Editor's Blog: Eugene Riffs on Audacity's Audacity & the Mendacity of Making Good Podcasts

Editor's Blog: Eugene Riffs on Audacity's Audacity & the Mendacity of Making Good Podcasts


I used to have a friend who when he was in his medical residency would routinely “fake” his way through actual live surgical procedures. It’d go something like this.

Real Doctor: We need to do a ramalamadingdongsectomy, do you know how to do this?
My Friend: Um…yeah!


And he’d start, after having gotten scrubbed down, with what seemed to be the best way to cut out the Ramalamadingdong.


Real Doctor: What the hell are you doing? You don’t start with that, you start with this…
My Friend: Oh. Oh YEAHHHH…


And because of his great powers of intuition he’d pull through, not having accidentally murdered any hapless patients or even diminished their quality of life very much. So it was when I got a call from another friend of mine whose great successes in the music field had put him in a position to be able to afford to do generally genius and forward-looking stuff with his spare time.


“I want you to do an eight-track mix involving music, interviews and possibly video for this NPR-esque show I’m doing on line. Do you know how to do this?




“Great. Get it to me by Wednesday. Oh. By the way: there’s no budget for this.”


Perfect. OK. How to fake it. Well, first I’m sporting a PowerBook G4 running Panther (Mac OS X 10.3.9). No GarageBand. But I had a better idea. An audacious idea. I, in fact, had heard tell of a free (the magic word here), open source bit of software used specifically for recording and editing sounds actually called Audacity.


So I downloaded the app, completely ignored the directions and jumped into to record some Beethoven and mix it into an intro with some music from a heavy metal band named Stigmata. The title bumper for the recording lasted about a minute and 20 seconds and off we went. The interface should be familiar to anyone who’s had even the most passing fancy for recording software. It was easy, especially if by “easy” you mean not a problem for me to blab about this that and the other, while playing music betwixt and between my running commentaries. And once I edited out dogs barking and the phone ringing in the middle (note to self: turn it off), I was left with a fairly pristine recording.


ONE down, seven more to go...


But what the hell was that? Ahhh, crap: fan noise. Thirty-eight minutes of whirring as my PowerBook tries to cool itself. Which…since we’re going for gritty, sort of works. In any case it’s not going to slow me down before I get to the video.


And the call: “Forget the video for now. You’re done. Just get it to me.”


Well timed: Audacity doesn’t work so well, or make that AT ALL, with video as far as I can tell (a fact that more in likely will drive me back to GarageBand). But getting it to him? Perhaps a little easier said then done. Saved as an AIFF file out of Audacity’s proprietary file format, it’s still going to resist being sent through the usual email suspects. We move over to yousendit.com, a kind of FTP thing for the rest of us. That craps out. Finally we settle on Fetch. Eighteen minutes later, having spent exactly one minute assiduously ignoring any extant instructions I have mixed eight tracks of audio, free-floating commentary, and delivered it into the ether and the eventual hands of a cash-free new media broadcaster.


Nothing earth shattering here, but the patient didn’t die, isn’t disfigured, and my claim to intuitive fame and never reading a direction I liked, is intact.


“Great. It sounds great. Could you do 10 more like this?”




You’re only cheating yourself? Not even.




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