If you want something doing...
Despite incredible AI advances and predictions for the future, when it comes to creativity and artistic flair, us humans are still pretty much needed. And this absolutely counts in the world of podcasts.
Yes, the clever algorithms get to know what you like, insert appropriate targeted adverts and can report back exactly how much of a podcast you listened to - but when it comes to content and audio quality, it's best to leave it in the hands of the humans.
So here's my plea to you in this blog... DON'T use automatic level control, automatic noise gates... at least, not on the initial recording.
This plea comes as a result of a client recording their dry audio into Garageband (and there's nowt wrong with that, it's a great bit of free Apple software) but had clicked on both auto level control and a noise gate. The result was a worsened audio quality with the background noise more prevalent than it would have been with the box unticked and the noise gate taking out half of the breaths but leaving the other half in resulting in strange sudden sounds of the breath, half way through, clicking back to complete silence a millisecond later.
Is there anything wrong with some kind of level control, a 'gate' or indeed any other audio treatment? Absolutely not. But not on the SOURCE audio. Leave all those options to the mix later (which you can learn yourself or can hand over to someone like Verbu). Because if the source audio has a problem , it's a lot harder to fix or in some cases, impossible to fix.
If you're recording, set the recording levels manually. You should be peaking towards the top end of green/yellow (the colour may depend on your software) but just shy of peaking in the red. Too much in the red and you'll be distorted, too little green and it will be horribly quiet (and possibly 'noisier' when you boost it back up to normal level). There will be few situations you find yourself in where this isn't the ideal setup. Just make sure the levels are right each time you record.
Then, whether you're using Audacity, Garageband, Pro Tools, whatever to edit and/or mix your source audio, have a play with the settings and 'plug ins' to get it sounding just right.
If there's a noisy background, try using an audio gate (just imagine the audio equivalent of a farm gate where the smaller, more irritating animals can't get under or over it, but the bigger creatures can... the small animals are your hiss, rumble, mouth noises etc. whilst your big beasts are the words that you're speaking).
If it's lacking in bass or treble, you can tweak that with 'EQ'. Also if the words aren't as clear as you would like, tweak the 'mid range' frequencies where the clarity of the words being spoken can be found.
Compression squashes everything down nicely and often helps a piece of music blend with any speech over the top of it - and can create a consistency of sound across the podcast.
Conversely, normalisation takes the loudest point of your recording and averages the entire file out - so some of the quieter bits get boosted and it is a slightly smoother listen.
I could go on for many pages on plug ins and effects - and perhaps I'll go into more detail on the basics another time.
But for now, when you're recording your source audio, don't trust automation. The robots aren't going to take over just yet. If you want something done well, for now, do it yourself!