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Tuesday
Mar272012

Audio Recording Made Complex, pt. 1

I've completed the audio recording of Matcher Rules and it will go live as a podcast of 20 episodes on April 11. I've been asked not to post a link until then.

In all the posts I've read on How To Create Your Own Podcast, someone always says "Oh, it was so easy!"

It is not. It is complex and nitpicky and requires you to learn several pieces of new software. Unless of course you are a musician who has been creating your own music for, lo, the last decade. Or an audio engineer who loves waveforms. Then, it's easy.

Audiophiles (to use a polite term) are equipment freaks. If there is a problem it can be solved by getting the latest, greatest and more expensive microphone, headset, portable recording studio, et cetera. If you are determined to use your old headset and microphone you will have quality issues and you will be taken to task for quality issues. It is a decision between your finances and your tolerance for criticism. Everyone's answer will be different.

The free software of choice is Audacity. It has a daunting interface for a novice but many tutorials and instruction manuals, although for some reason no ability to keyword search inside the manual. If there is I've never found it. As a novice, sometimes you can hear a problem but not know what it is called in audio-speak. There may be a utility that magically fixes the problem, there may not be, but unless you can find the correct terminology you may never know.

For example, I found several episodes (each 1/2 hour long) had annoying clicking sounds. I was happy to discover a utility in Audacity called 'click removal'. After I used it I still had the clicks, but the entire episode now sounded as if I was recording in a deep, deep well. Manual editing the file, where you listen second by second to each sound and erase the tiny section of the waveform to delete them, did not work on the clicks. I ended up re-recording the episodes. I never found what had cause the problem, or what had caused it to stop, but I suspect I had the microphone too close to my mouth.

Podiobooks encourages authors to create the 1/2 hour episodes because their listeners are often commuters who listen in their cars on the way to work. I thought it seemed short, until I recorded one. Try talking non-stop for 30  minutes, no throat-clearing or loud breathing or hesitations. It is hard. Then, it takes double the time to edit the file, removing all the throat-clearing, breathing, etc. Plus general background noise: there is a handy utility called 'Noise Removal' that works beautifully. I left 10 seconds at the beginning for the musical intro, used that as a sample, and cleaned the entire file.

After the file is edited, I exported it out of Audacity in Apple's .aaip format. I had to install another free utility called The Levelator, which evens out sound recordings. It creates a processed file with the same name and a different extension (output). By the way, creating multiple podcast episodes can be a file organization nightmare, since each episode goes through about six steps and a distinct file is created each time. My desktop was a confused mass of multiple files, same name, different extensions.

With the Levelator output file created, it's time to add the music introduction. I'll cover that in the next post.

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