Recording and editing Two's Complement

Like so many, I started a podcast – Two’s Complement – during the pandemic, with my good friend and colleague Ben Rady.

Some folks asked how we made it sound so “professional”, and so I’m sharing here how we do it.

Microphone and setup

Most importantly: get everyone to record their audio locally. Audacity is free and works perfectly for this. Make sure you test that you can’t hear each other’s sound in the mix. Start recording, make sure the right microphone is in use by tapping it and observing the wiggly lines and then get others to make noise and ensure you hear them but don’t see the wiggly lines on your side.

I use a Blue snowball mic on a boom with a pop filter, but Ben uses a simple headset mic, not unlike anything you’d use for normal video conferencing.

We use a Google meet to talk to each other (and a guest if we have one), and make sure again that the recording is working while Google meet is up and running.

Of course, we ask folks to stay close to the mic, near enough that the wiggly lines approach – but don’t hit – the top of the recording chart. We ask people to minimise external noise, though it’s amazing what you can edit out.

At the end of the recording we ask everyone to export their side of the conversation as an MP3 and we upload them all to a shared google drive.

Editing

I use Audacity to edit everything. The first thing I do is bring in all the MP3s into one workspace, one above each other. I then align them so the conversations are lined up.

I like to position each speaker in stereo, using the little L<->R slider on each channel. That helps make it sound more like a conversation.

I can’t remember if it’s on by default, but I have Audacity set up so I can click in the timeline and just start playing at that point.

Once lined up, I’ll find the beginning and end of the “take” and cut them off. Hotkeys are essential here!

I do a super rough cut out to start with.

Next up some filters to make things sound nicer, for each track:

Now the long spot: actually editing. I find it quite therapeutic. My flow is typically:

Once all the editing is done, I then “compress” the audio – this has nothing to do with data compression but to do with normalising the loudness. I select each track in turn and then Effect->Compressor with

It’s easy to go overboard, and remove every “lip smack” and “umm” and “err”. Doing so makes for an exhausting listening experience; humans do um and err, and they can be a way for the listener to get a short break. So don’t edit too heavily. The first few episodes of TC suffer from this, if you want a “how not to”.

Editing on music and such is probably enough work to put in a separate post if anyone is interested.

Transcripting

It’s important to have a transcript for hearing impaired folks, non-native speakers, for SEO, and to help people understand what you’re talking about without listening in. We use Temi, which has worked out fairly well, costing us around $10 an episode.

Filed under: Personal
Posted at 23:30:00 GMT on 22nd March 2021.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago for Aquatic