How to edit crosstalk in video

Old-school computer with two microphones whose cords are tangled coming out of the monitor

In a conversation, some level of overlap when talking is a guarantee: jumping in to correct someone, vehemently agreeing with an unpopular opinion, even laughing along as someone tells a funny story. 

But when you’re recording a video podcast of that conversation, some of that crosstalk can be distracting or take away from the clarity of what’s being said. Still, you don’t want to cut it out willy-nilly — there’s an art to editing this conversational collision. 

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What is crosstalk?

Crosstalk is the term used to describe when more than one person is talking at the same time in your recording — a very common problem for video and podcast editing. You’ll usually find it at moments of high energy or emotion, or after a long pause when people are rushing to fill the silence. It can also include other unwanted background noise during the recording, like coughing, a mic bump, or constant iMessage pings coming through your friend’s laptop speakers who apparently never learned about Do Not Disturb. 

In this new era of remote recording, crosstalk is more prevalent than ever. In-person recordings can make it easy to tell when someone is going to talk based on small signals like body language or eye contact. But if you’re recording via Zoom, a wifi connection that puts you even a millisecond later than others can lead to constant crosstalk. 

The only way to edit crosstalk from your video is to make sure you’re recording all audio tracks separately so you have a multitrack editing option — no more screen recording a Zoom call or sitting your video hosts around a single Blue Yeti. 

Editing crosstalk

When you get to editing your video, it’s important not to cut out crosstalk just because it’s there. These overlaps are natural and add to the overall richness of the soundscape. It can show chemistry and engagement between the people in the video, and removing those sounds can remove some of the heart from your show. 

Although there are some very good reasons to keep crosstalk in, there are also plenty of reasons to cut it out. 

The obvious moments of sound overlap — background noise, coughing, a mic bump — should just be removed entirely. These bring nothing to your video other than a distraction (or a jump scare depending on the loudness of an unexpected dog bark) for your viewers. And, as long as everyone has their own audio input, they should be very simple to edit out. 

PRO TIP: Make sure every speaker in your video has their own audio input. You cannot edit crosstalk without individual audio recordings for everyone. Plus, it will make things easier to transcribe for things like subtitles or captions.

Complications with video editing  

When you’re only editing audio files in a DAW like Audacity, Adobe Audition, or Hindenburg, removing crosstalk can be as simple as highlighting the unwanted overlap and deleting. However, adding a video element can make your workflow a lot more difficult. 

Say you’ve recorded your video podcast using a remote audio and video-recording platform like Riverside or Squadcast. You’re telling a story about a recent trip to Disney World or the Grand Canyon or whatever, and your co-host is constantly talking over you. Some of the interjections add to the story (“No way;” “Same here;” “She said what??”), but others are distracting (“Oh my god I wish you could see my cat right now;” “This drink is bad;” “How’s my hair?”). 

Keeping all the overlap in would make the playback choppy and confusing, and it can make a transcription nearly impossible. You know you want to clean up your show and remove what’s distracting, but you can’t cut a person’s audio without still having video of them mouthing whatever was said. It’s a tricky situation for even the most seasoned video editor with the fanciest editing tools. 

The obvious solution is to get a new co-host, but it’s too late for that now. Besides, you really love your co-host — like I love Paige, my co-host — even if she is a terrible listener (Paige, if you’re reading this, I’m not talking about you, ok?). Your main solution will be in post-production, and for that, you have a few options — depending on how polished you want your show to be. 

Option 1: Cut the audio and make no changes to the video

If your focus is on storytelling and you don’t really care how professional the video looks, this is definitely the option for you. It’s also a great place to start if you’re a beginner video editor. All you have to do is some simple audio editing to cut out the waveform containing the crosstalk and move on. To anyone scrutinizing your video it might look a little weird, but most people probably just have the audio going while they do something else anyway. Plus, it’s easy to blame remote recording software for moments of choppy audio. 

Option 2: Use this as a chance to show some visuals

If the silent speaker feels more distracting than you want, use this as a chance to show pictures, B-roll video, or GIFs. Place them over the entire screen, insert some transitions, or just cover your co-host as you keep talking. 

You probably can’t get away with this for every instance of crosstalk, but if it’s a moment in the story that makes sense to bring in these assets, go for it. 

Option 3: Try some fancy video editing work 

If you just can’t sign your name to an amateur video edit, you’re going to have to dedicate some real time to splicing the video together. Luckily, since Riverside and Squadcast let you record separate audio/video feeds, you can use them to your advantage. In moments where the crosstalk is too much, let yourself take up the whole screen. 

Cut back to the original view when there’s an instance of crosstalk you want to leave in — it’ll feel like a more natural way to return to the two of you. Going back and forth between these layouts can be time consuming — especially if you have more than one co-host — but it’ll definitely be a more polished video. 

PRO TIP: Don’t just use one crosstalk editing technique; try out a combination of all of them. And don’t be afraid to experiment with other ideas you think of as you go.

In-person recording 

Again, in-person recording doesn’t have nearly as much crosstalk as virtual recordings, largely due to the nature of being, well, in person. It’s easier to tell when a person is going to talk, and you don’t have the distractions of your home life around you. Having a physical space for in-person recording often helps the mental space of recording in general. 

In the instances when crosstalk does happen in person, though, your options are more limited. That’s because when you’re close enough to speak face-to-face, you’re close enough to bleed into each other’s microphones. If your co-host says “mm-hmm,” your track is going to pick up “mm-hmm.” 

If you think you can cleanly cut out distracting crosstalk, your options are similar to the ones for virtual recording. You could cover the now-muted interruptor with visuals or a single shot of yourself. You could also insert reaction shots or B-roll, depending on the style of video you’re trying to produce. 

Don’t overthink it

Editing video is always daunting — editing audio within video even moreso. When trying to figure out which instances of crosstalk to clean up, it’s important to ask yourself if it’s distracting or annoying. These are immediate clues that some extra elbow grease may be needed in the edit. 

It’s also important to ask yourself: “Is this worth the effort?” Will the subscribers to your YouTube videos even care? It’s ok if the answer is “No, this is not worth the effort, if it’s that big of a deal Paige can edit the ****ing video herself,” (again, Paige, if you’re reading this, totally not about you!!). Trying to edit every instance of crosstalk out of every podcast episode can make things choppy, disjointed, and confusing, no matter how many tutorials you watch or how much time you spend on it. 

Make decisions based on the overall story and on the elements you can control. The more you experiment with it, the more likely you are to stumble upon a unique and interesting voice and style for your show. 

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