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Audio Project (Podcast) Production Guide

General Editing

You've written your scripts, done your recording and you're ready to put it all together. But exactly how do you do that? This process of cutting and assembling your final project from all your components is called editing.

You should start by compiling your assets, which are all of the components of your audio project like music and sound effects. Then you'll bring your assets into an editing program. When you've completed your project, export it as a .wav and upload to a sharing platform.

Audio Editing Resources

After you’ve recorded your episode, bring all of the audio into a sound editing program. This is where you’ll take out mistakes, stitch together different audio clips, add music and make it sound more professional with effects. There are many sound editing software available, most of which fall under the label of a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

Audacity is a commonly recommended audio editing program but we do not recommend it, as it has a tendency to crash and lose projects. Recommended software includes:

 
 
Video Tutorial
Text Tutorial
Reaper (Free -  ): All the editing and power of a very expensive editing program (i.e. Pro Tools) but at a much more affordable price. Free to try, with no limitations or time-limit on the length of the trial.
Adobe Audition ( -   ): Adobe Creative Suite’s sound editing program, which is simple to use for beginners but is still very sophisticated with lots of great features. Audition has an excellent and powerful noise reduction plug-in that does wonders for noisy recordings.


For help getting started with Adobe Audition or other audio software, visit LinkedIn Learning, which has excellent software tutorials available anyone with a VCU email. For getting started with Reaper, refer to Jeff Emtman's Reaper for Radio series on YouTube.

Audio Editing Tips

Once you've gathered all the recordings and sounds that you need and chosen an audio editing program, it's time to start editing. It's highly recommend that you organize all of your assets into a single folder, with helpful filenames, before you begin this process.

Take some time to watch or read tutorials for the software that you're going to use to edit. All audio editing programs are structured around tracks, in which you order your story into a linear sequence. The first technique you should learn in your audio editing program is how to split clips so that you can trim media and reorder smaller chunks of a longer video. Also learn how to fade your tracks - you want to cross fade between vocal bits and fade music in and out. Most sound editing programs make this easy by adding handles that you can drag in from the edges of the clips.

The art of audio editing takes time and practice to improve. Some general tips to get started include:

 

Know your audio: Listen to what you've recorded, take notes, and know how you're going to shape the story
Making cuts: Don't worry too much about cutting out filler words (uhms and ahs). Do pay attention to where breaths lie between sentences. It can be easy to cut breaths in unnatural ways and cause a "hiccup" or double-breath effect. Don't cut off the beginning of a word (words starting with soft beginnings - "F", "H", "S" - are especially easy to accidentally cut)
Use fades and crossfades: Abrupt starts and stops sound unnatural. Use crossfades between sections of audio or use room tone to mask the edits.
Add music and sound effects: Find music that fits your tone and sound effects that enhance your sense of location.

Background noise: steady, constant background noises like fans and hums are easily taken out in Adobe Audition following these directions. It is much harder to take out random noises like other people talking or sirens.

NPR created an ear training guide for audio producers with examples of common editing and recording problems.

Adding Music

Many podcasts include music at the beginning and end, as well as during transitions. Music can also be added into the background of a noisy interview clip to mask the noise.

Royalty free music allows you to purchase a license for a piece of music that entitles you to use it for the duration of the license.

For free music, search for creative commons licensed music, which generally allow you to use a piece of music for free and without permission, as long as you credit the artist. Some creative commons licensed music is restricted to non-commercial uses. Always make sure you have permission to use a piece of music. You can also search for music that is in the public domain, in which the copyright has expired. Websites to browse through include:


Sound Effects
Free Sound A collaborative database of CC-licensed sound. Freesound focusses on sound and sound effects, not music
Archive.org Non-profit digital library with collections of digitized free movies, music, images, websites and more
Sound Effects CDs The Workshop has a royalty-free sound effects library of more than 250 CDs (with searchable indexes) that can be used to add sounds to audiovisual projects.  
Music
Free Music Archive CC-licensed music grouped by genre  | 
ccMixter CC-licensed music for film, video and games  | 
CCTrax CC-licensed music grouped by genre  | 
Incompetech CC-licensed and royalty-free music from one composer  | 
Soundcloud Audio-sharing site with a decent amount of CC-licensed music  | 
mobygratis Electronic musician Moby has released many of his songs to use for free in educational projects  | 

If you have a musical friend, consider asking them if you can use their music or if they’d like to partner with you to create sounds specifically for your project.

Audio Mixing Tips

Audio mixing generally refers to the processes that make your audio sound better. The most important points below are fixing your levels and exporting properly. The other mixing tips are a higher difficulty level, but they are common processes run on most high-quality podcasts, which will make your podcast sound more professional.

Fix your levels: Try to get the gain of each of your clips around the same loudness - try -6dB. Use normalization or amplify.
Equalizer: Boost or cut the level of specific frequency bands. Parametric equalizers allow precise adjustments for a range of frequencies. High-pass filters let through only high frequencies and reduce signal beneath a certain frequency range. This can be good for reducing rumble or hum. Low-pass filters reduce high frequencies, which can be good for a reducing a hiss.
Compression: Reduces the overall dynamic range of your audio, meaning the difference between the quiet and loud sounds will not be as great. Voices generally benefit from some small compression, which makes it easier to listen to. For compressing a vocal track, try starting with a 3:1 ratio and adjust the threshold so that 4-5 dB of gain-reduction occurs between peaks, then tweak.
Limiter: a limiter is like a wall that won't let you audio go past a certain loudness point. It's good practice to put a limiter on at -3dB.
Export: Export your project as a .wav and as a .mp3 file. .wav files are not compressed so they are higher quality but you might need to submit .mp3, as they are smaller.

Next Steps

Hosting and Directories

When your podcast is completed, you need a place to host your episodes. Media hosts are services that store your audio and allow your listeners to listen, download and subscribe. You can’t actually upload your podcast to iTunes.

Many podcasters choose to store their podcasts on Soundcloud. A free account has limits on storage space but is a good place to start - you can always upgrade to a pro account. Check out notes from Soundcloud about setting up a podcast for more help. The most popular (not free) podcast hosting site is Libsyn. These services host your audio files and then generate an RSS feed, which is a "Rich Site Summary" that allows applications to get updates on new content.

Once you’ve uploaded your podcast to a service, you can submit them to be listed in various directories, where listeners can discover, subscribe, and download it. If you want to reach the largest possible audience, submit your podcast to iTunes. iTunes has strict submission guidelines regarding copyright, artwork, rss feeds, etc, that you should review closely before submitting. After your podcast is on iTunes, it's easier to get accepted into new directories.

 

Promotion Tips

Wait until you have three to five episodes before submitting your podcast to iTunes. Build an email list, from your contacts or social media or blog, to share news of your new podcast. Pick a launch date, keeping in mind that iTunes can take several days to accept your podcast. Create images, clips and share quotes that listeners can share on social media. Ask your listeners to review and rate your episode in the iTunes store. Ratings and reviews are the best way to get traction and to make it onto iTunes charts. Publish consistently and on a schedule so listeners know when they will get new content.