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Editing is an essential part of producing a high quality podcast, but editing is time consuming and difficult if you aren’t experienced with professional audio editing software like Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, or Adobe Audition.
I spend roughly 20 hours every week editing podcasts in Logic Pro X. Over the course of 3 years, I learned Logic inside and out. When I started learning, Youtube tutorials and blog posts were the most helpful, but I learned a ton just by running into various problems and learning how to solve them.
My goal for this podcast is to share everything I’ve learned about audio, editing podcasts, and podcasting in general. Some of the content I want to share is better suited to screencasts (so you can see what I’m doing, which makes it easier to understand), but this podcast is a great place to share how I think about editing, which is what I’m going to do in this episode.
I’ve already recorded a few screencasts about essential concepts and plugins like EQ and compression, and I’m going to continue to produce screencasts as often as I can. If you have questions about something you’re having trouble with (regardless of which editing software you’re using), please use the contact form to get in touch. I’m more than happy to answer questions or point you to a resource online.
Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins:
- Editing can be time consuming, so if you have a busy schedule already, consider hiring an editor.
- Every audio editing program has a learning curve, but I found Logic Pro X is nearly perfect for podcast editing.
- To streamline the editing process, invest in a good DAW like Logic, Pro Tools or Audition, and then create templates, channel strip templates, and learn all the keyboard shortcuts.
- Music should serve a purpose other than to just sit in the background and distract listeners from what you’re saying.
- You’ll need professional headphones made for mixing to accurately hear how your tracks sound.
- When editing, cut mistakes or anything that distracts the listener from the message or content of the show.
- Be careful not to edit out inhales.
- After you’re finished editing and mixing, export the file as an MP3 (either 64, 96, or 128kbps).
- 3:28 What is the Best Program for Editing Podcasts? In preparation for this episode, I tried editing a podcast in some free or cheap programs, including Garageband, Audacity, Reaper and Screenflow. The results were disheartening. I found it frustrating and difficult to do the basic tasks that are required for quickly editing a show.
- 4:27 Of those four programs, I found Garageband to be the best free/cheap option for editing a podcast.
- 5:17 Screenflow is pretty good too, although it’s pricier at $99 unless you find it as part of a discounted bundle. It doesn’t have "plugins", but has some pretty nice audio features like noise removal, smooth volume levels. It’s also a great way to record screencasts, if that’s something you’re interesting in doing.
- 5:46 Since I’m most experienced with Logic, I’m going to talking about how I edit in Logic. If you’re going to edit your own show every week, I strongly recommend investing in a copy of Logic Pro X. I know it’s an investment at $200, but if you produce and edit a podcast weekly, you’ll end up making that money up with the time you save.
Every audio editing program has a learning curve, but I found Logic Pro X is nearly perfect for podcast editing.
- 6:13 Garageband has most of the features that Logic does, except for the ability to edit multiple tracks at the same time, which is a huge time saver. You can make cuts in the track by splitting regions using cmmd+t, but this is much slower than how I can edit in Logic. I do like that you can add plugins to tracks and the master track – that’s an nice feature.
- 6:49 Another reason I like Logic better than Garageband is the mixer view. This view looks similar to a hardware mixer used for live sound, and makes adjusting volume faders and plugins easier and faster. I made a screencast about why I prefer editing podcasts in Logic, so you can check that out here.
- 7:20 If you’ve never opened a program like Garageband or Logic before, you may feel overwhelmed by all the different buttons and options available. I would start by watching an introduction video on Youtube (I’ve included links to tutorials in the resource section at the bottom of these show notes). You’ll need to get familiar with creating a project, creating tracks inside the project, recording audio files or adding audio files to your project, making edits or "cuts" to those files, moving around the pieces of those files (commonly called regions), how to access plugins or other effects, and then how to bounce (or export) your project once you’ve finished making edits.
Editing can be time consuming, so if you have a busy schedule already, consider hiring an editor.
How to Reduce Time Spent Editing Podcasts
- 8:18 There are a few things I’ve learned that have saved me hours of time every week.
- 8:15 1. Create templates.
- 8:30 After you create all your tracks and set up plugin settings, delete the unnecessary audio files and save the project as a template to use next time. You can also do this with channel strip or track settings in Logic (but not in Garageband). If you are using Garageband, you can save the project as a template by saving the project file and then using it next time you need to record or edit a podcast. You won’t have to set up all the tracks and plugins from scratch which is a huge time saver.
- 10:19 2. Get familiar with keyboard shortcuts.
- 10:26 If you do something with a mouse, check to see if you can do it with a keyboard shortcut instead. This can save you hours over the course of a year.
- 10:39 3. Learn how to zoom in, zoom out, and move things around.
- 10:45 This is often a combination of the shift, cmmd, option or control keys plus the trackpad or mouse wheel.
- 11:15 There’s a keyboard shortcut this is one of my favorite keyboard shortcuts in Logic. It’s shift-f, which select all regions in front of the currently selected region. This has saved me tons of time.
To streamline the editing process, invest in a good DAW like Logic, Pro Tools or Audition, and then create templates, channel strip templates, and learn all the keyboard shortcuts.
How to Import and Sync Audio Files
- 12:13 Most programs like Garageband, Audacity and Logic support drag and drop importing. So if you have created an empty track, you can drag an audio file from your finder or desktop and drop it onto that track wherever you want.
- 12:54 People don’t always hit record at the same time. This can make lining up the audio files challenging, especially if you’re editing 3 or more tracks. I learned to solve this with a couple of tricks.
- 13:07 1. People don’t always start recording at the same time, but they often hit stop around the same time. So if the files don’t line up at the beginning, check the ending.
- 13:18 2. If you zoom all the way out and look at the wav forms in the tracks, you can see the places where someone is talking, and where they aren’t. I think about the tracks as puzzle pieces, so I zoom out and try to see how they fit together.
- 13:43 3. You also have to listen and see how the flow of conversation goes. If someone asks a question, there usually isn’t a big gap before the other person responds. If there is, that track may be a little out of alignment.
How to Fix Audio Drift
- 14:12 Tracks recorded on different computers may drift out of sync over the course of an hour, even if both recordings were started at the exact same time. This is just something you have to be aware of when editing a podcast. Skip to halfway or two thirds of the way through the podcast and listen to see if the conversation is still flowing like it should. You might need to nudge one of the tracks forward or backwards in the timeline.
Adding Music, Intros and Outros
- 15:07 Most podcasts I edit have some kind of intro and outro music, often added after the show has been recorded. The amount of time between the start of the music and where the talking starts is totally up to you, and will depend on the music itself. There isn’t a rule about this stuff; try a few things out and see what sounds right to you. I wouldn’t play a full three minute track at the beginning of a show, though.
- 15:54 Q: Should I put background music in my podcast?
- 16:03 Personally, I don’t like background music playing while someone is speaking. I’ve heard it used well in certain shows, NPR or otherwise, but they know how to use music effectively for emphasis and breaks.
Music should serve a purpose other than to just sit in the background and distract listeners from what you’re saying.
How to Use Automation
- 16:48 Automation allows you to create changes over time to volume and various other settings. This is how you reduce the volume level of a music track when the host starts talking. Automation is much easier to understand if you see it in action, so here is a link to an automation tutorial.
- 17:33 You can also automate volume changes if you run into a situation where you or a guest back away from the mic or turn the input gain down or up significantly. I will sometimes use automation to change the volume level for a track at a specific point in a recording if compression isn’t the right solution.
EQ, Compression, Mixing and Mastering
- 17:57 Mixing and post-production are an essential part of podcast editing. The goal of mixing is to make sure the volume of all the tracks are roughly equal, so that listeners can hear everyone clearly without ever having to adjust playback volume.
- 18:23 You can do this using a variety of different plugins that are available in many editing programs. The stock plugins I use most commonly in Logic are the Expander, EQ, Compressor, Noise Gate, and Limiter. I typically use these plugins in that order, although I usually put the limiter plugin on the master track and not the individual tracks.
- 18:51 These are all important plugins, so I’ve recorded some screencasts and gathered some great video tutorials for you to check out if you’re interested in learning how to use these plugins. You can find them in the resources section at the bottom of the show notes for this episode.
- 19:32 I use a few third party plugins for most editing projects. First is Izotope’s de-clipper for fixing clipping. Clipping happens when the input gain for a track is set too high, and the strength of the signal overloads the mic and causes the waveform to distort, or become clipped. This sounds bad, but happens pretty often in tracks that are sent to me for editing.
- 19:56 The second third party plugin I use is also from Izotope, and it’s the Dialog Denoiser. This plugin is magic. It does a great job with automatically removing background noise from a track and making audio sound cleaner. Both of these Izotope plugins are sold in a package called RX4, which has a bunch of other plugins all made for cleaning up audio. It sells for $349, but you can get a significant discount if you’re a college student.
- 20:24 The third non-stock plugin I use came with a bundle from Waves. It’s the L-1 Limiter. It’s nice, but it really isn’t necessary as the stock limiter plugin that comes with Garageband and Logic is perfectly fine.
- 20:48 Not all headphones are made for mixing. Some will alter the way music sounds by boosting or cutting certain frequencies. Many consumer brand headphones aren’t designed to be precise and accurate so much as they are designed to make music sound really pleasant to the ears.
You’ll need professional headphones made for mixing to accurately hear how your tracks sound.
Balancing Volume Levels
- 21:27 My goal when mixing a podcast is to get the volume of all the speakers roughly the same. You can do this with a few different plugins, most commonly compressors. I try to get the loudest peaks of each track to land between -9db and -6db, and then I add a few db of gain to the master track or vocal bus with a compressor or limiter.
What is a Bus or Aux Track?
- 22:17 The way most programs work is that the audio signal from each track is sent to a master track. This master track is what you’ll hear after you bounce or export a project. A bus (or aux) is just another channel strip that sits between the track and the master track. If you create a single bus track, you can send the output from each of your vocal tracks to that bus for some processing, and then the audio from that bus will be sent to the master track.
- 22:14 I’ve started using this recently. I used to do EQ, compression and limiting on the master track, even though I only wanted to apply those effects to the vocal tracks. I didn’t want to EQ or compress the music, because most of the music tracks I work with have already been mixed and mastered by an engineer.
- 24:00 Now my vocal tracks go to a bus before passing on to the master track. In that bus channel strip, I have a few plugins; Dialog Denoiser by Izotope, a compressor doing a few decibels of dynamic reduction, and a limiter to make sure the loudest peaks of the audio don’t pass over -.8db.
- 24:30 The cool thing about the bus is that I can make changes to all the vocal tracks combined before they go to the master track.
What Kinds of Things Should I Edit Out of My Podcast?
- 24:46 I cut mistakes or anything that distracts the listener from the message or content of the show. Most of the time, that’s coughs of other noise in the background of a recording, any false starts or do-overs, or anytime a guest or host stumbles over words before finding what they meant to say. I also remove long pauses unless they are there for emphasis.
When editing, cut mistakes or anything that distracts the listener from the message or content of the show.
Be careful not to edit out inhales.
- 26:16 If you cut out inhales, your podcast will sound unnatural. People don’t go six minutes without taking a breath.
- 26:18 There are a few plugins that will reduce background noise (expanders, noise gates) but sometimes you have to manually cut the sections of a track that have background noises.
Exporting Your Finished Project
- 27:39 After you’re done doing editing and mixing, you’ll need to export the master track as an MP3.
- 27:52 If you’re using Logic or Garageband, you’ll need to set the end point for your project. This is a little gray triangle in the marquee bar that runs across the top of the editing window. This triangle sets where the file will end when you export it.
What Bit Rate Should I Use?
- 28:46 The bit rate you use will depending on whether you want higher quality or a smaller audio file. I usually use between 64kbps and 128kbps. If you have an international audience, you might want to go with 64kbps so the file size of your MP3 file is smaller. You’ll sacrifice a little bit of audio quality, but the file will be smaller which is nice for anyone who doesn’t have unlimited bandwidth.
- 30:02 Another way to get a smaller file size is to bounce your files in mono instead of stereo. This just means that you’ll only have a single channel of audio, instead of stereo, which is two channels (left and right). Most music is made for stereo speakers – certain instruments or tracks are panned to come out either in the left or the right speaker. If you have a podcast that is heavily focused on music, you’ll probably want to use stereo. If your podcast is mostly just talking, mono will be fine and will make your MP3 file size smaller.
After you’re finished editing and mixing, export the file as an MP3 (either 64, 96, or 128kbps)
- 35:53 Christopher asks: How do I match EQ for additional lines or replacements that might be recorded in a different location from the original recording?
- 36:40 First, if you need to replace lines in a recording, have the person listen to the original recording at try to match the inflection of the lines being replaced. If you can’t record in the same location or with the same microphone setup, it will be difficult (although not impossible) to make the replacement parts sound identical to the original recording. Izotope made an EQ Match plugin specifically for this, but it’s part of the advanced version of RX4, which is $1200.
- 38:06 Ben asks: Have you used Adobe Audition? How does it compare to Logic?
- 38:12 I don’t have a lot of experience with using it, but I have downloaded and played with the demo. It has many of the same features and stock plugins as Logic, so if you’re using Windows, I think it’ll be a good choice.
- 40:42 Cory asks: Even if I can’t hire a professional, should I have someone else listen to my podcast before shipping?
- 41:00 I think that’s a great idea. There have been times where I’ve been doing hours and hours of mixing and mastering and my ears will fatigue and I’ll miss things. If you have a friend who knows about audio and has good ears, it’s always great to get a second opinion about your mix.
- Getting Started in Logic Pro X
- Introduction to Garageband
- Expander Plugin
- EQ Plugin
- Compressor Plugin
- Noise Gate Plugin
- Limiter Plugin
- Izotope just released an updated guide to mastering. This is a free resource, and perfect if you’d like to go a little deeper into mixing and mastering. Be sure to check out the other free guides on the site, too.