Editing can be a sticky subject for some podcasters. There are those who say editing destroys the authenticity of a show, and there are those who say editing is a necessary component of almost any successful recording of any kind. I definitely fall in the latter camp, and I’d like to tell you why.

In my opinion, the biggest reason to edit audio is that it is audio, and is therefore about listening. When someone is listening to your podcast, all they have to hold their attention is the sound. They can’t see your expressions or gestures, and they can’t interact with you in real time. You may be an enthralling an dynamic speaker, but your listeners are only getting a small fraction of your actual performance coming through their headphones. As someone whose job is to be an enthralling and dynamic speaker and who has also produced well over one hundred audio pieces, I can say that I certainly need all the help I can get! This is similar to what I said when discussing podcasting lectures: too much is lost in translation for most people to pull off a good recording without help.

Of course, I don’t advocate using editing to completely change what was said. What I do think should be done is more of a “clean-up” job. If someone rambles on for too long, try to remove part of the comment without changing the meaning too much. Removing some ums, uhhs, and stumbles can go a long way to making someone sound interesting. As many of my guests tell me, editing “makes them sound smart.”

If you edit a segment respectfully and skillfully, you can improve the listening experience without changing the speaker’s meaning or manner of speech. To demonstrate this, please listen to the two samples at the end of this post. Your task when listening isn’t to figure out what I edited out or why, but to compare the clarity and feel of the first clip to the second.

If this were you talking, which would you rather have the world hear?

icon for podpress  Sample of Unedited Speech [0:37m]: Download
icon for podpress  Sample of Edited Speech: Download

The “Hat Mic”

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This is a trick I learned from NPR’s Tony Kahn.

Microphones scare people and are hard to use properly. Anyone who has ever tried to get someone to talk into one knows this first hand.

The “Hat Mic” is a novel solution to both of these problems. To construct one, take a small, high quality microphone (anything from a Giant Squid Audio Lab Podcasting Omni Stereo Microphone to a Neumann miniature microphone) and clip it to the brim of a baseball cap. Small binder clips work well with my Giant Squids.

That’s it.

Why would you want to clip a microphone to a hat? For a number of reasons:

  1. While almost nobody knows how to use a microphone, everyone know how to wear a hat.
  2. The microphone will stay in position as the person moves their head. This is both easier and more natural, meaning that you’ll get a more consistent, genuine-sounding recording.
  3. The microphone will be out of the way of most unwanted sounds (“popping P” and “hissing S”). You may have a bit of a problem with F sounds if you don’t get the placement quite right.
  4. The brim of the hat forms a bit of a mini sound booth, blocking some outside sounds and enhancing the voice a bit.

All of this, wrapped up in one funny hat!
Hat Mics

Listen here for how it sounds:

icon for podpress  Hat Mic Sample [0:24m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

I haven’t downloaded it or tried it yet, but Adobe yesterday released a free public beta of their new Soundbooth audio application. According to this Macworld article, “Soundbooth will target the same professional market as Apple’s SoundTrack Pro.”

“I think they are probably going after the same market, ” Hart Shafer, senior product manager for Adobe Audio products, told Macworld. “However, I think one of the key differences is that SoundTrack Pro is built for audio people — we think that we have a more focused product for the creative professional market.”

As a Mac user, I’m concerned that Adobe is stepping away from support for the PowerPC chip. Most new Mac software is “Universal” — it will run on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs. The multimedia software company said back in February (PDF) that “Adobe has plans to support both Intel and PowerPC microprocessors in the next versions of its creative applications for the Mac OS.” However, it looks like new products may be Intel-only. In their Soundbooth FAQ, Adobe answers the question “Will there be a PowerPC version?” this way:

No. Apple is quickly moving its focus towards Intel Macs, and no longer sells Power PC systems in many places. By focusing on Apple’s future, we have been able to bring this powerful application to the Mac platform much more rapidly, and with a stronger feature set.

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© 2010 Adam Weiss: Podcast Consultant