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Post-Production Workflows for Podcasters

Lesson 1 of 5

Class Introduction

Jim Briggs

Post-Production Workflows for Podcasters

Jim Briggs

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction

Lessons

  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:16:53
2 The Podcasters Audio Toolkit Duration:11:30
3 Deep Dive on DAWS Duration:49:26
5 The Next Person in the Chain Duration:08:52

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

One of the things that I think is worth just kind of getting into your, letting your brain marinate in the idea that a listener is inviting you into their ears. Literally, if you've got earbuds. But they are giving you their precious time. They're a self selected audience that's coming to you whether it's getting you from the Apple music store, from Stitcher or any other kind of podcasting platform. They went there and saw your thing and wanted to hear that so I place kind of a heavy amount of respect on the time that the listener has. If something sounds bad to me, I have to assume that it's gonna sound bad to them. So I'm kind of targeting for both the listener who is conscious of every edit and the listener who's just so wrapped up in the story that they don't want to notice those things. So you hear this mantra mostly as a joke directed at people like me, ha ha ha, you'll fix it in post. Don't, okay. (audience laughing) Good practices are going to eliminate that problem. There are ...

always times where we need to fix something, where we need to do a rescue job and we're here for it but if we kind of mitigate those problems ahead of time then we have much more room to be creative, much more time to be creative too. So good processes mean you don't have to fix it in post and that's something kind of I'll keep going to. You gotta start with good bones for the story and I listen to some podcasts that are just a couple of dudes yuckin' it up about sports, ya know, in their kitchen and I love what they're doing. I love the comradery and the back and forth that they have but there are times when I hear their drink clanking on the table or them adjusting their mic live and stuff like that. They even address this in the podcast that they have terrible sound so I keep comin' back to them because I enjoy the content so much but you have a chance to never let that stuff get in the way of the content. So really one of the things that I preach early on is just every step of the chain matters and every step isn't just okay I went out into the field, I've got all my batteries, I've got the right mics but that I've really though ahead of time about the kinds of places, the kinds of people that I'm gonna be capturing, what situations they're gonna be in, what situations I'm gonna put them in and how I can kind of achieve that beautiful act of letting a scene unfold for the listener in real time or maybe we kind of shrink from real time a little bit but for the listener's experience, we really want that to happen. So just kind of break down the steps. You're probably familiar with most of 'em but it's good to just break it down and organize it. Pre-production, the booing, the making people, making sure people show up, the making decisions about what kind of microphones you're gonna need. Usually in our world for reveal we kind of deal with two choices of microphones and maybe a couple of other options but we're usually looking at a shotgun microphone that's going to kind of pries focus, really direct on a certain source and then we also use omni directional microphones which kind of od the complete opposite, pick up everything in the field. So knowing ahead of time am I gonna be moving around a lot, am I gonna want an omni directional mic because I just don't know what's going to be in my field. Am I gonna wanna have both choices made ahead of time? So the field production, the actually listening on headphones and being in the space that you're recording, being aware of it, making sure to get second takes of something or asking someone to repeat something if you've stepped over them. These things again, good practices, they're pay dividends later on. Studio production, anything that relates to a host or a reporter or someone being interviewed for a two way in the studio. These are the places where you have a lot of control, you have a lot of chances to get it right hopefully. Sometimes we have a guest that whose time is very limited and we don't have all those things so we do with the pre-production to make sure that we're asking the good questions that we know what we want to get out of this and how we want it to play out. And then post-production, the stage that I'm really heavily concentrated in is turning around all these elements, making sure that they work together, turning it into a seamless whole and then distributing it to all the people that need to get it. So we game plan, we ask what we want out of the recording, what do we want to achieve from it, what would make this podcast audio rich. If it's something where I feel the boredom of two people speaking to one another or I know ahead of time this person has a lot of good information but they're not the most exciting voice. Maybe I can do something more like a talk and tape. I think ahead of time, I'm gonna play some tape, I'm gonna ask them to respond to it. So I make that choice ahead of time. What are the places and scenes that you want to capture and knowing too what could go wrong, I came prepared with kind of double of everything that I have here on the desk almost and that's in part my own neurosis but it's also it makes me feel confident when I get to a scenario like this that I have everything that I need to present to the audience. In the field, you just want to be very, very aware. I cringe when I see people out there recording without wearing headphones. You don't know what you're getting. You literally don't and if you're going to be surprised when you come back to find out that you were handling the mic and fidgeting a lot with it, that's just something you don't want to have happen so you're always monitoring the recording or somebody is if you're the talent who's just there to really focus on delivering something. There's this kind of special sauce elements, these things that are invisible to most listeners but allow us in the post-production world to really stitch together a piece and make it feel like everything is in its right place. I don't feel the sudden dropout of room tone. In the production world, room tone is supremely important to us because it allows us to build in those pauses without leaving the room that they're in or in a case when you're out in the field, a healthy amount of ambience that you can record and that's just gonna pay off just because it allows you to build edit continuity but it also allows you to again, capture the sounds of a place and some pretty amazing things can happen when you're focused on that job of just capturing the sound of the place. Getting those interactions, always being rolling with your recorder so that when you get to the door you get that greeting and maybe there's something about the personality of that person that's not going to, you're not gonna hear again in the rest of the piece but maybe you're working with an extremely difficult and heavy story and this exchange it helps lighten or it helps ease the listener into the story that you're trying to tell. And again, you get do-overs. As long as you're there with the mic and you inform people of what you're doing with their time you can take some chances and take some time to get it right. When we're in the studio, I have a few things that I just really hold onto. One of them is that every individual voice needs its own track. We'll get to what tracks are and how we lay them out in pro tools but we shouldn't be having to fight the tape to be able to kind of take it apart and if you have two sources that are on top of one another, there's just a limited amount of what you can do to fix that or to cut out of someone if you really wanted to end a thought at a certain point. If everybody is on their own track, everybody has their own file, you really have maximum flexibility even when they're in the same room and maybe talking over one another. We obviously want a very noise free environment in the studio, that should surprise nobody but sometimes we're not all working in studios too so we need to build that whether it's blankets or kind of picking the place in the house with the most absorptive material. The least room reflections and also kind of paying special attention to the closest that you have to the mic, the further you are from the mic, the more room you're picking up versus yourself. Again, every piece of gear matters. I set up this kind of tuned to me. You'll find the setup that's tuned to you but when you're doing this work, you really want the gear again, to not get in the way. You don't want to be maxing out your laptop and its resources, you don't want to be having to adjust your... you don't want to have to be adjusting your listening level out all the time and you kind of want the tools that you use at hand and then monitoring communication, you obviously want to be able to, if you have a host, you want to be able to give them direction, you want to be able to kind of help them feel comfortable with what they're doing and again, it's a performance when you're in front of the mic every time no matter if it's wholly authentic or the person really feels lived in the script that they're delivering, it's still a performance and you can still look at different ways of getting that person to perform to what you're trying to create. Then in post, we just gotta budget time and money for this process, I can't stress that enough and it's not just 'cause I like to get paid but if you short change this process or if you're like we know our deadline is Wednesday so what if I get everything to you by Monday for a 60 minute show, I mean just do the math, right? How many times can I listen through 60 full minutes and make adjustments over that amount of time and then you really start to realize okay I really need a week to complete this. You wanna seek options. If you're making decisions in this environment you want to listen to a lot of A versus B, you want to reference other work that you're familiar with and aspire to so I will even throw those things into my session and hear how they're standing up alongside my own work and obviously one of the fun things that we get to do is make some purposeful music choices. In my role, I get to do some composition which is awesome, not afforded to everybody but it has a lot of advantages to have somebody like that in your back pocket. So who's your intended audience? This should really, really drive what you're making, right? Now the sports podcast that I was talking about where they're kind of goofing off in the kitchen, I don't know, I'm a driver who has some disposable time who's into sports, they're gonna make it really interesting for me. An audiophile would be driven nuts by their show. So they might lose that person but know what they listen to, what are their standards, what are their desires, does it matter to them if I put a lot of work into the audio? My hope is always yes but that's not necessarily the case. How will they be listening to your work? That's major. You can be listening on the most beautiful speakers, a wonderful system and it's gonna probably sound pretty damn good to you but if you're not putting the work through its paces and listening into some of these environments especially when you're starting out, you're kind of developing the sound of a show, you wanna hear how it sounds in the car, you wanna hear how it sounds on earbuds. I don't like them and I don't really advise putting something in your ears for prolonged exposure during the day but it's something that we want to know. How does this sound on earbuds? So much of your audience is likely taking in the work in that way. Consider the best and worst case scenarios. Worst case probably the laptop speaker or even directly out of a phone speaker. There were really talking about the stuff that it's like the content is king and ya know bless anybody who's actually listening for some of the real like artistic choices on that medium but really what do you want your work to stand alongside. If it's This American Life, you've gotta be honest with yourself about what it's going to take to make that and what kinds of resources you're gonna need to make that. If it's something that's really built on two people speaking to one another then you can probably do that you know with a much lower overhead and turn things around more quickly. People like authentic conversations and podcasting has really kind of opened up a space where we're not married to the clock anymore. It's as long as it wants to be. We obviously don't want to bore people stiff with uh's and um's endlessly but there can be value too in hearing how somebody's thinking about something, in letting them complete their thought instead of cutting to the chase all the time. So what do you want your work to stand alongside is a really important. So really the things that can turn off an audience from my perspective or problems that I'm trying to help people resolve. Unintelligibility is an obvious one. I'm dealing with a lot of kind of specialized tape and we say tape even though we're not using tape machines anymore but we deal with a lot of specialized tape that's coming from court records and some of the worst audio you've ever heard so the proprietary court audio systems, there's probably an industry for somebody to make a lot of money to improve that out there. But that audio can be really rough and we need to make it into something that's intelligible for the listener or we need to write around it and we're using it kind of more as color because we know from a transcript what was said but it doesn't really do a lot for us in terms of what you can understand from it. Obviously if something's boring or samey, I think people kind of often make the mistake that something can go too slow and that's what's gonna make it boring but usually I find that it's the opposite. They're going too fast, they're not allowing you time to kind of marinate in the subject to pause and think. Obviously you've got a pause button but that's something that we want to pay attention to, that we are letting the listener into this place. So when I'm working with music with reveal, a lot of what I'm doing is building that space for the listener, okay I've gotta take that in, that was heavy, stuff like that. If you've made them too aware of the construction of this is a produced piece of work, that can turn some people off if you're requiring too much work of the listener but if your choices with regard to sound are intentional, you really will win listeners over, they will understand that you're making something of high quality and that you're putting the work into it so that it really shines so show them you care, that's kind of the end of this chapter.

Class Description

For those just starting out in the world of podcasting, post-production is often the most intimidating aspect. The technology and tools can seem overly complex to those who are more focused on creative storytelling, especially if they have little experience with audio and editing.

Jim Briggs, lead sound designer and engineer for “Reveal,” offers this comprehensive overview of the post-production process to take the mystery out of audio editing and mixing. He’ll help you get familiar with the key terms and concepts in the post-production workflow, setting up your workspace, and navigating and managing edit and mix sessions, so you feel comfortable and confident with this critical phase of podcasting.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand the story flow, from green light to mix.
  • Evaluate and gather the essential tools you need.
  • Use templates, tracks, repetition, and mixer functions.
  • Look at frequency, waveform, and stereo.
  • Create good collaborative and organizational practices for audio.

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