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Stage 2 editing

So you have made your recording (in .wav remember) and now comes the fun bit – editing the recording and making the podcast. A popular software to use for this is Audacity, which is a free open-source editor (and recorder). It works for Macs too. You must also download and install Lame which will convert your recording into an .mp3 file.

The first thing to do is to make sure the settings are appropriate for your podcast. You want the quality to be good but you also don’t want the file to be too big either. I suggest having these three settings in Preferences:
arrow1 File > Preferences > Quality Keep 44100Hz for the Sample Rate but change the Sample Format to 16-bit.
arrow File > Preferences > File Formats Under MP3 Export Setup make the Bit Rate 64.

Now for the editing. Before you open a file familiarise yourself with the tools. These are all fairly straightforward. The only important thing to remember here is if you click something and it doesn’t seem to work then you need to click the Stop button. You can’t do anything if the Pause button is on.
arrow File > Open and then choose your .wav file. You’ll get something that looks like this:

audacity1

Well, this is part of the recording. The flat lines are where nobody is speaking. Click on the down arrow by the name of the file > Split Stereo Track
arrow Click on the down arrow again and turn the track into Mono
arrow Click on the X of the bottom track and delete it. You now have one mono track which is all you need for a podcast and keeps the size of the file down. The track info should look like this:

audacity2

Now simply listen to the recording and delete the sections you don’t want by highlighting them first with the Selection Tool and deleting them with the Cut button. If you need to be more accurate there’s the Zoom In button. It’s no different to deleting, cutting and pasting in a Word document. Play around with a file that you don’t need (or make a copy of one you do) so that you can make mistakes. Remember there’s always the Undo button!

When you’re happy with the editing you now need to improve the sound. It can get quite technical here but you only need to use two tools. What you’re also doing here is making sure all your podcasts have a similar, and appropriate, sound quality. You want listeners to go from one podcast to another and for the volume etc to be the same (or very similar). If it’s too quiet and listeners have to turn up the volume too much there’ll also be turning up any background noise, and there may be a hissing sound. So remember to get the recording levels right (see part 1 recording) before downloading to Audacity.

You’ll have seen on the example above that the levels are very low. I aim to have the final levels going from about -18 to -3, with an average of -12. Here’s an example of what the recording should look like when you’ve done, note also that there’s a uniformity to the sounds levels:

audacity3

arrow Effect > Compressor… Now to be honest I play around with the Threshold button until it looks right! Here I’ve chosen -42 dB:

audacity4

arrow Then Effect > Normalize Just click OK, the -3 is the default and that’s what you want. Have a look now at what you’ve ended up with. If the levels seem too high, or too low, then undo the normalise and compressor settings and have another go! (You can of course find out more about what these tools are actually doing but for the non-nerdy ones like me out there you don’t really need to know… and there are many other features but this is to get you going).

Now you’ll want to add your jingle at the start of the podcast. There are many short copyright-free jingles (called loops) that you can download from the web. Don’t make them too long, we start talking about 5 seconds in and the jingle fades out for 2 seconds.
arrow Project > New Audio Track You’ll have a second track again.
arrow File > Open and then choose the jingle you have downloaded. Select the first 7 or so seconds and Copy.
arrow Return to the new second track and Paste.
arrow Select the last 3 seconds.
arrow Effect > Fade Out
The only problem you have now is that both tracks are on top of one another! So…
arrow Put the Selection Tool at the start of the podcast track.
arrow Generate > Silence and type in 5 seconds. Now the jingle will start first and then the podcast track will start 5 seconds later. Play around with the timings, you want to be able to hear the beginning of the podcast!

You do the same thing for adding a jingle at the end: add a new track, fade In and fade out either end of the jingle, and add the silence at the start of the jingle. It should look like something like this:

audacity5

Listen to the whole podcast and make any necessary changes. Now you’re ready to add tags to the recording. This just means that when people listen to the podcast on their computer or MP3 player they have the information about what they’re listening to, and be able to find it amongst everything else.
arrow Project > Edit ID3 tags. For example:

audacity6

arrow Then finally, File > Export as MP3 (If you haven’t downloaded Lame here it won’t work) The settings you’ve saved mean that a 3 minute podcast will be just under 1.5MB, you really don’t need it any larger.

So that’s it! You’re very first podcast! When you close down you now have the opportunity to Save Project As which has the default .aup prefix. This means that when you click the project in the future all the tracks will open as when you last left them so it’s easy to make any more changes if need be. One small word of warning: don’t rename the project after you have saved it. It’s better to re-open the project and give it a different name with Save Project As, otherwise it can cause problems.

Good luck!

Next I’ll be talking about how to get your podcasts out there and heard by the world…

4 Responses to “Using Audacity”

  1. Neil Barker

    Great write up on how to use Audacity. It has made my life a heck of a lot easier both as an ESL teacher as well as a language learner. I’ve used it as a lab tool with my ESL classes and have had great results — a lot more useful than the old stand-alone recorders that were pre-installed in the listening lab at my school. I also continue to use Audacity to create my own language learning tracks. Thanks again for the great write up — I hadn’t explored how to fully use the program.

  2. Audacity tutorial for podcasting « Neil Barker's ESL & Language Learning Blog

    [...] both as an ESL teacher and as a language learner. Podcasting in English has a great write-up: Using Audacity to create podcasts. I’m still experimenting with the program, but have introduced it in my [...]

  3. Jackie

    Thanks for your comments, Neil. It’s definitely a great tool for teachers and students alike.

    Jackie

  4. Anthea Sapon

    Hi there,

    I hope that I’m not the cheeky ONE now :)

    I came across http://podcastsinenglish.com/blog/ and wondered whether you might be interested in mentioning my blog dedicated to “English speaking” up there?

    It is located here –> http://www.englishspeaking.org

    Thanks for looking into it!

    Sincerely,
    Anthea Sapon

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