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Introduction to Podcasting

A series of short audio tutorials for those just getting started.

Recording for Easy Post-Production Editing (10:43)

In this installment, your host leans on her experience with recording and editing to make share some tips that will make post-production editing a little bit easier. Topics covered include:

  • external and internal noises
  • controlling for echo
  • ambient noise
  • how to manage verbal stumbles while recording
  • knowing when enough is enough.

Transcript

[Intro Music]

Hi, I’m lisa Hooper, a librarian and Head of Media Services at Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. This is Introduction to Podcasting, a series of short audio tutorials for those just getting started. Thanks for listening. In this installment we’re going to discuss a few things you can do while recording to make editing audio a little bit easier.

If you have any questions, comments, or just want to talk about your work, send a line to lhooper1@tulane.edu. That’s l h o o p e r, the number 1, at Tulane dot e d u.

Way back two years ago, in 2020, I knew exactly nothing about how to edit audio tracks, which is ridiculous because at the time I was recording entire lectures for a four week online class. So, imagine, if you can, I'm sitting down in front of my computer with Zoom running to capture the audio and my transcript also pulled up on the screen. My goal – read a 20 to 30 minute lecture convincingly and engagingly with no mistakes. Finally we’ve gotten to attempt number 10! I've gotten through all the places I've stumbled already in attempts 1-9 and i have just one page left. Enter Pandora, my very sweet cat who has a bottomless pit for a stomache. She decides the very last page of the transcript is about the right time to let me know she’s hungry and wants a snack. And of course she won’t do it with the cute, adorable meow that we see in cat food commercials and that makes every librarian go “aww kitteh!” but instead by systematically knocking things off of every flat surface until she gets my attention. And then she gets on my desk, at which point she walks back and forth across my computer keyboard. It’s totally game over. Midnight snack for her and starting all over from the beginning for me. It was not awesome.

Fast forward about a year and I've managed to learn the basics of audio editing and life is so much easier. Learning the basics of audio editing also led me to discover a few things I can while recording that make post-production editing a little bit easier and a lot less time consuming.

Now one trick I’ve already done multiple times in the process of these first four minutes of recording. And that is when my dog started barking, I quickly paused the recording, I let her finish barking at whatever she saw out there, and then I pressed pause again and the recording resumes. It’s very simple, you can’t even hear it in the finished product.

Another really easiest thing that you can do, and that frankly everybody should do even if you’re not planning to do any editing work, is to pick your location wisely. So as I typed this transcript for this installment, I was sitting in my front room with the neighborhood church bells ringing accompanied by the wonderful tones of a weed whacker coming in through my open windows; my dog was watching the street from our balcony, ever ready to protect our house from any mail carrier brave enough to walk down our street; and of course my cats were doing their best to keep me guessing about what they were going to do next. Clearly, that was not an ideal spot to try to record.

An ideal spot is one away from external noises. And so I just mentioned a number of external noises: church bells weed whackers, barking dogs, cars going up and down the street. These can all be avoided in most cases by moving to the back of the house or, even better, finding an interior room.

It’s the internal noises that we have to be most vigilant about; these are the sounds that happen in our house that have become just the soundtrack of our private lives and don’t typically register in our conscious. So for example, if like me you have window air conditioners and it’s summer, you know you might want to consider turning the one in your room off while you record. If you’re using a highly sensitive mic, like pretty much anything better than your onboard computer mic, then you might also want to think about turning off the air conditioners in adjacent rooms as any solid mic will pick up those vibrations and low pitches travelling through the walls from your other air conditioners. Of course the opposite – if it’s winter, also like me you live in a New Orleans home with no heating then you probably stay warm with space heaters; turn those off while you’re doing your recording, they will turn on and off and they will be very, very audible and distracting in your finished recording. Now, the one household sound that gets me every time, is the refrigerator. It never seems particularly loud until it shows up in one of my recordings. And I’m actually sure you can hear it in a couple installments in this series if you know when and where to listen for it.

Another consideration when choosing your recording location is the amount of echo in that space. If you listen to news radio, you can very easily tell the difference, especially when they’re doing a live interview with a lawmaker. You can tell if they are in an open public space somewhere in the halls of congress because there is both a tremendous echo and a lot of back ground noise. Now, it’s when there’s a lot of echo and no back ground noise that my imagination forgets to listen to what their saying and starts running wild trying to guess - what echo-y place could they be in with no background noise and no other people running around? You can probably get where my imagination is going.

So, some homes are naturally echo-y, especially here in New Orleans with those incredibly high ceilings and walls that make it seemingly impossible to send a nail through. The most common recommendation that comes up time and again in the literature and resources about how to podcast, is to just use your clothing closet as your recording space. The fabric of the clothing absorbs the sound so it comes out nice and clean in the recording. Now, let’s face it, another unique feature of a lot of New Orleans homes is the complete absence of closets. To help in these situations then you could try a trick offered up by some NPR news hosts in the book NPR’s Guide to Podcasting. When they are out traveling for a story, they’ll often record their the news story from their hotel room, spaces that can often have a lot of echo and no closets. In these situations, they use pillow forts. Or pillow walls, really. They recommend setting your computer up on a desk or table and setting out a wall of pillows behind and to the sides of your computer screen and mic.

If, for whatever reason, you still can’t find a reasonable location to record within your living space, then you can reserve one of the studio rooms in the Student Learning Center, located in the basement of Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. I’ll drop a link with more information about this space below the transcript.

So the space you record in, it’s important.

For those of you planning to do post-production editing, here are two more things you can do for yourself:

  1. In post-production editing, you’ll have an opportunity to remove any continuous ambient noise. By ambient noise, I mean a sound that is a constant presence and doesn’t change very much throughout the recording. To edit it out though, you’ll need a noise sample. So, when you sit down and first hit record, wait 5 seconds before talking and just let the mic pick up all that ambient noise in those first five seconds. That will become your noise reduction sample. After removing the ambient sound from your recording, you can simply delete those first 5 seconds of silence.
  2. We’ve already established that it can be really hard to get through a script without any verbal stumbles along the way. If that happens, then keep the recorder running. Just pause a minute, take a deep breath to reset yourself, and simply go back and repeat that section and move on. By pausing a few seconds, you’re one, giving yourself plenty of time to reset, but your also providing wriggle room to cut out that portion that you tripped up on. By re-reading that section again and just continuing on, your audience won’t even know that you had a mistake that you deleted; it will sound seamless.

Finally, the last piece of advice I can give on this is to simply know when enough is enough. And now I say this as someone who did at least 10 takes once on just the opening ‘Hi, my name is lisa Hooper,’ and that was after practicing it so many times in advance. At some point, the more you try the worse it’s going to get. For me, that turning point is usually right after the 5th attempt. So, 5 takes now; that is all I'll allow myself. By only allowing myself five attempts to say something just right, I give myself an opportunity to try and do better if I think I can while also giving myself permission to continue my work even if I never get it quite perfect, quite the way I want. I mean, and you know, we are all our own worst critic, and that personal critic is really much tougher than anybody listening to us. So you might have a different tipping point between when you can feel yourself improving and when that same bit of text starts to get a little bit more garbled. That’s going to be your tipping point. That is your limit of repetitions. So, set that limit and then give yourself permission to keep going.

That’s it for now. Thanks for listening. I’ll catch you next time.

[Outro music]

Sources Referenced and Related Resources:

Weldon, Glen. NPR’s Podcast Start Up Guide. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2021. (Available in print and digitally. Search for it by name at https://library.tulane.edu)

ALTC Mini-Studio, https://success.tulane.edu/support/altc/studio.

Introduction to Audio Editing with Audacity: Task Explanation and Activities. https://tulane.box.com/s/zwhpeqp817yauuu35xhcidex6n4q5jry

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