The Art of The Edit

It’s been a while since I put up some unique content on this blog that didn’t involve linking to an mp3 file. Sorry. My bad. I figure if I’m going to come back with something it needs to be good. I decided to break down how I edit my podcast. From raw .wav file to published mp3, I will highlight the steps I take to get to the final product. I’ve included some screenshots to help paint a clearer picture. All of the editing is done using Audacity. If you use a different program the specific steps might be different, but the theory should still hold.

Figure 1. Levelator

The first thing I do is get my audio ready for editing (Figure 1 – Above). Recording with Pamela over Skype generates a .wav file. I use Levelator to balance out the audio before I begin to edit the podcast. When I record, my audio comes in louder on the raw file compared to everyone else on the podcast. Levelator does all of the heavy lifting and produces a file with audio levels that are consistent throughout the podcast. There will always be an occasional spot that might require some manual tweaking, but I always put my audio files through Levelator before doing any additional work.

For Just Talking, I know the podcast will consist of 3 specific files: the intro, the interlude/outro, and the main podcast. To start, I add each file to a new project in Audacity. A simple click and drag will do the trick. In the beginning, this is what the project will look like (Figure 2 – Below).

Figure 2. Files Added

The rest of this post will walk you through my particular style of editing. I have a vision of what my podcast should sound like in its final form and this post will show you how I get from (A) to .mp3.

Figure 3. Intro

The first order of business is the intro (Figure 3 – Above). I let the music run for 30 seconds before I begin to fade it out. My voice doesn’t come in for another 2-3 seconds after the fade starts. The other point of interest is the silence before the podcast begins. To ensure a smooth transition immediately to audio, there needs to be a kind of “warm up” period before things get going. without that silence the first couple of seconds of audio will be lost. It took me a month of editing Post Game Report before I realized what was going on. Typically that’s where the host will wait for a few seconds of silence before things get going. If needed I will generate a quick 2 seconds of silence before I get going.

Once the intro is synced up to my liking I move forward with the rest of the podcast. Unnecessary silences are removed, bleeps are added where necessary and I try to find a good spot for a quick break and add a brief interlude to the podcast. While the actual recording of Just Talking is a continuous conversation, I made the decision early on to break up the podcast into pieces based on my perception of the conversation. If there was a major topic change anywhere from 13 to 18 minutes after the intro or most recent interlude then I will find a spot and put in a quick break. The process for adding an interlude, or any other kind of audio break, is not particularly complicated (Figure 4 – Below).

Figure 4. Interlude

1. Find the exact spot in the audio you want to break.
2. Generate silence for the preferred length. For my interludes i use 12 seconds of silence
3. Isolate the audio for the interlude that will surround the silence. The audio needs to be longer than the silence, obviously. For my podcast I use 20 second of audio
4. Manually fade in and out of each side of the audio. immediately jumping to music while someone is finishing or starting a sentence does not sound very good.

If you need to bleep some audio, the process is similar to adding silence for an interlude (Figure 5 – Below).

Figure 5. Bleep

1. First find the audio that you want to censor. Depending on how you want the final product to sound you can bleep out the whole word, or if you have good timing just part of it. It’s your call. Personally I will bleep out anything you wouldn’t hear on The Daily Show. They are a bit liberal with what Jon Stewart can say, but there is a pretty solid consensus on what still cannot be said on television.
2. Once you have the bleep-able portion selected, you want to generate a tone. I use a sine wave with an amplitude of 0.5. We don’t want to injure the ears of the listeners.
3. Audacity will then generate the tone for the selected length. Magic.

The outro is similar to the process for the intro. I find the exact point that the podcast will end (before any post show banter) and will fade the audio in up until that point. Overall the levels are lower on the outro music so any post show talk is still clearly heard (Figure 6 – Below).

Figure 6. Outro

When everything is finished, your final podcast project timeline might look something like this (Figure 7 – Below):

Figure 7. Final Timeline

The next step is generating the final .mp3 file. If you are using audacity, you will need the LAME MP3 Encoder on your computer. Follow these instructions if you do not know what I’m talking about. Before configuring the .mp3, you should format the ID3 tags for your podcast. ID3 tags help with the consistency of your audio files. I have a template saved so with each new file I only have to update the show’s title and episode number. The rest is already taken care of. Along with metadata, I have a specific naming convention for each file, but that isn’t a necessity for you. The final format of the file, however, is key. I will let you determine the what quality is right for you, simply put: the higher the quality, the better the sound, but the larger the file. If your podcast hosting service has monthly restrictions on data uploads, you will have to figure out what works for you and your budget. Regardless of the bit rate, ‘Constant Bit Rate Mode’ and ‘Joint Stereo Channel Mode’ are non-negotiable. (Figure 8 – Below)

Figure 8. Export

The final piece to editing my podcasts is often overlooked by some: the album art. The album art is key to making a first and lasting impression. Plus, if someone is going to spend an hour listening to my podcast, I want to give them a little eye candy. So far I have only found one way to include album art with a podcast. If anyone knows an easier method, please let me know (Figure 9 – Below).

Figure 9. Cover Art

1. Add the final podcast (.mp3) to iTunes
2. Edit the info of the newly added podcast
3. Under the artwork tab, add the desired image. 300×300 is the ideal size for album art, if you are making an image from scratch, keep those dimensions in mind.

From there, upload the file and promote as necessary.

This is how I work. Each person has their own methods for producing a podcast. Hopefully this will put you on the path to finding your own technique.

No Pressure. We're Just Talking.


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