Reaper audio editor for journalists

Reaper  is a powerful digital audio workstation (DAW) for both PC and Mac and is ideal for editing audio for radio and multimedia journalism.

Setting up

Reaper’s default setup is geared towards music production, so we first need to make a few adjustments to the settings and project to make it easier for us to work.

By default Reaper will attempt to loop imported audio files – great for making music, not so great for editing an interview – so we need to turn this off.

We also change the time-base from bars & beats to minutes and seconds and disabling grid-line snapping.

To save you changing preferences, here’s the default project you can load up just once to set reaper up for editing general audio.

  1. Download the file above and save it somewhere safe (don’t move or delete it as Repaer needs it when it opens up)
  2. Now go Options > Preferences and under Project, browse for the template file Reaper will use as default.

Reaper choose template

You’re now ready to start editing with Reaper!

Simple editing workflow

Editing using Reaper is very logical. If you’re new to audio editing, the process can be reduced down to a few simple activities:

  1. Choosing the right media files using the Media Explorer
  2. Placing and arranging clips on the timeline so they make sense
  3. balancing levels so it sounds nice

Media files

It’s important that you manage your media files well. Audio files should be copied to a secure location and organised into folders – it’s up to you how you organise them, but at the very least create a folder for each project.
Reaper won’t manage your files for you. When you use an audio file in Reaper, it is simply referenced and remains unchanged. Be careful not to move or delete any audio you’ve used otherwise it will become lost to Reaper and problems will arise.

Using Media Explorer

The Media Explorer window sits at the bottom of the interface and its where you access the audio files have recorded.
If you don’t see Media Explorer, choose the View menu > Media Explorer.
Media Explorer works in much the same way as any file browser; allowing you to browse directories and choose files.
To use the Media Explorer:

  1. Navigate and choose a file by clicking it
  2. This will load the file in the player, where it can be played from any point (click and play)
  3. Make a selection by dragging over the waveform. The edges can be refined
  4. Drag and drop the selection into a track or an empty space to create a track.

Reaper Media Browser
You can also drag and drop the whole audio file into a track without making a selection.

Timeline Editing

Editing clips on the timeline is very easy. There are only a handful of actions that you can do to a clip:

  • Move
    • Simply drag it to the desired position.
  • Split
    • S key splits all clips at playhead
    • Select a clip, then S key splits selected clip at playhead
  • Trim
    • Drag either end of the clip to resize*
    • Make a time selection, choose clip(s), right click and choose Trim Items to Selected Area
  • Delete
    • Select an item and hit delete key (backspace on Mac)

* If you try to make a clip larger e.g. reveal media outside of the original selection, the media is hidden:

Extended clip media is not revealed.
Extended clip media is not revealed.

You first need to turn off “Section Looping” for the clip. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Right click the clip > Item Settings > untick “Loop section of item source”
  2. Double click the clip for properties > Untick “Section” at the bottom of properties > Apply
Turning off looping on a clip
Turning off looping on a clip

Section untick

 

Media Item Properties

The properties of each clip can be accessed by double clicking.

Media item properties

The Media Item Properties window is very useful as it lets us:

  • Change a clip’s name
  • Adjust volume of a clip
  • Normalise

Editing sound levels (volume)

Getting levels right is crucial for an effective audio piece.There are several ways to control levels:

  • Normalise (See media item properties)
    • Will optimise level of a clip. usually only for voice clips or final mixdown. However, if your recordings are the correct level you don’t need to normalise.
  • Clip volume
    • to change the overall volume of a clip, either use media item properties, or drag the top edge of a clip downwards.
  • Fading –
    • To fade in or out, drag the top left or right corners of a clip inward.
    • To crossfade two clips, just overlap them.
  • Dynamic fades (envelopes) –
    • Fading sound up and down within a clip is slightly more complicated and warrants it’s own section below.

Dynamic fades

There are many times when we may need to fade audio up or down within a clip e.g. we might have some intro music which we need to “duck” (turn down) when the voice over starts, to stop the two clashing.

For this we use envelopes. Envelopes let us draw volume changes using lines and points.

Envelopes

To use envelopes we need to show them on a track-by-track basis:

  1. Click the track automation button on the track’s head
    Automation
  2. Turn on the Volume envelope

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 15.48.48

This will open the volume automation lane:
Volume lanes
The green line represents the volume of the track and this can be edited to change over time. To make changes, we can move the green line (up or down) and create points and move those around.
To make a point, either:

  • Right click on the green line in the place where you want the point and choose Create New Point
  • Or Shift + click on the green line in the place where you want the point.

A simple fade down using two points:
Fade down
To delete a point, click to select then press the delete key.

You can find out more in the Reaper user guides over on their website.

Here are some quick screencasts showing the basics of Reaper:

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