The making of Japan Podshow

Hello there. Joseph here. In a cafe in Shibuya, opposite Sakuraya and that bright pink real estate agent on Center-gai. I have an hour to spare before meeting *Twinkle*, so thought I’d pen a few notes on all the stuff that’s been going on. In this blog I’ll be talking about podcasting.

First off then, we’ve finally reached the end of Japan Podshow series 1. It’s been a lot of fun. Through the show I’ve been able to meet a lot of new people, reach out to others whom I respect and admire, explore podcast possibilities that I’ve carried for a number of years in my head, learn a lot more about audio editing, and more recently, learn even more about video editing.

Direct download links for Quicktime / iTunes friendly movie files:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

The Japan Podshow experiment was a big success. I achieved what I set out to do, and feel that our total download figure (which doesn’t include YouTube / facebook / embedded media player views&listens) of approximately 20,000 so far (and the listener feedback we’ve received) is proof that we created something of value that gives pleasure to others.

Whilst this show was not (and was never meant to be) monetised, the rewards have been immense, such as enabling me to get my foot in the door with two of Japan’s largest English language media companies, and helping me get my new job (more on that in another post).

By far the biggest benefit has been the network of Tokyo-based people that it’s put me in touch with. It’s been a real lesson in how knowing people can completely change your experience of a place. Prior to starting out with this project, I had lived in Tokyo for a little over two years. In that time I actually made very few friends, choosing to stick with a handful of mates whom I first met during my first year here in Japan. Since then, thanks to the podcast and Twitter, my network has expanded into something I never would have thought possible to achieve in such a short space of time. Having these people around is a key part of my sense of wellbeing. I may not see them on a regular basis (other than on Twitter), but they are all an integral part of my existence here in Tokyo. They help flesh it out, give it more meaning.

The podcast also pushed me to start using Final Cut Express, and then, with episode 12 (which required the blurring of moving faces in public areas of the Ritz-Carlton hotel) Final Cut Pro. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel a lot more confident with video editing now than I did at the beginning of the year. That’s something I always wanted to get my head around, so I’m delighted about that.

Episode 12 was a huge challenge. The arranging for guests to show up, negotiations with the Ritz-Carlton and actual filming were pretty easy – a lot of this was due to the amazing Linda Beltran, marketing manager at the hotel who was so accommodating that we found ourselves able to put most of our ideas intro practice without any problems. She is a star.
It was after than when I came to edit the hours of video from our three HD cameras that the challenge really began. In the end I think it took me about 5 full days. Trial-and-error was the way I proceeded – in hindsight I should have just sat down and watched a bunch of tutorial videos before I began. I’d never done anything like this before, and was still pretty much a novice when it came to Final Cut (as I think shows). Overall I’m pleased with the result – it’s the best I can do with my current limitations (time, editing skill/experience, quality of the original footage).

One disappointment is the sound. I didn’t plan this carefully enough, and it was only when I finally got to the export stage that I really started to appreciate just how dodgy this was in parts. If I was to do this again I’d have everyone wired up with quality radio mics (if someone would lend them to me!). The one radio mic we had was OK, but I should have tested it beforehand in order to appreciate just how it should be used. As it was this was all new to both myself and our fantastic cameraman Steve, and given time constraints on the day we didn’t do any reviews during testing (something else I’d change next time).

Still, given that this project was totally unfunded and done in time remaining outside of a full time job in the space of a couple of weeks, I think it’s OK. I’m proud to have it in my portfolio (daft though the content is).

The timing of the conclusion of this project is perfect – it coincides with the end of the day job that I’ve had for the past 13 months, and thus a big change in all of my routines. Japan Podshow has enabled me to forge ties that will now help me to move on to the next stage of crafting the life in Japan that I want. For that, I’m very grateful.

I don’t know if or when we’ll create a second series. I have an idea that if we do it will be pretty different. I think it was also need to be monetised in some way, as I don’t think I can justify the time a second series would require. We’ll see.

To finish off, I’d just like to say that I’m very thankful that I’ve had the support necessary to make the project a reality. Writing the credits for the final episode I was reminded of just how many people had taken part in it. Musicians, interviewees, advisers, sources of inspiration and emotional support. All played a part. A big thank you to all of them, it’s very much appreciated.

Here’s the youtube versions. The quality is a bit pants compared to the originals downloadable above.

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

Filming at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo

Quite a memorable day today.

photo
*Twinkle* and George

photo

*Twinkle* and I

For our final episode of this series of Japan Podshow we knew we had to do something pretty special. We wanted to celebrate. Celebrate in Style.

A mysterious chain of events led us to the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, located on floors 45-up in the Tokyo Midtown complex.

Upon arrival, we were shown to a Carlton Suite on the 49th floor – it was ours for the night.

Over the course of our time there a string of guests turned up to congratulate us on completing series one. Champagne was brought to our room, Bob Cratchit and his wife appeared in our bed, we had live music from Kat McDowell and a Japanese lesson with a very cute teacher.

We relaxed in the jaccuzi, ran 0.08km on the treadmill.

Japan’s First Podcaster, Scott Lockman, presented us with a trophy.

It was all very cool.

The final episode, a video episode, will be released late next week over at www.JapanPodshow.com

In the meantime, here’s a video from my iPhone, and a few pictures all taken by Steve Nagata

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
Arrival

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
Champagne, kindly provided by the hotel

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
Our Japanese lesson

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
At the hotel bar

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
With the Tokyo International Players

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
In the spa

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
On the treadmill

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
With Scott Lockman, Japan’s first podcaster

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
In bed

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
Singing

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton

Recording www.japanpodshow.com at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
Waking up

Cabbages, containers and doggy-do

MyGengo* I just posted my interview with Rob and Matt of myGengo.com over at Making it in Japan. Anyone interested in translation should check it out – they have some great new services on the way – and if you have the skills required (but are lacking in qualifications / years of experience that many companies demand) they might be just the folks you’ve been looking for.


After work last night I headed up to the in-laws’, about an hour from our place, just north of Tokyo. There were two birthday’s in the family to celebrate, a lot of good food to eat and my father-in-law’s travel stories to catch up on.

I found it interesting how the pace of life seemed to be a lot slower there, outside of central Tokyo. There wasn’t the feeling that there was lots that needed to be done (as is the feeling at home). 9pm seemed late, like bed time. I was asleep before midnight for the first time in a long time.

Walking back to the station this morning (*Twinkle* left earlier, taking our niece to Disneyland), I took a few photos of everyday stuff, which I thought I’d share.

First off then, we have the cabbage fields between the apartment blocks. I think of these as the remnants of years gone by, when the kanto plain was more agriculture than housing. You’ll still find quite a lot of them in the outskirts of cities, but every year their number decreases. I think the primary motivation for planting up land these days is not producing crops, but rather to obtain tax breaks.

cabbages

Next up, the dog poo sign. Isn’t it cute? The woman seems to be really enjoying herself. The text literally reads, “Let’s take dog poo home!”

dogpoo

Storage containers are on the rise, as people accumulate more ‘stuff’ which they really have no need for. You can rent half of one of these containers for as little as 5,250 yen (GBP36) per month. Given the state of the Japanese economy, it won’t be long until we find people living in them, I’m sure.

storage

Next, we’re down by the riverside. Not sure I’d want to eat anything that comes from one of these rivers though.

shindenriver

Finally, we have the mikan – or are they some other kind of orange? I don’t know. I like fruit trees in cities. They’re a good reminder of the natural seasonal cycle that is going on around us, masked by the tarmac.

mikan

Anyway, I need to change trains now, so had better pack up.

Joseph

An interview and a Brain Machine

Whew… very long day today.

Still, very productive. Had a great meeting with Kong of the Metpod, talking about where it could go from here. Interesting ideas for collaboration once japanpodshow is done. Look out for changes in the autumn.

Also published not one but TWO podcasts tonight – the first is an audio interview with Mike Sheetal of the incredibly innovative design agency UltraSuperNew Inc (based in Shibuya).

Check it out over at Making it in Japan. It’s a good interview – hear about some very original marketing campaigns carried out for the likes of Red Bull, Audi and Panasonic. Also, Mike has advice for others wanting to set up in Japan.

The second is the video I shot at Tokyo Hacker Space’s first Open House event on Sunday, uploaded to the neglected Japan Tech Show. The video looks much better in High Definition on our Facebook page or on YouTube.

That brain machine was pretty crazy. I can hardly believe just those two LEDs caused me to see all those patterns etc.

Really enjoying learning video editing. Have a way to go!

Ok, off to bed for me.

xx

Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity

pepe and video camera_5810

Yikes. 1.34am again. It was yesterday too. I’ve been wanting to write for a few days now, but, well, it’s not going to happen, I mean, not in the way that i would like. So rather than it not happen at all it’ll happen like this.

It’s turned out that Pepe (pictured above) is heavily trademarked, copyrighted and has all his rights reserved, so until a new Pepe is made the brakes are on his twitter / website / book.

Japan Podshow is doing very well. We’re close on 12,000 downloads now – that excludes listens using the built-in flash player, YouTube and Facebook video views. There are rumours that for the next episode George and I will be reporting from an NHK TV set… more on that if it all works out.

Tonight I was fortunate to meet the founder of a fantastic online Japanese music store – we have an interview for Making it in Japan, and hopefully a decent prize for Japan Podshow listeners too. It’s pretty exciting – now we have an established online presence we’re being approached by some pretty cool people with collaboration proposals. If only we had the time!

Last week saw an extraordinary turn of events. Thanks to the stuff we’ve done on Japan Podshow, a business owner from Australia who was wanting to make a video here in Japan to promote his brand, was put in touch with me via a friend whom I met on Twitter – would I like to direct / shoot the video? It sounded like a pretty interesting project.

with Rei Hamada (Courtesy of InvisibleGaijin )

Aside from getting to spend some time with the very cute and ultra-nice Rei Hamada, I was also able to learn a fair bit about shooting video in dark, crowded bars.

But of more significance for us, we now have the full-time use of a Canon HF-11 – the most advanced consumer level HD camcorder on the market at present (well, the Japanese market at least, it’s yet to be released in the US / UK).

The camera is AMAZING. It takes TV-quality video, I kid you not. Looks incredible on my 17″ display. Great sound too – especially with the gun-mic we have for the shoe. I’ll be posting a podcast filmed at Koenji Awaodori next week, which provides a great demo of the incredible image stabilisation system this thing has.

I can’t over-emphasise just how much of a dream come true this is. Along with the lighting rig and extra mic that we were gifted we now have our first full ‘studio’ setup. I am deeply grateful to the business owner and my friend InvisibleGaijin for this extraordinary act of trust and generosity.

I also have a strong feeling that this came to us as a result of us strongly wishing it to, and working hard to enable it to do so (preparing for it). You may laugh, but I have the evidence!

You know, they say that if you want to succeed at something, you just have to get up and give it a go, even if you have no idea how you’ll be able to do it. Don’t worry about the HOW. Here’s a perfect example of that. We’ve been wanted an HD camera for months, but haven’t had the funding. And this happens, out of the blue. Incredible.

We’ll be doing more shooting with this company when they’re back in Japan.

I’m looking forward to a friend’s birthday party this Saturday after work, and then on Sunday a launch party for Kat McDowell’s great new Album Echoes Over the Ocean (which incidentally we’re giving away on Japan Podshow). I’ll also be squeezing in a WordPress training session for a friend, and writing a bio for Kat too. I’ve also decided to redirect the effort I’m putting in Metropolis Magazine’s Metpod Podcast, and so will take half a day off work next week to meet with the magazine’s web editor to discuss my taking over (developing and maintaining) the website for the podcast (as opposed to audio sections).

My day job’s been pretty mental lately. So busy, I’m way behind with my regular work as urgent projects keep on popping up. I’m not bringing it home though so that’s OK.

Tomorrow morning (5 hours from now) I leave for the immigration dept to get my spouse visa renewed. Gaijin card expires tomorrow too.

Spent an hour on the phone to my brother in the UK tonight. That was wonderful. Really great to connect. I also like the fact that the call, made on my iPhone, was basically free thanks to Skype.

Oh, I’ve decided to not upgrade to Snow Leopard just yet – will wait till apps are updated as there’s no real rush and I need my computer to work, not just look sexy.

OK, must sleep. wiped out!

I wonder how long this routine can go on for?

jsoeph