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Make podcast editing more like text editing – Six colors




As part of the ongoing 20 Macs for the 2020 project, I have released weekly podcast episodes with the voices of a bunch of people I know and discussed the Macs I have placed on the list of the 20 most notable Macs through the times.

Although I have probably hosted and edited more than a thousand podcast episodes at this time, 20 Macs for the 2020 podcast are a whole different kind of beast. It’s the script, and I weave short clips from the interviews I recorded with my own words to tell a story. When it comes to podcasts, it̵

7;s more of a style of public radio. When it comes to my own workflow, it has become more common with the Six Colors Apple Report Card series, where I take a very large amount of written comments from my panel and boil it down to a few key phrases.

But working with sound is different from working with text. Building the Apple Report Card asks for my skills as a journalist, taking relevant offers and letting them in while I write. But when I decided what I wanted 20 Macs for the 2020 podcast to sound like, I was confused about how I would achieve a similar effect.

For a while, I refrained from using an AI-based transcription tool like Rev for my interviews. Then I would copy and paste from the transcripts, put together my script and pay someone to go back to the source audio file and share the quotes I used together in an audio editing app. It was feasible, but it seemed like a lot of work.

Then I realized that it was a perfect tool for this project, and it was one that I had seen months before and discounted as irrelevant to the type of podcasts I do: Descript. This is an app that uses audio files, generates text transcripts, and allows you to edit audio by editing text transcripts. Delete a sentence in the Descript text editor and the sentence is edited out of the sound.

It really works just like editing text.

Even better: You can create new documents in Descript and copy and paste text from other documents inside, and their sound accompanies the trip. So, for example, I managed to paste all the interview comments about Blue and White Power Mac G3 from all my interviews into a single document, and then create my script in the document, and switch back and forth between different comments from different voices. (Descript also supports inserting text into documents by typing, so I could also type all my lines in the app.)

So far so good, but I expected a painful process when it came to building the final version of the podcast. while Descript is a more full-fledged audio editor than you might think, I would have full control that I can get from Logic Pro X. I expected to have to export a raw set of interview clips from Descript and then clean up the whole thing in Logic, but I did not count on how good Descripts’ export features would be.

Many export options.

Not only was it easy to export my script as a Word file (optionally with time codes), but Descript will collect everything and export it to a format that can be read by virtually any popular audio or video editor. (Yes, it also works with video – and I have to imagine that Descript will be a boon for anyone editing a documentary with hours of interview footage to wade through.)

This is also not a “flat” version of the project. It is every single edit, but linked to the underlying source file. This is very important, because if Descripts’ approach to editing is wrong, it is that trimming audio by deleting text does not always create the most natural sound changes. But once that project is imported into Logic, I can expand or contract every single edit as needed, until it’s all perfect.

Here’s a look at what a Descript export looks like when opened in Logic, with a separate track for each interview, and each edit is visible and editable:

Logic project

This is a starting point. From here I register my own story – Descript estimates how long my whole story will run based on my script and leaves empty space for it – add music, turn on some plugins to improve the sound, and make all the other nitty gritty the things that lead to the final version. (I also approached my friend Brian Hamilton to make a pass that smooths out all the dialogue edits and musical transitions – thank you, Brian!)

Although I could not imagine using Descript for my talk podcasts, I can not imagine not using it for this project. It has led me to make my ten-year-old skill as a writer trimming and editing quotes to tell a story to a podcast editing tool.

Descript is free to try (including three hours of free transcription time), but I use the $ 15 monthly / $ 144 year plan. A more expensive plan adds more powerful features, including the ability to synthesize the host’s voice from text – useful if you’re part of a large production and can not get the talent in a studio to record a filler word or three.

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