Editing Audio

Last week I spent a lot of time working on editing a package for my Radio subject at uni. The package was made up of two interviews recorded by my assessment partner Sam and my job was to mix them all together and add effects to make it sound like a well put together package.

While editing, I kept making links to a reading that I’d done for another subject (Communication Histories and Technologies), called “Schizochronia: Time in digital sound” by John Potts, 1995. Potts talks about how different digital sound editing is from analogue sound editing. His opening paragraph goes like this:

You are sitting at a digital work station. You press a key and watch as a cursor moves through a waveform. You hear the sound at the same time as you see it traversed by the cursor. You decide to retrieve a sample, which you’ve stored in the computer. It’s located way up ahead of the present waveform: in a few seconds you’ve scrolled forward, claimed the sample, and positioned it next to the waveform. You magnify the image, to get a better ‘look’ at the sound. You decide to insert the sample into the waveform, trying various positions. If you change your mind, nothing is lost: this is, after all, non-destructive editing.

-Potts, p. 17, 1995

This is pretty much exactly how I spent my week. I would intently watch the cursor move through certain waveforms to figure out when/where to cut the waveform. I moved samples along timelines and up and down across different tracks. I zoomed in when I needed to get really picky. I overlapped things, faded things and inserted things and was never nervous about making mistakes because it was indeed non-destructive editing that I was doing. I had several versions of the project saved also, just in case I did stuff up and ctrl-z wouldn’t fix it.

Waveforms 1

It was interesting to see how this reading so accurately related to my editing experience. The concept of time in digital editing is very much related to visuals. You can see how long a sound is, and you can see the past and the future in relation to the cursor as it moves through the waveforms.


I also found it helpful to write out a transcript, so that I could see the order of what was being said. After I cut the rough cut, the draft of the order of the speech parts, I wrote out the transcript and printed it out, because I’m also a tactile learner and love my coloured pens and highlighters. I read through the transcript and made notes of what needed to be moved where and where I thought certain sound effects would work well. Then I pulled the document back up on my computer, opened a blank document, and rearranged the transcript into the order that I wanted. Then I used the new transcript to help me reorder the waveforms into the correct order.

Transcript Notes 2 Transcript Notes 4

Transcript Notes 3

From there, I started adding in the effects that I wanted. I would add an effect on a separate track. Adjust it it my liking. And then listen back with my eyes shut so that I couldn’t see the sound anymore, and I had to hear it the way any listener over the radio would hear it.

Eyes Shut

After I’d completed the entire piece, I listened back to it with my eyes open, but instead of looking at my workspace, I stared at this rather boring part of my room, again to allow me to focus solely on the sound of the piece, and not the way it looked or the way my eyes heard it.


According to Potts, analogue sound recording and editing technologies work with aural and tactile senses, while digital ones work with aural and visual senses. Dr. Byrne (our guest lecturer from Comm. Hist & Tech) said that while digital sound recording and editing technologies basically do the same thing as analogue technologies, they usually just make the process easier or faster to do. I found that in order to make a good package, I needed to rely on visual as well as tactile senses along with my aural senses, hence I found it helpful to write and print a transcript so that I could physically manipulate the representations of the sounds I was working with.

Here’s a link to my version of the complete piece if you want to have a listen (it’s a large file, 75MB, so if you have limited Internet, don’t click the link). And here’s the link to Sam’s version, which we submitted for assessment.


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One Response to Editing Audio

  1. FINALLY got around to listening to this. Neat. And interesting content too.

    Also, you should get into these two Radio National programs:

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