Nature podcast editing and storytelling in Canada
In this everything-can-be-done-with-a-smartphone era, it’s easy for many people to think creating a podcast is easy peasy. Well, it certainly can be if all you want to do is hit record and then hit upload. The reality though is that most organizations want something more polished than that for the world to hear.
Getting a professional story flow and editing takes time. That’s why many organizations prefer to outsource the editing to professionals.
Having a vision for your podcast is essential. Having the time to do the editing yourself is the challenge. And for those who try, it’s usually a wake up call when it’s discovered how much time is needed to edit and produce a podcast.
That process of editing, mixing and mastering the content recorded into cohesive episodes is indeed time consuming. This will likely involve many elements — or tracks — such as narration, music transitions and other elements to help tell the story. Sound design, the process of adding effects and ambient sounds, requires time to not only add these elements, but also legally source them, or record them.
The photo above shows just a small segment of a 45-minute timeline of a real nature podcast being edited by WorkCabin Creative. In just this small segment, there are hundreds of clips big and small on multiple tracks. Storytelling is almost surgical in precision when it comes to listening, deciding, and then cutting and pasting tracks in sequences that makes narrative sense. If a story lacks flow, listeners will abandon it.
Here are some of the tasks that a professional podcast editor will undertake on your behalf:
1. Import the audio you have previously recorded
Use Track One for your main audio track (e.g. narration, interview, discussion). Use Track Two for sound effects. Use Track Three for music. And so on.
Place the audio material in sequence (e.g. intro narration, interview, promo breaks, outro). When you import multiple tracks, the audio will appear on different tracks. Professional editors usually are masters of organizing content. They have to be. Colour coding tracks is one way they do that (see above)
Leave an empty track underneath for editing
Add music, sound effects or secondary audio later in the editing process
2. (Re)listen to your material
Decide what sections to keep or delete and think about possibly changes to the order. A lot of listening and re-listening happens during this stage
3. Delete unwanted material
Lots of sorting and evaluating the strength of material happens. Delete any material that you will not use (yes, there will be lots of dead air, and ums, etc., in your recordings)
4. Move everything into the right order
There’s a lot of shifting that happens on an audio editing timeline. Use the empty track as a temporary space when you move stuff about the timeline. The empty track is kind of like a cluttered closet. Lots of stuff gets stored there. It can get crowded.
5. Close the gaps (or add gaps)
Sometimes you will want to delete and close the gap, for example if there is a sudden unwanted noise like a nearby door suddenly closing
Other times more gaps are needed to preserve the natural pacing of speech
6. Export your finished podcast
Also called ‘rendering’, this is the process that outputs an audio file and gets a draft into your hands for a listening review
Pro tip: Using a professional podcast editor that actually understands your field and subject matter can also be a huge time saver and storytelling advantage to your organization