Behind the Scenes: Editing the Matrix

I wasn’t intending for this to be my first blog post, but I think this is far more interesting than the review of The Force Awakens that I’ve been trying to frankenstein together for 4 weeks. I’d also like to apologize if you came here looking for information on editing the actual movie, The Matrix. Unfortunately I wasn’t involved with that, I was about 2.

So in the future there may be more of these “Behind the Scenes” posts, but for now you’ll have to be content with this. I mentioned on Twitter that editing this episode (The Matrix episode of Triple Play, also know as Episode 4) had me tearing my hair out, and now I’m going to tell you why.

This story actually beings back when we were recording the Matrix. This is a bit of a “break the magic” moment, so if you don’t like knowing when we recorded something, skip ahead. I can’t give you a precise date, but we watched the Matrix on a Saturday in September, and recorded the episode on the next Thursday. We would normally have recorded Sunday, but Kiyan’s voice started to give him trouble, so we delayed until he could speak at least mostly normally. The reason for mentioning this will make sense in a bit.

Throughout our podcasting adventure we’ve had some mishaps with Audition, and sometimes we lose an episode to the ether. Sometimes Audition will randomly stop recording while we’re speaking. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to when it does this, and it’s probably something as mundane as the moon passing in front of Venus. This actually occurred while we were recording The Matrix episode, and since The Matrix episode we’ve actually kept a constant eye on Audition rather than letting it run in the background unwatched. It lost our trust.

The previous two sentences may have given away what happened. We sat down to record our episode at 6 PM. This was solely due to it being a Thursday, I might add, we normally record rather early in the morning. We got through the first version and looked at Audition and… It had stopped recording at what we thought was 1 minute and 9 seconds. We had just talked for an hour and none of it was recorded! This made us rather upset and angry. Our second recording (at roughly 7 PM) was noticeably more aggravated. After finishing Kiyan turned to me and said “pity we lost the first recording, it was way better.” I nodded in agreement.

Usually I edit the episodes relatively soon after we’ve recorded them, but for the Matrix I put it aside for a while. It wasn’t going out till January, I figured, so I may as well wait. So imagine my surprise when I opened up Audition in the final week of December to discover that both recordings had survived. We had misread the time stamp, and the recording had actually stopped at 1 hour and 9 minutes. What fools we are. So the position I faced, after all this exposition, was what to do with two separate versions of the same episode?

I consulted briefly with Kiyan and was left with 3 options: Use 1) Version 1 as is, clipping in the very end where it had cut out from Version 2. 2) Use Version 2 as is. 3) Splice together the best parts of both to create the greatest frankenstein episode in all existence. Clearly I’m pretty lazy, so I chose option 3.

And so began the multi-day editing process. I thought I knew how long it would take, but I was terribly wrong on that count. But hey, it came out to be a pretty good episode. So let’s look at what I did.

Before I begin, however, I want to note. This is not how I normally have to edit episodes. I’ll show you a comparison shot at the end, but usually I’ll only need to cut out some things and I’m good. For this edit I split it into three phases.

Phase 1

Phase 1 was arguably the easiest. I began by listening to both full recordings, without any additional music/edits. Since I figured I was going to have to splice together these two different recordings, I made meticulous notes about what we talked about in each episode. So I opened up my trusty word processor, Text Edit, changed the color of the font, and came up with a nice comprehensive notes document.

Matrix Cut 1

Matrix Cut 2

Alright, maybe not so comprehensive. But I needed it to be accurate, and apparently verbosity helps with that. Mentally I was making notes during version 2, comparing it to version 1 and deciding which was better.  Kiyan’s original assessment of the first recording was, on the whole, accurate. It was better. I did, however, find some minor discussion that we either a) did not have in the first recording or b) were superior in the second that I wanted to cut into the first recording to make the final cut. And so began phase 2.

 Phase 2

This was the most difficult of my self assigned phases, since this was the part where I had to cut everything together without making any of it sound weird. I had to take the intro to a section from here, to lead into a section from there. Things like that.

I started with what I wanted to keep from version 1, and put that in. Whenever I reached a section I wanted from version 2, I cut to there, clipped it out, and put it into version 1. Then I would re-listen to the cut multiple times, making slight edits until it sounded natural. I’d bet you didn’t hear a single cut in the final version of the episode. If you did, it was probably from when I cut out Kiyan yelling at the neighbors, which got cut in phase 3. I spent multiple days on this phase, I was quite tired of listening to us talking about The Matrix after the first two listen throughs, to be honest. Of course you can never escape a half edited episode, it digs into your subconscious and constantly bugs you and I often I  would fall asleep to the soothing thoughts of  The Matrix . I even wrote a story while editing about a woman in a red dress, because I heard the phrase “the woman in the red dress” so many goddamn times. Quite honestly that was the most difficult cut to get right.

I’m sure you’re curious as to what elements I took from each version in the final cut. Here’s the last bit of my notes document, where I laid out my assembly of the final version as I did it.

Matrix Final Cut

Phase 3

After I finished phase 2, I exported the episode, with my newly cut in intro, outro, and endslate (our little email us / find us here blurb) music, and sent it off to Kiyan. I don’t normally do this, but I needed a fresh set of ears to listen for 1) a title and 2) any cuts I missed. Turns out I had intended to cut out us looking up things (and Kiyan yelling at the neighbors, but that never made it to the final cut because it was in version 2) and then promptly forgot to do so. He sent me the time stamps of that, and a few repeated conversations and I got to work. Cut those bits out, exported the whole thing, uploaded it, and it released the next day. I did cut that a bit fine, I’ll be honest, but it came out all good in the end. So what does Audition look like now that I finished editing? Well. You can just barely see the intro music there in the third track on the left. Look how cute it is!

Matrix Audition

Don’t be deceived. Most of those cuts are just topic divisions that I made in accordance with my notes document. A few of them are version 2 splices, and even fewer still are cuts that I mentioned above, like us searching something in the middle of the episode. But it does summarize nicely the amount of effort we put into making it a good episode. I said I’d provide a comparison, so here it is. This is the Audition timeline for Trust Your Doctor Episode 104, the latest thing I’ve edited. This is generally the level of editing that needs to be done, a line or two here, maybe one there, maybe save a funny outtake in a lower track. Those kind of things.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 9.28.31 PM

So what did you think? Was this interesting? Do you want to know more? Let me know. Leave a comment. Email us. Tweet me. The second most editing I ever had to do was when Trust Your Doctor reached The Three Doctors (in Episode 68), and if there’s enough interest I can talk about the conception of that episode and the behind the scenes. What really went through our head when we thought “hey let’s have us from the future appear on the show?” Otherwise, I’ve a few other Behind the Scenes ideas stewing in my mind. But until then….


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