Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Shelly Brisbin

When in doubt, push the button

Selecting a channel in Audition. It’s ready for EQ and limiting.

​Among a group of my friends and fellow podcasters, a certain kitchen gadget is known simply as the “cult device.” We enjoy the Instant Pot, but are far too cool to openly admire a mere hunk of metal and circuitry… that was not made by Apple.

In my corner of the tech-creative world, there is another cult device – Elgato’s line of Stream Deck products. Perhaps you’ve heard of them!

You may also have heard that fans of the Stream Deck tend to start small with the six-button Stream Deck Mini, later palming that little fellow off on a new convert, moving up to a model with 15 or 32 buttons. For awhile, there was a brisk trade in these things among my extended circle. I purchased a Mini.

Automate the Radio

Stream Deck app with timers and other items mapped.

Jason and Dan have written about how they kick off podcast-related tasks with Stream Deck buttons, backed by Shortcuts, AppleScript and/or Keyboard Maestro. When I finally got my first Stream Deck – more on that later – I assumed I would adopt the Six Colors bossmen’s automation tools to make notes while editing my own shows.

But I’ve found that my use cases have more to do with my day job as a radio news producer than my side gig as a podcast maker. When I produce a Q&A between our show host, David Brown, and a guest, my job is to check, cut and clean up the final “tape.” And I wanted to get faster at it with a little automation.

First, I cut the recording to fit the time allotted for it in the show. I haven’t automated that step, but I’d like to apply a time calculator to that task at some point. Next, I do a little post-processing in Adobe Audition. It includes a suite of audio plugins that will fix bad-sounding audio or make average-sounding audio sound its best. You can even save plugin settings you use often to Audition’s Favorites menu for quick access. Trouble is, you’ll still need to pull down that menu. Good thing customizing the keyboard is one of Audition’s strengths. But even shortcuts typically require the use of two hands. This, I admit frankly, is a first world tech problem.

So far, I’ve converted three favorite Audition settings into Stream Deck buttons for my radio work: FaceTime EQ, hard limiter, and silence. I created a Stream Deck profile for Audition, then mapped the Adobe shortcuts to three buttons, which become active when I launch Audition.

Selecting a quiet portion of the tape to which I’ll apply my Silence button.

We do a lot of our interviews via FaceTime Audio, and though it’s far better than other VOIP-type solutions we use, many FT calls have similar digital artifacts that can be minimized with a parametric equalizer curve that my technical director created and shared with me as an Audition preset. Once audio is EQ’d, I need to apply a hard limiter to level out the guest’s overall sound.

The challenge of doing post-processing this way is that segment audio is usually recorded from the control room as a single mono file, including the host’s questions and the guest’s answers. But the host, sitting behind a pro mic and audio board, doesn’t need EQ or limiting. So I’ve got to select the passages where the guest is speaking, then EQ and limit each. With Stream Deck buttons, I just select, then apply my EQ, then the limiter.

During the pandemic, David began recording segments at home, using Audio Hijack. He records a stereo file that includes his voice in the left channel (again, no need for EQ or limiting) and the guest’s voice on the right. This is great for me at the post-processing stage because I can select the entire guest side of the convo in Audition, punch my Stream Deck buttons in turn, then eventually put the two halves of the file together as a mono file. But there’s a new problem. When David records at home, there’s often bleed-through from his headphones onto his audio track. And if he or the guest make a random noise while the other is speaking, it’s isolated for me in their channel.

So I made a Stream Deck button that completely silences the selection. I can eyeball my way through the file, putting silence in wherever the host or guest is not the one talking, stopping to listen if it’s an interjection I might want to keep. The same procedure works when I’m using Audition to edit a podcast panel show like Lions, Towers and Shields. Like Jason, I use Ferrite Recording Studio on the iPad to strip silence from my panelists’ audio tracks, But most tracks still include tiny bits of sound that Ferrite missed because I’ve dialed down the sensitivity to prevent accidental silencing of sounds I do want. Then I edit it all in Audition.

Stream Deck app with Audition presets mapped.
Again, I can eyeball a lot of the issues, select the area that should be silent but isn’t, and engage the Stream Deck button. Time saved is consequential, but pure joy watching the waveform go flat is immeasurable.

Stream Deck Projects and Plans

Stream Deck has a plugin architecture that I’ve used to add a few special day job capabilities. I grabbed a plugin that provides buttons for Zoom. I use them during daily meetings to turn audio and video on and off or open the chat window. There’s a non-Zoom button on that Stream Deck page that adjusts my webcam settings the way I like them, since the Logitech app tends to revert to the default between uses.

The Timer plugin allowed me to create buttons for several timers that match the standard length of show segments. When David records these, I’m often listening in via phone. If I’m told something I’m producing will be in the C segment, I can press the 5:30 timer to count down during the recording. It’s quicker and more fun than setting up a browser-based timer.

A set of Finder-based buttons opens the collection of apps I use when I’m working on the show’s web site. One button launches Firefox with my favorite tabs, Slack, Trello, Drafts, Mail, and a VPN client. Behind that button is an Keyboard Maestro script I used before I added the Stream Deck.

I’m hoping to add more Audition presets to my little button box. If you reserve one of the Mini’s six buttons for a navigation arrow, you can add multiple pages of buttons, or even folders, so perhaps I’ll make a page for podcast presets, too.

The second Stream Deck on my wishlist will be another Mini or the recently announce pedal. I record podcasts on an old MacBook Pro in a converted closet, and that’s where any Podcast Noter or other recording gewgaws will be launched.

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