Ep.7 - Fixing Audio Quality with iZotope RX Metasode
In this metasode (meta-episode where we talk about our own podcasting experience), Arnab and I discuss how the previous recording went, how to deal with initial awkwardness, and how to fix audio quality.
We go through a few most important audio repair effects in the iZotope RX software (on sale for $199 as of this writing, regular price $399) and cover things like removing echo, breaths, mouth clicks (yuck!), hums, noises, and other unwanted artifacts that make you sound like a rookie.
It wouldn’t have been a good metasode if we didn’t go on tangents…
Do you know what the Canadians call a couch? Chesterfield.
Do you know what the Russians call photocopiers? Xerox.
We also had a little back and forth on whether “iZotope” has a “zee” or a “zed” in it. Zed’s dead bady, zed’s dead. So it’s a “zee.”
Audio problems and ways to fix them
Garbage in — garbage out. You can apply a bunch of plugins but they come at a cost of reducing audio quality a bit, making voices sound less natural. Filters are destructive by nature, so it’s best to use them sparingly. Try to address issues at the source — find a quiet room, put sound absorbing pillows around the mic, etc.
Microphone bleed over is when your microphone picks up the sound of your guest sitting across the table and vice versa. It can be fixed with a de-bleed effect.
Our mouths click like crazy and it sounds awful. Can be easily fixed with one click (see what I did here?) with a mouth de-click effect.
Loud volume may be clipped during the recording, creating an unpleasant disruptive sound. Can be repaired with a de-clip effect.
Microphones pick up and amplify the harsh high-frequency sound when you pronounce the “s” sound. Can be softened with a de-ess effect (when I say it, it sounds more like “de-ass”).
Sometimes you get a hum in your recording, e.g. from an A/C, a heater, or a fridge. Can be fixed with a de-hum effect.
Some people, especially English speakers, enunciate P’s so much, which creates a loud “plosive” effect (an explosive in your mouth?) Those can be easily softened with a de-plosive effect.
Most untreated rooms have echo/reverberation. It sounds meh, so it’s best to reduce it a bit with a de-reverb effect.
Noises in the background (e.g. street noises) can be removed with a voice de-noise effect.
People make all sort of noises when they don’t talk, e.g. moving on a chair or clicking fingers while others are talking. If you record in a multi-track mode, you can simply cut those noises out without any damage to the end result.
Recordings usually come out better than you think. So don’t freak out and overthinking this. Enjoy the moment! You’re fine!
Always record every participant in their own track. It’ll help fix remote recording problems like internet lags, differing sound volume, and people talking over each other.
When you don’t know the guest, start with rapid fire questions and throw that part out of the recording. Do this just for warmup and building rapport.
When you don’t know the guest, pre-calls really help. If you can, get your guest on a meet & greet call for 30 mins a few days before the recording.
Practice, practice, practice. With experience, you’ll feel like a natural at podcasting.
Restart your computer before recording. It’ll help with memory issues if you’re using browser-based recording tools like SquadCast.
Use a large screen and split it into video on one half (just under the camera, so you look at your guests) and the doc with your notes on the other.
Audio issues vary depending on accents. For example, loud plosives are more common with native English speakers.
Use a pop-filter to control for loud plosives or a put a foamy cover thing onto your mic (or both). It’ll save you problems in post-production.
Many people drop off without listening much. But they still show up as a “play” in your metrics. You need to be realistic about how many people actually listen to at least half of your episode.
When in Rome, do as Romans do. Call photocopiers “xerox” in Russia. Call couches “chesterfield” in Canada.
Some tools are Swiss army knives, some are single-purpose. You’ll have to choose whether you want highest quality or convenience for lower price. We prefer single purpose tools at home and Swiss army knives while on the road (or on a tight budget).
When building software, don’t change the UX paradigm users are used to, or teach users the new mental model until they get it. It’ll be jarring and people will eventually give up unless they have to use your tool. See also the MAYA principle.
Some of the best software are platforms, not just tools. Digital Audio Workstations do the basic workflow really well and integrate with plugins to do the rest.
iZotope RX — the hero of today’s episode, a software suite for fixing issues and improving audio quality.
SquadCast — a powerful tool for recording interviews that we use for most of our recordings. It saves high quality audio locally and uploads files to the cloud, so you can download and process them later.
Amadeus — an audio editing tool that Steph uses for some tweaks.
VST (Virtual Studio Technology) — the standard for audio plugins.
Logic Pro — a digital audio workstation (DAW) from Apple.
Pro Tools — another DAW commonly used in the music industry.
Reaper — a great DAW that only costs $60 for a home or small business license.
Spectrogram — a way to represent a waveform.
Alfred — a productivity and scripting tool for MacOS.
Descript — a tool that can help you edit audio similar to editing text in a word processor.
Neewer Professional Microphone Pop Filter Shield — the pop filter I occasionally use.
Foam cover for Shure SM58 — a small cheap thingy that helps to dramatically decrease noises and plosives.
Promotion? No, thank you on Well…Adjusting
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Get in touch
We’d love to hear from you! Arnab is a Twitter guy and I’m on Instagram. Use the method that works best for you!
Email: email@example.com (both of us get it)
Arnab’s Twitter: @or9ob
Ilya’s Instagram: @podcasthacks
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Bye for now.
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