Timing and editing your audio

You can’t freeze-frame audio.

Timing is crucial…

Because you can’t freeze-frame audio - it only exists in real time! The importance of timing will vary depending on the type of podcast you are interested in making. A podcast built around a narrative will use timing differently to a panel-based discussion podcast.

Listen to these two examples from Phoebe’s Fall:

  • WRONG: Not enough time - Episode Two Ending. (Warning: strong language)

Episode Two ends with two ‘cliffhanger’ grabs from Phoebe’s parents, that will tee up the next episode. In the first, Phoebe’s father, Len, is remembering an incident shortly after her death, when her boyfriend’s father, George, suggested to him it was suicide. Len is a psychiatrist and George is not. He now realises it was inappropriate of George to have been effectively ‘diagnosing’ Phoebe’s state of mind and is chastising himself for not having challenged it. We then move to Phoebe’s mother, Natalie, who makes the shock revelation that she has secretly recorded a meeting with Phoebe’s boyfriend after Phoebe’s death. Both ‘grabs’ are strong. But we need about 5 seconds more of music between Len and Natalie, to allow us to fully take in the import of his comment. Instead, Natalie’s comment follows too quickly and we can’t process what Len said.

Phoebe’s Fall, Episode Two: The Chute [1]

  • RIGHT: Enough time - Phoebe’s Funeral.

This is a reflective, emotional section where we accompany Phoebe’s family as they recall Phoebe’s lakeside funeral. We combine family home recordings of her grandmother’s affectionate speech, the audience response and her mother Natalie’s description and recollections, with the lapping of the lake, used as both timing and mood setter. We end with a beautifully judged use of the bird calls of kites, referenced by Natalie as a kind of evocation of Phoebe’s spirit.

Phoebe’s Fall, Episode Five: Saying Goodbye [2]

Editing: filleting the voice

Editing is both an art and a craft. Its purpose is to:

  • Fillet: cut out boring/irrelevant bits

  • Distil: hone and polish

  • Fit to time

  • Re-sequence for maximum narrative impact

  • You need to trim the fat – but retain rhythms of speech

  • Editing is not just about words – pauses, laughs, a breath, all matter

  • Always edit from the sound, not a written version

  • The best edit is inaudible

Housekeeping: logs

Always log your audio tape. This is not a transcript, it’s a map that shows you what you have, where it is and how useful it is as audio.

Make a table with three columns:

  1. TIMING - time-code the start of a phrase or paragraph

  2. CONTENT SUMMARY - note keywords that will remind you of content

  3. EVALUATION: give one, two or three stars according to how strong it as audio. One might be fairly well said; two stars might be a punchy comment; three stars will be amazing, arresting, stuff that you are dying to use. If it gets NO stars, it is probably not useful - either it’s longwinded, or irrelevant, or maybe you can say it better and more succinctly yourself.

Logs are formatted as a table, with a column for the timecode, a column for the content summary and a column for evaluation. Each row has a different timecode and associated content to log the recording

Stay tuned for more ideas about how to edit together the best of your interview audio.


Want to learn more?

Read more about the importance of rhythm and pause in editing speech. See the reading attached at the bottom of the step


Reference

  1. The Age Melbourne. The Chute [Internet]. Phoebe’s Fall. 2016 [cited 19 September 2018]. Available: acast (web link)

  2. The Age Melbourne. Saying Goodbye [Internet]. Phoebe’s Fall. 2016 [cited 19 September 2018]. Available: acast (web link)

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This article is from the free online course:

The Power of Podcasting for Storytelling

University of Wollongong