Make Great Podcasts with Free Open Source Software - Page 2

By Carla Schroder | Posted September 03, 2013

Recording Podcasts: Audacity Edits and Cleanups

Go ahead and finish your audio recording. You can pick up where you left off by pressing the Shift button and clicking Record at the same time, or you can start a new track by clicking Record. This adds a new stereo track, so if you want to start over delete the existing track by clicking the little X on the top-left of the track.

Cutting and pasting in Audacity is just like cutting and pasting in any application. Select a portion of your track with the mouse, and then you can cut or copy the selection with Edit > Remove Audio > Cut, or Edit > Copy, and then paste it into another location. (Use the Zoom buttons, which have little magnifying glass icons, to adjust your view so you can see what you're doing.)

To delete a segment of your track, select the part you want to delete, and then press the Delete key. This removes it and closes the gap the deletion made, which shortens the timeline. To keep your track the same length, you can silence your selection with Edit > Remove Audio > Silence Audio.

Remember, you always have Edit > Undo if you make a mistake. If you want to keep your selection and delete everything else use this command: Edit > Remove Audio > Trim.

Fade to Black

Fades are essential, and they're easy in Audacity. Select the part of your track that you want to apply a fade to, and click Effect > Fade In or Fade Out.

One of the most useful items in the Effect menu is Normalize. This evens out your overall volume so that it's consistent, and it brings the volume up or down to whatever peak level you want. Before applying Normalize first look for any excessive peaks.

You need to get rid of excessive peaks because you don't want to startle your listeners, and because they'll throw off the overall balance. Carefully select just the peak (remember the Zoom tool) and then click Effect > Amplify. Reduce the level of the peak by entering a negative Amplify value, such as -10. You may need a little trial and error to figure out a good level.

Once you have reduced all your peaks click Effect > Normalize. Check both "Remove any DC offset" and "Normalize maximum amplitude to," and then enter your maximum volume level. Use the default setting: -1. (Unless you have to match volume levels with other recordings. Just remember all values are negative, and -1 is louder than -10.)

Exporting to a Playable Format

When you're finished editing, you need to export your recording to a playable format. Learning about the different audio file formats and quality levels is a rather large subject; for today we'll go middle-of-the road and make a good MP3 file suitable for online streaming.

To do this, click File > Export and in the save window select MP3. Then in the Options menu check Bit Rate Mode: Preset, and select Standard, 170-210 kbps quality. Finally, check Stereo (do not check Joint Stereo—that's a hack to save bits, and it ruins your stereo separation. We're not that desperate for bits).

You now possess a good-quality audio file that can be a podcast or a video soundtrack that will please and inform your customers. To learn about Audacity in-depth, read Book of Audacity (authored by yours truly) at No Starch Press.

Carla Schroder is the author of The Book of Audacity, Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook,and hundreds of Linux how-to articles. She's the former managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.

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