Phil Windley Part 2

Phil Windley has posted his follow up to his podcast post, and referenced my ribbing of him yesterday. Thankfully, he took it in the spirit it was intended and was a good sport about it. It turns out that he is using my “podcasting recipe” for all the software. I would have left this as a comment on his blog, but he doesn’t have a typical comment setup, instead that link takes you to a web forum that I don’t feel like using. Thus, my comments to Phil become a post here.

He mentions that Soundflowerbed is touchy. That is absolutely true. It is the weakest link of the whole hacky chain. I have had it hang up where I had to force quit and crap like that. I’m pretty certain as I learn more about the Mac and audio, that delay he references is from the USB. That’s what people tell me. I have no choice since my iBook has no line in, but he says he opted for the USB audio with the iMic. He might try an experiment of just running his mixer out into the Powerbook’s line in, and seeing if the delay is there or not. I had been assuming all that was software (blaming Soundflower) but it does make sense that the USB drivers have to process the signals into audio and that causes a delay. Finally, he makes this statement:

Audacity works well, but has a steep learning curve. For someone who’s never edited sound before, it was an interesting experience. I’m not above paying money for something if its easier to use. Suggestions?

I haven’t done it lately, but I have paid for digital editing packages in the past. In 1997 I dropped $200 on SoundEditPro for the Mac, and it was much less stable and no easier to use than Audacity. Someone more up on the current state of for-sale audio packages feel free to correct me, but my gut feeling is there isn’t what Phil desires. In fact, the more you pay I’d expect the learning curve to climb as there are more heavy-duty, industrial strength features. Phil mentioned that he spent 4 hours on his podcast. It would take 20 or 30 minutes to read the Audacity manual front to back. If you are like him, getting in to this and never having used a digital editor before, I’d recommend doing that. It’s a good investment of your time. In Phil’s case, this would have avoided him thinking that you can’t edit and cut-and-paste the audio when in fact that’s the primary function of Audacity.

For those of you who are slap new to Audacity, I’d recommend that before you record an actual podcast, you take the program out on a qualifying sail. Here’s an excercise. Record yourself speaking a florid, adjective and adverb heavy sentence fairly slowly and distinctly. Look at the waveforms that result. Now take the selection cursor (the i-beam thing that looks just like the select cursor in a word processor) and select some individual words. Get a feel for how those waveforms look and where the words are. Select and play a single word. Once you are used to that, try deleting some, cutting them and moving them around to reorder what you said. Finally, cut out all the adjectives and adverbs, leaving yourself a simple, Hemingwayesque sentence. Play it a few times, and listen to how the edits sound. Are they perceptible, or not? If so, why? This will give you an appreciation for the power of what you can do, and keep you from thinking that you have to rerecord rather than edit out a word. The truth is the exact opposite.

Phil also describes his work method on that first podcast, which is a lot like how I did the first 15 or so here. He was doing multi-tracks to edit in all the clips he was quoting. I eventually abandoned that mode because it was labor intensive but the worst part was responding to things that I hadn’t really just heard. I found that the whole thing got easier and more fun when I play the clips via Quicktime in real time and just record the whole thing into a single track, both the quote and my response. In his case, where he was quoting different parts of the same file a bummer of Quicktime player is that you can’t have multiple copies of the same file open, cued to different points. He could have at least cued the first, played it, recorded his response, paused Audacity, cued the second one, resumed the Audacity record, etc. In editing, then he could have just taken out the extra blank space. Oh, and Phil, you can indeed reorder the tracks. Look at the drop down menu in the upper left corner of the track, it has a “Move Up” function.

In summary, if you have previously used any digital audio editor, you can probably pick Audacity right up. I did. If you are unfamilar with the concepts of such things, I’d recommend that you read the manual all the way through before you start fooling with it. It will save you a lot of time and heartbreak.

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