Well, this is it! Beginning today, Retronauts is my life, basically. Bob will continue to be an essential half of the show, of course, but now it’s on me to turn everything around it into a legitimate business. So why don’t we kick off this now-daily website by pulling back the curtain a little more? Transparency in media, of a sort.
The Saturday before last was recording day no. 1 for our most recent recording sessions, which should provide us with enough standard Retronauts episodes to keep things going through the end of March. Agenda for the day: Portable Castlevania games, Wii’s 10th anniversary, Final Fantasy IV.
Normally we begin recording at at noon, but for this session we had to start a few hours early due to an unavoidable afternoon scheduling conflict. That means both Bob and I had to head downtown from our respective origin points at about 8:30. That honestly probably worked out just as well, as it turned out to be a somewhat chaotic day due to the Women’s March. We record in studio-like space in San Francisco’s South of Market (SOMA) area, and both of us come in from the north. SOMA is separated from the north half of the city by Market Street, which runs from the Embarcadero in the inner bay halfway through the city to Twin Peaks. Market Street is a popular venue for big events like parades and protests… such as the Women’s March.
Bob lives in Berkeley, while I ventured out from San Francisco’s North Beach district. Depending on traffic, it can actually take a lot longer for me to make it downtown from an area due north of the studio than for Bob to make it in from another city on the other side of the bay. I decided to walk the two miles downtown to the studio to avoid traffic problems… though it turned out the marching and protests hadn’t begun that early in the day, so I needn’t have been so cautious. Bob took a very early cab in from Berkeley to account for potential traffic troubles and ended up sitting around in the studio for nearly an hour killing time before I made my way there for recording. Ah well.
We had plenty of time to set up the studio proper, at least. Setup isn’t too difficult; as you can see, it’s rather, uh, makeshift. Also, this is a pretty accurate view of the studio’s size.
We’ve referenced the Retronauts “vault” from time to time, and it’s not a euphemism. We literally record in a former bank vault. It’s kind of a weird situation, but: It’s an available space for weekend recordings, doesn’t cost too much, and affords us decent privacy. Usually. We did have to interrupt one episode this time because some random jackass wandering through the building evidently saw the “do not disturb” notice on the closed vault door and decided, “Wow, I should check that out.” Aside from witless snoopers and some occasional noise-bleed from events that sometimes take place in the shared workspace on Saturdays, though, it serves us well.
The main drawback to the studio is that it lacks air conditioning or ventilation. That’s good because it means we never have to worry about the oscillating hum of an HVAC system showing up on our recordings. But it’s bad because that tiny space gets warm and stale with up to four people and a bunch of computers crowded into it, especially since the building we use is located in one of San Francisco’s rare warm and sunny zones. We have to break once and hour or so to prevent dying, basically. And we’ve long since learned to bring special guests in at the beginning of the day; when Ron Gilbert sat in a while back, he arrived at the end of a long, warm day of recording and seemed less than enthusiastic about the lingering funk of the studio space. (Then again, maybe he was just trying to live up to his “Grumpy Gamer” nom de plume to avoid disappointing his fans.)
You may have noticed that our recording studio consists of sawhorses with a temporary table set across the top. That is correct. We pride Retronauts on being a professional-sounding show produced with professional quality, but this is definitely a case of the show itself being a proverbial “face for radio.” Speaking of faces for radio…
Clockwise from front: Me, Bob, Shane Bettenhausen. Talkin’ about Castlevania games, naturally.
We block out two hours for each recording session. Of course, our episodes typically clock in at 80-90 minutes; the rest of that time block goes into fine-tuning the setup, taking oxygen/potty breaks, and pauses for on-the-spot research when an unanticipated question pops up and we can’t answer it off the top of our heads. We always try to wrap 10-15 minutes early so that we can greet (and allow building access for) our revolving cast of guests for each subsequent episode, though that doesn’t always work out as planned — sometimes we record right up until the end of the block and leave our next guest standing around in front of a building in a somewhat bedraggled part of the city.
Thankfully, these session went smoothly and Bob was able to leave in time to make his next appointment. I had dinner with one of our guests and then walked the two miles back to North Beach in the rain — not really an ideal way to get home, but it was actually faster to walk since the entire city was in a state of gridlock. For some weird reason…