Does your audio sound like it’s been edited?
Do you like what editing does but feel that you need to take it to the next level?
Here are 10 tips that are fundamental to editing speech, such as a podcast interview.
1. Be Guided by Your Ears
As all editing programs give you a visual representation of an audio waveform it’s amazing how you soon edit with your eyes. Yes, the waveform is important and in many cases should inform where the edits go but it comes with a proviso . . . what does it sound like?
If you are really checking audio, the only way to know that it’s truly a good edit is to detach yourself, close your eyes and listen again.
Would someone else be able to tell you’ve made an edit there? If the answer if yes, then you’ve still got some work to do.
2. Make Sure Your Monitoring Volume is Loud Enough
I bet you’re thinking to yourself, what a stupid tip! Well, yes and no.
Speak to anyone who’s worked in production for a number of years and I am banking on the fact that they have damaged their hearing! You could take from this the lesson to turn down the volume so you don’t end up the same way but I actually think this is just something that comes with the territory.
If you want to be a good editor you need to hear the audio at a decent level. This is not saying that it should hurt your ears when you listen to it. The damage happens over time because what was once loud enough is not any more, so they compensate. If you ever meet a 60 year old production guru, don’t try on their headphones for size!
3. Zoom into Your Waveform
Although I originally dissed the waveform (in point 1), it’s now back in favour! To put the edits in the right place you need to be precise and there’s no way you can do that if you’re just guessing. The waveform is still your guide, with your ears verifying that it really works. So, unless your audio is very short, zooming in and out is part of the editing process. In fact, having computer hotkeys set up for this (such as + and -) is a really good idea.
4. The Undo Button is Your Friend
Some of the edits you make will not sound good. It’s as simple as that. What doesn’t sound good needs to be reversed and that is done with the undo button.
In the old days of reel to reel editing this was a fiddly procedure, which involved splicing back in little bits of tape. Now it’s a simple process, so use it!
In fact, as with point 3, this is an essential part of the process. Sometimes you can be convinced an edit will work but until you’ve tried it, you just don’t know. Redo. Undo. Listen. Keep at it!
5. There’s No One Way of Editing Something
An edit can be made anywhere on the timeline. This is so important that I’ll say it again. An edit can be made anywhere on the timeline.
So why do we get drawn to edit in between the words? Perhaps because most of the time this works best and also we like to keep all the words whole! Editing midway through a word, however, can work. It just depends on the audio.
If an edit doesn’t sound good, think about whether you can achieve the same outcome by editing somewhere else on the timeline.
This video explains the concept more thoroughly.
6. Leave Some Material as it Was
There is definitely a temptation when you get into tidying up audio that every blemish must be edited out. It certainly does not have to be. Our ears are amazing filters.
One of the best ways to look at this is that nobody should be able to tell you have edited a piece of audio. Some ums and ers disappear beautifully, while others do not.
Edit to make it sound better; if it doesn’t, undo it, leave it alone and move on.
7. Maintain Space Within Speech You’ve Edited
Speech has a rhythm to it and when you start editing it’s quite easy to upset that rhythm because you are constantly removing audio. Where possible, be mindful of the gaps in between words and try to maintain them.
8. Use the Scrub Tool
Scrubbing backwards and forwards allows you to locate the point at which the audio changes. This is yet another tool that helps with precision, which in turn will make your edits tighter.
9. Rough Cut First, Tidy up Later
If you haven’t heard the term ‘rough cut’ before it’s about putting together a version where the content is correct, even if more work is necessary to make it sound good. In some cases there may be time restrictions or it might be chopping out something that was irrelevant or it could be parts where you stopped, etc.
Once you have all the bits of audio that you want to use then you can go through and take out some of the blemishes as you see fit. The content will not change though – it’ll just be enhanced. If you try to do it the other way around, you could end up wasting a lot of time, refining something that ultimately gets deleted.
10. Allocate an Amount of Time to Edit
Editing takes time. For beginners, I don’t recommend editing audio (other than major blemishes). This is because you are learning so much anyway that you will really slow down the process.
However, as you decide to increase the production values of your podcast, editing becomes more attractive. Perhaps it will be someone else that does it? The point is not to waste time on editing. You could spend hours perfecting audio but to what end? So limit yourself! Allocate a time to do the job and then stick to it.
You may have heard people talk about how a task fills the time you allocate for it. This is another reason why you must be in control of how much time you’re going to edit for.
Do you have any other good tips for editing audio?