The MAEKAN Classroom is a series created by the MAEKAN team to pass on the skills we’ve learned in the past few years. We don’t plan to wait until we have a “masterclass” or spent decades honing our craft to share experience and knowledge that works. We want to help get self-taught creatives started telling and publishing their stories today.
Now that you’ve collected all the recorded audio you need to create yourself, what’s next? The post production process is sometimes the most challenging part of the whole storytelling process. How do you make sense of what you’ve just captured and how do you put it in a way that represents your thoughts and tells the story you planned out at the very beginning?
Audio selections from a longer recording laid out on separate tracks for trimming. This is a situation where you should *not* edit through all tracks. In this case, an intentional edit on track #1 has become unintentional edits across most of the other selections (represented by that big grey line running top to bottom).
• The more complex your recordings are, the more organized you’ll have to be.
• Depending on your project, you can “listen and pull” selected audio or you can just “listen and cut” the entire recording and decide after.
• The goal of trimming audio is to remove unwanted sounds and shorten the length of the recording, while making speakers sound naturally more articulate.
• Where trimming focuses on removing complete sounds such as mistakes, stutters and pauses, treatment with equalization, compression and other digital tools removes sounds at the frequency level.
• Throughout the workflow, any newly exported assets should be at the highest quality possible while the final exported product can be more heavily compressed.
*folder structure for a fictitious multi-day event. Once backed-up, source files are always copied to new folders, never moved.
Now that you’ve captured all your audio, it’s time to get organized by backing up and sorting your files. The chart above outlines how we make permanent back-ups of all the different media types for a given project to a single folder (which is synced to Box), and then make copies for any projects that will use those assets. This is to avoid inadvertently modifying or deleting any original copies.
When working with audio files, we can’t stress enough how important it is to label your files since unlike images or video, you can’t tell what your file is by a quick glance at a thumbnail. Sometimes, it’s easier to tell your files apart if they’re longer or larger, but if you’ve captured a lot of files, you might consider organizing them first in Folders by the capture time and location. As the chart demonstrates, you can add more descriptors/variables to distinguish files as your recording needs get more complex. In the case that say, more than one person is using the same recording device, you can include their name in the folder.
To help illustrate the workflow, this is a raw and completely unedited recording by Nate (complete with mistakes, retakes and other types of awkwardness) to demonstrate a less than ideal capture but in a controlled environment.
Example: Untrimmed, Untreated Capture
Trimming audio simply means cleaning up and cutting away the excess noises, hiccups and other undesirable sounds you don’t want in your final audio recording. This section is concerned with cleaning up human speech. No matter what program you use to trim, your goal will be the same and that is to shorten the overall length of the recording and make all the speakers sound much more articulate than they likely were when they recorded. This means cutting out needlessly long pauses, fillers and other sounds, while arranging the remaining pieces to be coherent and natural.
Now that we’ve removed most of the problem elements from the recording, we now have a piece of audio that’s been trimmed down from over seven minutes to just over two and a half. These edits included not only mistakes, but also material that couldn’t be salvaged (made to sound natural) and other material that wasn’t deemed necessary.
Example: Trimmed, Untreated Capture
Regardless of what program you end up using to trim and then treat your vocals, they will all involve a lot of similar tools processes. Here are the basic ones you’ll be using to enhance the presence of your recordings.
After these steps are finished, we’ve both polished out any other impurities we want to exclude from our recording and brought out more from the original voice.
Example: Trimmed, Treated Capture
To sum up, your goal at this phase is to:
• Organize your audio recordings
• Either select parts of your recording that you’ll use or get your full-length recording ready for trimming.
• Delete unwanted parts of your audio and reconnect any gaps (with or without crossfading) so that everything sounds natural.
• Use EQ, compression, de-essers and de-noisers to enhance and re-shape your recordings while removing any constant background noises.
• Create high-quality exports at each stage of your workflow so that you can easily revisit any steps as needed.