I recently ran a survey with every Podcaster on my mailing list, and it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done for my business in years.
The main question I asked was: “What are you struggling with in Podcasting?” Well, it turns out that there are a fair few concerns out there just now, but one of the biggest centres around editing and production. I thought it was worth sharing a few thoughts on it straight away.
What Editing Should I be Doing?
So, this is something that came up again and again: how much editing, and what type of editing do I need to do? What processes, what effects, what… torture… do I need to apply to my audio to make it sing like the voice of a lark after the best day of his avian life?
Ok, here’s the key:
Do only as much editing as you need to NOT sound like a total berk.
I’m going to call this the Minimum Effective Editing approach, with thanks to Tim Ferriss and his minimum effective dose.
I know that a lot of people are going to disagree with this. I hear you shouting: “Spend huge amounts of time to create top quality content and the rewards will come.” “Put in the effort to polish everything you do and your audience with pay you back in spades.” Well, I don’t disagree exactly, but I think the time and effort above should go into your content, and not your editing. This means you should be editing only just enough to keep from p**sing off your listeners, and no more. They’ll appreciate time you spend coming up with great material much much more.
And here’s the big reason you should stick to MEE:
If you don’t stick to MEE, it’s likely you’ll stop enjoying your podcast, or you’ll stop podcasting.
This isn’t the case for everyone, of course. There are plenty of people out there that enjoy production and editing. But for the majority of us, editing is a chore. If you set your standards too high at the start, you just wont sustain it. It’ll suck the life out of your podcasting, and you simply wont have time to do it on a regular basis.
On the other hand, stick to MEE™, take as little time as you can to get out a decent product, and you can keep doing it, week after week, growing your audience exponentially as you go.
Following the MEE Podcasting Method
So, what does this look like if you’re editing in reality?
Well, here’s the basic method:
Step 1 – Record your Vocals. Don’t stop for mistakes, just laugh about them, quickly correct yourself, and continue. DO NOT STOP RECORDING.
Step 2 – Bring the vocals into Audacity, and top and tail it (That just means chopping off the silence at the start and the end).
Step 3 – Amplify the audio to -2db peak amplitude (easy peasy in Audacity – just select your audio track, hit Effect > Amplify, type -2 into the New Peak amplitude field, and Go!)
Step 4 – Export and publish!
That’s it – for your first 5 episodes, that’s all you need to be doing. Forget about music, forget about editing out mistakes. Be authentic and let it all hang out. Certainly, and most importantly, don’t worry about your Ums and Ahs. It’s practice you need to sort those out, not editing.
What About Those Big Mistakes?
Okay, okay, I can talk about being authentic, but sometimes I just plain mess something up and say completely the wrong thing. Here’s how you edit that quickly and easily.
When I realise I’ve said something wrong, or I just flub my words, I follow these steps:
- Stop and pause for a few seconds
- I click my tongue right into the microphone 3 times
- I pause another few seconds
- I then start again, trying to use the same phrasing I used to start the segment earlier; essentially the last thing that I said that was OK to broadcast.
- And then I continue on. At no point do I stop recording, so this is all in one audio file.
What this means is that when I get to editing, the first thing I do after importing my vocals is to zoom in and scroll along to the right. It’s immediately obvious when I hit one of these mistakes; the sound wave drops to silence, then there are three lines, the full height of the editing window. I’ve included an image below to demonstrate.
What I do then is click the playhead to the audio right after the clicks, I listen to how it starts, and then I go back and I find that similar place before the clicks. I click in the silence just before that point, highlight right up to before the audio section after the clicks, and I delete. Mistake gone.
In a 15 minute episode I might make up to 5 or 6 of these mistakes, and it’ll normally take me just a few minutes to scroll through and delete them. Try it, it’ll change your editing life!
Moving Slightly Beyond: MEE-2
So, once you’re a little more established, it starts to become worth adding just a little more polish. At this stage, you’ll have a good audience, because your content is gripping, amazing, mind-blowing, from all that time you’ve saved in editing and spent on thinking instead. Now, you’ve a chance to make something of this podcast and so polish becomes more justifiable.
But… I still stick to the above state – enough to make you NOT sound a total berk. It’s just that, with a larger audience, and a bit more prominence, sounding like a total berk becomes a little easier. Slightly variable audio quality and a complete lack of music and FX is almost expected of those starting out, but if you’re becoming a little net-famous, THAT makes sound a little like a berk.
So, here’s the 2nd level MEE, and this is what I do on the majority of my shows:
Step 1. Take my script and record the vocals, including intro, content and end bits.
Step 2. Bring that audio file into Audacity and chop off the silence at the start and end.
Step 3. Follow the mistakes editing process outlined above – find the triple clicks and cut ’em out.
Step 4. Amplify the volume to a standard level – again -2db peak amp.
Step 5. Light compression in Audacity (this is just the standard compression tool, and I’ll cover this in future)
Step 6. Import my theme music and transition clips.
Step 7. Use the shift tool to move the music and transitions into the right place, overlapping a little with vocals.
Step 8. Export the MP3 and publish!
That’s it. I do very little editing on the content. I keep it pretty authentic, forgetting about the little mistakes when I was speaking which are just apologised for and corrected at the time. This has perhaps 1 more step if I’m interviewing someone: I’ll import the interview audio, top and tail that as well, and arrange the music and transitions around that. But really, it’s just as simple.
How Long Should MEE Take?
During the creation of Series 3 of PodCraft on Creating a Peerless Podcasting Website, I kept a really detailed log of how long everything took. It was a bit of an experiment in daily podcasting where I released an episode a day for a full month. So, I had to stick to MEE™ or I wasn’t going to make it through the month – there simply wasn’t enough time in the day.
Each of my 20 episodes was around 10 to 15 minutes long, and here’s how it broke down on average:
- Planning – writing up a bullet point script and research as needed – 30 minutes
- Recording – turning on kit, checking levels, etc, and recording a 15 minute episode – 25 minutes
- Editing – following the MEE-2 sequence above – 5 to 10 minutes, depending on number of ‘triple click’ mistakes.
Of course, I’ve done a fair few of these, so I’ve got reasonably quick (although I’m sure I could be quicker!), but there’s no reason you should need to take much longer. And you’ll be surprised how quick you can get if you refine your process like this and only do what you have to.
How Close Are You to MEE?
So, that’s my process, and what I recommend to anyone in Podcasting, until your podcast is popular enough that you can afford to have someone else do it for you!
How close is your process to this? How long does it take you to edit each time? I’d love to know – please do pop a comment in below, or tweet me at @thepodcasthost.
Thanks and edit on!
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