Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Editing the Full Circle Podcast Part 4: Assembly

So, the individual segments are edited, post-processed and allocated in the running order. All the theme and incidental music, trailers, bumpers beds and stingers are lined up. It's a big model kit laid out ready to put together. It's time to assemble the show. 

I assemble the episode as a multi-track project in Audacity...
(Screencast of this post on YouTube)

First, a couple of radio terms:
Bed: a bed is an instrumental track or a continuous sound effect that is used as background for a content segment. There's one playing under this definition.

Bumper: a bumper is a pre-recorded audio element consisting of voice over music that acts as a transition to or from content segments in the show. Just like this one coming up.
Order, Order
The easiest thing to do is order the tracks vertically to start playing in the linear order in which they appear in the show.

What I should do is use one track per item instance, even if I include multiple instances of a theme or bed or stinger through the show. This makes it easy to edit any single track without messing up cues or timing anywhere else. However, I end up with between 18 and 24 tracks in one edit window, which invariably results in a lot of scrolling up and down.

So what I often do is use one track per item type. I might put all Vicki's trailers on the same track, all the segment titles on another, all the bed music on another.

This makes it easier to see the whole show in one edit window without vertical scrolling, but the price paid is in any edits - cut, trim or insert - which mess up any linear cues occurring after the edit.

It's possible to drag tracks up and down to re-order them in the edit window, mainly to bring related tracks closer together so I can sync the transitions - fades, envelopes and so on.

The Mute and Solo buttons can be very useful, temporarily silencing or for auditioning tracks, or for checking levels or envelope settings.

Time-shift, Align and Snap
The Audacity tool for time-shift allows you to drag a section of audio across the timeline to advance or retard when it plays. By default, tracks will snap to the start and end-points of other tracks in the timeline; Audacity assumes to don't want overlapping tracks. It's fine for a rough cut, but it usually needs manual adjustment.

I will certainly need to make additional edits for cueing and music breaks while assembling. In Audacity, my assembly tools are:
  • Insert Silence
  • Trim
  • Envelope
  • Amplify
The Secret of Comedy... Timing
Timing, or more accurately, pacing the show can be tricky and it's a matter of personal judgement. You may think the shows are too slow or too fast (or just that Dave Wilkins speaks at Warp Factor Six). I am a news junky, podcast junky and radio junky so I like to think I have a reasonable feel for pace, for length of segments and whether or not we're going to bore the audience. I may be completely wrong.

In the Mix
All my music tracks start life just as loud as the speech tracks, which means in good radio-fashion, I need to mix down the levels of music and speech. That means playing in the music at volume for maximum dramatic impact, then take it down just before the speech begins. We want to hear the vocals.

Mostly the theme and incidental music starts loud then fades down to run out as a bed under the speech. If the bed is too loud, it drowns the speech - the content. If the bed is so low it becomes a mosquito buzz in the background, that's just a waste or an irritant.

In order to get gradual fade up and down of music either side of vocals, I use the envelope tool. By inserting and dragging envelope edit points, I can set the level over time to give me a sharp or gradual fade up or down. I may create a complex envelope shape to introduce a segment, fill between the titles and start of the speech, bed the start of the piece, then fade out to leave the speech running. Envelope is a non-destructive filter which applies the effect over the original audio. You can cancel the envelope changes and get back to the source audio.

Sometimes I use the fade in / fade out tools when I know absolutely when a track is coming or going over a fixed period. These are destructive filters which change the track itself. Get it wrong and you have to delete then reimport the audio.

At some point you have to stop editing and go for a final mixdown and export the show. That'll be in Part Five, Packaging and Posting the ShowRC

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