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Page 3 of 3Tuesday, 17 October 2017

How to record and edit professional sounding podcasts

Introduction

With an inexpensive PC microphone its easy to record podcasts, music, audio books or narration for videos. The results can sound great, but by taking a little time to edit and enhance them, you can bring them up to professional standards. Audacity is the perfect software for this; its powerful but surprisingly easy to use, and its completely free.

Audacity does an excellent job of cleaning up audio, but there are steps you can take to ensure you get the best possible quality audio in the first place.

First, make sure the input volume is set appropriately by right-clicking the speaker icon in the System Tray, selecting Recording devices > Microphone > Set up microphone and following the instructions.

Second, use a simple pop filter to prevent popping noises created by rapid movement of air as youre singing or speaking. You can make your own from paper, or buy one.

Now that you're prepared, read on to discover how to make your first professional sounding podcast.

1. Get Audacity and record your podcast

To record your first podcast, download and install Audacity, then launch it and take a look at the microphone and speaker settings just above the main empty window. Make sure these are set correctly (so you arent accidentally recording from your webcam rather than your USB microphone, for example). If youre not sure which device is selected, click the area marked Click to start monitoring and the input from the selected microphone will be shown as a green bar.

Click the red button or tap [Shift}+[R] to start recording your podcast. Try to keep a consistent distance from the microphone, and dont worry if you trip over a word; pause for a second and say that part again. You can easily cut any mistakes afterwards. Once youre done, click the rewind button, then click play to see how it sounds. Its best to use headphones for this.

2. Remove noise and trim to size

If you notice some background noise in your recorded podcast (a hissing sound, for example), select a quiet part of the recording by clicking and dragging on a flat part of the blue waveform. Click Effects > Noise reduction, then click Get noise profile. Tap [Ctrl]+[A] to select your entire recording and click Effects > Noise reduction again, then use the sliders and the preview button to adjust the strength of the effect. When youre happy, click OK.

If theres a pause at the start of your podcast that you dont want, click and drag to select this part of the waveform and tap [Delete]. You can also use this technique to remove any sections of audio where you made a mistake and had to repeat yourself. If you only want to keep a small part of the recording, select that section and click Trim Audio beside the Paste button.

3. Correct levels and clipping

Did you accidentally move away from your microphone while you were recording your podcast? If so, some parts of the resulting audio might be louder than others. If thats the case, tap [Ctrl]+[A] to select everything, then click Effects > Levelling and experiment with the options, checking them with the Preview button (the amount of levelling required will depend on your own recording).

If you can hear a particularly loud blip in your recorded podcast, select it, then tap [Ctrl]+[1] repeatedly to zoom right in and isolate the specific waves that are causing it. Make sure you have just these waves selected then click Effect > Amplify and reduce the volume by a few decibels. Use the Preview button to check how it sounds before clicking OK. Tap [Ctrl]+[T] to zoom back out.

4. Tone down harsh 'S' sounds

Harsh s sounds are a common problem in home podcast recordings. Thankfully, theres a free plugin for Audacity called Spitfish that can reduce them.

Download the ZIP archive, then extract it to Program Files (X86) > Audacity > Plugins. Return to Audacity, click File > Export Audio, save your audio in WAV format and then restart the program.

Re-open your audio file, selecting the option to make a copy in case something goes wrong and you need to undo your changes. Now select Effects > Add/remove plugins > SPITFISH > Enable > OK.

Tap [Ctrl]+[A], then click Effect > Spitfish de-esser and experiment with the settings to tone down the sibilance in your podcast. As before, the exact settings required will depend on your own recording.

5. Export your audio

Your podcast should now sound much better. Tap File > Export Audio and choose a file type. If youre planning to edit it again later, or use it as a soundtrack for a video, its best to save it in WAV format to keep the quality as high as possible (as we did before).

If you've finished editing the podcast and youre ready to share it with others, save it in MP3 or WMA format. These lossy formats provide a good balance of audio quality and file size, and are supported by almost all media players.