By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern
My relationship with editing in all forms is a love/hate one. I hate editing. It’s tedious work. Especially when working with sound, the small nuances that you have to focus on are infuriating. You spend a full hour chopping up a five-minute sound bite, getting rid of every awkward pause and noisy breath. Then you add a compressor to that soundbite, trying to control the dynamics of the voice recording. Maybe at one point you accentuated a syllable in a weird way so you’re trying to make sure that it doesn’t sound too loud comparative to the rest of the syllables. Alright, the soundbite is compressed, it is time to add an EQ. Using the EQ, you remove all the harsh frequencies in the high end of the voice recording, you completely shut out all of the underlying low-end frequencies so that there is no “muddiness” to your voice. Cool, this soundbite is starting to sound professional. To finish it all up, you add a tiny bit of reverb to give the voice some ambience. Nothing too crazy, not a room or a hall reverb, but just a little bit of reverb to make the soundbite not sound too dry.
For that five minutes of sound, you’ve just spent an hour and a half. From here on out it shouldn’t be too bad. You have all of the settings that you used for the compressor, EQ and reverb already, so now all you have to do is cut up the rest of the soundbites, another ten minutes of sound, and you’re good. So, you spend an hour and a half chopping up the rest of the sound bites, getting rid of every awkward pause and noisy breath. You add a compressor, you use an EQ to get rid of unwanted frequencies, you add a reverb for some ambience. This doesn’t take much time at all because, again, you already have all the settings saved from that first soundbite. It’s done. You’ve completed the project. You get up, make yourself some coffee, sit back down, and listen to the whole project. You’re sure that it is ready to be exported and posted to Spotify, but not giving it a listen would be bad juju.
So, you listen to the whole thing and…it sounds whack. The different soundbites don’t sound the same at all. It sounds like each soundbite was recorded in a different room using different microphones. In reality, each soundbite was recorded in the same room with the same microphone, the only variable that changed was the distance that you were to the microphone and the energy that you personally brought into the recording. So now you have to go into each different soundbite and mess with the compressor settings. In one it might need to be less aggressive, in another it might not be aggressive enough. The EQ is generally the same all around still, but with the compressor being changed now the reverb needs to be adjusted. You spend another hour just trying to get everything to sound as similar as possible, but at this point you’ve been listening to the same sounds on repeat for a combined four hours give or take, your ears just cannot tell the difference anymore. Deaf doesn’t feel like the right way to describe it, it’s more like your ears have gone blind.
At this point there is only one thing you can do. Get up and do something else, anything else, so long as it doesn’t require you to listen too intently. Go for a run, fold some laundry, write a paper, whatever it is you have to do just do it. Come back to the audio software no less than three hours later, listen to it all again. Spend another hour trying to tweak the settings across your project. Forget about the fact that you can use compression on the whole project, that might help. Oh no, that actually made it kind of worse never mind. Use automation to painstakingly go through and control the volume of the project. Realize that you’re using studio headphones and that most people probably won’t be able to hear or even care about the subtle nuances that you are trying to fix. Export the thing to Spotify and get another cup of coffee. You’ve successfully finished this podcast.