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Podcast editing is a skill, like any other, but it’s also a skill to know how much you actually need to edit.
We’re looking at when and how to edit a podcast today, so have a listen for the full story, or read the transcription below.
As always, if you have any questions, put them in the comments below – enjoy!
Hey, and welcome to another ‘How to Podcast’ episode. In this episode, we’re going to be looking at the common edits that you’ll make. How to record, so that you can make your editing easier and looking at the more advanced editing techniques that you can use in Audacity to create recordings. So let’s get started.
So we’re going to look at the common editing techniques that you’ll be using in creating your podcast and how to make those editing processes easier. So, just a little chat first about how you go about your recording. So to make my editing easier, I tend to record in sections, so I’ll be using my pause button pretty liberally as I record. It’s pretty hard to record a 20-minute segment all at once without stopping, without referring back to your notes. I’ll tend to write down my notes, I’ll create my script, my bullet points and I’ll read through it in three or four-minute chunks. I’ll go section by section. I’ll use my pause button quite liberally just stopping whenever I want just to make sure I know what’s coming up next.
Because the ideal process is that you don’t want to do any editing. You want to be able to talk right through, not make any mistakes, not have to do any editing and that is the quickest and easiest way to create a podcast. And the only way you’re going to be able to manage to do your podcast sustainably, keep it going long term is if you make it as easy as possible. So the best thing is to get used to doing it in little sections, getting those little sections right and not having to bother with any editing. But, of course, you’re going to some mistakes, so how do we deal with them? Well, the most common edits are things like coughs and silences, so there’s not much you can do about them. If you’re going to cough, you have to cough. If you can manage to pause it before you cough, then that’s excellent, but if you can’t, then you need to edit that out.
Now spotting those kinds of mistakes is quite easy on a recording. Because you’ll know by now, when you’re recording Audacity, it records a visual representation of your voice. You’ve got that sound wave there. Now coughs, splutters, those types of things. They all appear much louder than the surrounding areas, so you can see those spikes in the sound wave and you can zoom in on them and find the right place to make your edit. So quite often, my first process in editing is going in, having a look at those spikes, going straight to them, playing them and seeing if there’s something that I can take out. If I can’t take them out quite easily, I’ll just chop them out. Sometimes, it might take a little bit of fiddling to take out just the right part if there’s speaking quite close by. But then again, if I’m smart when I’m recording if I do cough or splutter or something like that, then I’ll pause afterwards.
Now this is another technique that I use for making my editing easier. Even if it’s not a cough, even if it’s something you’d just say that you want to cut out. So if you go off your script, you go just by accident, you say something you didn’t mean. Then, instead of just starting straight away, what I do is record is silence for five seconds. So, I’ll stop, I’ll not speak for five seconds or so and then I’ll start again. And I won’t use the pause button there; I’ll have that silence recorded. And the reason for that is when you’ve go to edit then, you can spot those silences really easily. So it means that they’re kind of visual markers on your recording where edits are required. So I’ll say a sentence, get halfway through, stop and then there’s a big pause. Now, when I go into recording, like I say, I’ll go through, I’ll look at those spikes, I’ll edit out my coughs and the next thing I’ll look for are the big, flat lines and that’s the silence. So I’ll put my cursor maybe a few seconds before that flat line, I’ll listen to it and I’ll see what needs to be edited. You may need to go back a little bit and cut out five to ten seconds before that and then start again from after the silence. So it’s just a quick technique for making your editing process easier, just having these little markers in there to show where to edit.
So, going beyond simple mistakes. A lot of editing isn’t to do with cutting out mistakes, it’s making your podcast sound better. It’s about formatting your podcast to sound really professional and great. So there’s a few different ways of formatting your podcast, so I’ll just go through a few of them. You’ve got the simplest, the easiest, the most basic, which is just you speaking. So that would just be a plain podcast with no intro music, no music at all, no sound effects, no real edits. All it is is just you talking away and that’s absolutely fine. That’s perfectly good enough for most people. But if you want to go up to a higher level of polish, the next one up would be just to add some intro and outro music. So if you find some royalty-free music, you download that, you import it to your recording and then you use your time chef tool to move your speech, so that it appears just after the music. So you’ve got music, then you’ve got a speech and then you’ve got music as the outro. And that’s the basic format for a more professional podcast.
You can take it beyond that, though, by having your music and then your speech set to your music, but the intro music might be overlaid by a little bit of introduction. And you find this quite commonly on radio stations or podcasts whereby you’ve got intro music playing for, say, five seconds, and then the volume dies down a little bit. So the then the music then goes quiet and then you get the host coming on over the top of it saying ‘Hey and welcome to the podcast. Today, we’re going to speak about this, this and this, so let’s get started.’ And then the music comes back up again and then plays for another five seconds, perhaps, before dying away and then the main content starts. So that’s a quite a common, sort of more, polished, professional approach to the introduction to your podcast. In fact, you’ll find that in the start of most of these podcasts for the Podwhating course or for the ‘How to Podcast’ podcast series.
The next one up, which I’ve heard quite a lot recently, is actually for presenters to add on a little short soundbite to the start of the podcast, so this is before even before the music starts. So, very first thing you’ll hear is ‘Hey and welcome to the podcast. Today’s podcast is about this, this and this.’ And then the music starts. And it’s actually quite a clever little idea, because it gives the listener a really quick pointer straight away to what the podcast is about. So they don’t have to waste their time listening to 10, 15 seconds of intro music before they find out what the podcast is about. And especially when you get so many podcast episodes, it’s quite nice to have that, because you can straight away tell if you’ve listened to that podcast already. It’s quite a nice, little technique and definitely adds a little to the polish of a podcast.
You can obviously combine that with the previous one whereabout you’d have that soundbite and the music comes on and then the music would die away a little bit and then you you would have a longer introduction talking about what’s going to be on that podcast. Then the music comes back up, then you get content and then you get the outro music. So that’s combining those last two techniques once to create a more polished, professional way.
Now the last thing to mention here when we’re talking about sound and music is that quite a lot of the more professional casts will have what are called ‘stings’ in between each section. So, they’ll have a little sound effect and they’ll say ‘Well, that section’s finished and onto the next.’
And there will be a little two or three seconds of soundbite and then they’ll be back into the next section.
You can get a hold of these little placeholders in the same location as the royalty-free music. And you’ll see links to places where you can find that type of resource on the Podwhating and the podcast host’s website. On both, you can get royalty-free music and royalty-free stings, so have a look through to see if anything suits your podcast. But a nice little, sort of bookends to each section and just another thing that makes your podcast just seem a little bit more polished.
So, onto the tools that you use to actually do this editing. Now the first of the more advanced editing tools is called ‘sound envelope.’ Now the sound envelope lets you increase and reduce the sound volume of your clip at will. Essentially the way it works it that you create a point on your timeline and you say ‘The volume is going to be at this level’ at that point. And then you click again in the timeline further along and then you reduce the volume or you increase the volume. And the volume basically smoothly transitions between those two points. So if you have it high at five seconds and then lower at seven seconds, it’ll gradually reduce to that lower level over those two seconds. And this is the easiest way to introduce, say that third technique, where you’ve got the music playing and then it reduces and then you have the presenter speaking over the top of the music. That’s what you would use the sound envelope tool for; to achieve that, just to reduce the volume for a limited time.
The other way to do this is using the fade-in or the fade-out tools and you’ll find them in the Audacity Effect menu. These are more for, maybe at the start of the podcast or the end of the podcast where you want the music to fade in and then fade out again. Or if you want the intro music to fade out at the start of the podcast when you’re going into the proper content. And they’re quite useful for then, they’re a little bit simpler, quicker to do then the sound envelope, although the sound envelopes are pretty easy to use tool, as well, so you can interchange between the two of them. Now you’ll find a tutorial on the sound envelope tool along with all the other editing tools mentioned in this podcast at thepodcasthost.com and on our YouTube channel, so have a look at them for the tutorial videos.
The next one I want to have a quick chat about is amplifying. Now, this is one you’ll use quite a lot, because you’ll tend to record, as standard, using a sort of a headset mic or a plug-in microphone straight into your PC. The recording level will tend to be quite low and that’s actually quite good. You’d want to set it that way probably if it doesn’t start out that way, because the worst thing you can do for your audio is overload the mic and max out. When that happens, that’s when you hear a really crackly sound, when the volume of your recording overloads what the computer can actually record. So you want to record quieter and then amplify up to what you would call the maximum for output. So when you want to amplify it, all you do is select a section of the timeline, whether it’s one section or whether it’s the whole thing. And then go to the ‘effect’ menu in Audacity and choose ‘amplify.’ And it’ll help you out by choosing the maximum you can amplify to before you start cutting off a maximum level of your audio.
The next editing tool to look at is noise removal. Now, as hard as you try to reduce your background noise, it’s likely you’ll still have a little bit. But don’t worry, because Audacity comes to the rescue here and it’s actually really good at getting rid of background noise. Now, it’s never going to be as good as if you never have any background noise in the first place, so don’t ever rely on this. Try and reduce the background noise as much as possible before you get to this stage. But if you do have one, it can be worth having a go with this tool to see if it will help out.
Now, it works in two stages. Firstly, you highlight a bit of silence on your timeline. So what you take to be silence, even if there’s a bit of background noise there. And you use the noise tool to learn that silence. So that’s the first step. You click that ‘learn’ button and it will learn what that silence sounds like. Next, you’ll select the whole timeline and then you’ll click the ‘remove noise’ tool. And it’ll let you pick what level to remove the noise. Now, a low-level noise removal won’t get rid of all the background noise, but it also won’t affect your speech. And that’s the problem with noise removal. If you get rid of all the background noise, if you make a really heavy noise removal, then it will really affect how the speech sounds, as well. And if you try it out, you’ll find that if you remove a large amount of noise, if you do a really heavy noise removal, it tends to make your voice sounds like you’re underwater. Sounds a bit murky and it takes away a lot of the higher-level sounds, because that’s what the hiss tends to be made up of. So, use the noise removal tool by all means. It works really well when used lightly. But don’t rely on it and try to remove as much noise as you can in the first place, before you get to this stage.
Now just a little bit about your long-term editing process. Because, once you’ve done one edit, once you’ve created one episode, put in title music, put in your soundbite, use the sound envelope tool, all that kind of stuff. You can reuse that quite easily. I tend to create one or two episodes, play around with a different format, find a format I’m happy with and then save it as a template. And once you do that, it means that all you do is you can remove the content part and just import another bit of audio. And you’ve always got the intro music playing, with a sort of introduction to the podcast playing over the top of it. You could record a new intro every time and lay that over. Commonly, actually, I use a generic outro. So if you want to ask people ‘Thanks very much for listening. I’d love if you’d get in contact. Here’s my e-mail address, here’s my Twitter,’ all that kind of stuff. You can have that on the end that you reuse again and again. So once you’ve created your episode, you can reuse that and it will save you a lot of time for future ones, so yeah. Future episodes won’t take half as long as your initial ones. All of that goes far towards making your podcast sustainable and letting you do it long term.
So that was sort of a brief coverage of ‘Editing on Audacity’ and a few tips around how to make it easier to edit and to make your podcast more sustainable. Hope you found that helpful. Please do send in any questions you have, put it on the website. Otherwise, good luck with your editing and I’ll see you in the next podcast.