If you're a beginner, editing a podcast can seem complicated. You are new to the space and terms like EQ and compression might scare you a bit. But if you take the time to understand the terminology and techniques, then podcast editing is just like editing a blog or an article.
When we edit any piece of writing, we aim to create a flow and a story for the readers. The unnecessary parts that don’t amplify the story are removed and effects that can elevate the experience are added. Podcast editing is the same in every aspect. We work on the audio and try to create a story.
Your content is always the main element of your podcast. Editing makes that content more polished so that it sounds better and provides an immersive experience to your listeners. Quality editing can make all the difference between a good podcast and a great podcast.
If all the editing jargon and software gives you anxiety, then we’ve got your back. Once you understand the basics of editing, you’ll love the wonders you can do with it.
In this podcast editing mini-guide, we’ll help you understand the art of editing and how you can take your podcast to the next level with some easy editing tips.
Why is editing your podcast so important?
As we said earlier, to tell a story compellingly, you need to create an immersive environment for your audience. With audio, you are not backed up with visuals. This might sound like a drawback, but it's the biggest reason why podcasting is skyrocketing right now.
Consumers are done with video content. They need a break from the screens and that’s where podcasts enter. To offer that kind of immersive experience to your audience where you spark their imagination and convince them with just audio - this requires quality editing.
The audio needs to be crisp and natural. It should not cause any ear fatigue or exhaust the listener. To get rid of these issues, editing is essential.
Prepping for podcast editing
A dedicated creator would spend a lot of time editing his show to achieve perfection. However, a smart creator will work efficiently during the production so that the show doesn’t require much editing in the first place. To fall into the latter category, here are some tips that you can apply to your content and creative process.
#1 Map out your episodes
By planning your episode, your segments will turn out to be concise and structured. If you don’t plan it ahead of time, there are high chances that the conversation will go off track and the recording will be all over the place. Trying to make sense of those fragmented sections will demand a lot of snipping and editing. To avoid that, map out all your episodes. It doesn’t have to be a word-to-word manual but detailed enough to guide you during recording and even editing.
#2 Record in a soundproof environment
Any experienced podcaster would advise you to create the right recording environment for your podcast before picking the mic. This is more for your editing phase than your recording. By recording your episode in a quiet place, you are cutting down on most of the background noise that can take a lot of time to clean up. Usually, having carpeted walls and upholstered furniture helps soundproof the room as they absorb the sound. If that’s something that you can’t manage right now, then you can simply hang curtains or record inside your blanket.
#3 Enhance your delivery
No matter how candid your podcast is, speaking for a podcast recording is a lot different than talking normally. This is because recording requires clear speech with suitable pitch and tempo, things we don’t focus on when talking with people.
You can do a couple of things to ensure flawless speech, like practicing tongue twisters, taking the announcer’s test, relaxing your jaw and sitting in a straight posture. By going through these steps and communicating clearly, you will make your content solid, requiring less editing.
#4 Don’t work with average tools
This is a no-brainer. If you use better tools, you’ll create better content. You can invest in equipment but it's not necessary. Everyone owns a good pair of earphones these days that come with in-built microphones. You can record good quality audio even with those!
#1 Good mic techniques
By just placing the mic at a certain angle, you can elevate the quality of your podcast audio. As Tanner Campbell points out in his blog, all you have to do is point the mic at the corner of your mouth between 3-6 inches away from your face. By doing this, you’ll increase the Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) and reduce the noise around you.
For better results you can use a professional mic such as a condenser or a dynamic mic. Condenser mics are best used for capturing vocals and are often preferred for studio application. In contrast, dynamic mics are used for booming sounds or louder environments such as live shows. A condenser would be a perfect mic choice for your podcasting needs as it works especially well for recording vocals and acoustic instruments.
#2 Keep track of the conversation
When recording an episode, especially an interview, try to keep yourself and your guest on track. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have candid moments because that’s what makes a podcast interesting and more natural. But this also doesn’t mean you give up on your episode agenda and talk about irrelevant things.
Keep a game plan on keeping the conversation flowing so that you don’t have to spend too much time trimming and editing the audio from the content point of view. As long as your content is on track, you’ll only have to focus on the technical parts of editing.
One of the oldest writing rules is that once you have written something, let it age. This means keeping it aside for a few days and coming back to it with a fresh perspective. Depending on your publishing schedule, you might not have that much time at hand. Still, by listening to your recording from a listener’s perspective, you’d be able to see what is working in the audio and note the timestamps for segments that need to be edited. This way, you can also re-record something if required before moving to the editing phase.
Podcast editing process
There are two ways to go about editing your podcast - basic editing and detailed editing.
Basic editing is when you only edit the start and end of segments and merge the tracks. That means there’s no actual content editing; you just create a flow of segments. This might work if you have short episodes. In detailed editing, you really dive into the content and ensure that every minute of the audio sounds flawless.
While there’s not much to learn in basic editing, there’s a lot you can learn when you are minutely editing your podcast. In the next section, we'll cover three steps that you need to focus on when editing your podcast in depth.
- One of the first things to take care of when editing your podcast is to define the length of your episode. A 15-30 minute episode is ideal for storytelling or a podcast with one host. 30-60 minute episodes tend to suit the interview or co-host format better. Episodes exceeding an hour are for deep dive into topics, roundtable sessions and multiple hosts. An episode can also be as short as 3-5 minutes. Such episodes usually cover daily news and trending topics. By choosing your episode length, you will know how to edit your content to fit that time limit.
- Edit to amplify the story. The whole point of your podcast is to tell a story in a way that immerses the audience. While your narration carries the story, good editing will upgrade the overall podcast experience. When editing your episode, focus on the story. Ask yourself if all the edits are adding up. If the edits don’t amplify the storytelling, better remove it.
- Create a flow between the intro, body and outro of an episode. One segment should lead to another naturally, without feeling like it's being forced or merged awkwardly. This is when you remove the extended pauses, any noticeable awkward moments or mistakes, and fillers like uhs and ums.
Sound design is all about enhancing the audio of your episode with sound effects and music so that it's riveting and immersive for the listeners.
- Create memorable intro & outro. They are like a part of your podcast branding. Just like we recognize most podcasts, videos and music with their signature start and end, the same works for your podcast. If you can make yourself stand out with your intros and outros, you have more chances of being remembered by your listeners.
- Use appropriate sound effects to elevate your listener’s experience. No matter what kind of podcast you have, there will always be the right kind of audio effects to make it more immersive and engaging. Whether it’s a horror, news bulletin or sports podcast, sound effects can elevate the audio experience you provide to your audience. Take any comedy sitcom, for example. There’s always an audience laughing after someone cracks a joke. Sound effects like these create a more authentic environment around the story.
Mixing & mastering
Mixing refers to the technical aspects of podcast editing where you work on all the episode tracks. This is where you edit the pitch, volume, EQ and sound levels to smooth the final audio. Mastering is all about adding the final touches before you publish your episode.
- The first step of your mixing is to organize all the tracks. This means placing the intro, your track, your guest’s track, sound effects, background music, and outro in the correct order. This way, you can avoid adding segments in the wrong place and make the rest of the editing easier.
- Next, apply EQ to make your podcast sound more professional yet warm and inviting at the same time. EQ is a plugin in our digital audio workstation (DAW) that can accentuate parts of our audio and correct disruptions caused by and around the room. Knowing about various EQ settings and how to EQ can help you give a professional touch to your audio. The most basic step is to apply a high and low pass filter to remove frequencies above and below a set frequency.
For instance, if you want to remove murmur or low humming from your audio, you can apply a high pass filter that will remove any humming sounds below the set frequency (usually 80Hz). And if you want to remove high pitch voices, you’d want to use the low pass filter that will remove any loud and screechy noises above a set frequency (usually 10 Khz).
- One thing that turns off the listeners is sudden segments or music blaring in between the episode. To avoid this, use a compressor. Using a base threshold, a compressor brings the high and low frequencies together in a closer range, so they are easier to listen to. So if your track is louder than your guest’s, then a compressor would do an excellent job of leveling them so that the listener doesn’t have to keep adjusting the volume throughout the episode.
- The last step is mastering which includes adding the final touches. Listen to the track from start to end and see if you missed anything during editing. This is when your story should really flow and create the right environment for the listeners.
Which software to use?
It depends on your specific needs and how much you are willing to spend. If you are looking for a free online editing tool, Hubhopper Editor will be a great fit that will take care of your major editing requirements.
For more detailed editing features like EQ, you can use Audacity. If you use a Mac, then you can try GarageBand. If you are willing to pay for software, you can check out Adobe Audition or Pro Tools.
Our last tip would be - don’t take editing too seriously. Instead, have fun with it. Editing gives your podcast a more polished look. Start with basic editing and, if need be, you can always try more professional practices.