Podcasting Setup Update and the Shure SM7B

As I mentioned in a previous post outlining my new, improved podcasting setup I’ve been waiting patiently for the Shure SM7B microphone to arrive. Well, it arrived.

I’ve already set it up and recorded a new episode of The Flickcast with it. Expect that one soon. In the meantime, I’m happy to report that, to me at least, the mic more than lives up to the hype. In fact, it’s great.

It’s so great, in fact, I’m done looking. As in I will never use a different mic. Ever. I’m hooked.

Anyway, that’s it. Let me know if you have any questions about the Shure SM7B, my podcasting setup or podcasting in general. Happy to help if I can.

Oh, I should mention we recently launched a Patreon for The Flickcast. If you feel like supporting our show, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks so much and stay safe!

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Podcasting And My New, Improved Setup

Even though I really did consider keeping my head down and trying to just “make it through” this time of COVID, turns out I couldn’t really do that. I’m not a “wait and see” type after all, but I guess I already knew that.

Instead, after due consideration, me and some pals decided to revive The Flickcast podcast and bring it back stronger than ever. Seems right. It was a good show. It can be a great show. We’re working on it.

I enjoy podcasting and I’m not sure why I stopped. Hard to say. Anyway, now I’m back into it and the first new episode of The Flickcast dropped this week. Give it a listen, and if you like it, tell a friend. Thanks.

Now with the promotional portion of our story over (for the moment at least) we are now on to to the actual topic of this post: my new podcasting setup. If you know me, you know I love gear. Gadgets. Tech. Stuff. And of course, I still love analog things too. I haven’t given those up, don’t worry.

However, it’s hard to do a podcast without some technology and really a podcast with all analog gear would just be, well, a live stage show, which is kinda a bad idea right now. So, tech it is.

Knowing I wanted to have much better sound quality this time around I decided to upgrade my podcasting setup and go for improved audio and an overall more professional show. I’m sure I can achieve at least one of those.

I’m still in the process of finishing some upgrades, but here’s the new setup for the moment:

My microphone of choice is a classic, the Shure Sm58. My eventual mic, the Shure SM7B, is currently on back order but should arrive soon. Until then, the SM58 is no slouch. It sounds really good.

I hang the mic on a Rode PSA1 boom arm attached to my desk to get it in the right position. The arm makes it much easier to adjust the mic and get it where it needs to be. It also gets the mic off of my desk, which improves sound quality and helps reduce those pesky vibrations and keyboard sounds. Plus, it just looks cool.

The SM58 is connected via XLR cable to one of the two inputs on my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 box, which allows the signal to be converted to digital and recorded into Logic Pro X on my MacBook Pro via the Scarlett’s USB interface. This box does a great job and the audio sounds super clean. Such a great little device.

Also connected to the Sm58 in line between the mic and the Scarlett 2i2 is a mic activator called the Cloudlifter CL1. Those little blue boxes help boost the audio and make me sound even better. I could explain in more detail why the Cloudlifter is a great device and how it works, but this isn’t that kind of technical review. Just know it does a great job.

The Scarlett is connected to my MacBook Pro (more on that in a different post) via USB-C cable, which allows it to not only interface with the Mac but also be powered by it. So, no need to plug it into a wall outlet or anything, which is nice.

Finally, I record and edit audio in Apple’s Logic Pro X running on the previously mentioned 2020 13″ MacBook Pro with a 2.3 Ghz Quad Core i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM. Not gonna lie, it’s a sweet machine.

I used Final Cut Pro for video editing for a long time so Logic seemed like a, well, logical way to go as the interface and workflow is similar to FCP. I did also try Adobe’s Audition for a bit, but I don’t really like renting software on a monthly basis, so buying Logic Pro once and being able to own seemed like a good idea.

At the moment, I don’t do much audio editing for The Flickcast as, thankfully, we have a great producer who does most of that (Hi Mike). But I like to learn new things so I’ve been studying and practicing with Logic Pro X. Also, The Flickcast isn’t the only podcast I’m going to be doing (more on that later too), so being able to edit and adjust audio will be good skills to have.

Oh, in addition to these things, you’ll also need some XLR cables and a USB-C cable. For XLR, I’ve always been a Mogami guy, so get those if you can. Sure, they aren’t cheap, but they last forever and do a great job. On less thing to worry about.

For USB-C, I usually won’t pay Apple’s prices and instead get cables from Anker. They’re just as good, if not better, and way less expensive. You will also want a pair of headphones for monitoring your audio when recording and for editing and mixing it afterward. Currently, I use the Sony MDR-7508, just like most everyone else. Hey, they work.

This wasn’t a real, in depth, review of these devices but I just wanted to give a little info on my new, improved setup in case people were interested. That said, if you have questions about any of this, feel free to ask. I think people should try to help others and spread the knowledge. We’re all in this together, after all.

If you want to subscribe to The Flickcast, you can find it at Apple Podcasts, Google, Stitcher and at the show’s website.

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Head Down ‘Til 2021

It seems the optimistic tone of my previous post about 2020 was a wee bit premature. Because, yeah, COVID 19 pandemic and all that.

So, now things suck. And we’ve been quarantined at home for a few months. And we can’t go to work, get a haircut, go to the movies or generally be within six feet of others without a mask or even greater forms of personal protection. And it seems things are gonna legit continue to suck for quite some time.

And yes, I don’t feel great about it most of the time. And yes, that’s a lot of “and” at the start of sentences. I get that. Did I mention the pandemic? I’m not exactly at my best. And I’m sure most of you aren’t either.

But you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling and to pretty much deal with this shit however you need to, short of hurting others, or yourself, of course.

Even though things look bleak, one thing is for sure, we will get through it. The pandemic will end. A vaccine will be developed and administered and life will get back to “normal.”

Will it be the same normal we were used to before? Nope. Might things still kinda suck for a long time? Maybe. Will it start to suck a bit less as time goes on? I sure hope so. I think it will suck for some time after but I also think we will start to feel better and eventually be okay.

It will just take some time. And that’s cool. I’m not going anywhere. And neither should you. Let’s just wait it out together. Okay? Cool.

And now I’m done. Try to be kind to each other while we’re in the middle of this shit. And heck, why not try it after we’re on the other side too?

Couldn’t hurt.

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Happy 2020

Well, friends, we made it. It’s the new year and with it new opportunities to do things right. Or, better. Or, whatever. You get the idea. It’s new, okay?

With all that’s going on in the world, and I won’t get too much into that now, I admit I’ve taken some time to reflect and maybe practice a bit of what the kids call “self care.” In other words, I’ve taken some time off from this site and, to be honest, from a lot of other things too.

But now, here I am. Ready? Cool, let’s get to it.

I’m not a person who makes resolutions when new years roll around. I think it only leads to eventual disappointment when you can’t keep them. I do, however, try to think of one or two things I would like to do differently, or be better at, in the new year.

I want to expand my skills and knowledge as much as possible. And I think that’s a good thing. Not just this year, but every year. Every day, if possible.

So, what are the areas I would like to improve in 2020? Well, glad you asked. For one, I’m going to stop hiding. I don’t know a better word for it, so I’ll just use that one. I’ve been hiding.

It’s not like I’ve withdrawn from society completely and am currently filling jars with my urine and stacking them neatly in the corner of my bedroom. I still go places and see people and whatever. I’m just not as engaged in all of it as I used to be and I definitely don’t do it as often.

In fact, I find myself trying to avoid it a lot of the time, for no real reason other than I’d rather stay home and being around other people is a lot of work. You have to talk and listen and pretend to care about what they’re saying. Who has time for that? I’m exaggerating, of course. But you get the idea.

I’ve also stopped exercising and most of the work on my various writing and photography projects. My book has been at about 45000 words for the last six months, at least. I need to get back to it and back out to the trails to hike or, at the very least, clear the clothes hanging on the treadmill and walk a bit. Gotta move, man!

There’s a lot of reasons for the hiding, but let’s just say it’s a lot of personal shit and I won’t really get into it. The real take away here is I’m aware of the problem and I’m going to try to fix it.

No. I’m going to fix it. Yoda doesn’t like it when you say “try,” and he was a Jedi master, so I guess I’ll listen to him.

The second area I’m going to put in some word on is dealing with anger and frustration. The current situation we have in this country has caused me a great deal of frustration and anger. I see things going in a direction I don’t think is healthy and I often feel powerless to do anything about it. I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

I don’t know exactly how to fix the country (cough cough impeachment cough cough) but I do know I can deal with my anger and frustration a lot better than I do. So, I will.

New 2020 Chris will not let things get to him as much and will not dwell on the total asshats currently in charge in Washington. Or with the idiots on social media spouting their bullshit or with any random stranger (or friend for that matter) saying stupid shit.

I will be tolerant and discuss issues in an intelligent and adult manner. Or, I’ll block their ass. But whatever I do, I’ll do it calmly and without frustration or anger. I’ll be fucking Zen about the whole damn thing. I know it won’t be easy, but it needs to happen.

Well, that’s it. This was fun, at least for me. I hope you got something out of it too.

Who knows, perhaps you’ll join me in selecting one or two areas of personal change for yourself? Or you can just go through 2020 being the same asshole you always were.

Either way, we’re cool.

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A Small Update

The funny thing is, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. It only seems that way due to the complete lack of new content. What can I say? I’ve got a kid and a life and I’ve not really felt like writing much lately. Blah, blah, blah. Still . . .

Now I’m gonna say the thing that all people who’ve stopped writing on a blog have said so many times: I’m gonna start updating this site again.

One of these days.

Until then, have you checked out my photos on Instagram lately? If not, take a look. Feel free to like one or two of them, if you don’t mind.  Thanks.

See you soon.

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Some Favorite SDCC18 Trailers

As has been the case for the last few years, I wasn’t at Comic-Con in San Diego this week. The reasons I don’t go are varied, but the main one is after going pretty much every year for the last 30 years or so, I’m kinda burned out.

Also, I’m waiting for my son to get a wee bit older before I scar him for life by taking him to the con. I’m not sure he’d be able to handle it right now. There’s just too much of it and it’s all happening at the same time. If you’ve ever been you know what I’m talking about.

Heck, I’m an adult with decades of con experience and I’m not sure I could handle it right now either. Well, I probably could. Probably.

Even though I didn’t go this year I did keep tabs on most of the things happening during the week, especially the trailers for new movies and TV shows. Here’s some of my favorites.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

As a huge fan of OG Godzilla movies, and especially Destroy All Monsters, this made me very happy. I’ll be seeing this as soon as I can.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2

Say what you will about this latest Star Trek series (and about CBS All Access which, let’s face it, kinda sucks) this trailer looks great and I’m very interested in the new season.

And the one I’m most excited about: Glass. Been waiting a long time for an Unbreakable sequel, and now it’s here. Looks great. And yes, I realize Split was a sorta sequel, but this is more what I had in mind all along.

There were, of course, a lot more trailers, news, announcements and whatnot from the show. It is Comic-Con after all. But these were the highlights for me.

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By Way of An Update

Hello all. My most recent plan was to start to write here frequently again. As you can plainly see, I was not entirely successful.

However, I do intend to give it another try. I’ve been working on a couple other writing projects and those have taken up what little creative energy I have. Now that I’m at a certain point with those, I can take a step back and focus a bit more on this site, which I’ve been posting at for over fourteen years now.

Fourteen years? Damn. That’s a long time.

In truth, I’m not even sure that’s completely accurate. I think it’s actually been longer. But still, fourteen years is a good stretch, so I won’t worry too much about it.

Anyway, stay tuned and I’ll try to be better about writing things for this site. Or, at the very least, put up some funny links or a cat video once in awhile. People still love that shit, right?

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Review: The OneStep 2 Instant Camera from Polaroid Originals

The great people at Polaroid Originals, which used to be the Impossible Project, have come out with a new Polaroid camera called the OneStep 2 and new instant film to go along with it. I have one of the new OneStep 2 cameras and have been shooting with it for a couple weeks.

Now that I’ve had a change to check it out, I thought I’d do a review/first impressions article about it. This article will be relatively short, however, because I have almost all good things to say about the OneStep 2.

It’s easy to load and works right out of the box. Well, you do need to charge it first via the included USB cable, but then it works. You’ll also need film too, of course. You need to purchase that seperately.

Continue reading

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Some More Recent Photos

I posted some of my film photography previously and thought now would be a good time to post some more. Most of these were shot with a Leica M6 or Nikon FM2n in 35mm. Some, however, were shot with a Polaroid camera, either the SX-70 or the new OneStep 2 from Polaroid Originals. Oh, I think there’s one shot with a Polaroid Land 250 camera too.

Speaking of the OneStep 2, I’ll have a review of that camera up shortly, now that I’ve had a chance to shoot with it for a few weeks.

If you want to see more of my photography, check out my website at UllrichMedia or my Instagram. Okay, here’s the photos.

Continue reading

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Going Analog (Pt. 3): Shooting Film

In the two previous installments of this series I talked about my love of all-things analog and some of the tools and gear I like to use to get things done. My love of analog also extends into many other aspects of my life, especially the creative endeavors I pursue. A major one of these creative endeavors is photography.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn I use film for the majority of my photography. Sometimes I do use a digital camera or an iPhone, especially when I’m photographing my fast-moving toddler. But most of the time it’s film, film, film.

My history with film goes back a long way. Back to the days when digital was just a word and not the revolutionary technology it is today. Back when film was the only option.

My first camera was an Olympus OM1, which is an SLR that uses 35mm film. From the moment I took it out of the box, loaded it with film and pressed the shutter to make my first photo, I was hooked. Since that day I’ve made photos for countless personal and professional projects and have many, many notebooks full of negatives and boxes full of slides. I also took quite a few photo classes, developed my own negatives and made my own prints in a darkroom.

Then, digital came along.

As much as I love analog, I also love gadgets and technology. So, as any good tech aficionado would, I embraced digital and jumped in with both feet.

My first digital camera was a Kodak DC240. By today’s standards, the DC240 is laughably antiquated. But it made photos and I could see them instantly on the little screen on the back of the camera.

I didn’t have to wait for them to be developed and printed. In fact, I could download them to my computer and print them myself at home. Instant gratification. I have to admit, at the time, I thought it was pretty amazing. In truth, I still kinda do.

But as I explored digital, and made thousands and thousands of photos, I came to realize something: I wasn’t enjoying photography anymore. Also, the quality of my images had declined. Not the resolution, sharpness or that kind of “quality.” Those were ever-increasing as technology got better and better.

It was something else: my photos just weren’t good. Or very interesting. Or very creative. They were more like generic snapshots with no real thought or intent behind them. Because I could take so many at a time I usually just held the shutter button down and figured I’d get at least one or two “good ones.”

Because it was easier, faster and I didn’t have to think much about focus, exposure or anything else, I pretty much stopped thinking about my photos at all. I stopped caring and just became a button pusher. And my photos suffered for it.

Things went on like this for quite a while until something happened: I found two of my film cameras. They had been packed away in a box several moves ago and forgotten. Seeing them for the first time in years, I was intrigued. So, I did some research and discovered film was still around.

I unpacked the cameras and took a closer look. They seemed to work just fine so I bought a roll of film, loaded one of them and made some photos. I didn’t have any way to process the film at home, having sold my darkroom equipment long ago, so I took it to one of the only film labs left in Austin, Holland Photo.

I thought I’d be annoyed or impatient at having to wait to see the photos, but something else happened instead: I got excited. Excited to see how they turned out. The anticipation became part of the fun. Then I got them back.

I’ll be honest, most of them weren’t that great. Going back to a manual camera after years of auto everything was a humbling experience. But even with the focus and exposure issues, there was still something about them. I liked them. Even the bad ones.

Plus, I had actually enjoyed the experience of taking the photos. It had been really fun. And I wanted to do it again. So, I bought more film and made more photos.

With each roll I got a little better and enjoyed it more. I took my time and thought a lot about exposure, focus and composition. It was almost as if I was learning photography for the first time. And as I went along I noticed something: the end result, my photos, started to get a lot better.

Before I go on I should mention I don’t think I’m an amazing photographer. But I can tell an “ok” photo from a good one and a great one from an amazing work of art. Most of mine fall into the “good” category and I’m happy with the results I get most of the time. Could I improve? Absolutely.

I’m working on it pretty much every day. And that’s part of what I’m talking about here: I want to get better. Photography, like many other kinds of art, is a process. With film, I love the process a hell of a lot more than I did with digital.

With film making a comeback (or at least it seems like it is) people who use it talk a lot about why they prefer it. They say it’s the process or they enjoy slowing down and taking time to make the images. I agree with that. There’s something about the way light strikes film, causes a chemical reaction and, after processing, an image to appear. To me, that’s the very essence of analog.

I also like that I can’t just hold the button down and hope for one or two “good ones.” Film costs money. Processing cost money. Scanning costs money. Every time I press the shutter it costs money.

I need to make the photos count. I need to take my time and do I good job and only press the button when I have exactly what I want, or as close to it as possible. This has also improved my photography.

Plus, I just like the “look” of film. The aesthetic of it. It’s what I grew up with. My perception of reality was shaped, to a large degree, by seeing the world depicted on film in photographs, on tv and in movies. To me, the world looks more “real” when you see it on film.

Who knows? Maybe I would have rediscovered my love for photography if I’d never found those film cameras? Maybe I would have figured all of this out if I’d keep shooting digital? I don’t really think so.

I believe it was film that helped me find my love and passion for photography again. Although, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really think about how I got here all that much, unless I’m writing about it like I am now. I just go out and try to make the best photos I can.

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to convince you to shoot film. Nor am I saying digital is bad. This is what works for me. If you enjoy or use digital, by all means keep doing it. There’s many situations where it absolutely makes sense. I’m not trying to get you to change.

As for me, I’ll keep shooting film as long as I can.

Cameras

I primarily shoot 35mm film so my two main cameras are the Leica M6 and the Nikon FM2n. I usually keep the M6 loaded with black & white and the Nikon loaded with color. I love both of these cameras and could see myself being happy with either as my only camera if I had to pick just one.

First, let’s talk about the Leica M6. It’s an amazing piece of gear that works flawlessly, considering it’s over twenty years old. Much has been written about Leica, and the M6 in particular, so I won’t get into a full review here.

In brief, the Leica M6 is a rangefinder camera made in Germany. It’s smaller than an SLR and quieter, mostly because it doesn’t have a mirror that has to get out of the way every time you press the shutter. A traditional SLR has a mirror (and a prism) because you are actually looking through the lens while composing and focusing. The mirror and prism allow you to do this.

Then, when you press the shutter release, the mirror flips up out of the way so the film can be exposed to light when the shutter opens and closes. Being a rangefinder, the Leica doesn’t do this because you are composing and focusing through a different set of glass then what you take the photo with. Not having a mirror and prism also means the camera (and the lenses) can be smaller. It may sound complicated, but it works really well.

The Leica is also quiet because of its shutter. The shutter is made of cloth, not metal like the Nikon, so it moves almost silently. All of this, the size, the weight and the near silent operation, make the Leica an ideal camera for intimate situations where something bigger or noisier might be an issue.

It’s also a pleasure to shoot. The size and weight make it easier to carry around for long periods of time, as I often do when I’m on the streets shooting. Focusing it is also quite easy with its split image system. I find it a bit easier to focus quickly than the Nikon. Plus, it has a meter, which is quite accurate. Although, I don’t use it very often.

The Nikon is different from the Leica but still a great camera. It’s an SLR so it’s bigger, a bit heavier and has a metal shutter. It’s louder too. But, it’s pleasure to shoot. The controls make sense and the meter is accurate and easy to understand. I’ve made some of my favorite images with the Nikon.

Like I said, I love both of these cameras. They each have their quirks, but it’s like having two children: I could never pick a favorite. Fortunately, I won’t need too.

I can just use them until they break or I can’t see well enough to focus or my hands don’t work well enough to load the film. In truth, both of these cameras will likely outlast me. They are quality tools that should last a lifetime (or longer).

One potential drawback to both of these cameras, at least for some, is they’re both completely manual. This means you set the ISO (only once when you first load the film), the shutter speed, the aperture and you focus. Then, you press the shutter release. After that, you need to advance the film manually in order to take another picture. No auto advance here.

In other words, you do all the work. If you’ve been used to just pointing and shooting, you’ll likely have a bit of a learning curve if you decide on one of these cameras. And yes, when you’re just starting out you’ll likely forget to advance the film and miss a great photo opportunity. It happens.

Both cameras also have a TTL meter, which can be useful. But I don’t really need one. I’ve seen enough lighting situations and I know these cameras and the film I use to be able to set the exposure without a meter. I’m usually dead on or pretty close.

I also shoot mostly black & white, which has a lot of latitude, so that helps with exposure issues. If you’re getting back into film after a long absence or just starting out, black & white is a great choice. It’s more forgiving of mistakes and also less expensive than color. I use both Ilford HP5+ and Kodak Tri-X. Try them both and see which you prefer.

I’ve also gotten much better at manual focusing after years of auto. These days, I can pretty much nail that too. Of course, it helps to have excellent lenses and a larger depth of field to make sure what you want in focus is in focus. But really, I worry more about composition than sharpness. Sharpness is overrated.

I won’t get into a lot of “how to take photos” stuff in this article. That’s something for another time. There’s also plenty of articles out there to explain basic photography, Zone Focus, Zone Exposure or the “Sunny 16” rule. That said, if you have questions, feel free to ask. I’ll do what I can to help.

Turning to lenses, I only have three at the moment. I used to have quite a few, but I sold them. I have two for the Leica and one for the Nikon.

For the Leica, I almost always prefer the 35mm focul length. At the moment, that means the Zeiss Biogon T 2.8. I also have a Leica 50mm Summicron 2.0, mostly for portraits.

For the Nikon, it’s all 50mm all the time in the form of a Nikon 1.8. I prefer a 50mm lens on an SLR. It just seems right to me.

The truth is you don’t really need a lot of prime lenses, or a big zoom, to make good photos. When I go out to shot I have one lens on each camera. If I want to get closer, I take a few steps closer. If I want to get wider, I just move back a little.

If you only have one lens you never have to think about what you would do with a different one. You just think about making the best image you can with what you have.

I’m a big believer in this. Do the best with what you have.

I wasn’t always this way. I loved gear and bought a lot of it. But now I know that was part of the problem. I was looking at the gear to make my photos better.

I thought fancy tools (and a lot of them) would make me a better photographer. I was wrong.

The gear can’t help you. Not really. It might give you an advantage in some situations, but it can also get in the way.

The photos I take now with a manual film camera and one lens are a lot better, and more satisfying creatively, than they were when I had the most expensive, coolest gear you could buy.

Limits are good for you. Don’t be afraid of them. They make you try harder. They make you care more.

And I do.

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