Podcast Editing Made Simple
Staring at a blank page is daunting - endless possibilities with no definitive place to start - which is why writing scaffolds or sentence starters are used in schools to help students get their thoughts focused and their ideas in order. Similarly, it takes a special type of artist to just sit down at a canvas and start creating, without some inspiration, source material or a muse.
The same can be said for editing - when staring at a long section of audio, beginning the edit can feel daunting, and that final export can feel unattainable. But there are steps that can be taken to make this easier, and below are some of the points we follow to make editing simpler.
NB: this article will refer to Audacity and Garageband, our recommended editing softwares
Go In With A Plan
Decide what you need from this edit:
- How long does it need to be?
- Are you going to be adding music or effects?
- What is the point of the episode/how will you decide what can or can't be removed?
- Have you got enough time not to rush?
- Are you saving and backing up correctly?
- Have you got tea and biscuits??
Now you're ready to edit, a good place to start is by removing silence. Now matter how good you're equipment is, there will be some noise generated in silent sections. To make a more easy to listen to episode, remove this silence in a number of ways. Audacity has a useful tool called 'silence finder'. If you're using Garageband, it lacks an effective silence tool, but you can achieve a similar effect using a noise gate.
If you're recording with someone over Skype, there will be delays as the conversation is beamed across the world. Although this is perfectly natural, it doesn't make for particularly great audio. Locate pauses at the end of questions, during conversations, places where it doesn't sound natural and reduce the gaps. This makes conversation flow more naturally and sounds way better. This can also be done when someone hesitates or spends a long time thinking or looking something up on their phone. Fast-paced flow is best to keep your audiences attention.
As we talk to each other, we have a natural tendency to make noise - those 'uh-huh, yea, sure' sound bytes that we use to let each other know that we are listening. They are a natural part of conversation, but again, don't make for quality entertainment. It's also natural in conversation for people to be talking over each other (cross talk), especially if recording remotely and removed from visual clues that let each other know who intends to talk. Look out for cross talk and remove it, it's pretty confusing to listen to as an outsider.
These sections can be identified quite easily by looking at patterns in the waveform and with some practice you'll become very used to spotting them.
Listen & Take Notes
Now that the episode is leaner and easier on the ears, have a listen to the whole thing. The beauty of podcasts is that you can do something else while listening, for example preparing tags or writing shownotes. As you listen, look out for any sections you may want to remove. Are there parts that don't suit your brand voice? Do you make controversial statements that you should probably fact-check first? Do you snort-laugh so loud that the microphone clips?
Now the subtractive side of the edit is time, its time to sculpt it in to a thing of beauty. We will write a longer article about this in the future, but for now lets keep it simple and say that when you're editing spoken vocals you might want to add:
- EQ: A good place to start is removing frequencies under 50hz, they aren't useful. Also, never boost or reduce by more than 5dB - keep it subtle!
- Compression: Compression makes the volume of a vocal more consistent overall. Every time the compressor hears a sound that goes over a certain volume level, it turns down the volume for that moment.
- If you're new to this, start with presets: Lots of programmes come with presets for vocals that are a great place to start from as you learn to train your ears and identify what sounds good to you.
NB: When EQing and mixing vocals, its important to use studio monitors or wear decent headphones - you just won't get the right sound coming out of your computer.