Log in

16 February 2016 @ 10:49 pm
GarageBand Tutorial  
@blackglass said she knew a newbie podficcer who was struggling to figure out GarageBand and could use a basic tutorial, so I thought I'd give it a try. Not that I'm an expert -- I'm sure I only know 1% of the potential features -- but I'll write up my process here, and please feel free to suggest better ways of doing things in the comments.

Step 1: Recording

a. Set up your microphone
GarageBand really, really doesn't like it when you change sound options while it's open. If you're going to add or remove a microphone, close GarageBand first. It will still give you a really bitchy message for having the audacity (heh, *audacity*) to change microphones on it, but that is its own issue, and I hope some day it gets therapy and finds a place of healing.

If GarageBand is having trouble recognizing your microphone:
1.) Make sure it's for realsies plugged in and also not muted (I HAVE DONE THIS FIVE MILLION TIMES)
2.) Close GarageBand and go to System Preferences -> Sound. Make sure your computer is correctly recognizing the microphone. If not, the problem is with your microphone or your computer, not GarageBand, and is thus beyond the scope of this tutorial.
3.) Reopen GarageBand. That probably fixed the problem. If not, go to GarageBand -> Preferences -> Audio/MIDI and make sure things are set up correctly there. If this does not fix the problem... My solution is usually to Google the problem, ask Twitter, and cry, in roughly that order.

b. Press 'Record' and start reading
The Record button, the Stop button, and File -> Save are hopefully pretty obvious. If they are not, I suppose I can elaborate on this section of the tutorial with pictures.

c. Edit on the fly

The little vertical bar down the screen is called the "playhead". I know this because I am very smart and well-informed and totally not because I just Googled it for this primer. Anyway, wherever the playhead is, when you press Play or Record, that is where it will start playing or recording. Be careful that you don't move the playhead back and then press Record, because you will record over the previous audio.

When it comes to editing, though, the playhead is your best friend. If, say, mid-line a dog starts barking or a train comes by, press Stop, wait for the noise to die down, move the playhead back to before the noise started, hit Record again, and repeat those lines. The noise-filled lines will be overwritten, leaving a seamless transition to the second take.

Some people -- people with far faster reflexes and much better hand-eye coordination than I -- have taught themselves to edit on the fly. Flub a line? No problem! No need to press Stop or make cuts or anything. Just leave GarageBand recording, grab the playhead, move it back to the beginning of that line, and repeat the line. The flub will be instantly overwritten.

d. Export to Auphonic
Once I have my first take, before I start editing, I like to run the file through Auphonic. Auphonic seems to give me the cleanest sound if I use it before I start making cuts to the audio.

Go to Share -> Export Song to Disc -> and save the file. I usually save it as .aiff, because that is a lossless format, so I like to imagine there is a difference in ultimate sound quality, even though I cannot hear it.

I run the .aiff file through Auphonic and export it as an .aiff with a Target Loudness of -20 LUFS. I have recently started using -20 LUFS because -16 LUFS is the industry standard for podcasts and radio, but podfic fandom seems to prefer to record at MUCH MUCH QUIETER volumes, so -20 seems to be a happy medium. It won't blow your speakers out if you just finished listening to a quieter podficcer, but it will still be audible if you've just been listening to a podcast or the radio.

e. Import the audio back into GarageBand

When I'm editing, I like to have three tracks: one muted track with the original audio, just in case I do something dumb while I'm editing; one main track that will end up with the final, edited audio; and one blank track to use as a holding space for little bits and pieces of audio I need to move or copy or otherwise tweak. So my usual process goes:
1.) Click Track -> New Track with Duplicate Settings
2.) Mute my original raw recording (probably labeled 'Audio 1' by GarageBand) by clicking the Mute button on the left side of that audio track (lit up blue in the above screenshot). You can double click on the name and rename it something like 'Raw' or 'Backup' or 'Original' if you are going to be working with multiple tracks and will need the reminder of which one is which.
3.) Click on the new track you just created (probably 'Audio 2'). This will make it the active track, so any changes you make will happen here. I recommend clicking on 'Audio 2' to rename it 'Final' or 'Edited' or something else to help you remember what it is.
4.) Find the new shiny Auphonic-improved audio file wherever you saved it on your computer. Copy it, then click back to GarageBand, then Paste it. It should get pasted to whichever track is the active track, wherever the playhead is placed -- so, probably at the very beginning of the 'Final' track.
5.) Click Track -> New Track with Duplicate Settings and create a blank track. Then name it something original like 'Blank'. This is an empty space you can use to hold clips until you find a home for them.
6.) Repeat this process for each additional track you will need. If three podficcers contributed audio to this podfic, create tracks for each of them, name them 'Podficcer A's Name', 'Podficcer B's Name', and 'Podficcer C's Name', then copy-paste their audio into each track.

[Edit: 7.) I also usually create a separate track for each song and for sound effects.]

Step 2: Editing

There are four buttons on the upper-left corner of GarageBand that you use to edit.

a. Library
Click on this button to add filters and sound effects to your audio. I mostly use Legacy -> GarageBand -> Podcasting -> Female Narrator Noisy or Female Radio Noisy to clean up my sound. But play around in here if you want to put effects on some of your audio.

Note: if you click on a filter, it will only be applied to the currently selected track. So if you only want this filter to apply to Suzy's voice, put Suzy's lines in a track of their own and set the effect there. The other tracks will be unaffected. This is useful for, say, giving one character a robot voice, or bumping up the audio on one podficcer who is a lot quieter than the rest.

b. Help
Not actually that helpful. Which I am sure comes as a terrible shock to you.

c. Smart Controls
If the filters in the Library don't work for you, you can play around in here to get even better sound. I mostly stay out of here because it confuses me, sorry. Although if you click around in here you can turn on echo and reverb and do all kinds of cool things to your sound. This is where the EQ and plug-in options are, if you are the kind of person who knows how those work.

d. Editors
This will open a window at the bottom of your screen where you do the actual audio editing.

Note: If this button is lit up, when you press Play the screen will move along with the audio. If it is dark, when you press Play the audio will keep playing but your screen won't change. Sometimes it turns off by itself and I have no idea why and it's really annoying. Just click on it to get your screen to track with your current audio position again. There are TWO of these buttons, one for the Main view at the top and one for the Editor window at the bottom, so you can turn them on or off separately.

1.) Press Play.
2.) Any noise you want to cut (dogs, cars, mouse clicks, etc.), click and drag your mouse to select it in the Editor window on the bottom, then press Delete. It will disappear.
3.) Repeat a line? In the Editor window on the bottom, click to the left of where the second take starts, then hit Delete to make a cut in the audio track. Then in the Main audio window at the top, drag the righthand audio bubble to the left so that it covers and overwrites the first take of the line.
4.) Are lines too close together or too far apart? In the Editor window at the bottom, click where the problem is, hit Delete to make a cut, then in the Main window on top click and drag the little audio bubbles until the lines are spaced apart the way you like.

5.) At the end of the audio track, there will be a line separating the bright side on the left and the dark side on the right. This is where the audio will cut off when you export the file. So drag this line until about 2 seconds after the end of your podfic. Don't leave any audio you want people to hear on the dark side, but don't leave 10 minutes of blank space on the bright side either.

6.) Need to re-record? Mute every track except for your Blank track. Click on the Blank track to select it. Move the playhead to whatever time the original line was at. Hit Record and say the line. Stop the recording. Listen to what you've recorded and re-record as necessary. Then you can click-drag-delete the original line and drag the new line into its place. I sometimes leave re-recorded lines in the Blank track because sound quality will be slightly different from the original, and it will need different EQ, filter, and volume settings than my Edited track so that listeners can't hear the re-record.

Okay, it's waaaaay past my bedtime, so I'll leave off here. I'll explain how to add in sound effects and change the volume and stuff like that in a later post.

Please feel free to comment if you have an easier way of doing any of this!

You can also find Part 2 here.
chasingriverchasingriver on February 17th, 2016 05:40 am (UTC)
Wow, this is amazing, thank you. The image links are broken for me, but this is still an incredible wealth of information and I can't wait to give it a try. I've looked at GarageBand before and almost immediately gotten frustrated and gone back to Audacity -- which is now flaking out and dropping samples on me. So this is very timely and useful. So very much appreciated!
happyhanabihappyhanabi on February 17th, 2016 12:57 pm (UTC)
Are the images working now? I thought I'd fixed the problem...

Let me know if anything is unclear or vague. Happy podficcing!
chasingriverchasingriver on February 17th, 2016 05:23 pm (UTC)
Yep, that fixed the images, thanks!