In a previous blog, I said I had dismissed GarageBand as a podcast editor because of its seeming inability to generate uncompressed masters. Readers suggested I give it another chance.
In particular, reader “Henry” advocated using the “share to iTunes” option as a means of getting an uncompressed mixdown of my show.
Initially, this didn’t seem right, as the file created in iTunes was a compressed M4A, with the level of compression controlled by a preference in GarageBand that offered four quality choices. I still wasn’t happy about this, as even the highest quality setting would still mean that I might still have to create compressed podcasts from a lossily-compressed master at some point.
The thing is, when you share, GB performs a CPU-intensive “mixdown” of your tracks, and then exports it to M4A. I figured the mixdown had to live somewhere, and was probably uncompressed (or at least losslessly compressed).
Looking inside the .band bundle with “Show Package Contents” in the Finder, I found that the “share” action had created a new “Output” folder, with a 280 MB AIFC inside it. Bingo.
One thing I noticed is that after this initial share: after editing, subsequent saves of the project kicked off a new mixdown. Not too bad on a dual G5 (a minute or so for a 30-minute show), but I think I’ll generally want to avoid exports and the implicit mixdowns until the project is substantially done.
That said, having done one episode in Final Cut Express and another in GarageBand, I really do like working with GarageBand’s GUI. Since I don’t have video, the application can dedicate more screenspace to the audio tracks, meaning I can have more of what I’m working with on screen at one time.
There’s an interesting workflow difference: I have one source file that I’m cutting many small pieces from. In FCE, my workflow was to open it in the viewer, set in and out points, then drag it to the timeline, then repeat with different in and out points. In GB, the in/out-point metaphor doesn’t exist, so I throw the whole source on the timeline and do splits to get my audio into just the pieces I want. This works because the edits are non-destructive. If I find I’ve cut too close to the sound, or I want to look for more of the natsound before or after the soundbite, GB lets me just stretch the edge of the segment to reveal more of the original sound I had originally cut out of the split.
So, having done four podcasts now, two simple ones for O’Reilly and two more ambitious ones for myself, and having done one each in FCE and GB for each series, I’m thinking that I’m going to settle in with GarageBand for a while and see how far it will take me.