technical questions about equipment and software used by voice talent who record at home - moderated by Beau Weaver
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My favorite audio editing tool for Voiceover


As I have mentioned frequently, I am a long time hater of Pro Tools. If you are recording multiple channels of music, routing through plug ins and locked to picture, it sure is the right tool. But for recording and editing voiceover tracks, it is a needlessly complex and cumbersome resource hog. And those are it's good points.

I cannot count the calls I have taken from folks who are new to home recording, literally in tears, trying to figure out how to save a simple recording as an mp3 file with Pro Tools. And don't even get me started on how any OS update from Apple usually renders Pro Tools inoperable. And a year to support Leopard? Give me a break. But I digress.

I have done extensive testing of virtually all the audio editors for Mac OSX, including, Logic, Soundtrack Pro, Peak, Adobe Sound Booth, Sound Studio 3, Wave Editor, Amadeus Pro, etc. On the PC platform, I was a long time fan of Sony Sound Forge, but they do not have any plans to port the app to Mac. Peak has it's fans, but it crashes regularly, and support is spotty. I was liking Sound Studio 3 a lot, but there were some bugs, and omissions and the developer did not respond to support requests at all. All of the above programs have their strengths and weaknesses, but for the way I like to work, they were just not quite right.

Anyway, I have been working with a software developer to perfect a suite little app that I just love, and I want to pass it along to you. For my money, the best tool for recording and editing voiceover is: TwistedWave. And, the price is 49 Dollars!*

It loads in about one second. No changing cursors into different tools. It works like a word processor. It saves directly as mp3 files, and will convert between almost all important audio file types. It exports the selected portion of the waveforme as a new file, of any type you specify. Navigation is a dream. You can zoom horizontally in the waveform and zoom in all with the tiny trackball in the Apple Mighty Mouse. It will record the highest resolution audio, sample rate and bit depth your sound card supports. It works with any digital interface that uses Apple Core Audio. For the advanced user, keyboard shortcuts are customizable, and you can create and save customized effects stacks of AU plugins.

I have worked closely with the guy who created the program to make some ease of use tweaks and fine tuning. He has responded to every one of my requests the same day. I think if you spend a little time playing with it, you may fall in love too.

You can download from this link, and try for a 30 day evaluation period for free. A major 1.5 update has just been posted, with additional improvement in development.

I have been using this as my daily editor for some time now and it is a huge time saver. If you are also a musician, or music producer, then Pro Tools is obviously. If all you need to do is record voiceover sessions, quick edit and cleanup and ship off via ftp, then give Twisted Wave a try, and never look back.

Full Disclosure: I am a paid user, and receive no compensation for this recommendation, other than gratitude for a tool so ideally suited for the task at hand.

Beau Weaver

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  • I'd like to see your template as well, Mike. I've used ProTools from about 8 years now, but have had very little formal training on the software. Always looking for new ways to use the tool.
    Thanks so much for sharing!
  • Mike - Would you mind sharing that template/instructions about setting up the AUX and bussing with me also. Thanks in advance. Best, Al
  • Randy,

    I can send you a copy of a template that I use. It's pretty easy. There's a couple of ways to do it. I like to create an Aux channel, and place the processing on the Aux Channel...then Bus out of it into an Audio Track.

    You can also do it directly on an audio track, but doing it with the Aux Channel, allows me to also bus out to my headphone mix, so I can hear the chain already processed, if I so choose.

    If you're regularly using ProTools, and regularly using a particular chain to process your audio anyway, it does save you some time in ProTools...

    Good times...
  • Yep, you can record through the instantiated effects - just add them as active plug-ins, set your parameters, and it's all fire-and-forget from there. Problem is, as Mike notes, you record to track with all those parameters in effect.

    As for eliminating "pops" in PT, you can set parameters to remove sounds below a certain db level, with lead-in and lead-out paddings, in addition to minimum duration for removal, (on Mac, it's COMMAND-U), but I don't believe it's quite the same as putting the edit to the nearest zero crossing, as Randy mentioned about TW.

    Guess more play-time is required before making any switches here. Argh. =)
  • Hmmm...not sure exactly what you're talking about. I do know you can export without bouncing. But that doesn't have the processing I've instantiated. You're saying you can record through the instantiated effects? I've never tried that, or even know how. Interesting.

    Either way, I find the editing of waveforms much, much easier on TW. Plus, there's a preference setting in TW that you can select which causes TW to always put the edit on the nearest zero crossing, eliminating any "pops." You don't have that in Pro Tools. At least not that I'm aware of.
  • Randy, I know you're a ProTools teacher, so forgive me if I'm about to totally sound like an a$$, but you can do file-based processing in Pro Tools. That's essentially the same thing, no? I used to process my audio with each plugin I wanted, in succession, and then export the file. Then, I used to bounce my files in real-time in ProTools, through my preferred chain. But I stopped that, and instead, setup an Aux input that has my particular processing chain ready to go. I then am able to record the track already processed,in real-time, and then simply export the file in whatever format I want. Of course, this means that my processing is already committed to disk as it's recording, but from what it sounds like, you're committing the processing to your file after you record it anyway. So, it's just a thought.

    I will say though, that when I'm on the road, I LOVE TW for audio. I do use the Plug-in Stacks, and that shaves a ton of time off. And because I can use it with virtually any input, I can carry my favorite Apogee box with me ( One or the Duet ) when I'm on vacation.
  • To get the chain of effects I use in Pro Tools, I would have to "Bounce to disc," which, as you know, means listening to the whole file again, in real time, as it "bounces." Since I just finished editing the thing, I don't really need to hear it again. So that's why I decided to forget Pro Tools (for recording and editing dry voice tracks -- if I'm doing production, that's another story). At the time I made that decision, I was still a Windows user. And while I knew Adobe Audition inside and out, I really preferred Sony Sound Forge for simple waveform editing and effects application. Sound Forge had the same sort of functionality. You could build a chain of effects, save it, call it up whenever you like, and apply the same chain of effects to whatever waveform you're working on. This functionality was essential to me when I went about seeking a waveform editor after I switched to Mac. Otherwise, I'd have had no other choice but to go back to Pro Tools (or worse, keep a Windows machine handy for doing this sort of thing, which I was simply not willing to consider -- you know what they say: Once you go Mac, you never go back).

    I tried about eight different waveform editors for Mac. I tried Bias Peak (which seems to be the big daddy of Mac waveform editors). I tried Wave Editor (and some other one made by the same company). There were a few others, whose names I don't even recall any more. I hated Peak. Bias Peak is the most bloated, overpriced piece of junk I've ever seen. And it's clumsy as hell to work with. Wave Editor's UI was nice, but it lacked certain functionality I needed, not the least of which was this "Effect Stack" functionality you've referenced. The other waveform editors I tried all had something about them that just didn't suit my work flow. Then I started exchanging e-mails with the guy who wrote Twisted Wave. I told him he had a nice little app here, but that it seemed like it was mainly geared to podcasters and hobbyists, not professionals. But I told him that it was CLOSE to being a pro app, and offered a few suggestions I thought might get it closer to that goal. Surprisingly, he proved to be very receptive to my suggestions. Soon after I sent the first batch of suggestions, he send me a link to a new beta version with my ideas incorporated into the new build. I'm not kidding. We went back and forth like this 7 or 8 times, and I figured he'd eventually tell me to buzz off. But he didn't. He just kept tweaking Twisted wave until he got it to behave in a way that I felt made it a truly professional app that most any voiceover person would love. Shoot, I felt like I had my own personal computer programmer. But the end result (which he continues to tweak) is a very robust, yet simple-to-use, app that any voiceover talent who's on a Mac would, in my opinion, be a fool not to take a close look at.

    Does it have everything you'd ever need? Well, no. It's not Pro Tools. It's not Apple Logic. But it's not supposed to be. It's a waveform editor, not a multi-track production environment. But he's recently added a really sensational time-squeeze plug-in that's surprisingly seamless and clean (as good as the one in Pro Tools), and the thing just works.

    Yes, the Effects Stack thing is great. Create as many stacks as you wish (I have one for radio imaging VO and another for video narration). I keep the stacks window open all day and check the "bypass" box, which allows you to hear the file without the stack applied (I like to destructively apply the stack first, then edit, so if I didn't check the "bypass" box, I'd hear the file with the effect stack applied TWICE).

    And of course, there is the huge advantage of not having to wait to "Bounce to Disc" with Twisted Wave.
  • Ah, Randy - you've likely saved me a ton of time. I've been using PT exclusively for 3 years and am quite proficient with it, but I don't believe I've ever found an "Effect Stacks" feature for a straight export (Bouncing is another matter, and time consuming). I tested TW for a month last year and still preferred PT, though that Effect Stacks feature (which I didn't catch onto) will have me taking a closer look. Nice, unexpected insight.
  • Every waveform editor has its own unique quirks and peculiarities. For example, I like to zoom in to the play head of the waveform by using the roller ball on the Mac Mighty Mouse (or forward gesture on the new Magic Mouse). On some waveform editors, this doesn't zoom you in closer, it just makes the waveforms taller in their graphic depiction. So I would rule those out right away just because they don't fit my most intuitive work flow. That's just one example. Another is TW's "Effect Stacks." I have a very specific chain of effects I apply to my voice tracks. Some waveform editors require that you apply those effects, one at a time, one by one. I would never use such an editor because it slows me down. With Twisted Wave, I can build my "Randy's VO" effect stack ONCE, save it, then call it up and apply it (and it might have four or five or six or whatever number of effects). This is an enormous time saver. TW also comes with the ability to save to (or open) .mp3 files. Audicy, I believe, requires that you download something else to add this functionality (that may not still be the case, but it once was). Bottom line is: I have a certain way I like to work. So I tried all the various different Mac waveform editors until I found one that works LIKE I LIKE TO WORK. I don't like having to adapt my work flow to fit some software engineer's idea of how I ought to be working.
  • Thanks, Randy. So if I understand correctly, you find the features and editing capabilities to be comparable, really - just that TW may be marginally easier to use - got it!
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