Every few weeks, if you hang around podcasting forums and groups long enough, you’ll see someone raise the question, “What software do you use to record and mix your show?”
The usual contenders come up. You’ll see references to Audacity, Garageband, Adobe Audition, Reaper, and a few others. I was a Garageband man myself when it came to the final mix of my shows. Audacity has always been my tool of choice for editing. It’s because they were both free when I started out and didn’t take too long to master. I came to love Garageband for its ability to add adjustable fades and transitions. So when the question was asked I proudly commented, “I’m committed to Garageband.”
Until the day I cheated on Garageband.
It started casually enough. A response someone wrote to a long lost question caught my eye. In it the responder mentioned Hindenburg Journalist. I knew what the Hindenburg was. A crashed dirigible right? A tragedy made famous by the journalist who documented the events in a voice dripping with horror. Hmmm…. Hindenburg Journalist, huh. A picture accompanied the response as well. It featured a screen with the familiar sight of tracks and waveforms. If you’re a podcaster or mixing engineer it is one of those images that never fails to catch your eye. So I dug a little deeper. I eventually found myself knocking on the door at http://hindeburg.com and downloading a trial version of the software. Was it because I wasn’t happy with Garageband? No, not at all. I think I was a little bored. I was looking for some spice.
A day later, one day into my 30 day trial, I bought the software. It wasn’t cheap, but it certainly wasn’t as expensive as some of the other options out there.
To add insult to Garageband’s injury, I moved all of the tracks from my current project into Hindenburg Journalist and quietly told GB that it was all over. “It’s not you,” I said. “It’s me.” I didn’t have the heart to say that I’d met someone new.
So what it is it about Hindenburg Journalist that stole my heart? One word… “Organization”. I’m a very organized person and I am constantly, and I do mean constantly, looking for ways to streamline my workflow. Not a day goes by that doesn’t find me creating templates, or new ways to manage the many projects I have going on at any given moment. Journalist allows for all of the things that Garageband does but what sealed the deal for me is the fact that it’s geared towards those of us who produce shows focused on narrative. Think This American Life and Radiolab, or my own modest offering Evolution Talk. This is where Journalist shines. A typical episode that I produce contains twenty audio files or more. These represent the narration, voice artists, music, effects, and show branding files. What Journalist allows me to do is add these files into an organized structure using ‘clipboards’. I usually start with clipboards called “Narration”, “VO”, “Music”, “Effects”. This is where I place the files I will eventually use in the show. Journalist contains another “permanent” clipboard called “Favorites”. “Favorites” travels with me from project to project and contains those bits of audio that are used in every show (like the show opening, closing, etc.).
From the virtual clipboards within Journalist I simply drag the clip I need into its respective track. The software provides an almost overwhelming amount of shortcuts to edit and move clips around. It will seem daunting at first but, take it from someone who strives to keep things simple and efficient without taking away from quality, they are easy to master and you will quickly find yourself using only a subset of them.
Journalist also has a remarkable ability to auto-adjust clip volumes. This scared me at first. Don’t mess with my audio. Surprisingly though, I soon found myself relying on it. It is of course adjustable and can be tweaked at will.
I’ve been using Journalist to produce Evolution Talk for a couple of months now (and Who Said Anything About Free Will? , a new audio drama scheduled for launch in late March 2015). I’ve never looked back. Do I feel guilty? Yes. But that’s only because every now and then my eye drifts to the dock at the bottom of my screen and settles upon the Garageband icon. I haven’t had the heart to remove it.