Creating an Editing Enviroment, Pt. 1

Despite what you may hear, you can’t just edit anywhere.  You may be able to throw a rough cut together just about anywhere you can set up your computer, but if you’re going to make that near-perfect final edit, you’d better have a space that will facilitate that work, and not make it more difficult.  Let’s start with the obvious: sound.

Hopefully while you’re editing, you’re adjusting sound levels as they need to be to ensure an even sound level from clip to clip.  However, if you’re sitting in your living room editing (like I need to) with someone watching television or listening to music, this can be a problem.  So my first tip for creating an ideal editing environment is to invest in a worthy pair of noise canceling headphones.  My tip, be as cost effective with them as you can. has a video on how to make your own for about $20.  I’m seriously considering trying it myself.  A lot more affordable than the set of Shure headphones I’d been considering.

If rigging up your own isn’t your thing, there are two types of noise-cancelling headphones you can buy.

The first, and by any measure, more cost-effective option is passive isolating headphones.  These are the kinds of headphones that have comfy little silicone tips that sit in your ear.  The silicone makes a tight seal in your ear, effectively cutting out sound from the world around you.  With the proper type of tip and proper fit, these headphones can be very effective.

The second option will cost you a bit more.  These are the active isolators.  BOSE is the most well-known of the active isolators, with their very popular QuietComfort headphones.  These headphones sit on or over your ear and are powered by a battery.  The headphones study the sounds coming towards them from the outside world and emit the exact opposite frequency into your ear.  Those frequencies cancel each other out, and you hear nothing.

Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a space at home or work that can be made completely silent, you may want to forgo the headphones and instead rig up to a good speaker system.  You’ll want to do this anyway for test screenings, but in the right setting, difficult as it may be to find if you don’t have a studio space open to you, they can be your primary means of sound.  I’ll be continuing this series in the future with more tips.  Keep posted.

  1. Just wanted to share a forum thread that built up recently on the Creative COW site about editing with headphones that might shed some more light on the situation.

      • Michelle
      • January 19th, 2010

      Glen, Thanks so much. Definitely a great conversation to read over. Wish I could dedicate a room to being truly set up for good audio editing, but for a freelancer working out of my house, that’s not within my capability. I definitely do agree that final mixes should be done in a room set up for audio. I usually rent such space myself, and will do final mixes there. But if I’m trying to assemble a basic cut on a train (as I’ve had to do before), or in my living room while my boyfriend is washing dishes in the kitchen, it’s wonderful to be able to block out the outside world to hear what I’m doing. I agree with everyone who said that you should use a quality set-up for the final mix. My logic for sound-proof headphones is that many people – freelancers/independents starting out w/o an office, editors in rooms with poor conditions, or students who work on a suite of systems all in the same room – need to be able to hear their audio to begin with to know what adjustments need to be made later. I never advocate using them all the time, but I do think it’s a tool worth having for every editor, because you never quite know when you’ll need them.

  2. I completely agree. Especially in the day where professionals and students are working in a shared rooms rather than their own isolated environments, you have to be able to cancel out all the audio clutter. What I took most importantly from the thread was to give your ears a break so you can hear those subtleties again and to check your mix in a variety of environment. Glad you started the conversation with this post.

    • Michelle
    • January 19th, 2010

    Glad I could start one. I agree completely. Rooms dedicated to audio are a must. When I finally forgo apartment living and get a house, I’ll turn one room into a proper edit studio, including such things as soundproofing on the walls, a good speaker system, and a variety of playback options for QC checks. In the meantime, I keep up on where I can get my hands on such rooms on the cheap.

  3. Thank you for the help.
    Great Audio info, i’m bookmarking the page for the great content.

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