(Originally posted 2018-11-10.)
In some ways I’m as much interested in encouraging people to record as anything else. The more voices we hear, particularly Mainframe voices, the better. So, the lower the barrier to entry the better. Having said that, Audacity is free and Ferrite isn’t. But, if Ferrite is usable, the advantages of editing on a tablet or phone are obvious: You can do it anywhere, even at 35,000 feet.1
My use case is voice, specifically podcasting. So I’m not making any claims about recording music and editing it on a tablet.
One other thing I should mention at this point is I’ve got the best iOS editing environment: I have a 12.9 inch iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil.3
Chapter Markers Were A First Step
A while back we introduced chapter markers into our podcast episodes. The idea is you could skip to a specific spot in the podcast episode. A secondary effect is that parts of an episode would display on things like podcast clients with specific graphics. I’ve seen this happen on iPhones and on in-car displays. Apparently this is much less of a thing with Android than iOS, but I can’t help that.2
I regard chapter markers as a professional touch; I’m telling myself our podcast series is useful and in fact the listening numbers suggest that is so. So doing it reasonably professionally appeals to me. I’m not actually convinced it’s a good thing you can skip my “Performance” topic, or even the “Topics” topic. But never mind, I think chapter markers are good.
I mention chapter markers because that was the first thing that drew me to Ferrite, some months ago. I wasn’t able to add them in Audacity. So my editing workflow was to edit and assemble the pieces of an episode in Audacity and transfer it to Ferrite to inject the chapter markers. And then, of course, to transfer it back.
Ferrite makes this pretty easy:
- I move the editing cursor – by dragging it – to the spot where a chapter should begin and pull up the chapter marker editing dialog. I add a chapter marker there.
- As part of that I edit the chapter name. (Ferrite offers “Chapter 1” etc – and I want something like “Intro” instead.)
- I pull in the chapter marker graphic from a folder in Photos. These are all based on the blue background to the podcast series graphic Marna created. With my limited artistic skills I drew a foreground in white against that blue background. I’m reasonably happy with the result.
So that was my first foray into Ferrite on iOS.
Taming Stereo Was The Second Big Step
Prior to Episode 20 I edited the podcast with a 100% left/right stereo separation. Some people didn’t like it. I like stereo but I was inclined to agree this level of stereo separation was a bit harsh. But it was cumbersome to reduce the stereoscope in Audacity. In Ferrite this is ridiculously easy: If I have a pair of tracks I can use the simple controls for each track to place it wherever I want on the stereoscope. These are simulations of rotating knobs. So I chose 30% left/right as a gentler effect. I would’ve preferred to be able to type in “+30” and “-30” or some such.
The effect works and people seem to like 30% better than 100%. It’s much less harsh.
And, if I wanted to, I could explore more stereo effects.
The question, though, was: Should I continue to edit on the Mac with Audacity, just using the iPad for taming stereo and adding chapter markers? Or should I move all the editing to the iPad? Either one requires me to move the recordings at some stage to the iPad and back again?4
It all comes down to the editing experience.
The Editing Experience
I expected a learning curve – as Ferrite does things rather differently to how Audacity does them. So I set out to edit the three main topics in Episode 20 with Ferrite, learning as I went. That was the right thing to do as you really can’t learn a new tool like Ferrite without a real project to work on. As you might expect, the first topic to be edited – Performance – was slow and painstaking. But I got faster, less error prone, and slicker through these three topics.
I can’t claim Ferrite is faster than Audacity – yet. I don’t know if it will ever be. But all I really want is for it to be effective and quick enough. I don’t think the speed of the iPad is a significant factor. It’s much more about the user’s productivity.
I would also say that if you haven’t edited audio before you might find Ferrite easier than I have. I had to unlearn some habits I’d learnt in Audacity. The paradigms are slightly different.
Noise removal was actually easier with Ferrite: You just ask it to remove noise. Audacity wants to collect a noise sample – which you might not be able to furnish.
Using the Apple Pencil provided precision that a finger wouldn’t. To gain that level of accuracy you’d have to zoom in more than I was comfortable with.
One thing I learnt quite early on was to change the setting for what happens when you snip a piece of audio in two. By default it keeps both snippets selected. I changed the setting to deselect everything. That worked better for me.
A nice function was Strip Silence. Because Marna and I don’t tend to talk over each other this function created distinct snippets of her and me. These I could “punch out” to left and right – using the fragments created by Strip Silence. I suppose if we were prone to talking over each other we could punch out those snippets to a third track placed in the middle of the stereoscope. When we have guests we can do just that as well. I like putting guests in the middle.5
Rendering the final (MP3) audio is a little slower than it was on the Mac. This doesn’t matter very much as I’m not actively watching it.
I count the move to Ferrite on iOS a success. It means I can edit audio without having to pull out a Mac – which means I can do it in more places. I find Ferrite very usable, now I’ve got used to it. It also has some functions that weren’t available to me before. Already, adding chapter markers (including graphics) and adjusting the stereo are things I wasn’t able to do before.
I haven’t explored effects like ducking or panning. These are built into Ferrite. I don’t know that they’re actually useful for us. But I might play with them. They seem to me the basis for some good audio gags – which is something I thought I wanted to do before we even got started with podcasting.
In cost terms, Ferrite isn’t free. To get all the functions is about 20 US dollars or pounds. I consider that a good investment, particularly as I’ve spent rather more on headphones and a microphone. Which I now have to work on to get the audio quality up. To that effect I’ve bought another recording tool that works with Skype – in the hope it produces better audio. It’s called Piezo and is developed by Rogue Amoeba – who have a good reputation for such things.
I’m about to play with Ferrite’s Templates support – which might actually save a lot of time and introduce consistency. So I might reprise this, when I think I know what I’m doing.
Actually, I haven’t done that yet. I think it’s feasible, though noise issues might defeat you. ↩
To be fair, I’ve no evidence that it isn’t just me that can see the chapter marker graphics. ↩
This isn’t quite the best case: 12.9” iPad Pros have been released since mine. And a newer Apple Pencil has been released. But my rig is the biggest screen and pretty much the most functional setup. Doing this without an Apple Pencil on a small phone would be a pain. ↩
By the way, I find Airdrop a very convenient mechanism for moving audio between Mac and iPad. ↩
Generally I want our podcast episode to feel like the conversation it is. Adding a guest should just add to that feeling. ↩