How we turn a raw recording into a polished podcast

When we receive a recording that needs editing and enhancing, it’s usually an MP3 file. The first thing we do is open it in Adobe Audition and convert it to a WAV file so that as we periodically save it, we’re saving it as an uncompressed file. In other words, we’re not throwing away vital data by continuing to save it as an MP3 file. We need it to have enough information to “manipulate” (i.e. enhance) so that it sounds its very best when we’re finished. Next, we adjust the volume to have it sound as loud as possible without sounding distorted or unnatural. We continuously adjust the volume as we work on the recording, so volume adjustment is an ongoing procedure.

After that first volume adjustment in Audition, we open it in SpectraLayers and remove low frequency rumble (usually 80 Hz and below). If there are obvious plosives (popped P’s) that we can see on the spectral display (they look like little downward spikes usually below the 100 Hz line), we erase those with the eraser tool. We save the file and move on to the next and most important software we use.

We open the recording in iZotope RX 8 (the current version at this posting) and start the meticulous task of cleaning and editing the recording. We start by sampling the room noise (when no one is speaking) using the Spectral De-Noise tool. We’re careful that we don’t reduce it more than 12 dB because we want the people speaking to sound natural. Over manipulation of a recording can give it a robotic sound.

When we’re satisfied that we have reduced the background room noise sufficiently, we start at the very first word spoken in the recording and move word by word through the recording, removing clicks, breath noise, thumps, cars passing, computer alerts (like incoming email), and verbal flubs. So, basically all sounds other than voice are removed or reduced in the recording. Sometimes we rearrange words so the person speaking sounds coherent. For example, if a person forgot to add an S to a word meant to be plural, we copy an S from elsewhere in the recording and paste it to the end of the mispronounced word. Our job is to make the people talking sound their very best. Just a quick note here: we don’t rearrange words in an old recording (for example, someone’s grandmother speaking) because we are trying to preserve authenticity.

After we’ve completed our combing over a recording and feel confident we’ve edited and enhanced it the best it can sound, we then mix in an intro and outro if one is available. By the way, Audiobag also creates intros and outros. We then save the final presentation in the format requested by the customer. We give the customer options to choose from on our Script and Instructions form (which the customer filled out when making a purchase from us). We explain on the form that a 320 kbps MP3 files is the highest MP3 quality they can get, but a 128 kbps MP3 file will download and stream more quickly and smoothly. Of course, the customer can also choose to have the finished presentation delivered to them as an uncompressed WAV file and then convert it to whatever format(s) they want.

Many people don’t realize that a 45-minute recording can take 3 or 4 days to edit and enhance. You can find faster turnaround time from other editing companies, but it probably won’t be the cleanest it can be. Like a fine wine, great editing takes time. If you’d like to learn more about Audiobag’s editing service, visit our Editing and Enhancing web page, where you can also hear samples of our work and place an order.

When should you consider buying a new microphone?

I can tell when a podcaster is using a poor quality microphone (or an internal computer or smartphone microphone) versus a high-fidelity microphone. The voice sounds tinny on the poor quality mic. In other words, the high frequencies are there but very little, if any, low frequencies are present. Also, the dreaded popped P, known as a plosive, raises its ugly head. And often there is an ear-piercing sound on words with an S (“sibilance”). As an audio editor at Audiobag, I can remove or reduce plosives and reduce sibilance with post-production enhancing. However, I can’t add something that’s not there: low frequencies. So, the voice is going to be missing warmth. And there’s only one way to correct this problem. You need a decent microphone. The type of mic you choose depends on the sounds around you other than your voice. Oh yeah, and your budget, of course.

The first microphone I purchased for our old studio back in 1987 was a dynamic microphone, which is not as sensitive to sound as a condenser microphone. The reason I chose a dynamic mic back then was because we were recording our voices in the same room where our reel-to-reel recorder was located (yes, Audiobag started out in the days before digital audio) in a studio in downtown Georgetown right next door to a fire station. Talk about noise! So, I purchased a Shure SM7B*, a dynamic mic. All these years later, the Shure SM7B is one of the most recommended microphones for podcasters. One reason is because most podcasters are not recording in a soundproof room. A dynamic microphone tends to knock out distant noises (like your kids yelling, the dog barking, or the sound of the furnace in the background). These days we use a condenser microphone for the voice work we do at Audiobag because we are in a quiet soundproof room (with no analog equipment, thank you very much!). A condenser microphone has a thin diaphragm which is more sensitive to detailed sound than a dynamic microphone. In other words, the words that come out of our mouth are picked up quite nicely by a condenser microphone, as well as other sounds. Luckily, there are no other sounds in our soundproof room.

So what microphone should you buy? Well, that comes down to your budget. I recommend spending at least $100 on a new microphone. And be sure to get a wind filter while you’re at it to knock out the popped P’s. If money is not a major concern, then you might want to start around $400. With that said, I’ve done a lot of testing of microphones and I’ve found that spending more doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a better-sounding microphone. If the microphone doesn’t sound right to you, send it back. One side note here: I’ve enhanced podcasts where the podcaster used an expensive microphone and yet I still needed to roll-off some of the low frequencies because it was too bassy. So, keep in mind that adjustments to your voice can be made in post-production to make you sound better. And if you need that done, as well as removal of verbal flubs and extraneous noise, check out Audiobag’s editing and enhancing service. Yep, that’s a not-so-hidden plug for what I do for a living. I make podcasters sound their best.

Listen back to your recording. Is it the best your voice can sound? Think about your listeners. They expect quality.

* Note: As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

How to knock out that hollow sound in your podcast

One of the more difficult audio problems to deal when we edit and enhance podcast is “that hollow sound” as customers refer to it. They’re talking about the sound of their voice bouncing off of nearby walls, floors and ceilings.

Unless you deal with the problem, the hollow sound is going to remain in your podcasts and you’re going to sound like you’re doing your show in an empty room. We recently had the problem ourselves in a new studio we put together. We didn’t put any acoustical tiles on the walls because the studio is a temporary one. We found an easy solution to dampening the reverberation of our voices, though.

We ordered a couple of blanket moving pads on Amazon from Northern Tool and Equipment,. We hung the blankets around a 6-foot tall by 2-foot wide audio booth we made of PVC pipe we bought at Home Depot. We put a moving blanket we had already on the top as the roof and another blanket on the wood floor for carpeting. This did the trick! We cut out about 99% of the reverb. The total cost was $55 for the PVC, and $53 for the blanket moving pads (including shipping). You can do this much cheaper if you use fairly heavy blankets instead of moving pads and if you have your local hardware store cut the PVC pipe for you. We used pre-cut PVC pipe which is a bit more expensive.

So with a little effort and money, we knocked out the hollow sound and gave our temporary studio a professional sound. Oh, one more thing. If you’ve already got the dreaded “hollow” sound in your recording, we can reduce the reverberation with a technique called de-reverbing. You can learn more about our audio editing and enhancing service at Audiobag.


Before recording anything, do a quick volume test

I’m somewhat (or “kumquat” as I tell my wife — she rolls her eyes) an expert at editing unwanted noise out of audio recordings and video and the number one sound I remove or reduce is room noise — mainly hiss caused from not having the record volume turned up enough. Dang! That was a long sentence and probably should be edited. But let me continue with my thought.

It’s always a good idea before recording to check your microphone level, making sure it’s hitting into the yellow but not the red on your level meter. If it’s in the red, you’re going to have distortion. The good news is that if you’ve already recorded some audio in the red that resulted in distortion, we can reduce it at Audiobag (yes, a little plug for our editing and enhancing business). In fact, I just worked on a recording yesterday that was so distorted, you could see it on a spectral display from outer space.

The simple point here is it doesn’t take a lot of extra time to set recording levels. Maybe a minute of your time. You’ll get a much cleaner sound recording.

If you’d like to learn more about our audio editing and enhancing service, visit our audio editing and enhancing page at Audiobag.




How to Write a Podcast Intro

It’s relatively easy to write a podcast intro. If you go with a 30-second opening for your show, you don’t need more than 75 words. In fact, 50 words would be better. Alright. Let’s get started.

Begin with a welcome of some kind. Here are a few:

  • “Welcome to The Bike Show, a podcast about … “
  • “Podcasting from Austin, Texas, welcome to The Bike Show.”
  • “Streaming from…”
  • “Coming to you from deep in the heart of Texas, welcome to The Bike Show.”

You get the idea. Let your listener know where you are and the name of your podcast right up front.

Next, tell her a little about where you’re podcasting from. For example, “Podcasting from Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world and home to the world’s largest urban bat population, country music singer Willie Nelson, South by Southwest, and the University of Texas … “. Although this isn’t necessary, it helps your listener know what is interesting to you.

Of course, the most important part of your opening should explain what your podcast is all about. “This is The Bike Show, a weekly podcast about bikes and the people who ride them. Hear interviews with special guests and bike news from around the world.” Your listener will now realize that you’re going to have guests that talk about bikes, as well as bike news from all over the world.

Wrap up your podcast intro with the name of your host or hosts, and add a brief description. “And now here’s your host, author and bike expert — Bob Johnson!” And presto! You’ve got your podcast intro written and ready to send to Audiobag for us to produce. Here’s a full sample:

“Podcasting from Austin, Texas — the live music capital of the world and home to the world’s largest urban bat population, country music singer Willie Nelson, South by Southwest, and the University of Texas — this is The Bike Show, a weekly podcast about bikes and the people who ride them. Hear interviews with special guests and bike news from around the world. And now here’s your host, author and bike expert — Bob Johnson!”



How to record a podcast in front of a large audience

Recently a customer told us that she was going to record an upcoming podcast at a conference in front of an audience and she wanted to know what is the best way to get a decent recording in a large auditorium. There are several different ways to achieve a good recording.

The best way to get good sound is to take it directly from the house sound system — eliminating the acoustic effects of the room. You’ll want to connect your recorder input cables (left and right channel) to the outputs of the sound system. Adjust the record levels so you don’t record too loud and get distortion. Remember that the output from most sound systems is at line level, not microphone level.

If it’s not possible to connect to the house sound system, you can mike the guests with your own gear (or equipment you rent). I suggest you mike each guest separately. You’ll need several microphones, mic stands, pop filters, and a mixer. Place the mike within 24 inches of each guest. Plug each mike into a separate channel on your mixer.

You can buy (or rent) a mixer at most musical instrument stores. For example, a Zoom R16 or R24 Multitrack Recorder might work nicely for your needs. You’ll have a mixer with mike inputs on the back for each guest microphone and a recorder all in one piece of equipment.

When you finish recording your podcast and need a little help cleaning it up (coughs, bloopers, long pauses, etc.) and turning it into a polished podcast, check out our audio editing and enhancing page at Meanwhile, good luck with your recording.

When should you create an intro for your podcast?

Should you create an intro before you record your first podcast, or should that come afterwards so that you can determine what your show is truly about? I believe the second part of the question is basically the answer. If you have a name for your podcast before recording the first show, you should be good to go ahead and record it, leaving the intro script and production for later.  After all, it might sound funny to say, “Welcome to our show. We haven’t named it yet. But we will eventually!”

After listening back to your recording, you’ll know the attitude and character of your show – whether it’s low key or upbeat, serious or funny, informative or entertaining, fast-paced or slow. We’ve produced a lot of podcast intros for customers who, at the time we produced their intro, had not yet recorded their first show. So, it was left up to us to set the tone of the podcast – not really knowing the tone of the show. And if the podcaster didn’t have the same interpretation of the image we created, the intro missed the mark and failed to set the proper atmosphere.

When a new customer places an order for a podcast intro and outro from us, we have a place on our Script and Instructions form to place a link to the podcast. We’ll listen to the show and immediately know whether to use a conversational or more high energy voice delivery, what genre of music to use, and whether sound effects will add or detract. And if we don’t nail it the first time, we offer a 30-day period for the customer to give us feedback so we can revise the  intro to better meet their needs.

You can learn more about podcast intros and outros as well as purchase them here.

How an audio production studio got into editing video

pexels-photo-257904.jpegIt’s really quite simple. We got into editing video because when enhancing the audio in videos customers sent to us, we noticed that the video also needed attention. It was too dark, too light, blurry, and often had verbal flubs — all of which could be repaired.

Audio is often the weakest part of a video, so make sure whoever does the post-production work on your video is an audio expert.  We find it often the case that the people speaking on camera are not mic’d properly because the microphone is several feet away on the camera or smartphone. This not only creates low volume, it also produces a hollow sound and room noise (hiss). So the best advice we can give you is to use a boom mic or lapel mics.

Continue reading “How an audio production studio got into editing video”

Tips on recording a podcast

peoplepodcastingIf you’re a podcaster and you’re not quite sure what settings you should use for recording your show, I can shed some light on that for you. First, if you’re recording just your own voice, you only need to record in monaural (no need for a stereo track). If you’re recording yourself and a guest, use two microphones and a separate track for you and a separate track for your guest if possible. Having two separate tracks makes it easier to mute each track when the other person is talking — knocking out thumps and paper shuffling. Now let’s move on to what sampling rate you should use.

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How do you know if you have great radio imaging?

Radio imaging can make or break a station. If your voice talent sounds confident and in control, your station will sound professional. If your voice talent sounds weak, you’ll sound amateurish. If there are too many zaps, lasers, and explosions in your radio sweepers, you’ll sound annoying. If you use rock music in your sweepers on a country station, you’ll sound like you don’t know your target audience. And if you say the same things other stations say in their liners, you’re plagiarizing.

Continue reading “How do you know if you have great radio imaging?”