My Plans for 2020 (and beyond)

My Plans for 2020 (and beyond)

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17 FEBRUARY 2019

written by Mike

my plans for 2020

 

Long time, no see.

I haven’t been uploading anything for a while. It would be easy to blame it on work, business or life, however looking back I have to admit that it just wasn’t my priority.

Not only that. I was also contemplating why I even keep the website, and what should I do with all of it.

To cut the story short, after a few months of thinking, I’ve decided to change a few things. Before I get into the details, I wanted to talk about what prompted me into further action.

After attending podcasting meetups and workshops here in the UK, I’ve noticed that not only the space is vibrant and exciting, but also there is a massive opportunity for growth and development.

Because in my work, we usually deal with the US market, it seemed that podcasting is a matured industry. With big companies, spending and marketing campaigns.

However, when I looked at the UK and Australia, I noticed that the medium is not where the US partners are, and it is still finding its voice on the global stage.

Having the privilege of my experience in the space, I thought, how can I help and be a part of the evolution?

With that in mind, I developed a plan for this year. It will move me into the direction of growing this website as well as available resources in the podcasting space.

Here are the areas that I will be working on going forward.

 

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WORK

The work on Casefile will still be a priority and the main thing that I do daily. We have a strong team of highly skilled and capable people and are planning on creating more of what we do best – high quality, in-depth true-crime podcast.
Besides that, we also have several projects under Casefile Presents umbrella. All of them being produced by talented and passionate people, from many different backgrounds. With the Casefile Presents projects, I will be taking more of a ‘head of production’ role with the final feedback and say on the content. However, in a couple of the projects, I will be taking an active part in audio producing and possibly music composing.
It looks like it’s going to be a busy and exciting year.

WEBSITE

The website is being redesigned with a new look. More sleek, modern and kind of a Blade Runner vibe. There won’t be many changes in terms of the content here, just a facelift.

BLOG

I don’t have massive plans for the blog. The idea is to (maybe) release a new article per month.
I am keeping with the style that I developed in the past – audio, podcasting and work topics. However, it depends how much time I will have left after the new venture that will be taking a chunk of my day.


YOUTUBE

I thought about starting a Youtube channel for a long time. I’ve even released some video tutorials in the past on Youtube (they are gone now), but it never felt like a good time to start.
Few things aligned lately. Moving to a new house, I finally was able to secure small dedicated working space for myself, where I could see the videos being filmed there.
Two, I finally felt that I was ready to talk about podcasting ideas and problems as I think that my experience taught me a few things over the last four years.
Three, my brother wanted to move from his primary skill, photography, into video making. As we live together, this presented an ideal situation for him to learn the ropes and for me to get the production for a ‘family’ rate.
And four, I thought that if I don’t start now, I will never do it. It seemed that there wasn’t a similar channel about what I want to do and I knew that once the Casefile 2020 schedule kicks off in February, I won’t have time to do the Youtube. So during our break from work, I prepped everything and laid the foundations for the channel, which will make the work streamlined throughout the year.

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BOOK

For a long time, I was bothered about the fact that my book wasn’t properly edited and proofread. I’m not a native English speaker, and I knew my writing wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. Therefore I decided to send the manuscript to a proper editing house.
I’ve also added a few updates as the book was written in 2017 and a few things have changed since then.
The book will be updated with a new cover on the Amazon store.

COURSES

The first thing I wanted to do is to take the course off the Udemy platform and move it to my website. I will be doing that in the coming weeks. It will offer me more control and better conditions for future courses.
I’ve written another two courses – both about podcasting. I’m planning on recording and releasing them here this year.
I also have vague plans for another two (on podcasting again) however I will see how I get on with other tasks.

EVENTS

There are quite a few podcasting and true crime events planned in the UK this year. I will try to attend these and in some cases, have a small exhibitor’s table too.
Networking is something that I want to work on and getting out of the house will be in no doubt helpful!

These are my plans when it comes to the professional side of life. There are some changes, but it is more about doubling down on podcasting and my work.
Ultimately we will see how it all develops in the coming years, with the acquisitions, consolidations, rules and maturity of the medium. I am excited for any new challenges that it brings.

That’s it for now!
The first Youtube videos are out now, and there are many more planned. It’s an exciting experiment for me, and we’ll see how it progresses over the year.

Thanks for reading. Speak soon!
Mike

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Make Money Freelancing Online

Make Money Freelancing Online

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07 AUGUST 2018
written by Mike

MAKE MONEY

FREELANCING ONLINE

 

Making money online is a relatively new thing. People were doing business around the world for hundreds and hundreds of years, but the idea that you can sit in your bedroom with a laptop and run a company is new.

It may seem obvious to you now but a lot of people, even my age, aren’t sure how to start and if they could do it. The beautiful thing is that anyone can. There are no restrictions, no limitation and you will only be judged by the value you bring to the table.

It’s not easy, and things are changing very fast. However, anyone can start now, right this second.

There are many ways of making money online, but today I want to focus on freelancing, selling your skills online. It, of course, applies to lots of professions but I will be using audio production as my example.

 

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Your Online Presence

I know many people want to go against the trend, that’s good, not all directions are positive. However, if you’re going to start doing work online it will be much harder if you don’t have Facebook, Twitter or other social (and not just social) media profiles. You need to be visible.

There are hundreds of thousands of people hustling online, how can you stay a few steps ahead of everyone?

Start creating your online presence today. Don’t think about making money just yet, but start creating content and joining conversations online. It’s challenging to give personalised advice on the topic; it all depends on your strengths and likes.

For example, the big trend right now is video, Instagram rules and blogging is a thing of the past. Think about what you would like to post and create profiles around that, maybe it’s a podcast, not a vlog?

 

Skills and Gear

Next step is writing down your skills and available equipment. Try to niche yourself down; generalists don’t charge near what experts make. For example, with my abilities and system, I could do a lot of things in music and sound production space but my niche at this moment is podcasting and audio storytelling.

The skill needs to be transferable online, if you are a photographer, it will be hard to take photos online, but you could offer product photography services.

Go to top accounts on eBay or Amazon, join some Facebook discussion groups and offer your services. Online selling is all about the perception, and the sellers know about this. Set up a small studio at home, get people to send you the products and charge for photos.

With audio, you could be offering music production, mixing, mastering, editing, scoring, design and other services that I don’t even know.

Also if your skill isn’t transferable, think what can you add to your portfolio, what else can you learn. I was working as a dialogue editor on blockbusting movies; it’s safe to say to they wouldn’t allow me to edit their content in my bedroom. However, podcasting and audiobooks are more comfortable, not as much pressure. I just had to learn the new medium and adjust my skills.

The gear also matters, with an old computer you won’t be able to do much, especially in audio. Think about where you can upgrade and what can you do with what you have. For some time I was working solely on trial and demo versions until I could afford a full license on top of the shelf software.

 

Platforms for freelancers

There are many places online where you can find work. Not all of them are great, and most are so-called ‘race to the bottom’ on price. However, it’s a good enough start to learn how the whole online world works.

Platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, People Per Hour allow you to create a profile and bid for jobs, usually very low paid.

Apart from that, write to people on LinkedIn, studios and production houses. Be upfront and say that you are looking for freelance work, they may write back to you, when they are under a deadline.

Facebook groups, Reddit and forums are other places to look for work. If you are hunting for freelance jobs you can also check out listings from Jooble.

It is the hard part as it can take weeks before you start moving, however, don’t be discouraged and keep the ball rolling. One client leads to another and another and another, and you never know who will you meet online.

That’s how I started on Casefile.

 

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Areas to consider for audio professionals

Editing

Look at podcasts and audiobooks. Right now it’s the best time to get in the game as a lot of people are either starting their podcasts or doing audiobook narrations. Of course, not all of them will pay well but if you are starting out, contact smaller profiles. It will give you time to learn, hone your skills and make some side cash.

Let’s say you want to charge £50 per podcast (I know it’s not a lot, but you have to start somewhere) and do ten shows per week. That’s £500 per week, £2000 per month working from home. Then when you are good enough, leave the smaller pods for someone else and move up the ladder.

If you know how to produce music, offer that. Again podcasts are a great area to explore as most podcasters don’t know much about sound production and they will need your help. Writing intros, theme music or even bespoke score for storytelling shows could be a great way to make extra money and practice your skills.

 

Audio Restoration 

Audio restoration is another niche area to keep an eye on. A lot of content creators dismiss the art of recording sound and leave it until the end. Then they often realise that their recording is not as good as it should be and it doesn’t only apply to podcasters. Youtube creators, narrators, online teachers – find people who are making money online, and if you think that you could help them, offer your services.

Audio restoration requires specialised software and skills but if I can learn it, then anyone can.

 

Online Courses

Online courses are booming right now. There are plenty of platforms such as Coursera or Udemy, and of course, people selling their course on Teachable. The video is one thing, but again, most creators dismiss the importance of audio. Search for courses and creators who achieved some success and offer them your help. By making their work sound better, hopefully, they can find more students and develop their practice, and usually, with online courses, there is a lot of material to go through.

 

Acquire extra skills

The secret to being successful online is to have multiple streams of income or to be top of the world expert in one thing. So unless you are bullish on one thing only, start thinking what extra skills you can acquire that make sense for you and your business.

When I started online work a few years ago, I didn’t know what to do, but I needed cash right away. Audio work is niche and harder to find than video production, as everyone is jumping on the medium. I started offering video editing and production services, first video for free as a ‘test’.

I have no professional backing, and I’ve never done paid video editing work before. I started learning Premiere, and After Effects and for the first few months when I worked on my online presence, 80% of my income was from video editing. It may sound weird given the fact that I’m an audio professional, but it’s true.

Also, but knowing both sound and audio, I could offer more value than other people, and suddenly I had twice as many options as others.

Many creators who needed video editing asked me to clean up the sound too, so I had plenty to do. It was crucial to develop that skill and have that income, because the first year or so when we were working and creating Casefile we had no money.

Think what else you want to do, how can you do it online and start hustling!

 

Learn, read, train, practice and apply!

A beginning is often hard, but we can’t stop progress, even if you are not keen on the state of technology, social media and the online world right now – get used to it and embrace it.

The future will be digital so start making the transition right now, and you never know who you will meet out there. Every now and again, one of the ‘another jobs’ can turn into a long-term relationship, and an awesome project like Casefile did for me.

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My Current Recording Setup

My Current Recording Setup

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13 FEBRUARY 2018

written by Mike

MY CURRENT

RECORDING SETUP

Most of my audio work is done at the post-production stage. I edit, mix, master, and even with scoring I solely use synths and virtual instruments. The only recording I do is for team chats and AMA episodes we publish for Casefile patrons.

I’ve done live recording and live sound before, and it wasn’t for me. Setting up the stage, holding a boom microphone or mixing bands live didn’t spark any interest, and I much prefer doing the work at home. Therefore today’s list isn’t ideal for sound recordist but rather a view of a setup that is enough to do a good quality recording at home if required.

The recording equipment I have is decent and does not break the bank.

Why do I have it in the first place?

Content creation – I recorded few YouTube videos in the past, an online course, we release monthly AMA with Casefile team. Even though I don’t use it every day, I do need it from time to time, and I need something that offers flexibility and decent quality at the same time.

Clip microphones

For some content, you will need video and audio. The best way to do it is, of course, having a camera (DSLR) pointed at you and a clip (lavalier) microphone.

That’s how I recorded my online course and a few YouTube videos in the past. The clip mic I used is Audio Technica 3350. It costs around $30/£25 on Amazon. I also have a lavalier for GoPro camera – it’s called Movo clip mic.

Both mics are powered by a LR44 battery, which is important as the mics don’t rely on camera for power. The mics are decent quality, but you will need to use Denoise processing for hiss and preamp noise.

They are very sensitive so reduce the input gain where possible and clip them lower than a collar. Unfortunately, you cannot operate input gain in GoPro, at least the one I have (GoPro 3). Audio Technica clip does not have a light that would indicate if it’s recording, so you will need to check that on DSLR screen.

In summary, I would recommend checking them out, especially if you need a quick solution for your camera.

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SM7B

At home, I only have one microphone – a dynamic Shure SM7B. It’s a legendary vocal mic, widely used in broadcasting and podcasting. It’s a perfect solution for commentators.

I use it for Skype calls, recorded AMAs and other sessions that I can do from home.

It doesn’t need a pop shield however it does need a lot of input gain. If you want to use it for everyday recordings, then the best solution would be to invest in input gain booster such as Cloudlifter.

All in all, the best dynamic out there in my opinion.

Audio Interface

I recently changed my interface and purchased a small Audient iD4. It’s a USB interface with one XLR preamp and D.I. input.

For simple work, it’s one of the best solutions you can find on the market, and it sounds great. The cherry on top is the volume wheel that also works as control surface knob.

iD4 has seamless integration with most sequencers (ProTools in my instance), and with one touch of a button, I can control any automation with the volume wheel. It’s the first step to classic ‘mix’ control surface, and it’s so much easier than using keyboard and mouse. Especially if you are running low on budget, want to learn automation or just simply don’t have enough room on your desk.

I’m very happy with iD4, and I recommend checking it out, or other solutions from Audient.

 

Other stuff

Apart from that, I don’t have anything fancy at my home. It would look different if I were producing music and doing live recording but for post-production with occasional recording work, it’s more than enough. I have a couple of old mic stands, XLR cables, pop shield – the classics.

I mentioned it before, but for listening, I use Sony MDR-7506 headphones and Adam A5x as studio monitors. I know both systems inside out and wouldn’t replace them.

If you want to start creating videos for YouTube, start a podcast or record someone else – there are plenty of solutions on the cheap, starting with USB microphones that have built-in audio interfaces. In the beginning, don’t go overboard with the gear. Unless you do professional recording work and get regularly paid for it, start small and go from there.

By learning with minimal equipment, it will be much easier to pick up exactly what you need in the future.

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My Current DAW Setup

My Current DAW Setup

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08 JANUARY 2018

written by Mike

MY CURRENT DAW SETUP

 

I get asked a lot about my workflow and what exactly I am using to produce Casefile and other projects. I’ve already explained the way I work in my book “How to Start a Podcast” however, I’m always on the lookout for the improvement and I update my system as often as I can.

In my opinion, it’s important to shake it up every few months. Otherwise, there is no progress.

When I was a student, I used many different audio sequencers with multiple plugins. If there was a new demo, trial version or a deal – I wanted it. I wanted as many as possible.

The truth was, I never used 90% of them, I was a classic example of a hoarder. I think that the more ‘stuff’ – equipment, gear, options we have, it gives us an illusion of choice. The more we have, the more we can do, right?

It may be true in some instances, but when it came to sound production, I realised that the old Pareto’s rule was on the point. The so-called 80/20 rule indicates that usually, 20% of tools bring 80% of results.

A few years ago I sat down, and I wrote down what exactly I am using for work, how and why. I decided to simplify my system and my workflow radically; I wanted to learn few tools inside-out – to become an expert.

By limiting my choices I wanted to be free of the illusion, and only if I needed something else, to add it to the existing selection. So far it worked. My system and tools are very few, but high quality.

Let me go through the list with you.

 

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Hardware

Computer

My primary tool is surprise surprise, a computer. At this moment in time (January 2018) I’m working on 27 inch iMac with upgraded RAM. The screen is enormous and the processing power more than enough to handle my workload. Apple systems are more expensive than Windows but most audio industry professionals use them. Therefore I followed the same rule at home. Of course, select what you feel is most viable for you – for example, video game sound designers work almost solely on Windows.

Listening

I’ve owned a pair of Adam A5X speakers for a few years now. They sound great, and I know them well. Apart from listening to music during work I use them to reference the mixes.

For podcast mixing I use headphones. The leading pair is Sony MDR-7506, amazing closed-cup phones with a clear sound, perfect for editing. I also have a range of earphones – from very cheap ones to a decent pair. Most people listen to music/podcasts on their earphones so I make sure my final masters sound good on them.

Audio Interface

Recently I bought a small Audient iD4 interface. Not only it’s a fantastic tool for production, but it also has a control surface functions. The main volume knob can be used for controlling various aspects of the audio sequencer. I’m using it for volume automation during a mix. I’m planning on buying a proper control surface for mixing in the future, but I want to hone my craft by using just one knob – limiting my choice again.

 

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Software

 

Pro Tools

I’ve used many different sequencers in the past but in my quest to minimalist workstyle I’ve decided to focus on just one. Avid Pro Tools is a standard in music and post-production industry, so it was quite clear that it was the one I needed to stick with. I knew that the MIDI functions are not the best, but it was much easier to learn how to use PT for everything rather than using multiple sequencers to do the work, as I’ve done in the past.

iZotope

Plugins were the central area where I had to downgrade. I’ve used iZotope’s tools when I worked at the movie studio, so I knew these were top quality. I’ve deleted all of my 3rd party plugins and started using only iZotope products.

I currently use Neutron, Ozone and Alloy. (I also have Eventide Ultraverb on dialogue tracks for reverb).

Spectrasonics

When it comes to composing music, especially inside your DAW, the choice is limitless. There are so many synths and virtual instruments that for the rest of your life you could be learning a new one each week (*not official stats, but there is a lot of them!).

At some point, I decided to get rid of most of the ones I had, also deleting a 500GB Kontakt library and just stick with one company – SpectrasonicsAt the moment of writing this paragraph I only use two synths from them, Omnisphere 2 and Keyscape.

Do I wish I had more options, for orchestral sound or bass? Yes, and I will expand in the future. However, for now, these two synths are more than enough to produce good work.

Limitation is freedom. It sounds so paradoxical, but in podcast production it is true. By freeing ourselves of choice paralysis, we are free of anxiety and burdens that come with limitless options.

This way of thinking does not apply to every aspect of our life, however, think about your work, day to day life and habits. Maybe some areas would be much better and more comfortable if you set some boundaries and rules?

The decision is up to you.

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Scoring Podcasts – My Tools

Scoring Podcasts – My Tools

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18 DECEMBER 2017

written by Mike

SCORING PODCASTS

MY TOOLS

 

As podcasts become more recognised, there is room for different styles and genres of audio storytelling. One of the big ones at the moment, at least when you look at the top charts, seems to be scripted dramas and narrated storytelling content.

With podcasts, you don’t have that many tools behind your belt – it’s all about the sound so, in reality, you have three elements to play.

Dialogues

Sound Effects

Music

Each is important and plays a different role; all depending on the project. For example, with a podcast like Casefile, we tend to go with just two of the elements – narration and music. Sure, from time to time we do include extra elements such as recorded interviews, police archive audio, and even reenactments.

However, most of the times the centre of the show is the narration of Anonymous Host and music underscore for the emotional connection. The goal is to create a complete audio experience with just two elements. The listener does not feel that it is either too much or not enough in the mix – balance is the key.

Today I wanted to talk about my tools I use for scoring Casefile podcast. I treat the work as I would with writing music for films therefore if you are looking at tools for creating songs, this post may not be the answer.

 

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Before starting in podcasting, I always recorded and wrote music. I used ‘normal’ recording with microphones, as well as plugins for computer music. I’ve tested many different sequencers and solutions, but in the end, decided to limit my tools and work with a minimalistic setup.

Just like for mixing, I prefer to work with only a handful of plugins but to know them inside out, to understand how far I can push them.

Limitation often offers more freedom than we think.

For some time I used software instruments in Logic, Native Instruments Komplete with 500GB of synths and Omnisphere on top of that. Before writing and recording, I often found myself sitting in front of the screen thinking what I should use as a cue. By having so many options, I was paralysed with choice and too many possibilities – until I decided to simplify the workflow and my system.

I moved everything to ProTools and stopped using Logic altogether, I’ve deleted Native Instruments and got rid of 500GB of synths. I was left with my favourite synth of all time – Omnisphere. From there, I’ve upgraded to Omnisphere 2 and for months just used that for scoring, nothing else.

Surprisingly it gave me freedom and unleashed more creativity than I imagined. Even during script reading I immediately knew what patch I would use for a particular scene, what kind of sound.

Unfortunately, Omnisphere wasn’t enough. It’s an excellent solution for scoring however it missed a vital element of writing music – pianos.

 

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Enter Keyscape.

When Spectrasonics released Keyscape, I watched all the videos and tutorials on it. However, it still took me a long time to purchase it. I wanted to be entirely comfortable working in just one synth – Omnisphere, before opening another one.

In the end, I got Keyscape, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For now, these are the tools I use for scoring – Omnisphere for atmospheric sound and general cues and Keyscape for melodies, themes and building blocks for underscore.

I often start in Keyscape; I heard a long time ago that by learning the piano you learn how to play all instruments, I think that’s somewhat true.

Keyscape is often a starting point for creating cues, even if I write simple acoustic piano melody I can always use the MIDI and play it through Omnisphere crazy sounds, making the initial themes virtually unrecognisable.

Another great thing is that by using two products from Spectrasonics I have everything in one window – Omnisphere plugin window supports Keyscape libraries as well as other sounds such as Keyscape Creative.

For now, these tools are more than enough to create amazing scores and themes. The other solution that I could use would be an orchestral synth with possibilities of creating full orchestrated music that sounds as good as Keyscape pianos (I’m looking at you Spectrasonics!)

The take away from this (apart from my obvious love for Spectrasonics products) is that you don’t need much to get working and create great sounding scores. Frankly, sometimes too much choice is more limiting than having one or two solutions that you know better than anything else.

I’m not an expert in creating new patches or making sounds with Omni, but if you ask me to score something, be it a podcast, audio drama or even a film – more than likely I will be able to do it with what I got.

P.S.

I’m not affiliated with Spectrasonics and this is not paid advertising – I just love their products!

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