Tips for Tuesday: Editing with Audacity (for beginners)

Audacity logoI had a tinkle with Audacity at the weekend, described by Mark S. Luckie as “one of the most popular audio editing tools among journalists” in The Digital Journalist’s Handbook. So, here are some very basic pointers which might prove useful to newbies. In fact, they’ll be applicable to editing using other editing tools too (but the great thing about Audacity is that it’s free)…

1) Do take a look at a mini tutorial before you frustrate the hell out of yourself (like I did) by trying to just get stuck in there. This one by Mindy McAdams is quick, easy to follow and will set you on the straight an narrow without adding any extra frown lines.

2) Do have a listen to your audio all the way through, before you start editing. Make a note of the sections you want to cut and/or keep which will make editing easier when you come to it. When I started out I was keen to rush in and make my finished product asap but you’ll get a better result if you take some time over it and do it properly.

3)  When you’ve cut a clip, check that it’s cut the bit you want. Play it back and make sure you’re happy. Just as you’d proof read an article, audio needs proofing too and sometimes you manage to cut the bit you want to keep or keep the bit you want to cut. Replaying every time you edit something will help. I edited with headphones on because I found it less distracting but don’t be afraid to shut yourself away in a quiet room and crank up the volume.

4)  Practice good housekeeping and keep all your audio files in one place, stored in clearly labeled folders. That way you’ll have easy access to original and edited clips should you ever need to refer to them, and you’re less likely to lose them/accidentally delete them if than if they’re just sitting idle on your desktop. And save your project before you’ve begun, always making sure you’ve got a copy of the original file somewhere. If you make a mistake and want to start over, having the original file is going to prove very useful!

5) That squiggly line in the middle of the screen is called a waveform and I quickly found it easier to edit my audio clips by looking at the waveform and recognising the patterns.

6) Don’t edit out every erm, ah and pause. I tried this and it made my interviewee sound a tad robotic, like I’d edited away all the personality

To find out more about Audacity, check out the forums. To find out more about audio editing, take a look at The Journalist’s Toolkit on audio resources.

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