1. Initial set up.

Let's set up a new podcast for editing in Logic. File > New normally brings up this screen:

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Make sure "Use musical grid" is unclicked.

(Sometimes, especially if you have another project open when you start a new project, it doesn't have this screen. Oh well.)

It will ask you what your first track should be; pick "Audio".

Let's set up a few other parameters. 

First, if you haven't done this before, make sure your Advanced Preferences are turned on. (This is something you'll only need to do once.) Go to Logic Pro X > Preferences > Advanced Preferences and just turn everything on. I think you mostly want the "Audio" stuff, but you might as well turn it all on.

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Then a few project-specific parameters: 

Go to File > Project Settings > General and make sure "Use musical grid" is unchecked. Then click on Synchronization and set the SMPTE code to 00:00:00:00.00. (You can just enter "0" to do this.)

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Go to View > Customize Control Bar and Display. Set LCD to "Custom" and select "Positions" and "Varispeed". Under Transport make sure "Cycle" is selected". Nothing needs to be selected under Modes and Functions except "Master Volume".

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Finally, of course, save the file! Logic will autosave your file aggressively, but save it in a proper place. I usually make a folder for each episode, and put all the files associated with that episode in it. I keep another folder with files that are used on every episode (theme song, bumpers, etc.).

2. Add the main tracks.

You've got an empty file. Now let's add some recordings. There are a few ways to do this, but basically either File > Import > Audio File..., or more likely, drag and drop an mp3 or .wav into a track. (If you drag it onto the grey area below the tracks, it will create a new track.)

After you've added the tracks, double click on the names of each track and give them sensible names.

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You'll probably also want to create other tracks for any other sources of audio you're going to include: music, clips, sound FX, narration, etc. Click on the + button to do this (or Track > New Tracks...). Again, give them sensible names.

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Now align them. If they came out of Cast, they should be aligned already. Otherwise, you should have done some claps, and you'll find visible spikes which you'll want to line up by dragging the audio regions left or right until all three line up. (You can zoom in by "pinching out" on your trackpad, or by using the left-right slider in the upper-right-hand corner.)

 

 Before...

Before...

 After. As long as they sound aligned, they are aligned.

After. As long as they sound aligned, they are aligned.

 The up-down slider controls how tall each track is; the left-right controls how zoomed in you are. You can "pinch zoom" in and out on your trackpad to zoom as well.

The up-down slider controls how tall each track is; the left-right controls how zoomed in you are. You can "pinch zoom" in and out on your trackpad to zoom as well.

OPTIONAL: If your recording is many sections, and especially if you have time codes for each section already (if you were jotting these down as you were recording), you might now go to each segment and split them up. When editing It's Just A Show, I often do this, and colour-code each segment, and then work on one chunk at a time. You can colour code things by going to View > Show Colors (or pressing opt-C). Select regions, and select a colour swatch in order to change the colour of those regions. (When editing, I sometimes choose a darker shade of a colour to indicate a region that I want to return to later, either to fix a flub or because I'm thinking of deleting a long section starting here, but I have to listen ahead to decide whether that's something which can be deleted. Or maybe if there's something I want to look up for a link or to fact check. Etc. Colours are useful for larger editing projects.)

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OPTIONAL: If you press the F key (or click on the film+camera+music icon on the toolbar) you'll open the file viewer panel. Click on Media and you'll see a folder viewer. If you have a folder with music and bumpers and the like, you can drag it to the top, and it will be easy to access. These folders persist across editing projects, though. Here you'll see my IJAS folders. Anyway, add your folder if you'd like. Press F again to close that panel.

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3. Sound quality.

I like to get the tracks to sound pretty good before I start editing them.

First, remove noise. Let's work on the first track. Press the S box to listen to that track in solo mode—that track, and that track only.

 S is for Solo.

S is for Solo.

Then, find a section of that track with where the person isn't speaking. Ideally, where the only thing you hear is the background noise (but a few breathing sounds won't be the end of the world). When you find it, select and drag a portion of the timeline to make it yellow. When the timeline has a yellow strip, you're in cycle mode—and when you hit play, it will loop that section.

Make sure the circled i button is set, so that the following panel is visible. There is an area where Audio FX go (such as EQ, denoise, flangers, etc.), and we're about to starting adding Audio FX. The left column is for Audio FX that are applied to a specific track, so we're going to focus on that for now. (The right column, next to it, has Audio FX that are applied to the output track—but we'll get to that in a bit.)

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You'll want to add an Audio FX, Audio Units > Acon Ditigal > Acon Digital DeNoise > Mono (or Stereo or whatever). Let it "learn" the section that's just background noise, then "freeze" that noise profile. Oh look, here's a video!

Second, remove reverb. Or, you know, calm it down. Our podcasts are often made in echoey rooms. By far, the best thing to do is to get clean, non-echoey sounds in the first place (record surrounded by blankets and books!). But keeping reverb under control can still make a better product.

Again, add an Audio FX: Audio Units > Acon Digital > Acon Digital Deverb > Mono (or Stereo or whatever. This time, loop on a section where the speaker is talking a lot (and, maybe, loudly). Set the top section to "room reverb" and tweak the settings to do as little change as possible. It's smart to check Difference Monitoring, which lets you listen to the sounds that are being removed! That way, you can turn down the various knobs until all you hear is reverby echo, rather than the main speech.

Here, another video might help explain?

After that, you might want to add a few more tweaks. Perhaps some EQ to help open the sound up, or some de-essing (if the /s/ sound is coming off too sharp) or a de-plosive plug-in (to reduce popped /p/ sounds—Acon doesn't include one, but Izotope does). But perhaps this is enough.

What you want to add next is Compression, which deserves its own post.

 

4. Compression

Now a tricky part: Adding compression.

Compression makes loud sounds quieter. You pick a target volume, called the "threshold", and any sounds that are louder than the threshold are made quieter by a particular ratio. The greater the ratio, the more the sounds are reduced. Compressing at 2:1 will reduce things a bit, and compressing at 10:1 will even things out more aggressively. 

After you've made the loud sounds quiet, you can increase the volume of everything (which is why it also seems to make quiet sounds louder).

Before we add compression, however, we want to include a meter to show how loud things are. (Fun fact: loudness is different from volume. My understanding is that loudness is perceptual, where as volume is mathematical.) Because podcasts are listened to in suboptimal listening conditions—in cars, in subways, through cheap speakers—it's generally recommended that podcasts aim for -18 LUFS. (LUFS are a kind of loudness unit..)

Here's how to add a loudness meter: Remember how I mentioned that the right-hand column is for the output track? By default, there's a hidden track which is your final Stereo Output—it's your last chance to make any changes or meter anything before the sound goes to your ears. So this is where we want to place our loudness meter.

Add an Audio FX > Metering > Loudness Meter > Stereo.

The Loudness panel should automatically pop up. (If it doesn't, just click on the Loudness Audio FX.)

The yellow line on the panel is a convenient target, and you can drag it to wherever you want. Set it to -18.

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Notice that, because this is metering the Stereo Out, this will meter every track. Which is what you want.

And now the fun bit.

Add a compression Audio FX to each podcast guest’s track. (That'll be the left-hand column of audio effects!) Audio FX > Dynamics > Compressor > Stereo (or mono).

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[The order. from top to bottom: De-noise, de-verb, EQ, compression. The effects are applied in order from top to bottom, and you want to get everything to sound right before compressing it.] 

You'll want to locate two sections in the track you're working on—one where the speaker is saying something quietly (that you still want heard fully), and one where they're saying something loudly (laughs are good for this). Your goal is to fiddle with the knobs until both causing the loudness bars to dance around -18. It's totally fine if they go above it or below it a few notches, but you want them be focused on -18. Aim for speech to land between -12 and -24, but mostly lapping that -18 line.

There are three bars on the loudness meter, and I don't really know what they stand for, but let's say: M is for the current Moment, S is for Short-term, and I is for Integrated. That last bar only starts flickering once you've hit "Start" at the bottom, and it averages everything that has played since you hit "Start".

We're interested in keeping the middle one around -18 (or just under), and making sure the first one doesn't spike too high or too low.

Start by setting the main Threshold to -25, and the Ratio to 5. Set Auto Gain to -12 dB. Turn on the Limiter at the top and set its Threshold to, oh, -6 dB. And then listen, and tinker, until everything sounds about right.

Here, a video!

At the end of the video I discuss adding a compressor later in the process in order to make sure that, when several people are talking, they don't cumulatively make things too loud. For now, it's probably best to set up a compressor at a 1:1 ratio (i.e., no actual compression) with the Limiter on and a Threshold at... whatever seems reasonable. There is a fancier way to do this, though, which I'll get to eventually.

Have fun compressing!