Hailing from England’s southeast, Mike Russell is a digital audio expert, voice over artist, and popular instructor. He is also an enthusiastic proponent of Adobe Audition, which he uses for all his audio work – along with many other Creative Cloud applications. Russell is creative director of Music Radio Creative where he produces high quality audio content for DJs, radio stations, and podcasters.
Russell first started using Audition in 1997 when Cool Edit Pro introduced the idea of multi-track editing. Up until that point his production workflow involved reel-to-reel audio tape cutting followed by MiniDisc mixing. Digital audio editing changed that forever.
What did you think of Audition (nee CoolEdit) when you first used it?
I was amazed at the possibilities. As someone who learned many of the audio production techniques with single track recorders and analog equipment, it was amazing to see how accurate you could be with editing as opposed to trying to play FX in on the beat of a track from a cart or fading up the reverb at just the right moment.
Suddenly I could add multiple sounds at exactly the right points – and equally awesome, I didn’t have to start again from scratch if I missed a beat!
Going back to your earlier days, how did you first get interested in audio production?
It was listening to Capital Radio London in the early 1990s that first excited me about audio production. How did they make the jingles sound so big and powerful? I was always questioning each effect that I heard coming from the radio. How would I make a stutter like that? How would I pitch shift a voice over and get it to match the beat of a music jingle?
Soon I found myself learning first hand at my local radio stations. I gleaned tricks and techniques from my mentors, practiced them and then I’d try replicating sounds I’d heard to see how close I could get.
How did you get into the business?
I always wanted to become a radio host. That was my main objective from since I can remember but I soon discovered that producing audio would be a valuable extra skill and I enjoyed doing it!
In my early radio days I did nearly every on air shift you can imagine and then would stay at the radio station through the day (and often into the night) producing jingles and promos too.
When did you start Music Radio Creative?
It was late 2004 when the idea first came about that perhaps I could voice over and produce for a living online. I really wanted to do more than produce for my local radio station. I wanted to create audio for anyone who wanted it wherever they are in the world. That’s how MRC all started, with just me voicing, producing and managing customer service for orders. Now it’s a full time business for my wife and I and we work with an excellent customer service team and use hundreds of voice-overs, singers, musicians and producers on all kinds of audio projects. Last year alone we worked with individuals and businesses in 106 different countries.
You describe your Audition workflow in four steps, with four initials E.N.C.N – Equalize, normalize, compress, normalize. Can you explain that a bit for people who are new to audio?
It’s a method I use to get voice overs sounding great for radio imaging and promos. There are four simple steps to make your audio sound great.
Equalizing, also called EQ’ing audio, means adding extra frequencies or taking some out to make the voice sound crisp and clear. Normalizing is a simple process that will find the peak (or maximum) amplitude of your waveform and add a consistent amount of gain to bring your waveform to full capacity.
The third step is compression: Is the voice over too dynamic? Does it suddenly go from sounding very loud to awfully quiet? A little compression will flatten out the wavefrom making the overall volume more consistent by making the quieter parts a little louder and the louder sections a little quieter and make it much easier to mix with FX and music. Finally, I normalize again since compression has a habit of reducing (or sometimes increasing) volume. A final normalize will fix your audio up.
Why do you advocate for Audition today?
I’ve had the great fortune to use other DAWs at the radio stations I’ve worked at and I can honestly say I have not found a better piece of audio editing software than Audition. I simply love it!
What kind of reactions do people have when they start learning to use Audition?
The most common concern I hear from those wanting to start using Audition is that, “it must be overwhelming with all those buttons, effects, and controls, right?” But once they have come to grips with the basics they are amazed at how simple the software is to use. I work with podcasters who start out using free software and when they learn about Audition they realise that their time spent editing will be cut significantly just because of the ease of use. It's really not that hard after all!
What other Creative Cloud tools to you use?
I’m a big fan of the Creative Cloud package and, in addition to Audition, I have Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After Effects and Dreamweaver installed. I often try to dip in and out of the other software I have access to but the aforementioned are those I use the most.
I use Photoshop to edit graphics and online banners for our ecommerce store. I use Premiere Pro to produce YouTube videos. I love the possibilities of After Effects and use it to produce motion logos for many of my videos. I still like to poke around with the code on my websites: Dreamweaver makes it simple to keep everything in sync and visually edit code. I’ve even edited a Kindle book about podcast audio branding, for my wife Izabela, using InDesign!
This week you and your partner Izabela are presenting the UK Podcasting 2014 conference in Birmingham, UK. Who’s going and what will they learn there?
We have nearly 100 registered attendees from all over the UK and Europe (including Sweden, Ireland, Greece and Germany) all heading to Birmingham for a conference I’m organizing with my wife all about the benefits of podcasting for business. This will be for experienced podcasters looking to take what they do to the next level as well as those just starting out with a curiosity of what podcasting can do for their brand and business. We have a closing keynote from well known and respected podcaster Jason Van Orden of Internet Business Mastery and there will be a bonus session from me where I’ll be talking about the A to Z of podcast audio production using Audition.
What do you love the most about your work?
I love the freedom and flexibility of what I do. If I like I can choose to spend all morning marketing our business and then spend the afternoon walking along one of the beautiful beaches where I live on the Isle of Wight. Working online has also given me the opportunity to connect with many talented audio enthusiasts from around the world. I love not knowing who we’ll be working with tomorrow and where in the world they will be based!
What’s your advice for people who want to get into audio work, but are unsure where to start, or aren’t sure if they have the time to learn it?
It’s really easy to get started and it's important not to worry: as with most good software there are many different ways to get the results you want. The methods I teach on my YouTube channel and Udemy course are one way to achieve a certain effect or sound, but not the only way. I’d say go out and experiment. Pretty much anything you want to know can be found with a quick search online.
If you want to up your game then find a mentor. My mentor was Dave Owen (ex. Capital Radio London now at Radio Jackie London) and I owe much of my early development to him.
They say that radio attracts solitary types, but you don't seem that way at all…
Well, it is certainly very solitary sitting in an air tight and air conditioned studio for hours! 🙂
Although I try as much as I can to strike a work life balance, I find I cannot give my best work unless all parts of my life are in balance. Time spent with my family, travelling, relaxing, exercising and even learning more about audio production. It’s easy to get sucked in a world of isolation when you love what you do but I was always told by a radio station program director I respected that you cannot have a life on the air if you don’t have a life off the air.
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