By Jason Snell
November 13, 2015 5:04 PM PT
Editing podcasts on iOS with Ferrite
Like a lot of iPad users, I dream of traveling with just the iPad, and no laptop. I’m not sure what it saves me, really—my 11-inch MacBook Air is about as small as they come. But still, it’s a dream.
What gets in the way of it, for me: podcasting. iOS has come a long way in terms of power and functionality, but when it comes to audio there have always been lots of issues. iOS basically doesn’t allow two apps to use the microphone simultaneously, and Skype for iOS doesn’t support built-in recording or a pass-through technology like Audiobus, so if you want to talk on Skype while also recording your microphone’s input, you either need to use two devices or a Mac. 1
Using an iPad to do the kind of multi-track podcasting editing I do in Logic on my Mac has been possible for quite a while. Auria is the app I’ve liked the most for this sort of thing, but its interface always struck me as ungainly. I could edit a podcast in that app, but it was slow, and not very much fun.
This week writer/podcaster Fraser Speirs mentioned a new podcast editor he liked, Wooji Juice’s Ferrite Recording Studio. I had been looking for a project to take on in order to test out the iPad Pro, so I took Ferrite for a spin.
In a word, wow: This is the iOS multitrack editor that I’ve been waiting for. Ferrite has all the features that have made my podcast editing workflow so efficient: Strip Silence, compression, noise gate, ripple delete, quick selection of all following clips. It’s all there. And it’s all built inside an attractive interface that’s a pleasure to use. It’s like Ferrite read my mind.
Only later did I realize that Ferrite did, in a way, read my mind. Canis, the lead developer of Ferrite, has listened to my podcasts and read my articles about podcast editing, and apparently some of that rubbed off on the product? During development, he asked me to send him some of my sample podcast files so that he could test using real-world examples, and I sent him a zipped folder full of the raw files that I use to edit The Incomparable. I just hadn’t connected the dots.
Like Logic, Ferrite will break long podcast tracks into short blocks by removing the silence between noisy passages; just select a track and choose the Strip Silence command from a pop-over menu, then specify a couple of settings. It’s got a built-in compressor and noise gate (able to be turned on via an in-app purchase), to level out volume. Trimming individual blocks of sound is as easy as tapping and sliding a finger left or right. And when I want to pull everything in the project forward or backward in time, I just tap on a clip, then triple-tap to select all of the following clips.
Ferrite works much better for me with a keyboard than without, mostly because I spend an awful lot of time pressing the space bar to toggle playback on and off. There’s a play/pause icon on the interface, of course, but it’s way down in the bottom right corner, which is not a convenient location, especially on the enormous iPad Pro screen. I also needed to use the keyboard to rapidly delete clips that were full of stray noise, because Ferrite’s touch-based multiple-clip selection feature is a little bit finicky.
Still, the fact is that my temporary can-I-do-this experiment with Ferrite iPad Pro never reached the stage where I bailed out and decided that I couldn’t do it. A couple of hours later (par for the course for these things), I had an entire finished episode of The Incomparable ready to go 2. (I did have to export the final file back to my Mac to re-encode it as an MP3; Ferrite currently only lets you output projects as AAC files.)
Will I edit next week’s episode on an iPad? Probably not, but that’s more a function of the tools that surround my editing experience (MP3 taggers and encoders, track-sync utilities, and the like) than the core editing experience itself. But for the first time I can see myself traveling with just an iPad and using it to edit podcasts wherever I go. (But if I need to record a podcast on the road, I’ll need to record on my iPad while I’m talking on Skype using my iPhone…)
One final note: I did this all on an iPad Pro, but Ferrite works on other iPad models, and even iPhones. So even if I don’t end up sticking with the iPad Pro, I suspect that I’d have no problem editing a podcast on my iPad Air 2.
Ferrite is free to download from the App Store, with its more advanced features accessible via two $10 in-app purchases. If you’re a podcast editor who dreams of using an iPad to do the job, I highly recommend you give it a try.
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