Where is this cutting room and what’s that on the floor?


Last week, I wrote about speaking with artists who come through Birmingham and how a good interview should be thought of as a journey of discovery. I also mentioned the art of editing and how we must boil an interview down from 30-45 minutes to somewhere between four and eight minutes. (Missed it? Here you go!)

So just how do we edit interviews?

It’s important to understand that everything needs an edit – very seldom do people speak in a way that they’re easily understood on the radio. That’s the key point.

Information is processed very differently when it’s heard. There are the obvious things that get cut like a stumble or cough. And sometimes guests give very long, very detailed answers.

It’s our job to produce an interview that makes sense to you. Editing ensures that what remains is the most compelling information possible told in an engaging way.

And about this cutting room. The “cutting room floor” refers to a time when interviews were recorded on reel-to-reel tape. When these interviews were edited, the tape was marked with a grease pencil then physically cut with a razor blade. The piece of tape you didn’t need fluttered to the floor and the remaining tape would be taped together.

The “cutting room floor” was where all those extraneous pieces of tape (the coughs, stumbles, or unclear content) would reside. As you can imagine, this process was a bit rough around the edges. If you made a mistake, it wasn’t particularly easy to reassemble the original tape…not to mention finding the missing piece on the floor.

Enter digital editing.

We almost take it for granted now, but interviews are recorded on hard drive. If we don’t like a particular edit that was made, we just hit “undo!” Aside from the miracle that is “undo,” digital editing also gives us more control since we have a visual reference in additional to an aural one. We can zoom in and edit at a much more granular level than with tape.

To understand just how much easier the process has become, try this exercise I use to teach editing. Using the Voice Memo function on your phone, record yourself counting slowly from 1 to 5. Now edit out all the odd numbers so that only the even ones remain.

See what I mean? Digitally, this is done in just a few clicks, but can you image having to do this on reel-to-reel tape and the time it would take?

(Through “Programming Notes,” we hope to keep you connected to what is happening at WBHM both internally and on-air. Have feedback you’d like to share? Or a programming question? Let me know!)



Incoming Transmission! Pt. 2

You may remember earlier this year when WBHM held a special Transmitter Drive. With your support, we raised the final $50,000 to purchase and install a new transmitter. In total, this project cost $230,000. For this edition of Program Notes, I checked in with WBHM’s engineer Darrell McCalla who oversees this project for an update […]

Meeting You Where You Are

Last week, I attended the Public Radio Content Conference – the premier gathering for non-commercial programmers, content managers and leaders in the public media ecosystem. This was the first in-person conference in more than two years and, it was good to reconnect with my colleagues in person — not just because of the pandemic, but […]

Rise and Shine

I spent early August substitute hosting Morning Edition for Miranda Fulmore who was on a well-deserved vacation. And while everyone has their routine, I thought I’d share a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes in the very early hours of the day. I get up at 3 a.m. which also means I really try […]

There’s Lots of Moth’s in the Air

This week, I’m writing about The Moth – not the insect, the storytelling phenomenon! If you haven’t heard, The Moth is true stories told live, without notes. It’s personal storytelling that connects us as human beings. These stories are told in different ways to millions of people each year including right here in the Heart […]

Welcome Back to Program Notes!

I spent a (mostly) restful two weeks off visiting with extended family – most of us hadn’t seen each other since before the pandemic. But even on vacation, I still listen to public radio wherever I am. Sure, I could (and often do) listen online, but there’s a part of me that’s also a fan […]

Deliberate Indifference – Inside Alabama’s Prison Crisis

You’ve probably heard of our new narrative podcast, Deliberate Indifference. And, given all the heavy news the past few months alone, you may think this is the last thing you want to listen to. I urge to reconsider. As citizens, we have a right to know how more than 500 million of our tax dollars […]

More Michael Krall's Program Notes Coverage