Recording into Audacity can be fun and easy. But organizing the projects, especially if you have many episodes, can seem overwhelming. Here are several to help you keep things organized.
Whenever I say, “project,” this can also apply to a podcast episode.
This topic was inspired by John Wilkerson from The Wired Homeschool.
Organize your thoughts
A great podcast starts with great planning, even for “off-the-cuff” comedy.
Document ideas immediately
Inspiration can hit when you’re falling asleep, driving on your commute, or even sitting in church. If you don’t record at least the essence of this idea, you’ll lose it.
Use a note-taking app like Evernote or SpringPad
I’m a fan of productivity tools that actually help me be productive. A lot of people swear by Evernote, but I felt it was far too limited. Instead, I use SpringPad to capture pictures, audio files, notes, web links, and more for all of my projects.
Collaborate with others via Google Docs
I think Google Docs has the best real-time document collaboration! Use this for planning your podcast with cohosts and taking notes live while recording.
Write your shownotes before you record
Writing your shownotes for publication before you record provides a great outline for recording and helps you stay on topic. This also significantly reduces the time between recording and publishing.
Organize your files
Organizing your audio or video project is crucial. This also makes archiving and later retrieval much easier.
Create a folder for each project/episode
Start each project by making a folder just for it. If you have episodic content, create subfolders for each episode.
Name these folders sequentially and descriptively, for example (from my Christian movie reviews podcast):
- 30-The Amazing Spider-Man
- 32-The Dark Knight Rises
Collect all audio, videos, and pictures
Inside of each folder, include everything unique to this project/episode, for example:
- video clips,
- sound effects,
- original recordings,
- final media files, and
- planning notes (if not online).
- regular theme music,
- logo files,
- blank templates,
- segment transitions,
- or anything else you consistently use across projects.
Keep an unedited, unprocessed recording
However you record your audio or video, keep that raw recording as a backup. I’ve had several podcast episodes where I edited, processed, published, and then discovered a significant error that I could only fix by going back to my original recording.
If the uncompressed WAV files are too big, consider converting them to mono if you’ll never need the stereo.
Save your final media files
Even if you completely trust your media host (like LibSyn, Blubrry, or someone else), keep your own copy of the final file. This makes it easy for you to share, relisten, reference, or re-upload the file in the future. This is especially important for video projects where the encoding can take a long time.
You can delete transitional files, like a finalized WAV that you use for encoding to MP3 (such as Audacity to iTunes to MP3).
Organize your editor
Audio and video editing programs are different. But if you learn how to organize your projects within the programs, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and make things easier.
I still use Audacity to edit my audio podcasts, so I’ll use this as my primary example.
Name your tracks
As soon as you get more than one audio or video track, it’s possible to be confused by what’s what. Name your tracks in logical, flexible ways to help you. Here are some examples.
- Voice—just you or the mixed recording of your and your cohosts.
- Sounds—for intro/outro music, sound effects, or anything other than voices.
- [First name], [First name], [First name]—if you record multiple people in separate tracks, name their tracks by their names so you can instantly see whose audio or video you’re editing.
- Guest/voicemail—call-ins or voicemail recordings will likely be a different quality than your own. Keeping these on a separate track makes processing easier and more specific.
- Background—music, video, pictures, or anything you consider “background” in your project.
In Audacity, click on the Track Control Panel’s drop-down menu and click “Name…” to rename the track.
Develop a consistent track order
In addition to naming your tracks, your vertical stacking will also help organize and simplify. I order my tracks in “priority”: voices on the top track(s), sounds and background underneath.
In Audacity, simply click on the Track Control Panel and drag the track vertically to re-order it.
Sync-Lock Tracks (or similar) for editing multitrack
In a multitrack project, removing time (whether audio or silence) from one track will affect the alignment with everything else. Learn your editing program’s method for preventing this by enabling a track synchronization lock, or making your selection across multiple tracks.
There are three ways you could do this in Audacity:
- Enable Sync-Lock Track to make any timing-related changes in one track affect all other tracks.
- Drag your selection vertically across all tracks you want to affect.
- Split-delete (Cmd-Opt-K on OS X, Ctrl-Alt-K on Windows) audio to prevent it from affecting the current track or any other tracks.
Some editing programs allow you to create a “label track” that can hold annotations at points along your timeline. This can help you find locations in larger projects.
Some audio recorders, such as the Zoom H4n (what I use), allow you to create a mark at a certain time in your recording. More advanced apps can read these marks like chapters or bookmarks. Unfortunately, Audacity doesn’t support this.
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— Daniel J. Lewis (@theDanielJLewis) July 30, 2012
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