Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Editing your podcast with Audacity


By Jorge Sosa

Welcome back for round three of my podcasting series. My first article showed you how to plan a successful podcast. My second article suggested some digital devices for recording your podcast.

Now, all you need to prepare your recording for primetime is Audacity. Not chutzpah -- although possessing some never hurt anyone -- but Audacity, a freeware, open-source, sound-editing program available for Macs, Windows, and Unix computers.

Audacity is so robust, you might feel guilty not paying for it. But, yeah, it's free. Nab it now at its official Web site, http://audacity.sourceforge.net. Once you've downloaded and installed Audacity on your computer, you'll need one more add-on to create MP3 files. MP3 files are the universally recognized format for distributing podcasts.

The add-on is an MP3 encoder called LAME and you can download it online at http://lame.buanzo.com.ar. LAME is distributed separately from Audacity for legal reasons I won't get into. It has something to do with patents on the underlying technology for the MP3 format. I don't understand it all myself, but my imaginary team of high-powered legal consultants tells me I won't get sued for downloading the LAME encoder and, likely, neither will you.

Perfecting your sound

Now that you've installed the necessary software, it's time to transfer your recorded audio onto your hard drive. The process for doing this is different depending on what kind of recorder you used.

For instance, the Marantz 660 I use at work records onto a removable flash memory card. I just pop the card out of the recorder, plug it into my card reader, then drag and drop the audio files from the card onto my drive. Some other recorders have internal memory and connect to your computer with a USB cable. Check the instruction manual that (hopefully) came with your recorder if you need help transferring the audio file to your computer.

Then, open your audio file with Audacity. Your recording should appear in a window that resembles Figure A. Those blue fuzzy bars are a visual representation of the audio you've recorded.


Audacity lets you edit your raw recording with a simple interface. (click for larger image)

Hit the play button and you can listen to how you sound. If you're like most people, you might feel weird hearing the sound of your own voice. Guess what? Audacity can't make you sound like Orson Wells or Kathleen Turner, but it can help you sound a snappier. Every time you hear an awkward pause, an "um" or a "you know," you can just zoom in and delete that portion of the audio. I do it all the time for my weekly podcast at work -- but don't tell anyone!