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How to get started in podcasting: editing the audio

Dan Miller | April 4, 2014
Once you've captured the audio, it's time to splice it all together and trim it down. Depending on the kind of podcast, you may also need to incorporate other audio--music, ambient sound, and other effects. Once again, here's how four podcasting vets--Christopher Breen (the Macworld Podcast); Editorial Director Jason Snell (The Incomparable); Erika Ensign (Verity!); and Chip Sudderth (The Two-Minute Time Lord)--get that done. (Warning: Ensign is a Windows user. But we still thought her overall workflow would be instructive for all podcasters, regardless of their preferred platform.)

Erika Ensign

Erika is a PC person and a one-time student of radio, TV, and film production, so she uses a program called Sony Movie Studio Platinum to do her podcast editing. ("I like the layout and the easy shortcuts and controls.") She simply removes the video tracks and works with the audio. She tried Audacity, but didn't like it. "It gets the job done, but I think it's ugly and unintuitive."

The show does have a theme song (a version of the Doctor Who theme as performed by the English band Traffic Experiment. She asked their permission to use it, which they kindly granted. "It's perfect for us, as it features female vocals."

She adds sound effects occasionally. (For example, when someone accidentally swears, she replaces it with the sound of the Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver). When transitioning from one segment to another, she use a the sound of a Vardan gun from the show.

She has a template saved in Movie Studio Platinum with tracks for music, sound effects, and separate audio files. The music track has the opening theme in roughly the spot it should be. The tracks for the separate audio files already have compression applied and the EQ tweaked for that particular participant's voice. She opens the template, saves it as the new episode, and deletes the tracks for the contributors who don't appear on that episode.

When she receives the MP3 files from that week's guests, she inserts them in the appropriate tracks, lines them up, trims off the extra chatter at the beginning and end, and adds the closing theme music. She also uses noise gates for any files that have distracting ambient noise. If there was a problem with Skype during the call, she'll edit out any downtime in the middle. She'll also check her notes to see if there were any offending background sounds that need attention.

She then renders the project as an MP3 at 96kbps.

Jason Snell

Like Chris Breen, Jason used to use GarageBand. But over time, he realized that it made it harder to edit podcasts quickly. (Since he does his podcast in his spare time, speed is of the essence.)

So he switched to Logic Pro X. It's a sophisticated audio editing app for music pros; in some ways, it's overkill for podcast editing. But "I'm two to three-times faster with the podcast than I was with GarageBand, so it was worth it."

His workflow goes like this: First, everybody sends him their files. (Most people just use Dropbox: He has a shared folder there that panelists can join.) He uses the conversion tools that come with Call Recorder to convert all files to an uncompressed audio file (AIFF). He then brings each individual file into Logic as its own track. He also imports the Call Recorder recording, which contains everyone else's voices as he heard them on Skype; he uses that track to sync up the conversation, so everybody's separately recorded tracks line up in the proper time. Once that's done, he deletes the Skype track from Logic.

 

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