Removing Unwanted Content from Music
There are times in life when it becomes necessary to edit a song to play on the air. Indecent language is certainly the most common of the reasons why we would do so. Indecent words include the "F" and "S" words; as well as combinations of words like "ass" and "hole," or "god" and "damn." These can be considered offensive to many and are certainly inappropriate for a young audience. For these reasons, we must ensure that this indecent language never makes it on the air between 6am and 10pm per FCC indecency standards. It is our job at KDHX to remove such indecent content in a way that is both effective at removing the content while remaining as unintrusive to the artist's original work as possible.
In order to do this, we have a few different creative options at our disposal in Pro Tools audio editing software: a drop out, a bleep, a reverse of audio, or a skip (repeat audio).
Setting Up The Pro Tools Session
- Click on the Pro Tools Icon in the Program Dock at the bottom of the screen.
- Click File at the top of the screen, then New Session.
- This will open the "New Session" window where you will select your settings.
- Select: Create Blank Session, AIFF, 44.1, and 16. I/O settings can remain on Last Used.
- Click OK.
- This will open the "Save" window.
- Save your session in the "MISC and Training" Folder under Pro Tools Documents as "Artist_NameOfAlbum_(Clean)"
- NOTE: It is important to edit music in "Slip" mode. This will keep the song stationary as you make edits (instead of "Shuffle" mode which will snap sections of the song together creating errors in time signature).
Importing Your Album
Before we can start editing out the naughty words, we must import the song or album into our new Pro Tools Session.
- NOTE: If you are editing an album or even just a few songs from an album, import ALL tracks from the album at one time even if you aren't editing some of them. This will make the exporting and burning processes more organized. It will also be more organized to import your tracks to the "Regions List" and work on them one at a time by dragging them into the tracks.
You should now have an empty session with your album tracks listed in the "Regions List" to the right of the Pro Tools main edit window.
- Before you can begin editing a song, you must drag it from the regions list into the main editing window.
- Your track will appear as a stereo file on a new track that is created automatically.
- Using the "Grabber Tool," drag the new track to the start of the session.
- Step 3 will be necessary because you are using "Slip," mode.
From here, you will be able to begin the editing process to remove the unwanted content. This is a fun and potentially creative process once you get used to it. It just takes some time.
Option 1 - The Drop Out
This is the most basic way to remove unwanted content; however, it is also the most destructive to the original content of the song. In this case, we simply mute the song for the duration of the indecent word.
- Using the Selector Tool, highlight the profanity that must be muted.
- Do not select more than the foul word. It is important for our edits to remain as fast as possible so they are less noticeable.
- On the left side of the screen, change your track view from "waveform" to "volume."
- Using the Trimmer Tool, move the cursor into your highlighted area above the volume line (The cursor will change to a downward facing bracket.)
- Click and drag downward within the highlighted region and you will see the volume line drop in the area selected.
- Be sure to drag the line all the way down until the indication of dB reads "-inf" (negative infinity).
- Using the Selector Tool again, drag the two points at "-inf" inward, toward one another slightly.
- This creates two sloping volume lines instead of two vertical ones.
- These slopes will create a more subtle fade out and back in.
- Play this section of the song and adjust the volume line as you wish to make sure the content is removed and the edit sounds acceptable.
Finalizing this Edit
- Using the Selector Tool, highlight a small region that includes the entirety of your edit plus a little to each side (a second or even less is fine).
- Bounce this short clip by clicking File -> Bounce to -> Disk.
- Save the file as the "Track # + Edit A,B, C..." (The letters help distinguish different edits in the same song).
- While the highlighted region is still selected, import the file you just bounced to a new track.
- Click File -> Import -> Audio
- Find the file you just bounced, and import it to "New Track" at "Selection."
- IMPORTANT! Importing your file to Selection will prevent you from having to manually line up your edited audio with the original song.
- Your file will appear in a new track below your main track where the song is.
- Using the grabber tool, drag the imported file straight up to where you made the edit.
- NOTE: Pro Tools will automatically keep this file stationary on the timeline unless you drag it too far left or right. By moving it vertically and not horizontally you will not have to realign the audio.
- Now you can remove your previous volume automation, and consolidate your edited clips into one.
- Select from the end to the beginning of the song, and click Edit -> Consolidate.
- You now have a single audio file that includes your edit.
- Repeat the editing and finalizing process one edit at a time until you're finished with the song.
Option 2 - The Bleep
This option allows for a little less precision than the previous one, and, in the end, provides a cleaner sounding edit than simply dropping out all audio for the duration of the foul language. This option utilizes a beep (or some other audio) to cover the unwanted content.
To do this, you must either select a short (less than a second), usable piece of audio that you can use to cover the unwanted content. Another option is to create a beep using the Pro Tools Audiosuite tone generator. You will copy these "bleeps" and paste them over the unwanted content in slip mode so that the time signature of the music is not affected.
- First you'll need to find a piece of audio that you can use to paste over the unwanted audio.