(By Dave Jackson) When I got my first car, one of the first things my Dad did was make me pull out the jack and change a tire. He made me change the oil and replace the air filter. In the end, I knew how to do basic maintenance. By having a basic understanding of the car, I could aid in the troubleshooting in the event there was anything wrong. You should do the same with your podcast.
I know you might think, “I don’t know a thing about audio editing.” I’m here to say you’ve been editing all your life. When you are having an argument, and you know the words that would cut the person off at the knees — and choose not to say them — you’re editing.
You Already Know How To Edit
When you delete a word or sentence in Microsoft Word, the steps are:
1. Select the word(s)
2. Press “Delete.”
Here are the steps to delete a word or sentence in Audacity (free software for Mac or PC):
1. Select the word(s)
2. Press “Delete.”
So editing is not as hard as you think. You don’t need to become an Adobe Audition Guru and understand the ins and outs of dynamic compression and spectral analyzation of your file. Most editing involves:
1. Importing your file
2. Adjusting volumes
3. Removing unwanted words
4. Removing unwanted noise (hiss)
5. Positioning the file where you want it (i.e., transition music).
But what about compression or normalization? If you record your audio with a decent microphone in a decent location, you only need to edit out the unwanted words. The volume is OK, and there isn’t any hiss.
Here are some benefits of editing your own podcast.
When you edit your podcast, you will feel the pain of the guest who is using the built-in microphone from their laptop. You will uh, um, you know, hear, um, all your, um, crutch words, and um, you know, learn how to cut them out, kinda. This makes you aware of every detail.
For example, I once had a guest with a headset who had a horrible “popping P” issue. I asked to move her microphone three different times. Eventually, I didn’t want to embarrass her and ask her again, and I thought, “I’ll just fix it in editing.” It took three hours to go in and remove all the bass of the words that popped. If I have someone who has horrible mic technique, I don’t hit “record” until we figure out how they can say “happy peanut butter” without it causing issues.
When I ask the world’s most horrible opening question, “Tell us a little bit about yourself” and the guest goes into where they grew up, went to school, favorite dog, and all sorts of other information that nobody cares two shakes about, you’ll learn to ask better questions.
When you cut out pieces of interviews where the guest has gone off on yet another tangent, you might think of some way to politely get them back on track, like saying, “Getting back to ____” and then ask a pointed question.
The minute you get a comment like (real comment), “Dave, interesting guest but audio quality is not acceptable. Don’t know why or if you can control this problem. She sounds like she’s talking into an empty coffee can. Unfortunate for her and you. Enjoy your show.” Thanks: you realize that if you’re interviewing someone from their RV in the desert, they either need to turn off the air conditioner or reschedule when you can Skype each other in some place that is, I don’t know, quiet. I have some fairly expensive toys that created that “coffee can” sound (but as the old saying goes, you can’t polish a turd).
Later When You Hire An Editor
The other thing it does is, in the future if you decide to hire an actual editor, you will be able to describe what you want to be done to your file in a way they will better understand. You also won’t question why they are charging what they charge because you know a good editor is worth their weight in gold.
Another key point is if you hire an editor from day one, all those things I mentioned above you’re going to keep on doing because you’re not aware you’re doing them. Consequently, editing an episode may potentially cost more as there is more to edit.
By editing your podcast, you will be coming across more prepared, focused, and confident on the microphone after editing out all the things that should have been left out in the first place.
Dave Jackson is a Hall of Fame podcaster and consultant. He started the School of Podcasting in 2005 and potentially has helped more podcasters with their podcast than any other human on the planet. Find him at www.schoolofpodcasting.com.
Great article, Dave. It should encourage podcasters who are afraid of editing to get started. One thing I’d add if you have co-hosts: get them involved somehow as well. You can ask them to edit an episode or have them record and edit a segment to go into an episode. Any excuse to give them an opportunity to experience editing and learn about the things that they need to improve on. It’s all about continuously improving, right?
This is utter rubbish. To say all there is to dialogue editing is select and delete is incredibly naive and absolutely wrong and this is why so many podcasts sound terrible.
Yes, deleting a word in Word is exactly that, but you don’t have to deal with inflection, pacing, room tone, matching etc etc. This takes experience, skill and patience.
If you want to experience what good and bad dialogue editing is like just listen to a professionally produced podcast and one that is done with the mentality you are spouting.
I think what Dave is trying to say here is to understand what editing truly is… do it because IT IS NECESSARY. And to learn it, start by approaching it like you would writing. I say this all the time when teaching editing skills or advocating for editing in general.
Why? Because the average independent podcaster comes into podcasting with zero audio experience, let alone audio editing experience. Yet, they’ve been taught to write since they were kids. It’s a point of reference… a place to start to learn.
This, from Ira Glass, sums it up pretty well…
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.”
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