Audio Editing Process?

Mar 12, 2012

Hi Everyone,

I record my audio narration separately from Presenter (using Sound Forge Pro), and wanted to start a discussion about what process others use when recording audio.  I've been creating elearning training modules for just under a year and think there might be a better and more efficient process I could follow that would save me some time in the editing mode.

My current process is like this:

1. Record all of the audio narration for the entire course in one continuous recording.

2. Edit/Delete gaps at beginning and end of recording, if any.

3. Edit/Delete errors by the narrator. I speed up the playback so I don't have to sit there and listen to the entire audio file from beginning to end.  If I’m recording someone other than myself, I can make a note on my copy of the script as we go, so I know where to go in the file to quickly locate and delete errors.

4. Apply the noise reduction feature in the audio recording program for the whole file.

5. Edit out any noticeable distracting breaths or other noises. Also delete any extra pauses in sections if not needed.

6. Increase audio for the whole file if needed.

7. Select and save out as a separate audio file each individual slide's audio narration or engage interaction, and name each as applicable (Slide 1, Slide 2, etc.)

8. Import audio into Presenter.

9. Sync animations.

10. Test publish and review. If satisfied with audio and no more editing is needed, export and save files in a backup area.

Most of our online courses will be around 30 minutes or less, so this process is not that labor intensive and I’m pretty satisfied with it.

However - I created two 45 min+ courses and I thought the audio editing process was going to get the best of me! It seemed to take forever!   So now I’m wondering if there is a better process.

 If you use a program to record audio separately from Presenter, I would appreciate it if you could share any suggestions you have to help save some time with the process.

Also, I'm sharing a pic of my no-cost audio recording porta-booth. Works pretty darn good!  I have to grab a conference room somewhere in the building and never know what sorts of overhead vents will be blowing and this has really solved the problem. 

30 Replies
Wayne Vermillion

Interesting question, as I follow the same process except for No. 4, and my course library also consists of sub-30-minute lessons. If the present method produces the desired quality, wouldn't you risk degrading quality by taking a shortcut? Not incidentally, I don't apply noise reduction to save time of that step. In Audacity, AFAIK, one has to identify and catalogue each specific click or other undesired effect, then search for instances of each. That identification of different clicks and popls was bogging me down, early on, and didn't yield good payback for the effort, because there just wasn't that much extraneous noise.

For the record (heh), I used double-sided velcro to secure 2", wedge-cut acoustical foam in a medium-sized cardboard box, with a Yeti mic, for my office desktop. For my home setup, I used spray-in foam in a similar box, also with a Yeti.

David Celaya

My only difference is that  I use Audacity to record the audio and then do any noise removal and level adjustments.

My preferred editor is another Sony product, Vegas video. Its a very old version (7.0) but it gets the job done, and I am very comfortable with the controls and use it constantly for my video and audio projects.

I see that the playback controls are very similar to Sour Forge.

How fast are you playing back while you edit?
(I Playback at 2.00 regular speed for my rough cut, then go back and fine tune everything)

Do you use the on screen playback controls, or the keyboard shortcuts (J,K,L)?

Here is something if found that might be helpful if you use the jog keys (J,K,L). Hes talking about Vegas, but the controls may be the same for sound forge.

"You can also use the J/K/L keys as a shuttle jog - K stops playback, L and J play forward or reverse. Repeated taps of L or J change the playback speed. If you hold K while tapping J or L, you'll get smaller speed increments. This is equivalent to dragging the double-headed Rate arrow adjacent to the transport controls.

Shift+Space will play from the beginning of a project, and Ctrl+Shift will start playback no matter where the focus is in the Vegas interface.

See the Vegas menu Help > Keyboard Shortcuts for a complete list of time-saving keys."

Also, using "Auto Ripple" (that may be a video thing, but there must be a sound forge equivalent) to automatically close the gaps when I delete a section is a real time saver.

Eric V

I use sony vegas for just about everything as well. However, I recently switched to using the native recorder inside presenter. I am now recording directly to each slide. The upside to this, is I dont need to cut and export each slice like in sony vegas. Downside is that I find the audio quality just not the same, and I cannot apply filters.

Maybe I need to learn my keyboard shortcuts for vegas better But I have been working with vegas for 5 plus years.

Our courses are very labour intensive, as of lately, I am translating them from Chinese into English, then recording the english onto each slide. Every course is 4 - 8 hours long when finished.Therefore, they need to be recorded over the period of a few days. (So consistency in audio recording is a must).

So, I used to use vegas, but now I just cannot be bothered!

Dale Hargis

I use Audacity for everything just because I'm a cheapskate and it works for me.  One thing a lot of different programs allow for is the setting of markers while recording (there's usually a keyboard shortcut for it).  While listening as the narration is being recorded, you can just hit a key and drop a marker so you know which areas to go back and pay attention to.

Another thing you can do (at least in Audacity), is set a different file per slide.  If I'm having someone read audio or doing it myself, each time I stop, the next time I start recording, it's on another set of tracks (I just have to mute the previous set of track so we don't hear them while recording the next).  In the end, I can apply noise reduction and normalization to all files at once, then choose "Export Multiple Files" and each set of tracks exports as its own file, which leaves me with one file for each slide!

Try it out once to get a feel for it but it definitely increases my workflow...

Natalia Mueller

I think you'll get a lot of votes for Audacity here. I have Sony Sound Forge as well as Vegas and I don't even use them because I like Audacity better. It suits my needs and I keep going back to it. 

Has anyone mentioned yet that it's free? 

For a sound set up, I use this guy. It probably works just like the rig you created. 

Lawrence Williams

Dale Hargis said:

Another thing you can do (at least in Audacity), is set a different file per slide.  If I'm having someone read audio or doing it myself, each time I stop, the next time I start recording, it's on another set of tracks (I just have to mute the previous set of track so we don't hear them while recording the next).  In the end, I can apply noise reduction and normalization to all files at once, then choose "Export Multiple Files" and each set of tracks exports as its own file, which leaves me with one file for each slide!

I do the same thing in Audacity and it's been great.  I prefer having separate tracks to one continuous recording because it makes it easier for me to make any required edits or updates.  

The other thing that has helped me produce more quickly is setting the microphone input level to low.  The mic doesn't seem to pick up as much background noise, so there's less that I have to do to make sure the audio is clean. 

CC  Heim Voiceover

I record and edit in Adobe Audition for most projects.  However, for projects with multiple files I use this handy little program called Word2WAV.  It basically names each file for you as you go along.  It is a HUGE time saver when you have tons of files.  When I use W2W, I normally do the recording there, then editing in Audition since it is so much  more robust.

I do have a question though:  your step 4, applying noise reduction.  Is there a particular reason you do this?  I've found that most of the time with noise reduction it leaves some weird tinny sounding artifacts.  With the right recording setup and a good mic cable ( this really makes a difference -- I use Mogami Gold; read about it HERE), there should be no need for noise reduction.

Of course, another option is just to get a freelance voiceover talent to voice/edit everything for you, then simply drop in the files.  Feel free to hit me up if you need someone

Wayne Vermillion

CC Heim Voiceover said:

...step 4, applying noise reduction.  Is there a particular reason you do this?  I've found that most of the time with noise reduction it leaves some weird tinny sounding artifacts.  

I'm curious to hear the answer to this question, as I alluded to it but didn't pose the actual question in my week-ago post above in this thread. In my experiments with noise reduction, I did notice a bit of tinniness or deadness, and more importantly, any quality improvement wasn't justified by time cost.

In my present project, I'm narrating short passages, usually just a couple of lines at a time. If it's not as perfect as can be, I re-record immediately, usually in the next breath. This means that I can concentrate as I'm speaking on volume, pacing, and emphasis, rather than editing after recording. (Time for reflection and process questioning right now, as there's roof construction on our building which no noise reduction could fix!)

Steve Flowers

I'm a Machead so I use GarageBand for quite a bit of the editing and processing I do. The built-in filtersets provide some really nice starting places for processing audio and much of the processing is "behind the scenes". I prefer this to having to tweak and apply multiple processes to a single track (normalize w/ offset, compression, EQ, etc.)

Concerning noise reduction... I avoid this whenever I can. If I need to eliminate noise during editing, I've done something wrong during recording. A low frequency cut or filter ends up removing some of the natural frequencies of a voice track and makes things sound "off" or tinny.

Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

I also use Audacity and a reminder that, as Natalia Spurgin said, it's free. Regarding setting the volume to low when recording (Lawrence Williams above), I personally need to set it to medium (guess my voice is softer) and still little to no noise is created. I sit my microphone on foam. Tried using the mic on foam in a box idea, but it actually muffled my voice. Room is carpeted, which of course helps.

TX to Dale Hargis for the multiple files idea. Hadn't thought of using separate tracks in that way.

Otherwise, I pretty much do what you're doing, Melanie. One of my regular clients requests that his voice talent perform noise reduction, so I'm doing that and am curious to hear what others have to say about its advantages/limitations, specifically in Audacity. And I normalize after all editing is done as well.

Melanie Sobie

I've been in classroom training for a week and been unable to get the time to go back and review this entire discussion. Thanks for all the input!

Wayne - I really wanted to make the velcro, cardboard box, and wedge-cut foam setup! I had seen directions online for it somewhere but never could find a source for free foam so I gave up.  Still in the back of my mind, so as soon as I find some foam. . .

David - Great tip about keyboard shortcuts. I prefer keyboard shortcuts for certain functions, so I think learning and using those will help me feel more productive when I have very long audio tracks to edit.

Dale - Love the tip about different tracks, yet still having the ability to apply a global edit like noise reduction or increasing volume to all at once. Definately going to learn to do this!

A couple of you commented about the noise reduction step.  I'm glad you raised the question, because that is just an automatic step that I'm used to doing because previous to my homemade portable sound booth there was no way to control the sound the microphone would pick up from a room and we had to use the noise reduction function to try and minimize the background hum in all of our audio recordings. We probably don't need that step anymore!

I agree with your comments about Audacity - I've heard them before, but I am unable to download and install free software from the internet at the agency I work for. (very frustrating!)  And I would like to buy the porta-booth that Natalia referenced! It's on my wish list for next year.

thanks again everyone!

Rich Johnstun

For simple stuff I use Audacity for more complicated stuff (multi-track with sound effects) I use Adobe Sound Booth. 

In regards to noise reduction, as Steve said, avoid it when possible. Just by nature of what it does, it is going to pull down certain frequencies and thus, impact the quality of your final product. If you do need to do noise reduction (background hum, HVAC noise, etc.), Make sure that you do the minimum level of noise reduction needed. I always do noise reduction first if needed. I've found that doing it later frequent results in being able to hear your edits (clicks and such buried in the background).

A lot of your more robust tools will allow you to see the actual frequency map and you can do very targeted noise removal such as a sharp background noise (I just finished removing the sound of a back up beeper out of a piece of video we shot outdoors). 

I also do one project file per slide. It makes it easier for me to go back and chance some thing if I need to. 

Also, always keep a copy of your raw and uncut audio, just in case some thing happens. 

David Steffek

Melanie, regarding the port-a-booth: my company acquired one (which I use) and it's really just a box with foam. The big advantage of the box is that it collapses flat, which makes it nice for transport/traveling. Other than that, it's still just a box with foam. (Similar boxes on Amazon for very cheap.) If you don't need to worry about frequently transporting it, then just buy some foam and stick it in an empty box that you probably have laying around. Save some money. But if your budget can afford the port-a-booth, it is convenient (and more attractive :) ).

I use Audacity noise reduction to get rid of HVAC and other steady/constant sound (such as the fridge motor). I don't have an isolation booth, and I take what measures I can (e.g.the port-a-booth) to minimize the HVAC as much as possible, but there is still the slight hiss/hum that is noticaeable when transitioning to actual silence. So for me the noise reduction is a necessary evil.

Of course, I am open to any tips to help improve my recording process (since I'm just self-taught by trial and error)!

Wayne Vermillion

Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro said:

Fellow Audacity users, has anyone downloaded and used Audacity 2.0 yet?

I downloaded Audacity 2.0 immediately upon reading this post, but I'm reverting, if I can find that 1.3 Beta version that supports Win7. Twice now, I've had to re-install Audacity 2.0 because of sudden-onset "underwater" effect. I noticed that the input volume slider bar at the top simultaneously goes to zero, not adjustable, and that entire slider bar graphic quivers. The Beta worked fine!

Edited to add: I just lost 40% of a large Audacity 2.0 file when I moved it in Explorer. I suspect this is related to 2.0's fix that reads as follows: "

  • Audacity has been provisionally fixed so that it can no longer create block files longer than the sample format or project format allow...Any overlong blocks...will appear as silence."  All the .au files are gone, and the master directory is as empty as a politician's promise.
  • You should probably use "Save as..." to move to a different file location, rather than moving the file in Explorer.  This was the very first Audacity file loss I've encountered after very heavy use of prior versions. Of course, it came at the worst possible time in my project.

    Wayne Vermillion

    Thanks, David, but Win7's Sys Restore promises to restore only programs, not documents or "music," unlike my experience with XP. I flipped a mental coin and just re-recorded, rather than learning about Win7's System Restore today.

    Audacity - you've been so good to me for two years, why break my heart now when I'm under pressure to submit a draft for review?

    Wayne Vermillion

    If you haven't installed Audacity 2.0, don't. Prior Windows-based versions are unavailable from the source, although prior Mac versions are available. The problem I've encountered is in the Win flavor, and I never saw it in prior versions. I've uninstalled and reinstalled Ver. 2.0 three times now, and the problem persists.

    The "underwater" effect and frozen input volume slider symptoms, and my lost .aud file, happen when I try to record a second track with one track already open, similar to what Dale Hargis pictured above, even after muting the first track as usual. With Ver. 2.0, you can have two or more Audacity instances open, but you can only have one track in each.  Here's the only work-around that I've found for adding/updating an existing track: 

    1. Close Audacity with the existing track, in my case, my master recording. (did I save?!)

    2. Open Audacity, record new work, save/export to be safe.

    3. Open another instance of Audacity, separate window, and now I can copy/cut and paste from the second into the first.

    Bleeding, indeed.

    Edited to add: One good thing about Audacity 2.0 is the automatic amplification to match a new snip, even if I do have to climb the three steps above. That is, instead of having to apply the right dB figure to match disparate segments, then try again, Ver. 2.0 automatically plugs in the seemingly right amount by which to amplify the new segment. I'm pretty sure this is a new feature.

    Wayne Vermillion

    I'm running 32-bit Win7. I was somewhat unwillingly upgraded from XP about a month ago, and so had to download Audacity 1.3, the Beta that worked with Win7. There were no problems, but when I saw the reference to Aud 2.0 in this thread - no, I won't hold it against you - I leapt on it as if on free hors d'oeuvres at happy hour. (Incidentally in the process, I've also hijacked Melanie's thread.)

    Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

    Hi All,

    I have a question. Do you think this experience should be tweeted about...with an Audacity hashtag? So perhaps other tweeps can indicate whether they've experienced the same thing. And, if Audacity creators see it they can address it? Or, do you think that's mean? Since, after all, it is freeware and we all love their previous version...or at least I do

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