Open up the recording you’ve made in Audacity because now it is time to get a little bit more technical and sharpen up this raw recording to make it sound as professional as possible.
Ruthless Editor: Learn to listen
If you coughed, spluttered and ermed forEnglandbe sure to order a pizza and buckle yourself in. If you coughed, spluttered and ermed for the world I’d make it a family sized pizza and switch off your mobile phone.
The most important part is listening to your recording very carefully. You can’t hope to edit successfully if you haven’t bothered to find out exactly where the pauses, coughs and other such noises/errors are that you need to cut.
This will also be a chance to get the feel of a listener. Do you sound so monotone listening back to it puts you in danger of slipping into a coma? Is your voice or what you’re saying annoying you? If it is have a rethink at what you’ve recorded and if necessary re-record.
Know your way around
The Tools Toolbar and the Editing Toolbar are really useful for this process.
To view the entire audio recording inside the Audacity window click on the last button on the editing toolbar <<<<. This is handy after having zoomed in close to specific regions of your audio.
To select a specific part of the audio to listen to, click on the Selection Tool.
Holding down the left mouse button at the point you want to start, drag it along stopping at the point you wish it to end your selection.
Another important area which is crucial for precision is the Selection Toolbar at the bottom.
There is also a drop down menu allowing you to change from the hh:mm:ss to the option with + milliseconds. Naturally this level of precision depends on what you’ve recorded and how sharp you want your finished podcast to sound.
Cut the crap
When talking at length it will be impossible not to have recorded some long pauses, plenty of erms and squirms as well as endlessly repeating words or making other mistakes. My bane has been the word ‘anyway’. If I’d have signed a contract with the Dictionary Dudes to get paid 1p each time I said it I’d probably be on track to making my first million if Band of Badgers Presents takes off.
You hear a pause begin as you prepare for a ferociously loud sneeze; a quaint but very audible cough follows yet another pause. To delete this zoom into the part of the audio it occurs. Play it back to ensure you’ve selected correctly and alter where necessary. Select as precisely as you can using the Selection Toolbar to tweak the milliseconds if required.
To delete the offending area you’ve just selected simply click on the scissors on the editing toolbar and the remainder of the audio will merge together minus this pause/interruption.
Repeat the cutting process throughout your recording as required.
Cut it. Copy it. Split it. Paste it.
You may wish something you said to be repeated verbatim at some other point(s) in the podcast. Select this bit of the audio then click on the copy button on the editing toolbar. Next make sure you have the Selection Tool button pressed before pointing/selecting with one click where you want this copied audio to be repeated. Click on the paste button.
Perhaps you end up talking about Team GB’s chances in the sneezing events for the coming Olympics later on while this sneeze you did was earlier in the podcast and it would be better placed somewhere else. Just select the portion of the audio as above then select the cut button. Locate the point in the audio you wish it to be slotted into and click on that point to select it before pressing the paste button. Even if this is within any recorded audio it will be pasted in wherever you select it to be.
For the worried in you there is always undo
If you do something while editing you really wish you hadn’t there is a very friendly looking undo button (okay it looks like all other undo buttons and is the sixth along from the left on the edit toolbar) never far away to save you from despair.
The beauty of Audacity is that you can undo changes you’ve made even after saving the file. Just remember to resave it because if you lose it, when you open the file it will revert to the previously saved state.
Special effects wizard
The Effect menu is one of the most used during this process and contains a whole suite of options you can apply to your recording. Feel free to have a good play around with them all to get a true feel of what Audacity can offer. Below are some of the options you’re more likely to use in the novice stage of your podcasting career.
Noise Removal – This enables you to clean up the background noise that often seeps in while recording (unless you have a really smart expensive microphone).
You’ll need to select a portion of the audio containing just the background noise you want to eliminate. Select: Effect > Noise Removal > Get Noise Profile which will take you back to the main screen. The noise profile has been set.
You can now select the whole of the portion of audio you want to remove this noise from and select Effect > Noise Removal > OK
There is also the option to Preview before accepting any changes.
If necessary you can of course move the sliders about for noise reduction and sensitivity in the Noise Removal dialog box. It really is about trial and error. The common tip is to try and remain subtle so as to not make the audio sound too unnatural.
Amplification – It may be that even though the blue waveforms are nice and large creating their lovely pattern across the page in the program, your audio still sounds a bit on the quiet side. Amplify! This is what I did to make my audio near in volume to the MP3 tunes surrounding it.
Select the audio then click on Effect > Amplify. Audacity will automatically calculate how much you can amplify the audio without it becoming so loud it would cause distortion.
Sometimes it is better to compress
Having a consistent volume level for your voice recording is important and this can be achieved using the Compressor rather than Amplify.
Select Effect > Compressor – it is like with the click of your mouse (or touchpad – I use a laptop) you are actually waving a virtual magic wand as this tool makes loud bits quieter, then amplifies it all making the quiet bits of your audio louder.
The dialog box illustrated below will appear:
Ensure the two boxes at the bottom are ticked.
For the first pass set Threshold to -12dB
Set the Noise Floor level to -80dB
Set the Ratio to 6:1 and finally set the Attach Time to 0.5secs and Decay Time to 1.0secs.
You can preview how these changes make it sound. If the quiet parts are still too quiet undo the changes and try again with a higher Threshold of -18dB. If this makes your voice sound unnaturally squashed undo again (you see this undo button is a gem) and try the Threshold at -6dB. Remember, Trial and Error.
Fading In and Out:
Both these can be handy when coming to the end of a music track when you wish to start speaking over the music.
Select the part of the audio you want to increase the volume gradually for and to fade in, select Effect > Fade In. Notice how the part of the audio you’ve faded in alters.
Repeat this for fading out, instead selecting Effect > Fade Out.
Yo DJ: Into the Mix
As I’m using two or three music tracks playing consecutively I’m also making use of the Effect > Cross Fade Out and Cross Fade In.
Line up the tunes you wish to mix together then select the portion of the first track you want to cross fade out. I chose the final 10 to 15 seconds of. Select Effect > Cross Fade Out and wham bam it’s done.
Then select the portion you want to cross fade in on the next track, about 5 to 10 seconds for example. Select Effect > Cross Fade In and another wham bam, that’s done.
I repeated this cross fading out with the second into the third track before using just the regular fade out for the end of the third track into my speech audio.
Labels – If you have a number of different music tracks playing consecutively or perhaps you’ve recorded an interview and you want to pinpoint precisely where your questions end and the answers begin?
Select the part of the audio you wish to label. Select Tracks > Add Label at Selection this creates a blank label in a new pane underneath the recorded audio. Now type in the text of your label.
Effect > Auto Duck – This is great if you want to run some background music alongside your speech/commentary.
Select the track(s) whose volume you need to alter (the music you wish to have playing in the background). Place your speech recording underneath the music track making sure they are properly synchronised (make use of the Time Shift Tool) then select Auto Duck.
Ever wonder what you’d sound like speaking fluent Russian? Me too! Effect > Reverse after selecting some audio will play it backwards. I was quite impressed with my new found language skills.
Exporting your audio
The editing is finished! Are you sure? Listen again! And again, come on. Take a break and have one more listen to be certain.
I hear clapping and this barely scratches the surface of what’s available but do give yourself a pat on the back for learning some editing skills. Just consider all the work that needs to be done to the TV shows and movies we all enjoy.
You can export your finished edited project as a range of different file types, from WAV to Ogg, AC3 to WMA but most commonly recognised for external use is the good old MP3.
When exporting mine I was faced with a message that the program needed to open the Lame MP3 encoder to Audacity. If this happens, follow the Instructions at http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Lame_Installation to download the encoder. This takes just a few seconds.
Once done select File > Export which opens up the folder you have the audacity file saved in. Change the name if you want to call the finished MP3 file something else.
Now select from the drop down menu where it asks Save as type and change this to MP3 if it is not already selected before clicking on Save.
A dialog box opens in Audacity entitled Edit Metadata.
This is where you add specific tags that will help identify your podcast when submitting it. I used my name, the track title and album title. For Genre I selected Music Podcast.
This really is a crash course because Audacity has lots more to offer if you want to get more technical. Have a play and see what you can create.
To come in Part 3: So you now have a finished edited podcast, what to do with it? Make it available to the world. In the concluding article I’ll discuss where you can upload it and find an audience.