How to edit your podcast (the bigger picture) a TAKEOVER with audio engineer and sound designer Micky Curling


In this episode of we start to look at editing, and we've asked one of our talented friends, Micky Curling to share his thoughts. Mickey runs Mix Broadcast and he's an audio engineer and sound designer. He's worked on award winning shows like Fight of the Century and Jamie Cullum's show on BBC Radio 2 and he's got lots and lots of experience putting together documentaries as well and music shows.


I'm Mickey, I'm an audio engineer, a sound designer. I spend a lot of time editing audio. And today I want to talk to you about editing your podcast, making it sound refined, and yet ensuring that conversations sound natural and authentic.


Editing as a Multi-Stage Process

My first tip is to think of editing as a multi-stage process. Let's say you've got a three-hour interview, and you want to cut that down to an hour. Well, first of all, I'm going to ask you why you recorded three hours. You need to be disciplined when you go into your recordings.

TV news camera operators talk about shooting for the Edit, only capturing what's needed in roughly the order in which you want to edit. And I try to think the same when I go into a recording.

But let's imagine you've recorded three hours and you want an hour for your podcast. The first edit stage isn't going to be dealing with every arm and stutter that you encounter. First of all, you're going to want to listen to the interview, make notes, mark the recording, what are the outstanding bits, are there obvious cuts?

If you cut that section in the middle, to something later in the interview no longer makes sense. It's only after you've made those really big editorial cuts, those big editorial decisions, that you then want to go back over and tidy the flat and remove the arms and the "uhhs" and "ums."


The Power of Editing

Think that editing gives you the ability to trim access from your recordings as we've just discussed, but it also gives you the freedom to shape the narrative. Maybe someone tells a great story at the end of your three-hour interview.

And maybe you think that would make much more sense if it goes at the start of your podcast. But that ability to bend and shape your podcast is the basis of my second tip.

It's really important that you remember the power you hold in your hands when you come to edit your audio. You'll be working with either a transcript in tools like Descript, or you'll be working with a waveform in software like Audacity or Audition. And these tools are so precise that you can move sentences, words, even letters around.

You can very easily make your guests say something that they didn't. Even innocently changing the structure of an answer for clarity can end up misrepresenting something. You've got a moral and often a legal responsibility to make sure you're not changing the fundamentals of what your guest is trying to convey.


Retaining the Essence of the Speaker

When I started working in audio, it was before the days of digital editing. We used to record interviews on reels of tape, and tape was a really clunky way to edit. You had to find your edit point by rocking these two huge reels backwards and forwards, and then you mark your tape with a special pencil. Then you literally cut the tape with a razor blade.

Stick the bit that you've just removed in the bin and then you join the two remaining bits together with a little bit of sticky tape. It was a slow and often bloody process. But it taught you precision. You only really had one opportunity to get the edit right. And to do that, you had to use your ears.

I think editing is faster now and it's more accurate. But I find myself sometimes now making quick decisions with my eyes rather than my ears are looking away from and say this is the bit that I need to count. And it's this point that leads me to tip number three.

When you're editing, even with the powerful tools that we have today, don't lose the essence of the person that you're trying to edit. To explain that in slightly better terms. We're humans and we aren't. We think, we pause, we breathe, and the way we breathe, how we ponder, how we think, how we change our intonation, says so much about us.

I used to work at a radio station for young people, and our style guide said that you should edit out every single breath, every "um," every "uh." And that's fine if you're trying to condense a soundbite into 15 seconds. But in podcasts, I think you've got a more intimate relationship with the listener. They've got time, you've got time.

So let people breathe. Let them think, let them be human beings. It's about retaining the soul of the person that you're editing, and that might sound really grand, and you probably came here looking for some technical tips, but the speech has a rhythm to it.

It's got a flow, and maintaining that is so important. Otherwise, we'll just end up sounding like automatic train station announcements.



I hope these tips are going to help you, whether you're taking a podcasting to the next level or whether you're just looking for some advice on tidying up.

In summary, my three tips are to think of editing as a multi-stage process, remember the power that you hold in your hands, and then also make sure you retain the soul of the person that you're editing.

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