How to cover up recording in different locations



How to cover up recording in different locations | PodSchool Podcast

Need to make it sound like you recorded your show in one place (when you didn’t really)?

It’s possible but it’ll depend on where you’ve recorded and how different each audio file sounds.

If one was recorded in a library and the other at a monster truck rally it might be a little tough but the key to patching up this kind of audio is to record ambient sound wherever possible.

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What’s ambient sound?

Good question!  It’s just a snazzy way of saying the sound of the space you’re recording in.

For example, if you’re recording part of your podcast in a park you’d record the sounds of the environment around you – children playing, the wind, an aeroplane flying overhead.  You don’t need to be racing around trying to capture each sound individually, you’d just sit there in silence and roll tape over whatever sounds the mic naturally picks up.  Ideally you’ll do this before your guest arrives or after they leave (it’s weird doing it while they’re there)

A park is an extreme example because it’s likely to be A LOT noisier than where you’d usually podcast but I advise recording ambient noise anytime you’re somewhere you wouldn’t usually record.

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How much ambient sound should you get?

It depends what you’re going to need it for.

If you’re just using it to cover up tiny edits e.g. if you make a cut and it’s obvious because of a change in the background noise, then 20 seconds or even less would be plenty.

In this case, you’d just take a small piece of the ambient recording and lay it under the edit like a little band-aid.  This sometimes takes a bit of tweaking but it can cover obvious edits.

If you get home and realise you want to re-record your questions because you got something wrong or spent too long getting to the point, you’ll probably need about a minute.  That way you can lay the longer piece of audio under the re-record to make it sound like the question was asked where the interview was recorded.

If you’re trying to do this I’d advise re-recording your questions in an environment as close to the original site as possible.

To stay with our park example, if you record your pickups (a fancy term for re-recorded questions) in a quiet room, it’ll be much harder to match up the audio than if you record outdoors.

Sometimes it also helps to turn on both mics instead of one…anything you can do to mimic the original recording set up can make a difference.

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Finally, if you want to make it sound like a longer piece of audio was recorded in the original location you’ll need as long an ambient recording as possible.

The problem with ambient recordings is if they’re too short you’ll need to loop them to get to the desired length.  Sometimes there’ll be sounds in that recording that repeat e.g. a car going past, a bird chirping and after a few loops, your audience will notice the recurring sounds.  Needless to say, that can get SUPER annoying so be mindful of this when you’re recording.

If you think you might need a longer track just sit there for five minutes and roll tape and if you don’t end up using it you can just delete it.  It’s a tiny bit of extra work that could come in really handy in the edit.

What if you’ve tried everything and you can’t make the audio match?

Just be honest with your audience.

There’s nothing wrong with saying “This interview was recorded in two locations so you’ll notice a change halfway through.”

Sometimes we’re scared of admitting a recording didn’t go to plan but your audience will notice, so just be upfront with them so they know it’s coming.

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What if the audio of one of the sections is terrible?

Sometimes you’ll stuff up a recording and it won’t be salvageable and in that case, you just need to chuck it out and learn from your stuff up.

If you’re lucky your guest might be ok with recording again but if not you just have to realise sometimes you have to make a really frustrating error to make sure you won’t make the same mistake again.

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Got some time on your hands? Read the full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to the show. I had a bit of a panicked email the other day from somebody who had recorded their show in two separate parts and in two separate locations and when they got to the stage where they were editing it together they realized “Well, this sounds different!”

Unfortunately, the second place they recorded was a lot noisier than the first place and they were asking me how they could make it sound like they recorded it all in one sitting. This is possible but it’s going to depend on where you’re recording and how things sound. My biggest piece of advice if you are recording somewhere different to where you usually record e.g. if you always record in your home office but you’re outside in a park or at a meeting space somewhere, that you record a bit of ambient noise. That’s just the noise of the space without any talking. So for example if you went to a park, I would go there earlier or after your guest had left and sit there with my microphone and record audio so that I can get the sound of where I am.

The reason I get that is because it can help with the edit later on. So sometimes you can edit things and if you're in a place which is particularly noisy those edits can be obvious if you cut certain things out. Sometimes just taking that clear ambient noise you have recorded and laying it under the speaking like a band aid can help to cover up those edits. The other thing that it can help with is if you need to re-record anything after the fact e.g. if you asked your guest a long winded question and you want to cut it down. You can rerecord that question in your home studio then play the audio of the place you were at underneath and with a little bit of adjusting you can get it to sound like you were actually recording there. But if you've recorded no ambient noise and you can't get back to the location where you were then you won’t have the opportunity to make this correction. If that’s the case, you just need to be open and honest with your audience. Sometimes I think we can be a bit scared, if things go wrong, of admitting we made a mistake. But your audience aren't idiots and they will hear a difference so you may as well be honest about it.

So if you are going to be recording in different locations always be mindful of recording that local ambient sound because it might come in handy later in the edit. I usually record 45 seconds or so because I don't usually need any more than that. But if you were going to do five minutes of audio somewhere else and you wanted to record five minutes of sound it's always better to have a longer track than trying to loop a shorter bit of audio. If you do that sometimes it can sound like it’s been repeated and your audience might think “haven’t I heard that car go past 98000 times?” Sometimes recording a longer bit of audio can be helpful but if you can't do that and things sound different or you've made a mistake with something just be honest. If it's really bad you might have to rerecord and that's a good lesson to learn because you won't make that mistake again. But don't be afraid to be truthful with your audience when things don't sound a certain way.

When I've recorded episodes of my podcast You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere at my home office in the summer it’s impossible to sit there with the bi-fold doors closed so I've had to open them up and every time the neighborhood comes alive. Aeroplanes go overhead and somebody’s leaf blower starts up next door, then a dog starts barking down the road. So I just refer to it, either during the conversation, or if it’s really bad I might drop a little audio note at the start of the episode. Just don't be afraid to be honest with your audience and say “Hey, this is going to sound a little bit different in the middle because I recorded this interview in two parts. I couldn't get a hold of my guest for the whole stretch so I managed to get him on one day and then on another day so excuse the jump in the middle but I hope you really enjoy the show anyway.”

It's not like the audio they're going to get in the second half is going to be so blisteringly terrible they can’t listen to it. If it is, please throw it out and start again. Just don't be afraid to let them know things have been done a little differently. You'll be surprised how willing to accept those things they are. Of course you can't do it all the time but sometimes life happens and these things need to be addressed and then you can do it right the next time not make the same mistake again.

I hope that's helped. If you've got any questions you want answered, please head to PodSchoolPodcast.com and hit me up at the contact page. If you are loving the show I would love you to leave a review in iTunes or wherever you listen. I’ll see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.


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