How I edit podcasts with Apple Pencil on iPad Pro

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The Apple Pencil is your secret weapon for podcast editing.
The Apple Pencil is your secret weapon for podcast editing.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

In parts one and two of this series, I talked about how I record podcasts on the iPad. In today’s third and final episode, we’ll learn about editing. For this, I use the awesome Ferrite Recording Studio, and Apple Pencil, and a pair of headphones. Let’s get started.

The story so far…

This is the third and final part of our series on recording and editing podcasts using just iOS devices — no Mac required. Part one showed how I record podcasts using just the iPad and part two we went through the apps I use for recording. Today we’ll look at a few editing tips. What this won’t be is a feature-by-feature breakdown of Ferrite. The built-in help pages are fantastic, and easy to read.

Instead, I’ll just cover some setup tips, and tell you how I use the app.

The gear

For podcast editing, I use the following gear:

  • iPad with Ferrite.
  • Apple Pencil
  • Wired headphones (and appropriate dongle for the USB-C iPad Pro).
  • A cushion.

The cushion is where I place my iPad, bringing it up to a good height on my lap. The wired headphones mean that there’s no delay when stopping and starting the audio, which you’ll be doing a lot. I use the Sony MDR 7506 over-ear headphones, which are excellent, and inexpensive. They’re studio headphones, which means you’ll hear every intake of breath, and every mouth noise.

The Apple Pencil isn’t totally essential, but it makes such a difference to the ease of editing that I’d say that even if you only use the Pencil for podcast editing, it’s worth the price. But more on that in a bit.

Getting your audio ready

For The Uncanny Alley Podcast, we do a double-ender recording. Both Andrea and me record our audio locally, and then Andrea sends it to me afterwards. I also record his FaceTimeaudio at my end, both as a backup, and so I can sync his audio to mine.

Step one is to make all the audio clips roughly the same level. I detail this in the post on apps, but the gist is that I normalize my audio to maximize its volume, without actually changing it.

Effectively, normalizing just takes the loudest parts of the audio and stretches them out to hit the top and bottom of the graph. That is, it makes the loud parts as loud as possible, and the rest fits in to that. This is why I record in 24-bit, because that means there’s more info in the smaller audio waveform.

Andrea’s audio is always recorded too hot, so this helps me match up the levels before I begin. For normalizing, I use AudioShare, which is an essential iOS audio app.

AudioShare

Price: $3.99

Download: AudioShare from the App Store (iOS)

Next step, importing audio into Ferrite.

Templates and sync

You can import audio into Ferrite in all kinds of ways, form AirDrop to Dropbox to drag-and-drop from the Files app. Once it’s in, just select the files you want to use, and create a new project. In version 2.0, you can save project templates, which are worth using. These let you save everything about a project apart from the actual audio — you can keep theme tunes in there, per-track EQ Settings, podcast artwork and metadata, and more. This cuts out most of the busywork required with each new episode.

In my case, I have four tracks. Three are the new audio (me, Andrea, and the backup FaceTime version of Andrea), plus the little guitar riff we use after the intro. Once these are loaded up, I mute everything but Andrea’s two tracks, and slide his good-quality audio to sync with his FaceTime audio. I do a quick check at the end of the podcast to make sure it’s also synced there (audio can sometime drift), and when I’m happy, I delete his FaceTime audio, and I un-mute my audio.

I also apply some EQ to my voice. On it’s own, my recording sounds good, but when running alongside Andrea’s audio, mine needs a little extra bite. I use Ferrite’s built-in equalizer to add a little boost in the upper-midrange.

The edit

Next up is the edit itself, which is surprisingly easy with fingers and a Pencil. First, I apply Ferrite’s Strip Silence command. This removes any sections that are silent, or near silent. That leaves the audio looking like this, with islands of sound on the timeline:

The timeline with silence stripped.
The timeline with silence stripped.
Photo: Cult of Mac

You can see how useful this is. As you let the audio play, you can see little sections set into the silence. These are sometimes “ums” and “ahs” of agreement, but more often they’re breaths, coughs, sniffs, or unsuccessful attempts to interrupt the current speaker. I just let the episode play, and when I see one of these, I let it pass by the playhead to check what it is, and then cut it out on-the-fly, with the Apple Pencil.

It’s also easy to fix those times where one person speaks over another. If they say something dumb, or if they try and give up, then you can slice it out. If they make a good point, then you can pause the playback, and slide their comment along a bit, so they can be a heard after the other person is done.

Surgical slicing

A quick swipe of the Apple Pencil cuts out a section of audio.
A quick swipe of the Apple Pencil cuts out a section of audio.
Photo: Cult of Mac

 

The Apple Pencil makes this super-duper easy. You can assign all kinds of actions to the Apple Pencil, and to your finger taps and swipes (Ferrite also has fantastic keyboard support if you prefer). For instance, to remove one of those islands of audio I mention above, you just draw a line leftwards over it. That deletes it. It’s so easy and accurate that you can do it without pausing playback.

The surgical precision of the Apple Pencil also makes removing sections of audio easy. Just pinch out to zoom the section you’re interested in, and use the pencil to draw a selection around the part you want to cut out.

My shortcuts and gestures

Lots of customization options.
Lots of customization options.
Photo: Cult of Mac

You can customize finger gestures, keyboard shortcuts, and Apple Pencil gestures to do exactly what you want. I have a two-finger tap set to play/pause the audio, so I don’t have to use the play button — the whole screen becomes a play button.

For the Pencil, I have Quick Delete enabled (the above-mentioned slice-to-delete), as well as Quick Select (for cutting out sections). The real neat part, though, is what you can do with the Apple Pencil 2’s double-tap gesture: literally anything. You can assign any of Ferrite’s available actions to the double-tap. All the keyboard shortcuts and all the finger gestures are available.

Look at all these available shortcuts!
Look at all these available shortcuts!
Photo: Cult of Mac

I have mine set to Select All Following All Tracks. This does what it says: it selects all audio on all tracks following the currently-selected clip. It sounds esoteric, but I have a good reason for it.

If I cut out a section of audio, sometimes I want to grab all the following audio and drag it back into the gap I created. You can do this automatically (using the ripple delete), but that only works when you make the cut. Often I find I need to make a few edits, and then pull the remaining audio back to cover the gap.

I set this as a shortcut as I found myself reaching for the keyboard shortcut quite often.

Finishing up

There’s still the matter of titling the show, and adding notes and chapter markers, but that’s all covered in the help files. I do have one more note on exporting audio, though.

I export audio in at Mono Medium VBR setting, which sounds great for spoken podcasts. But before I get there, I have to navigate the options for the Final Mix. This lets you apply auto-leveling to the finished podcast, to make sure nobody is louder than anyone else, amongst other things. I leave this off. Usually I have already fixed this, and the auto-leveling also appears to add some compression, which can increase the noise in quiet sections.

If required, I will normalize again in AudioShare.

And that’s it. Before you publish the episode, make sure to listen to it on earbuds, and through the iPhone’s own speaker. It may sound quite different to how it does on your fancy headphones. Also skip to another podcast without changing the volume on your iPhone, to make sure your final file isn’t too quiet or too loud.