Technology: audio editing software

Hearing the difference

How audio editing software can help radio journalists and podcasters

Technology is helping journalists pump up the volume on reporting. Photo credit: Anton Ponomarev on unsplash
By Julianna Photopoulos

Technology is constantly changing the way audio journalists produce stories. Easier-to-use audio editing software, such as Hindenburg, is helping radio journalists and podcasters produce better work. “What the Hindenburg software is doing is really acting as a virtual sound engineer so to speak, so it’s helping you along seamlessly without you actually noticing it,” says Nick Dunkerley, creative director and founder of Hindenburg. Dunkerley is coordinating a Hindenburg masterclass at the ECSJ on 30 June 2017 to show journalists how to pump up the volume on their reporting.

Dunkerley argues that it’s a real challenge for audio journalists to engage their listeners in terms of both story and sound quality. “You can’t focus on audio engineering and focus on being a great storyteller. You can’t do everything on your own, so this is where tools like Hindenburg come into play,” he says.

Most audio software is made for music production. Hindenburg is designed specifically to enable journalists to produce radio or podcasts. “Journalists have a completely different approach to editing audio: they have ideas in their head that they’d like to get down onto tape, but they don’t necessarily know how to do that,” explains Dunkerley. “If we can make it easier for journalists to be focused on what they’re really good at — the storytelling side of it — then we as listeners will benefit from that.”

The power of tools

New technology aims to make it easier, more efficient and more affordable to produce radio or podcasts, and to improve how they sound. “It has definitely influenced my productions for the better, as has Hindenburg, which I’m using as well,” says radio journalist Thomas Reintjes, who strongly believes that software — especially artificial intelligence software — helps to shape his work.

And although software can’t replace recording sessions in a studio, it can help a journalist get a better sense of the story before spending time and money on recording and mixing, adds Reintjes. Trint and Descript, for example, link transcripts with audio to help journalists see their material in written and audio form simultaneously.

“Many editors edit my scripts only in written form and therefore don’t get a good sense of what the produced story will sound like,” says Reintjes. “Software that combines the text and audio layers could help make more audio-driven editing decisions.” Moreover, software can always improve. Reintjes believes that if the variety of tools for different purposes “could talk to each other or import each other’s content, they’d become much more powerful.”

To tool or not to tool?

The bottom line is that having good tools can make all the difference. “If a tool makes the technical part easier and streamlines it, that frees resources for the creative part of my job,” explains Reintjes. “You can be the most skilled craftsman in the world, but without the right tools you will never produce a masterpiece.”

We must not forget, however, that “looking for the story, getting the right voices, asking the right questions or structuring it properly and so on, all come from the person, not the editing software,” says award-winning audio producer Max Sanderson. According to Sanderson, the benefit of “this kind of easier-to-use editing software is the freedom to play around with the way in which you choose to frame narratives and interweave them.”

Dunkerley hopes that ultimately, with software such as Hindenburg, better audio segments will be produced by happier journalists, who feel more comfortable working with audio, and who find the available tools helpful, not confusing. “I hope that technology will make it possible for journalists to enjoy being audio journalists,” he concludes.