Low-Down on Podcasting – Part Two

Last time we talked about how to record the raw material for a podcast. This month we are going to look at how you can edit it, add background music and output a finished MP3 file for your internet or intranet site.

If you followed my instructions last time you should have a .WAV or .MP3 file. If your recorder is an Olympus there is a chance that it is in the.WMA format. If so, we need to convert it to .WAV before we can go any further.

This isn't too difficult – there are convertor packages available on the net. One is Switch, which is available for both Mac and PC.

While you are connected you also need to download an audio editing program. You can spend a small fortune on these, but the one I recommend is free. It is called Audacity and is open source. Don't laugh – it is easily as good as paid-for options.

So Google Audacity and download it. While you are on the Audacity web site download the LAME encoding software too. This is also free and will let you output MP3 files from Audacity.

Once you have installed both you are ready to go.

If you now open up the audio you recorded earlier using Audacity you will see the waveform on the screen. Pressing play will let you review your audio and you will see the progress bar move across the waveform as it does so.

You can zoom in to take a closer look. In fact, I recommend you do just that. Now, to edit out any "umms and aahs" just click and drag over the audio you want to remove and press delete. As the Meerkat would say: "Simples!".

If you have recorded a separate intro for your interview you can now highlight this, copy it and paste it onto the front of the interview audio. It is all quite intuitive.

What about music? You can't just go and steal any piece of music you like as you would be in breach of copyright. However, there is a lot of podcast-ready music out there that you can buy and even pod-safe music that you use for free.

Two sites worth looking at are Podsafeaudio and MusicAlley.

If you want to have background music with your speech that can also be accomplished. Create a new track and paste your music into that. You can adjust the volume of the music using the pinch tool, which looks like two small triangles with a piece of tape running through the middle. Now if you play the track you will hear your voice and the music.

Once your audio is edited you are nearly there. Save the project and then use the "File >> Export as WAV" option to output your finished audio. I know that ultimately we need an MP3 file, but bear with me.

The trouble with mixing various pieces of audio together is that you you end up with differing audio levels. This can be hard to fix manually, but there is an easy way to do it.

Google Levelator – there are versions for Mac and PC. Now drag and drop your output WAV file to Levelator and let it work its magic. It will give you yet another WAV file with perfectly corrected audio levels.

Open this file with Audacity again and you are nearly there. First we need to set the MP3 quality level. Go to the Audacity preferences, select "File Formats" and set the MP3 bit rate to 64kbps. This is good enough for speech and will usually play over the net quite happily without stuttering or stalling. Now use the "File >> Export as MP3" option.

There you have it – your finished edited MP3 file.

Next time we will look at how you can play it on your web or intranet site and integrate it with iTunes.

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