except for the guest spots, obviously), I’ve done none of it alone.

I need to dole out some serious thank-yous over the course of this post, and the first, biggest, and most obvious one goes to my cohost, Chris “theraggedyman” Schultz. Excluding guest spots, he’s been with me for every single one of these podcasts. If I’m the captain of this ship that is DaLadybugProductions, he’s my first mate. He’s been the person I go to first to bounce ideas off of, he’s supported me not just in podcasting but in my personal life, I can always rely on him to be more prepared than I am, he’s someone I’m able to play off of fantastically, and, maybe most importantly, he gets on my case when I need a push to get something edited. He’s been an absolutely invaluable part of this whole podcasting thing, and I honestly do feel like he’s my better half. I’m constantly concerned that he’s overlooked and underappreciated just because I handle the hosting duties and promoting for the show.

I’ve let Chris behind the wheel for MeganeToast, and I’m really looking forward to see him come into his own as a host and editor. He’s already had a lot of great ideas for it (pretty sure the randomizer was entirely his creation), and as he gets practice hosting and editing, the show’s only going to get better. My hand’s been guiding a lot of it so far (I’m not exactly a control freak, but I do have difficulties entrusting projects I’m part of to other people), but in the future, I’m sure I’ll be taking a much more hands-off approach.

So with that huge preliminary thank you out of the way, I’d like to take the time to reflect on this past year of podcasting, starting with the Digicast.

The Digicast

The Digicast was what started all this, and it started (and continued) entirely on a whim. I mean, if a lazy title like “The Digicast” doesn’t indicate a lack of planning to you, I don’t know what does. The first episode was hastily recorded and thrown together over a weekend, which doesn’t sound like a ton of time until you remember that I had no idea what I was even doing. That first episode was published solely to YouTube, and while the process of creating the video is really simple now, that first video was a struggle that basically consisted of image creation on a program that was never meant to be used for that. The background on that first video? It was all created within a program called HitFilm I’d gotten when it was offered for free.

Those first episodes, recorded before I really found my legs, were a struggle. I used a free program that pulled audio from Skype as I recorded, but it didn’t pull every track separately. I was able to pull my audio track, and then everyone else’s all together, and since the four of us have always had a tendency to talk over each other, it was difficult to edit around.

The Digicast has always been the most consistently difficult show to edit for me for multiple reasons. Podcasts usually work best with either two or three participants, and since there are four of us, things tend to get a little hectic. In addition, it’s an open forum where, while I take the role of host, I’m not always the most qualified person to move the discussion forward, so we all sort of randomly take turns doing that. And, of course, there’s the fact that we all tend to get excitable and fired up. The result is that it becomes a mess of tangents interjections, and, on occasion, muddled yelling.

And that’s not even mentioning the technical difficulties. There were the aforementioned track issues we had before switching to recording individual tracks. Tom’s mic tends to be a bit too loud, distorting the sound. Maddy’s mic tends to be too quiet and fluctuate a bit. I still don’t have the technical know-how to know if those are hardware issues or a software ones. In one episode, an attempt to improve my sound quality made it way, way worse. We’ve had problems with people accidentally disconnecting from the call more than any other podcast I’ve been involved with.

So it’s a podcast that’s a lot of effort. And while it does pull in the most random listeners, it’s also the most niche podcast I run, so it’s not one I’m able to easily sell people on or promote. So it’s not a lot of reward for the effort I put in.

That said, I love doing it. It’s always the most fun to record. It’s an excuse to talk with my friends about a thing I loved as a kid, and I don’t feel like I have to impress anyone by doing it. As far as I’m concerned, as long as there are four people who like The Digicast, that’s all it’ll take for me to keep doing it. It’s a mess. But it’s a mess I wouldn’t trade the world for.

So, onto my thanks for the Digicast. The two people I most need to thank are my two other Digicast cohosts. There’s Tom, my excitable New England cohost, whose memory of his experiences with Digimon somehow remain clear enough to deliver anecdote after anecdote. And then there’s Maduin, my Polish cohost, who is able to offer his unique perspective, melodic voice, and devious quips. He’s more soft-spoken than the rest of us, so he sometimes has difficulties getting a word in edgewise, and his drastically different timezone makes it hard to organize recording times, but the podcast just wouldn’t be the same without him. It wouldn’t be the same without any of these three. I’ve considered changing the lineup some to get someone more knowledgeable about the games on the show, but replacing any of them is just impossible at this point. All three of these guys have been fans of my previous work in the Slender Man Mythos, and I of theirs, and I feel so honored to be able to create something alongside three people I’ve come to respect as creators and love as friends.

I also need to thank some other people involved in Digimon podcasts, just because they’ve been so welcoming. There’s May and Jay of Lost in Translationmon, who were quick to shoot off a “welcome to the family” tweet after I put out my first episode. They’re able to consistently put out a weekly show that’s far more structured, organized, and informative than our own, and I have a lot of respect for them. There’s also Jeff Ruberg of Podigious, who has likewise been great to me and is the reason I finally got around to adding my shows to iTunes. I made a conscious decision to avoid listening to Podigious after a few episodes because I was worried we’d be too influenced by it, but now that we’ve found our stride, I feel really, really guilty for not getting back to it yet.

The final thank you is a surprising one. The biggest influence on how I approach The Digicast is actually a Survivor podcast: the Survivor Historians. It obviously covers different subject matter, and The Digicast has become a different type of show at this point, but the structure of Survivor Historians is still the one I look at most when planning The Digicast.

Third Seat by the Window

Third Seat’s history is kind of weird and interesting. It’s sort of the “main” podcast under DaLadybugProductions (the name I’ve collectively given my blogs, vlogs, and podcasts), and it’s the one that’s been through the most changes. Most notably, it used to be called The Bugcast. It’s been called that for longer than not, actually.

While the first podcast I published was The Digicast, The Bugcast was the first one I recorded. And when I say “recorded,” I’m using the term loosely because it actually failed to record. The initial plan was to talk about monthly news in the anime sphere, but we quickly realized that we’d just be talking about old news by the time each episode came out. So we made adjustments. What we came up with was Episode 0 of The Bugcast, which is now the anniversary episode. It’s where we started the “5 of your favorite anime, 3 you dislike” bit that’s become one of our staples now.

We initially called the show The Bugcast because, well, I’m a bit uncreative. But it was also supposed to be a way to tie it together with the Bugvlog (which I’ve done very little for) and the Bugblog, both of which were named because the Engrish for both of them would be “Baguburagu.” But apart from The Bugcast being a very uninspired name, it turns out there’s another podcast out there called The Bugcast, which focused on music. That one also just so happened to use a ladybug in its logo, and was far more notable than ours was. I held out for a bit, but ultimately decided that we needed a name change.

The name “Third Seat by the Window” was the name of the group chat I knew our first guest, Crimson King, from, and I had always thought it was a good name. There was, at one point, some plans to use it for some collaborative projects, but a lot of the core members ended up leaving and the rest of us migrated to a different chat under a different name. I didn’t want the old name to go to waste, so I asked Crimson if I could use it for my podcast. He gave it his blessing, and that’s how Third Seat as it now is came into being.

We’d done 4 episodes at this point (5 if you include episode 0), and had, for the most part, solidified how we were going to do things from that point on and didn’t need to experiment with our format nearly as much. So when we launched the rebranded podcast, it was almost fully formed and we were able to put out higher-quality content.

The next obvious people to thank are the various guests I’ve had on the show. Crimson King, gyrozen, ElizaLento, Colton, Chris (not cohost Chris, the guest on Third Seat 1×01), and Amphituber, in order, were all vital parts of making Third Seat the show it’s become. Crimson in particular needs special mention for being not only a great first guest, but the guy who ultimately indirectly named the show.

In addition, I’ve had a huge amount of support from the community. Josh Dunham and the aforementioned Colton gave me a lot of technical advice early on that helped me improve the quality of all my podcasts fairly quickly. I’ve also become good friends with the Warui Deshou crew: TheSubtleDoctor, Shadon, and Vorgelia. They started podcasting around the same time I did, so I’ve felt a sort of kinship with all of them. I’ve had some great one-on-one talks with Doc and Shadon (and I’d love to with Vorgelia as well at some point), and they’ve always been very supportive of my work. And of course, there’s the crews of Anime Podcast of Some Sort and Anime Insiders, the two podcasts that have had me on as guests at this point.

MeganeToast

There’s not as much to say about the last two shows (I’m excluding Dropped! since it’s still on its infancy and also on indefinite hold), but they at least deserve some reflection.

MeganeToast is one I haven’t pushed too hard, mostly because it has yet to hit its stride. My audio got messed up in the first episode (which I didn’t even notice until I heard the recording) and since it happened at a point when I should’ve resolved audio issues like that, I guess part of me is a little ashamed of that. But I think good things are going to be coming for it in the future!

MeganeToast was actually born out of Third Seat. We usually let the guests pick the topic but realized quickly that if we included series, the show would probably get overrun by that. So MeganeToast became its own show dedicated solely to talking about different series just so we still had that option.

When I decided to hand the reins over to Chris, it was a big step for both of us: Chris because it put him in the driver’s seat, and me because it meant I was relinquishing a bit of control. I have a hard time trusting other people with my work, so taking a step back was good for me. And I love what Chris has been doing with the show. Right now, we have a weighted list of anime we think we could get some good discussion out of and we use a randomizer to choose the shows. While I’m the one who insisted the list be weighted (I don’t want to have to wait for a 1 in 200 chance just to discuss one of my favorite shows), the randomizer is all his doing. The name is also of his creation, since he flat-out rejected any of the fantastic titles I’d come up with (I was particularly proud of “Tsudzuku Talkback”) that weren’t already taken. So while I still like to refer to myself as its “producer,” an utterly pretentious title for what I do, Chris is the one responsible for everything that makes the show what it is.

We’ve just finished recording our episode on one of my least favorite anime, Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara, and I’m pleased with how well it turned out. The next episode we’ll be putting out will be on Ping Pong, and I can’t wait to see where that one takes us.

Spiral Radio

This last show is one that hasn’t actually come out yet, just because it’s kept getting put on the backburner for other projects and I want to make sure I do it right. If Third Seat is the “main” podcast, Spiral Radio is my baby. It’s an attempt to push myself above and beyond the level of quality most people expect for podcasts. I want it to be a podcast that gives people a new appreciation for anime and that people can listen to and enjoy even if they don’t watch anime. It’s going to be a huge undertaking, but all I can really say is “please look forward to it.”

I don’t want to tease too much of what I have planned, but I do need to once more thank Josh Dunham and TheSubtleDoctor, as well as my friends Fetsch and Respawn for lending me their time for the first episode. It’s been over 8 months since I recorded some of those interviews, and there’s really no excuse for not having anything to show for it yet. But it’s coming, and when it does, it will be fantastic.

So…wow. That’s…that’s a full year down. I’m legitimately starting to tear up as I write this down, because it’s been such a wild year where I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of. I’ve met so many great people through the podcast, and I only expect it to grow in the coming years.

So my last thank you goes to anyone and everyone who’s listened. Even if it was just to humor me, it means a lot and makes this all worth it. And if you bothered reading through my ramblings to this point, thank you even more. I love you all.

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