Current Podcasts On My iPhone

You probably can guess that as someone who makes podcasts, I also subscribe to quite a few myself. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s currently on my phone.

Real quick – let me state that the BEST app for subscribing to podcasts is Instacast. Instacast uses the iTunes directory so everything is easy to find. I subscribe and unsubscribe to stuff when it all gets too cluttered and Instacast is really the best way for me to manage all of this. Its a universal app so you can use it on iPhone, iPod or iPad. I believe it will sync devices, though I only have it on my phone right now so I can’t confirm. I love Apple, but the native “Podcasts” app needs a ton of work. I prefer Instacast.

» Get Instacast from iTunes

Shows I’m currently listening to:

WTF

WTF is produced by comedian Marc Maron and is one of the top podcasts in iTunes. Marc is amazingly funny, but what makes this show so amazing is the guests. Maron literally knows everyone. Adam Schlesinger, Michael Keaton, Jakob Dylan, Seth Green, Elizabeth Banks, Dave Grohl, John Hodgman, Tim Ferris, Lucinda Williams, Gary Gulman, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Tom Green (I’m listing these in order folks). The line up is amazing and so is Marc.

» WTF on iTunes

Comedy Bang Bang

Another well known and successful comedy show. Hosted by Scott Aukerman and Reggie Watts, Comedy Bang Bang is a TV show on IFC, a weekly live show in Los Angeles and a podcast. Reggie Watts is worth the show by himself. He’s a comedian and a very talented musician who brings an element to this show that makes it much different than other comedy stuff. They also have an endless stream of big name guests.

» Comedy Bang Bang on iTunes

99% Invisible

Roman Mars is a recent find for me. 99% Invisible is a radio style show that Roman produces that is very impressive. The subject matter ranges from design to architecture and I’ve learned something new with every episode. This show really is impressive from Roman’s own research to his ability to tell a story. Amazing. For a long time I only knew this as a show that was always beating The Art of Photography in the iTunes store ratings. I can now see why.

» 99% Invisible on iTunes

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

I used to listen to Jesse Thorn’s “The Sound of Young America” constantly and it was one of the first shows that inspired me to get into podcasting. Jesse is amazing. He’s extremely talented and does amazing interviews with an eclectic assortment of guests. Bullseye is his new show. Its a natural extension to the Sound of Young America. Wonderfully produced.

» Bullseye with Jesse Thron

Put This On

A new video podcast from Jesse Thorn on men’s fashion. This show is impressively produced on little budget and takes you around the world to discover style, textile makers and fashion.

» Put This On

Online Marketing Made Easy

Amy Porterfield used to work for motivational speaker, Tony Robbins. She’s now a marketing consultant specializing in online strategies – particularly social media. She just started doing this podcast this year. If you are interested at all in online marketing, Amy’s podcast is the place to start. She speaks well and the show is wonderfully produced.

» Online Marketing Made Easy on iTunes

Seth Godin’s Startup School

Seth Godin is always amazing. This isn’t so much a podcast really – its a set of recordings taken from a workshop Seth did last year with a group of entrepreneurs. Don’t expect new episodes, but what’s here is gold. Targeted towards business owners but I think its essential to anyone who cares about what they do for a living.

» Seth Godin’s Startup School

Back to Work

I go back and forth on this one. I’ll subscribe and then I’ll quit. Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann are wonderful personalities and this is a casual show about work more or less. When its on its better than anything else out there. Unfortunately they tend to burn the first 20 minutes and sometimes the first hour chatting about comics, telling marginally funny jokes or whatever. I don’t mind a little of that, but sometimes its too much.

I’m back on the wagon for the moment and enjoying it however. Lets see if it sticks this time.

» Back to Work on iTunes

Is Podcasting Dead or Does It Just Smell Funny?

podcasting

Well – the short answer is neither at all. After spending my weekend at SXSW in Austin I’m going to share some thoughts and opinions with some of the wonderful things discussed on the subject of podcasting.

For a quick overview – I am a podcaster. I have two podcasts on iTunes at the moment that usually rank in the top 100 (the iTunes charts list in real time). I’ve been producing the Art of Photography since 2008 and this year brought back the show I do with Wade Griffith, the Photography Show.

Why Podcasting Is Important

Podcasting is extremely important to the media universe for three reasons.

1) The barriers to entry are very small compared to that of traditional media. In other words, anyone can make one and get it out there.

2) Podcasts provide free content available to anyone with a computer or mobile device. There’s no risk for anyone to listen so its easy to attract viewers/listeners. Providing good, consistent content keeps them around.

3) Podcasts tend to provide different relationships to their audience than what traditional media will do. Sure podcasts audiences are much smaller, but this makes intimacy between the audience and the podcaster possible. This in turn has a very positive effect on the quality of the content when implemented.

What Has Changed?

Since Apple included podcasting as part of the iTunes store back in 2005, things changed significantly. On one hand podcasting was brought to Apple’s audience which continues to grow every year thanks to their releases of iPods, iPhones and iPads. At the same time this is by far the biggest significant way people find podcasts. There have been some other distribution models that have come along – Stitcher, InstaCast, Apple TV, Roku, etc – but none have the built in audience that Apple has through iTunes.

Some of the frustration that producers have had recently is that iTunes is a walled garden. You can’t really subscribe to things through a traditional web browser and if someone doesn’t use iTunes it can be hard for them to find your show. This creates challenges of how to grow an audience and promote a show.

On the flip side though – Apple does a fine job of featuring shows. Sure, the cream does rise to the top, but if your show is good, Apple will promote it. They have a podcasting staff that does care and keeps track of shows that are listed inside iTunes.

Why I Feel Times Are Good To Be A Podcaster

This weekend I went to SXSW interactive in Austin, TX. I went down primarily with the focus of networking for the two shows I do. I met quite a few people and had some wonderful discussions of where we are in all of this business and where we need to go next. I’ll share a few thoughts:

Competition

This is a tough one, but I think it needs to be viewed in perspective. If you go through the top podcasts lists in iTunes, you will notice that they contain shows made by big traditional media. This is amazing because there’s enough audience there to make it important for them to be there. The downside is that its hard to compete with companies that have large budgets for their shows. I used to be very frustrated by this, but I have done well considering. This is what I’ve learned. The iTunes directory does a wonderful job of being fair. If you have a new show, they will almost always help you get going by putting you in the “New and Noteworthy” category. This will give you a ton of exposure since its the first listing. If Apple likes your show, you do have chances to be featured in other places as well. Apple does a wonderful job of keeping the shows listed in a way that lets the subscribers decide what they like.

Now back to the competition with big media. You can compete. I’ve done it. How is this done? The answer is simple – content. Apple doesn’t give the numbers out, but the current rumors estimate around 125,000 shows listed in iTunes. This sounds like a lot, but consider how many start and give up around 4 shows, but stay listed. Consider how many are poorly produced. Consider how many of them don’t communicate their own content well. Consider how many are on hugely obscure topics. This number starts weeding out pretty quickly.

You don’t need a big budget to produce something good. If you can communicate well to your audience, be personable, provide well recorded audio and you have something to say – you will do fine. Sometimes you have to be patient – people won’t discover you over night. My audience for the Art of Photography was pretty small the first 2 years. But even when it was small it was extremely meaningful for me to produce because I got to know the people who listened when they emailed with questions and kind words. I got good feedback and made constructive changes to my format over the years. Radio and Television don’t have this kind of intimacy with their audience.

Monetization

This is an interesting subject. Podcasts are essentially free. If you are committed to doing a show you can make a living doing it. At SXSW I got to meet Adam Curry, Jesse Thorn and Roman Mars. All three of these guys have major podcasts on iTunes and all three of them do it for a living. But all three have completely different ways they earn their income. The take away to share with you here is that you have to find what works for you. You can run advertising, you can do kickstarter projects, you can do it solely on crowd funding. Every audience is different. To make your show profitable you have to know your audience and know what works. This takes time but is worth it in the end.

The Legal Dark Cloud

Right now something very unfortunate is going on with podcasting. About 15 years ago a company called Personal Audio LLC filed a patent for “podcasting”. In short this is common practice for companies to simply make money by owning patents and suing people for big money. We call this Patent Trolling. This is typically done by sending out letters stating someone is violating the patent. Now they don’t tell you you’re being sued because they don’t want you to pick the court. When they take you to court, they want to make sure its in a small town with a judge who’s history is in their favor and a jury who is largely uninformed about technology in general.

This group has recently sent these letters to several of the biggest podcasters on iTunes including Marc Maron, Adam Corolla, Jesse Thorn and others. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has stepped in, but the biggest concerns are that this will cost millions to go to trial and that people will start writing checks to settle out of court. This is sad and quite unfortunate. We shall see how this all unfolds. Its recent so there’s not a lot of news or data at the moment.

Big Media

I mentioned this earlier, but people do complain about big media coming into the podcast arena. Does this threaten the user base on iTunes? Does this make it more difficult to get notices as a producer?

The answer is no. Podcasts audience subscriber numbers go up and down over time. If you want a successful show you want to see a climb, but you’ll still see small fluctuations month to month. This is because audience attention spans change. Think about your own tastes. Sure there are television shows you watch and are committed to, but there are others that maybe you loose interest in. There are only so many hours in the day and new things come along that grab our attention.

I personally have no problem with bigger media coming into the podcast world. They bring viewers. They have big budgets to promote it. And lets face it – we need this. Subscribing to a podcast is a commitment. You have to go to iTunes, find shows, subscribe, download, upload to a media device and then finally remember to actually listen to it when your on the go. This is a committed fan who wants to hear you. This is why every member of a small audience is significant and important. If you are a producer remember that and live by it. But big media bring big audiences and this only helps us all as a community.

Now’s the Time

Despite competition, big media and a scary lawsuit – I seriously think there has been no better time than right now for podcasts. Sure its not a buzzword, its not a new phone, its not Facebook and its not Twitter… but it is alive and well. Its an industry that allows anyone to jump in and give things a try.

This was a rather long article of thoughts and I’d like to hear yours – especially if you’ve read this far! Leave a comment below and lets discuss!

Shooting Pictures in Low Light

I recently published an article on the Art of Photography on the best low light camera techniques. I’m going to be writing more articles on camera techniques in 2013.

Low Light Camera Techniques

One of the most popular questions I get asked is “What is the best camera for low light?”. As with most photography related subjects, this question is entirely dependent on what it is that you are trying to photograph. The answer also depends heavily on the equipment you are working with.

Photography requires a combination of three elements that determine exposure – aperture, shutter speed and ISO. In low light situations, the weakest link here is the ISO sensitivity. ISO is a measurement of how sensitive the capture medium is. This applies to film as well as digital camera sensors. Both of these mediums work in very different ways, but on the same principal and measurement. Film is material sensitive (for a later chemical application) and digital sensors record light electronically – but they both work with the same sensitivity measurements. Both mediums also see the best image quality at lower ISO ratings, but as we move into the 21st century, digital cameras are receiving an incredible amount of research and development making higher ISO ratings better every year. Lets look at the technical aspects of these applications.

Digital Cameras

Tuileries

Modern digital cameras are constantly improving. In fact, the speed of improvement in these cameras since the late 1990′s is staggering. I remember my first digital camera (a Canon Digital Rebel) did pretty well at an ISO rating of 200 but you could start to see noise at 400. These early cameras required a great deal of light to achieve a high image quality. Contrast this with some of the cameras that have been introduced this year and the difference is amazing. ISO ratings of 1600 and 3200 are very usable and the top of the line cameras can go beyond this with very minimal defects.

In general, larger sensors permit more light per pixel permitting lower noise and higher quality conversion of light to a RGB value so this is something to consider if this is the most important factor in selecting a digital camera. Full frame sensors usually perform better than APX or Half Frame sensors in low light. Lenses with wider apertures help too for handheld shots, but if you require a large depth of field, this won’t fix anything.

Do You Have A Website?

This is a big article I just posted over at The Art of Photography.

Do you have a website? I know its trendy now because of the rise of social media to think working on your own website isn’t important anymore. I’m here to tell you it absolutely is. And, while not free as in Facebook, you have complete control for what is a relatively low cost. More details on my photography podcast website.

» Build an Online Photography Portfolio in Under 5 Minutes

Hillman Curtis Remembered

image by gabrieldeurioste

UPDATE: I didn’t see this earlier as the poster frame is an image from an earlier video he had done. Its not – Hillman knew his time was short and got this out. I got pretty choked up seeing him in this. Not how he looked as much as the words he gives. What a great man. God I miss you Hillman. I’m so lucky to have gotten a brief moment to work together.

On April 18th, 2012 one of my heroes left us. Hillman Curtis died at 51 from a battle with colon cancer. He is survived by his wife and two children. Hillman had a profound impact on my life that I don’t think he knew. If you’ll indulge me for a moment I want to share my story with you.

First – this is the video I’m talking about:

Back in May of 1998, the dot com boom was in full force. I had been working at a studio producing CD-ROM content and saving my money. This was the month I had left the job and was busy doing freelance web design work. Flash was the hot new technology at the time and I was diving in full speed. I remember the first time I found Hillman Curtis’ website like it was last month. It was nothing short of outstanding, inspiring and mind-blowing all at the same time.

You have to remember that at this time most people were still on dial-up internet connections. Only a few businesses were lucky enough to have ISDN lines. The web was a much different experience than what we’ve got today. Web video was miserable at best mainly because of the lack of broadband delivery. Design on the web was something at that time as well. Most designers were not yet taking it seriously so most of it was made by computer geeks.

What I remember about seeing Hillman’s work for the first time was that it was sophisticated and mature… but the shocking part is that he was producing motion graphics that came right up without waiting while watching a preloader. You’d go to Hillman’s site and it would come alive with a magic seen no where else. To top it off he was communicating smartly in a visual manner. Hillman was a master storyteller who seemed to use technical limitations to his own advantage. His work was innovative, intelligent and never gimmicky.

I bought his book the next day. Over the next few years I watched his work evolve even more. I’d check his site almost daily for new work. I was a fan.

A few years later I served on the board of the Dallas Society of Visual Communications. As a board member I was given the task of finding a monthly speaker and getting them to Dallas. Hillman was my first choice hands down. I remember calling his studio figuring I would get weeded out by a secretary beginning a long process of hunting him down.

The phone rang 3 times. “Hello, Hillman Curtis.”

“Hi may I speak with Hillman Curtis?” I asked.

“This is he”.

I was stunned that Hillman answered the phone himself. I instantly went into a panic rambling on about who I was and that I wanted him to come speak in Dallas. As we spoke I calmed down a bit largely due to Hillman’s charm and personality. He couldn’t come speak as he was inundated with work, but he told me I was welcome to call again any time.

The next year the same conversation went down. No avail – I had to get someone else.

Finally a third year came around and I dialed the number again. Hillman said he remembered me, but I thought he was being nice… He politely turned me down once again – could have done a month later, but not the one I was given.

A few weeks later my phone rang one evening. When I saw Hillman Curtis Inc on the caller ID you could have knocked me over with a feather. I picked up the phone. Hillman said he saw on the DSVC website that we had Stefan Sagmeister coming in 3 months later. He said he and Stefan were friends and he had a new gig with Adobe creating some artist videos. He was working on filming Stefan and very humbly asked if he could come too.

I went back to the board and pitched the idea. They went for it – we had a double meeting with Stefan and Hillman.

I remember picking them up at the airport. They decided to rent a car and drive to another conference the day after the talk and were going to follow me to the hotel. I had to go get my car out of another lot and couldn’t reach Hillman on his cell. I’ll never forget driving into the rental lot seeing Stefan Sagmeister driving around in a convertible Mustang with Hillman (and a huge camera on his shoulder) filming away in the passenger seat. They filmed the entire drive to the hotel following me.

After reaching the hotel, Hillman talked me into putting the top down on my Jeep and we went out to lunch. Both he and Stefan were fascinating. I expected to be dealing with large egos and there were none. We went to get panini’s and coffee and proceeded to have one of the most fascinating conversations I’d ever had.

We talked about the recent dot com crash and how print and web designers were dealing with things in different ways. We talked about how clients had changed as well as budgets and the trials of doing outstanding work in a much more worried commercial climate. Stefan and Hillman were both interested in what I was doing which really embarrassed me. I was no where near their level of talent or client base and didn’t think they would ask me. I was humbled and impressed. But this is how Hillman was. He was highly intelligent, but most impressively he had a great handle on life and what was really important. He would turn down huge clients (and money offers) simply because it meant he would see less of his family. He was confident and the first person who taught me that I had the choice of who I would work for. I used to take every gig in the world – even if it made me miserable. This was life changing advice – and he lived it by example.

A few months later Adobe rolled out a few designer interviews Hillman had done which were early contributions to the “Artist Series” he’s now known for. This is the Stefan video – at the 2:33 mark the video chronicles the trip to Dallas and contains some highlights from Stefan’s talk. Of course this only tells half the story as Hillman’s talk was equally amazing. You can see me for about 2 seconds in the front row at the talk. Barely visible, but I’m still giddy to be in this.

 

Hillman and I continued to exchange email for a few years. He got out of web design and transitioned into film making continuing to be an influence on me. His artist series videos were like school for me. Now producing films for an art museum, that series really served as a basis for how I work today.

I haven’t heard from Hillman in a long time. Several years. I followed the work he did with Brian Eno and then David Byrne. I knew he was still actively working…

Then I saw Todd Purgasson’s post saying he’d passed away.

I am still shocked – I didn’t know Hillman was even sick. In many ways it doesn’t seem fair. A strong reminder of how fragile life is.

Hillman – I’m indebted to you in many ways both as a producer and a person. I’ll miss you my friend until we meet again.

New York Times Obituary

HillmanCurtis.com

https://vimeo.com/hillmancurtis/

Music for a Wet Morning

Improvising with delays and reverbs largely inspired by the rain outside.

I’ve streamlined my pedalboard a little since moving to the new studio. On this particular track I’m using the following:

Lovepedal Amp 50
EHX micro POG
EB Volume Pedal
Strymon El Capistan
EHX Stereo Memory Man (looping)
Strymon Blue Sky (modulated hall, long reverb time)

This picks up in the middle of a loop I had been building earlier which featured some sounds through the Strymon Timeline, but what you’re hearing has them thru a high pass filter and reversed so they don’t resemble much what I started with.

My 40th Birthday at the Foxtrot Oscar

I am not a chef. I am a photographer and media producer with a music background and as diverse as I try to present my own work, I keep a diverse set of things that influence me. Gordon Ramsay has always been a hero of mine. I first saw him years ago on his American debut as an angry reality host who put young chefs through the ringer. Upon further investigation I found that this terse character had (at the time) 5 Michelin stars – to date he’s got 13.

Okay so the guy can cook right? At this point in my investigation I’ve got no way of going to one of his restaurants, so I ordered a cookbook of his off of Amazon and found a few podcasts he’d done for Chanel 4 preparing dishes. My God if this wasn’t an eye opener. For starters cooking is not easy. Well cooking is easy, but cooking perfectly is not. Having a podcast of my own I really found myself enjoying Gordon’s teaching style. Its inspirational in the way he presents his energy, encouragement, standards of perfection and he has fun with the whole thing. I get the impression he really loves to share his passion. I became inspired – I wanted to bring these qualities to my own craft of photography and filmmaking down to how I even produce my own podcast. I’m no Gordon Ramsay, but he keeps me striving to make things better all the time.

This year my fiancé and I decided to go to London for my 40th birthday which also happened to be Thanksgiving day. We decided we had to go to at least one Gordon Ramsay restaurant to celebrate the week (we had plans to go to several). Well London is by far the most expensive city I’ve ever been to and we don’t make tons of money so we only made it to one. And one of the cheaper ones at that. But its what we could afford and it impressed me enough to do this post.

We picked the Foxtrot Oscar for Sunday dinner. Its a smaller 3 course kind of place but it really sounded good. Plus I love the name. Foxtrot Oscar is the intellectual way of saying, “Fuck off”. Very Gordon, very irreverent and very compelling.

We jumped on the Tube and headed to Sloane Square and walked through the cold and fog excitedly down to Royal Hospital Road and made our way to the restaurant. I was buzzing. I’ve never in my life been this excited to eat somewhere. After a 10 minute walk we arrived. The place is tiny but had a warm, modern class to it that never felt too crowded or tight. Low lighting, quiet contemporary music and beautiful black and white photographs make a lovely decor.

At this point I have to make an important comment. Say what you want about Ramsay but the service was absolutely outstanding. I’ve never in my life had better service than I did at one of Ramsay’s smaller “grills”. The hungarian waiter was friendly, polite, knowledgeable and honest when we asked for recommendations. My fiancé saw some tables enjoying Sunday roast and asked if it was possible to get despite not being on the menu. The waiter explained that you needed to order the roast when you made your reservation due to limited kitchen size. He then offered that if we waited a few minutes he would take another tables order to see if someone had changed their mind to order something else. After 2 minutes he returned to tell us we were in luck. There were 2 roasts not chosen at the large group who had just placed their orders.

Well we couldn’t both get the same thing! How can you try 2 dishes if you get 2 of the same… so I decided to get the beef onglet (hanger steak). The waiter said this was best cooked medium rare and I took his suggestion.

Everything was perfect. Much like the service, the food was prepared to the same tight standards that you can tell the place was put together with. Both the roast and the onglet were fairly conventional in recipe. Nothing fancy or pretentious – and they were cooked and seasoned to absolute perfection. And for the record they made the biggest home made chips I’ve ever had – simply delicious.

We went on to enjoy some wonderful deserts (apple crumble and gingerbread) along with a recommended hungarian desert wine from the waiters home country. All were absolutely divine.

Now describing food in a blog post is probably horribly ineffective – especially considering I’m neither a writer nor a food critic. However I’ve wanted to experience a Ramsay restaurant first hand for years now. It was like Christmas Eve for me to go to this place and it didn’t disappoint.

On another note – I read Gordon’s book last year for the first time and the man is a complete inspiration. He came from a challenging background and is one of the few chefs that have turned cooking into celebrity. And he’s done it on pure talent. There aren’t many people of his stature that actually deliver any goods but he does in spades. I mean 13 Michelin stars?!? 20 years ago many would have thought that to be impossible and today it damn near still is.

Gordon – thank you. You are an inspiration.

About 3 years ago I passed this place late at night on my way to go do some long exposure photographs of Battersea Power Station in the rain. At the time I was completely broke but wondered what eating there would be like. I finally found out and it didn’t disappoint. Next trip to the UK I’ll be saving to have a meal at Maze or Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

But for this weekend? Gordon’s “Bolognaise” recipe for the colder weather…

Jean Paul Gaultier

This is one of those days where I really love my job. I got to do an interview of Jean Paul Gaultier at the Dallas Museum of Art press preview for the exhibition opening – The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier – From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.

I filmed this with my Zacuto rig with my Canon 5D mk ii. The whole thing was shot and edited in one day.

The interview part was great. I was asked just to get him to film a “welcome” statement. I went over this with Jean Paul briefly – he insisted we film it in front of the cowboy outfits he had made just for the Dallas show. This was 1 take – he was on!

Wonderful person and one of the greats. I wish all artists were this easy to work with.

DMA Director Olivier Meslay (my awesome boss) gave him a marker and asked him to “sign” the pedestal. He took that to town just like everything else.