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How Apple could make GarageBand better for podcasters

Jason Snell | April 1, 2013
In 2006 Apple introduced GarageBand 3, an update that put features for podcasters at the fore. In the intervening seven years, GarageBand has reached version 6 (or, if you prefer, '11), but Apple has done little to make it more useful to creators of spoken-word audio.

Logic's Strip Silence command breaks a single segment in multiple bits.

Strip Silence. Podcasts are usually conversations and (unless your podcast participants are argumentative creeps) when one person's talking, other people aren't. As a result, there are usually huge silent gaps in the audio tracks. Logic's Strip Silence feature scans a track and deletes all the bits that contain nothing but silence, leaving a bunch of individual regions that contain actual noise.

This feature has two productivity-boosting effects. In GarageBand, I spent a lot of time splitting one long single track into a bunch of smaller pieces so that I could move around or delete as necessary, but Strip Silence does that work for me. The results of Strip Silence also make it much easier to see where there's noise on my audio tracks--because the only visible regions are places where there's noise! This lets me zoom in on the places where my panelists are interrupting each other, where several tracks have simultaneous visible regions. But it also lets me quickly notice places where, while one person is talking, someone else has bumped their microphone or coughed or otherwise made an extraneous noise. Those unwanted noises, easy to miss in GarageBand, are easy to spot and delete in Logic.

Ripple Delete. I thought this feature would be higher up on my list, but Logic's Strip Silence and Select All Following features have made it a non-issue for me. Still, some editors could gain huge benefit from just being able to snip out several seconds of a project and have GarageBand close the gaps automatically--no dragging required.

It's only logical

Not every feature I want has a direct analog in Logic. But that doesn't mean they aren't good ideas, too.

Recording from other apps. Sometimes you want to record the sound made by individual apps, most notably Skype. Apple has never done a good job letting users control their Mac's sound inputs and outputs, and with Lion and Mountain Lion the job has become even harder for longtime third-party workarounds such as those developed by Ambrosia Software and Rogue Amoeba. Wouldn't it be easier if GarageBand could intercept sound output from any app and record it?

Don't force compression in Podcast mode. The podcast mode introduced in GarageBand 3 has one particular quirk that drives podcasters nuts: It forces you to export a compressed audio file unless you hide the podcast track. Why not let users decide if they want lossless-quality tracks (to run through an outside tool such as Levelator), MP3s, or AAC files?

Removing room noise. One of the most mind-blowing things I've ever seen a computer do is turn an audio file recorded in a noisy room (say, with a fan blowing in the background) into one that sounds like it was recorded in a real recording studio. It's a pretty straightforward feature: Point your Mac at a quiet piece of audio that contains just the background noise and let it remove that noise from the whole track. The audio in podcast recording sessions can be highly variable; room-noise removal makes things sound vastly more professional.


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