In live radio or internet streaming, there is no such thing as post-production. Everything happens in real time. Any manipulation of the sound – noise gating, equalization, compression, level balancing – is done by specialized pieces of hardware. Once the words are spoken, they are gone into the ether (or the “inter” I guess). We’ve been doing it this way for quite a long time, and the equipment is pretty well established.
Is the process any different when the material isn’t “live”, but pre-recorded for later use?
Today, most audio editing programs have a lot of these functions available to apply to the recorded file. And, with a bit of skill and patience, you can correct many of the flaws of the original audio entirely in the software.
You will of course use software to cut out long pauses, breaths, coughs, etc. When that’s finished, you might run the audio file through several passes to normalize, equalize, compress, and limit the audio to make it “broadcast-ready”.
If you were using dedicated hardware for the EQ, compression, and limiting, those functions would not need to be duplicated in software, saving several minutes per file. Your editing session would simply be the cut-and-paste functions.
Even if you choose to do the final equalization, compression and limiting in software, it still makes sense to use a dedicated piece of hardware to process the microphone during the recording.
A mic processor’s downward expander function will do a more effective job of reducing pickup of the sound of your imperfect room. This task can be quite tedious when done in software (and nearly impossible once the tracks have been mixed together).
The mic processor’s compressor and de-esser will prevent clipping distortion on the recorded file. Once a file is clipped, it’s extremely difficult to undo the damage. Better to prevent it in the first place.
So, a hardware mic processor and hardware final compressor/limiter is the best combination for live programs. And pre-recorded programs should use a hardware mic processor, even if you elect to do the rest of the processing in software.
It’s about time. And time is money.
Here are links to some popular mic processors, program processors, and editing software:
Mic: 286S, 528E, CHANNEL
Program: 2M, OMNNIA1MULTICAST, VP-8PLUS
Software: SOUNDFORGE10, PROTOOLS, STUDIO-ONE-PRO