Tutorial: In the Fade

Hey everyone, Kole here with a super technical video and writeup.

I was just editing this week's Abject Suffering, which features Zack Johnson from Video Games Hot Dog. The recording conditions were sub-optimal (there was construction in his building and we had to record his end separately and sync it up later), so I ended up doing way more editing than I usually do on Abject Suffering. Normally that show is as "live-to-tape" as it comes, but going through it with a fine-toothed comb created a better product in this instance. Yes, I recognize how weird it is that I'm writing this so soon after Gary's article about not over-editing.

This reminded me of one of the more subtle tools we have at our disposal for editing audio: Fades. Making crafty little cuts to eliminate unwanted sound is something that sometimes just has to happen. But sometimes it's hard to make those cuts sound natural.

Abrupt cuts from silence to sound, or sound to silence, can sound very jarring to even a casual listener.

If you're trying to cut around someone who's laughing, and you snip mid-"hah!", it will sound like a glitch.

If you're cutting right before someone makes a point, you'll catch them inhaling or clearing their throat before they speak.

If you're cutting out a stretch time when isn't speaking but there's background noise, you risk it sounding like those construction sounds just erupt from your listener's headphones.

Knowing how to strategically use Fades is an effective way to make the cut you want, while mitigating these problems.

A Fade in digital audio editing is any kind of automated shift from zero volume to full volume, and vice versa. Ramping up (or ramping down) the sound over a short amount of time eases the listener into this new layer of audio information.

There are several ways to accomplish this in any given audio editor, but my program of choice is Logic Pro X. This is a costly application (around $200) but it's worth every penny if you want something powerful that's built to edit a lot of audio fast. The video below will walk you through the thought process behind choosing when to deploy a fade, and it will also show you a few different ways to execute it.

Please excuse my horrendous track-naming practices. Yes, the top track is named "Kole" because that's always my mic no matter what show we're on. Gary's name is not Guest. Zacks name is certainly not "Jingles".

In case you don't want to watch a six minute video about this, I'll summarize in bullet points.

  • Determine where you want to make a cut. If breaths or other noises are present, you will want to use a fade.
  • Make the cut by either splitting the track, deleting a region, or dragging a region's "in" or "out" point to where you need it.
  • Logic gives you the option to create a Fade by dragging inward from the upper corners of a region. Create the Fade, then listen to make sure it sounds natural.
  • If you don't use the region corners, you can change the Cmd-Click Tool from Marquee to Fade.
  • If you are using a digital audio workspace that isn't Logic (like Audacity or Garage Band) then you can approximate this effect by messing with the volume automation/rubber banding. (Or use whatever build-in Fade controls those programs feature).

This is super fussy. I wouldn't recommend learning Fades before you have a good sense for when to cut, but it's a way to up your polish so that your editing is less apparent. That's your goal: to stay out of the way.

Over-editing can be really bad for conversation-based shows like ours. I'll never recommend that you cut away from a digression. But sometimes a host has a coughing fit, or you have to take a break to use the restroom. It's worthwhile to know how to edit around that so that your audience doesn't know anything happened at all.