Monday, May 18

Making a radio show

Some time ago, I blogged about creating radio features for the Into Tomorrow show and I talked about the products I was using to do that. Namely, the Snowball USB microphone from Blue Microphone and WavePad Master's Edition from NCH Software.

I still have those products and I still use the Snowball microphone any time I need to record more than just my own voice. What I mean is, when I have more than one person in the room and I want to record the conversation (like you would do if you were making a podcast in your basement), there isn't a better microphone for the price than the Snowball.

But now I'm beginning to build complete half hour radio shows for a church. I edit down the sermons for time, record opening and closing voiceovers, and assemble the entire show including musical elements before creating a final mixdown to a finished show.

And I ran into two issues with this process. First, I felt as though I wasn't getting enough low end presence in my voice to be a very good "Announcer Guy." I have the ability to pitch my voice down when I'm doing Announcer Guy, and I wanted to have some of that bass punch in the recording. And second, mastering all the various elements of the show, assembling them into a timeline, and mixing it down was harder in WavePad than I wanted it to be. I couldn't get the effects that I wanted, and lining up the show elements against a timeline in multitrack mode was not working as I wanted.

So I began the search for new products to address these. On the microphone side, I found the Marshall MXL USB.009 24-Bit Studio/Broadcast USB Condenser Microphone, which comes complete with a nifty aluminum "flight case" that carries your expensive microphone safely from place to place. I did order an optional shock mount and windscreen for the product. Take note of that because you will want them and it does not include them. The MXL USB.009 gave me the deep, rich studio sound I wanted for my voiceovers, even while recording in my office at home.

For editing software, I chose Adobe Audition 3. I will admit that editing software is a lot like your favorite pizza. It all comes down to taste, and you will fight to the death defending your choice. (Okay, maybe not to the DEATH, but I've seen some ugliness over pizza, believe you me!) What I liked about Audition was the Mastering Rack that allowed me to assemble my favorite effects, preset the way I liked them, and apply it to a recorded track with a single mouse click. That's a huge time saver! The multitrack mode is excellent. I butt the closing theme up to the 28 minute mark (that's the maximum length of the half hour show) and now I can position all of the other elements so they fit within that. I line up voiceovers with music tracks, to get backing music whenever I want it, and the entire process couldn't be easier.

Recently, I was editing a sermon where the pastor yelled at one point. It totally glitched out the microphone and recording system, resulting in an ugly audio artifact where the stereo effect jumped about wildly and we actually had brief moments of silence on each track, but of a different length and slightly different location. It was a MESS. But I was able to isolate the better of the two channels, copy some noise over the absolute zero silences, then copy a specific length from one stereo channel to the other, and thus completely removed the glitch. I've got no idea how other editing software does this, but with Audition it was easy.

I'm very pleased with the final result, and impressed with the fact that a desktop PC combined with $650 to $700 worth of microphone and editing software can produce something that sounds like it was processed on tens of thousands of dollars worth of studio hardware.

Don't misunderstand me, you're not going to replace recording studios with their gigantic mixing consoles with a couple grand worth of PC gear, but for those of us engaged in the editing and voiceover business, there's no place like home.

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