How To Edit An Audio File With Audacity

15th March 2020 No comments

Several years ago we were commissioned to produce a series of training videos in a foreign language. This involved bringing foreign language voice-over artists into our VO booth here in Southampton and recording their scripts. There were hours and hours of voice-over recordings to go through.

At first we sat down with our interpreters and edited the voice-overs with their help, but we quickly realised it was more effective to train them on the basics of audio editing so that they could cut out any obvious mistakes (like “fluffs” and other errors) before our editors added the voice-overs to the videos.

Hence, I recorded this quick video explaining how to edit audio files in Audacity, a free audio editing application for PC and Mac. You can download it here.

We weren’t originally planning to release this to the public, which is why I recorded it using the built-in microphone on my computer (sorry for the loud cursor clicks), but in hindsight I’m aware that this tutorial could be useful for anybody recording their own voice-overs before sending them to us to edit into a video.

The tutorial is designed to start after a voice-over has been recorded, when you have an audio file with the recording saved on your computer. You can record audio directly with Audacity if you choose to, but that’s not our workflow here at Southpoint Films, so that process isn’t covered in this video.

A quick note...

Please be aware that this tutorial doesn’t cover audio treatment, like boosting volume, EQ, compression or noise reduction.

If you’re interesting in making your audio recordings sound better, why not get in touch with our team who are experts in audio production for video? We’re happy to help with any editing requirements. Contact us.

If you can’t watch the video, here’s what you need to know…

Setting up your Audacity project

A Blank Audacity Project
A blank Audacity project

When you open Audacity you’ll be shown a blank audacity project. You’ll need to start by importing your audio file. You can do this by going to “File” → “Import” → “Audio”. This will let you browse your computer’s file system to find the audio file and import it.

Or, if you know where the file is, and you have it available in a Finder or Windows Explorer window, you can drag and drop the audio file into the dark grey section of the Audacity window.

Importing a file into Audacity
Importing a file into Audacity brings up an option menu.

When you import your file you’ll be asked to confirm how you’d like the file to be imported. You can copy the file into Audacity, or you can use the original file that you imported. Making a copy is safer, and should be selected by default, so we suggest sticking with this.

Press OK to confirm and continue with the editing. The file will import and you’ll now be able to see a blue waveform in the middle of your window.

Audacity Window With Waveform
The file has been imported, as you can see by the blue waveform in the middle of the window.

The Audacity interface can be a bit overwhelming to new users, with lots of buttons that aren’t entirely clear with what they do. Thankfully you won’t need to touch most of these to make simple edits.

You’ll mainly be using the “Selection” tool, pictured below. This tool will let you edit the waveform (the squiggly blue bit).

The Selection Tool In Audacity
The selection tool in Audacity

You can also use the magnifying glass icons with a plus and minus to zoom and in out of the waveform, making it easier to make precise edits.

Playback

To play the audio, use the selection tool and click on the waveform. The playhead (the black line) will appear where you click. This is where your audio will play from. You can use the magnifying glass buttons to zoom in and out to help with making your selection.

The playhead in Audacity shows where your audio will play from
The playhead (the black bar) shows where your audio will play from

To play your audio, press the space bar on your computer’s keyboard. You can press the space bar again to pause playback.

You can also use the buttons at the top left of the window to control playback, and to move the playhead to the start and end of the project.

Troubleshooting

If you can’t hear anything, use the drop-down menu on the righthand side, which in my screenshot says “Built-In Output”. Make sure that the audio is coming out of your speakers or headphones. Some computers may have unusual audio setups that take over this setting.

Editing The Audio

To edit your audio, click on the waveform where you want to make your edit. Keep holding down your mouse button and drag to select the section of audio you want to remove. You can drag in either direction; forwards or backwards.

Click and drag to select a portion of audio to delete
Click and drag to select a portion of audio to delete. Your selection will be highlighted like this.

To remove this piece of audio, hit the backspace button your keyboard.

If you make a mistake you can press the “undo” button below the playback buttons. You can use the “redo” button next to it to restore your edit if you press the “undo” button by mistake. You can also find these functions in the “Edit” menu for the application.

Saving and Exporting

Once you’ve edited your audio file to remove any errors and mistakes, it’s time to save the project and export the audio file.

To save the project, which will allow you to come back later and make further edits, go to the “File” menu and choose “Save Project As…”

This process does not save your project as an audio file that we can use in a video.

To save an audio file, return to the “File” menu, choose “Export Audio” and select the location on your computer where you want to save the audio file. Make sure you know where this is so that you can send the file to us later!

At the bottom of your screen you’ll have format options. In our experience the best option is “WAV (Microsoft) signed 16-bit PCM”

Exporting an audio file from Audacity

Press save to export your audio file. It might take a few minutes to do this. Then send it over to the producer at Southpoint Films working on your project via Dropbox, WeTransfer or a similar service. (We can always help with this.)

We hope you found this useful and look forward to receiving your voice-over recordings soon!

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