Recording spoiled? Don’t fix it – do it again

Hi, this is Steve Hart of the podcasting Made Easy podcast hope you having a great day. I’m the author of the book podcasting made easy if you’re new to podcasting, that’s the book you need, buy it wherever you get your books.

Now I do see quite often on the forums, people saying I recorded an interview and there’s this background noise going on. And how can I get rid of it?

Well, I’ve been there in numerous ways. As a journalist, I would take a dictaphone to an interview and it always goes wrong on the important one, of course, and I would sit there put the digital recorder on, press the record button and I’ll be so interested in the person I’m interviewing and just take scant shorthand notes.

And interview finishes shake their hand off, I go back to the office, press play on my recorder, and there’s nothing there. And you rack your brains to think ‘what did they say?’ Because you got to write your story.

I just would have to just ring them up and say, ‘Hey, it was great meeting you this morning. Unfortunately, my recorder packed up and I’ve got nothing can we can we just quickly fire through those questions again?’

And I would literally do the interview again. So we just power through the questions and get the answers down.

They’re always fine, because ultimately, they want their story in print or online or whatever it might be. And so of course they’re gracious and happy to help because, the whole point of the interview was to give them some publicity.

And so they will happily do it again. So my advice to podcasters and I’ve, as a podcaster, I’ve definitely done it.

I did do an interview and I was using Adobe Audition, and it was all looking fine. The image of the recording, you know, the spikes were all there and it looked great.

I did ‘save’ at the end of the interview and it just became a complete and utter flatline and there was nothing.

Yet the whole the spikes were there all the way through until I stopped and saved and then there was nothing there are no. So I emailed and said, ‘I’m really sorry we just spoke there’s nothing there and the recording was gone and I’ve got no explanation’.

Of course they came back said ‘okay yeah I’m really busy for the next few days…How about Friday afternoon?’.

I want the interview and so just fitted them in to do it. And the same can happen if you’ve got noise bubbling through your recording .

With modern software like audition and Pro Tools, Garage Band… yes, there’s filters and noise reduction options and plugins and all the rest of it and you could spend a week trying to fix it up to make it presentable so you can play it, but it’s compromise all the way down the line.

When I used to make documentaries, in my mind was always that phrase ‘get it in the can’, which is a phrase that goes back to filmmaking. Get it in the can, get it in on film, and the film goes in the can – because it’s much easier to get it in the can, ie record it right first time, rather than chasing and fixing and wasting your time and compromising and the stress that goes with it.

So yeah, we have a great set of tools with modern digital recording apps that allow us to do super things, but they shouldn’t be used to get yourself out of jail. They shouldn’t be used to fix up things that have gone wrong. They’re there really to enhance what you’ve recorded.

But I think once you start going down that track of ‘I’ll reduce the base here, or if I add that noise reduction filter there and fiddle fit or fiddle, fiddle, fiddle’, the hours slip away and you end up with a muddy sounding horrible podcast that you know you’re not happy with….And so my advice is do the interview again.

Okay, if you can fix it in a quick sweep of a noise reduction filter, where you’re just using a hint of that filter to reduce perhaps a bit of hiss that may have come from somewhere. If you think you can knock it off in half an hour. Yeah, of course do that.

But if you’re up against some awful background noise, and you know, you’re never going to get rid of it and it’s compromising the whole recording to try and fix it. Honestly, just create a new file and contact your interviewee and say, ‘hey it went wrong – can we do it again?’

Sometimes it’s no one’s fault. It’s just the way it goes. Just redo the interview.

That’s my advice. Been there, done that.