Monday, July 16, 2007

A peak behind the curtain--audio editing makes us sound better

Okay, first of all, there is nothing worse than being sick in the summer time.
I have strep throat!!

I'm really bugged about it...because not only can't I swallow or eat...but it's gorgeous outside and I'd much rather be doing things with my family than stuck inside wondering how long I can wait until my next nap.

GRRRRR. I haven't had this since I got my tonsils out at age 7.

Anyway, being mostly stuck inside has allowed me to do some podcast listening, and that reminded me of a piece I heard recently on ON THE MEDIA, a show out of WNYC in New York.

The piece was called "Pulling back the Cutain" and was produced by John Solomon. It's all about how much editing occurs on the audio obtained via interviews for a show like OTM...or any radio news show for that matter. To give you a sense of what I'm talking about, listen to this exerpt from the story which gives an example of how OTM/Advertising Age critic Bob Garfield sounds during the taping of an interview compared to how he sounds afterwards.

Part of the reason why this story fascinated me is because I always thought I was pretty good at noticing edits in audio stories. Local radio news doesn't try to hide when an edit takes place. The ambient sound doesn't match, the speaker's inflections are going in different directions at the point of the edit, etc. But with OTM, I never even THOUGHT about it. That's largely to the credit of the show's editor (and co-host) Brooke Gladstone. But, it's also due to increased sophistication in technology. When I first started editing audio it was done using magnetic tape as the source material...not digital bits. Edits were done by finding the beginning and ending point of where you wanted to cut out, marking it on the back-side of the tape with a grease pencil, and then cutting it with a razor blade...only to tape the two ends back together. If you messed guessed had to tape the whole thing back together and start again. Almost as much a pain in the neck as strep throat.

These days, editing is all done electronically using programs like Pro Tools or Saw or the one we use in the ICR Lab, Adobe Audition. These programs make editing downright fun. Try an edit...if it doesn't work, Ctrl-Z gets you right back where you were! I remember when working on the Double-Units clutter study I needed to edit down commercials from 60-seconds to 30-seconds in length while still keeping the original meaning and information. If I had to do that with a razor blade and splicing tape, forget it. With Audition, it was actually something I looked forward to doing.


Robert said...

leave us not forget the courage, heroism and breathtaking humility displayed by bob garfield in letting his true interviewing self be revealed to his audience.

-- bob garfield

ps. get well soon

Samuel D. Bradley said...

When I first installed Audition, it pulled up this really, really cool mixed audio piece. Lots of channels and instruments.

I of course immediately closed it.

Do you have any idea how I get it back?