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Creating a Soundproof Recording Studio

The studio space I am working with will be 6’x6’x8′ in an exterior room in my house (our laundry room attached to the garage). There are power outlets on the far side of the room, but not on the side where I am going to be working. There is a window, but I’m going to be building over this and may simply cover the window space (though we’ve been toying with the idea of painting a mural on the outside of my studio wall for fun). Continue reading Creating a Soundproof Recording Studio

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Disturb the Sound of Silence

While recording a book, I have found that there are so many sounds that the mic pics up that I never would have thought of.

Normal things, like my kids being awake and loud outside of my office I totally expected. I have a recording time from about 9:30pm – 1am that I normally stick to. I say normally, because if my son wakes up from me reading, he kicks the wall to tell me to knock it off, which is my cue to stop recording for 20-30 minutes. I normally take this time to brew some more tea or review the recording for any sound errors, so that’s fine.

The main sounds that you hear, though, are going to be sort of strange. Your tummy makes gurgling sounds all the time that you aren’t aware of, your lips smack strangely if they are dry, and you can’t touch ANYTHING (including your clothes) while you’re recording, because the scratching sound is easily heard. I’ve had to re-read whole paragraphs because I could hear myself moving.

Tonight, I have Coyotes. This one is very rare, but I put on my headset and got ready to record and I could hear them howling and yipping in the field behind my house… or a few miles away if their voices are carrying. Now I hear a siren going by, which is another major sound near my house since the Sheriff’s office is just down the road a few miles next to the hospital.

In all, sound quality is super important since we’re producing a final product, but it can be managed. Recording when you are sure no one will be around and pausing for minor things (like sirens or coyotes) gives you time to stretch your legs and eyes for a few moments while they pass. I didn’t hit my goal tonight, but I’ll do my best to make up for it tomorrow night.

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My First First Fifteen Minutes

When you record an Audiobook with ACX, they require you to submit a fully edited portion of the first 15 minutes (give or take a few minutes). I’ve been working on this for the past few nights, and it’s a very educational experience. Here’s my process for recording the First Fifteen Minutes.

Of course, I’ve already read the entire book once. While reading it, however, I am going through highlighting everything and making notes of any questions I have. Mostly they have to do with personalities of characters that aren’t too fleshed out but are important and spelling/grammar errors that might they want me to correct in the read (they do). From there, there are two easy methods to find 15 minutes. One is to do a word-count and put it into a calculator, the second is to just read for 30-minutes into the mic and edit down. I went for option two because I wanted complete chapters.

So, into the studio I go! My studio is a bit unique because it’s 15′ away from my computer. Normally you would just edit on the fly, but I don’t get that luxury just yet. Perhaps after I make a couple hundred bucks doing VO I will get a rig that will work, but for now, I just edit afterwards.

I pull up the book and start recording using my Reading Voice. The first go-through I read it plain, no special voices except for minor characters (1-4 lines is a minor character). Once I’m done with that I scroll back and read the character’s voices at their lines. This will be a lot easier once I have the rig set up right, but right now I am just recording each line 3-5 times.

Now that I’m done recording for about 30-45 minutes, I go back to the computer, stop the recording, and begin editing (the fun part!)

Editing is simple. I go back to the beginning of the audio and I snip out the first 30 seconds, which is from when I hit record until I’m ready to start speaking. The next 30 seconds is silence with me in the room ready to go. After that, I start my reading. I read everything on the page until the end of the chapter, then I stop for 30 seconds. Why do I stop so long? Because when I’m editing I can find a big 30-second gap MUCH easier than I can find a 5-second gap. If it’s not exactly 30-seconds, that’s fine, I can add in silence… which I do.

While cleaning up my coughs, scratches, belches, farts, tummy rumbles, and other such noises, I also mark everywhere that a character is speaking. In all, this process takes about an extra 30 minutes of my time than it would if I could just roll-back and re-record, but again, that’ll happen soon enough! I do this all the way through the read and I check to see what my time is. My first run I ended at 17 minutes and change, perfect for a First Fifteen Minutes.

Now I have to add in the voices. This part is REALLY hard for me and I’m entirely considering doing it differently because.. ugh! I know where people are talking, so I fast-forward to those points and set the cursor to the empty space where someone’s talking. Pull up the file that has the voices and play each one until I find the right tone. Once I find the right one I highlight, note the time, go back to the narration, and I insert that many seconds into the clip. Then I paste. BAM! Instant character voices!

The reason that I record the dialogue apart from the narration does have a practical use, when I’m doing a voice of a small character who’s in multiple chapters, I may not get the voice right the second time, that can be awkward. Sure I could just re-record those parts, and that’s likely what I’m going to end up changing to, but for now, I do them all.

Now that I have a generally clean first fifteen minutes, the next step is to clear out the room-tone. This is actually SUPER easy because of a plugin I found. It creates a layer of room-tone and all I have to do is highlight where I want to insert and it’s clean and pristine!

Last step, and this one is the most important for ACX. I have to go through the entire thing one more time and make sure that the volume levels are consistent throughout the entire book. To be fair, I honestly haven’t figured this out entirely yet, but from what I’m seeing my recording is already even and level. I may have recorded my first First Fifteen Minutes without any audio errors. That’s rad.

I will finish up those last two steps tonight and I’ll be uploading my finished product to the client tomorrow morning.

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Wizards and Heroes – By Clark Graham

Wizards and Heroes - Book CoverSo, I submitted a few auditions through ACX.com, a meeting place for audiobook producers and the writers, and this evening I got sent a contact to produce my first audiobook. I am so incredibly excited about this! I give you, Wizards and Heroes, by Clark Graham.

So, the first thing I did, because I don’t want to be “that guy” was I read through every word of the contract for me to produce this audiobook. No, seriously. Every. Last. Word. It’s pretty straight forward. I’m given so much time to complete the audiobook and once complete it will be reviewed and listed with Audible. Whenever the book sells, I will get 20% of the sale price. (Audible gets 60%, the author gets 20% and I get 20%). I haven’t completed my payment information yet, but that’s easy enough, I just need to get that plugged in. Not that it would be soon, but it’s something I need to do.

Alright, so here’s the process:

  1. Contract is signed and dates are agreed upon.
  2. The author will send me a manuscript of the book that I will be reading.
  3. I will go over the enitre manuscript a few times looking for any problems that I will need to clarify with the author (ie: characterization, pronunciation, any grammar errors I may find, etc…).
  4. Once the manuscript is square, I begin recording.
  5. The first fifteen minutes have to be completed for review to be sure I’m on the right track by December 5th (2 weeks from today). This shouldn’t be too difficult,¬†for every 1 hour of an Audiobook, it takes 4-5 hours of production. I should be able to manage the first 15 minutes of the read by just reading 2-3 chapters and pushing those through. If given a 5-6 hour day of working, this won’t be a problem at all.
  6. Once the first 15 minutes are approved, I will blast through all the rest of the book. I plan on reading the entire book through in my normal voice, then re-recording character voices individually so that I keep their tone and accents pretty much the same throughout.
  7. Once the recording process is done, I will begin the cleaning up. This is mostly just going through and covering up places where I slurred or something. Normally I get those on the first go, but if I miss anything I just re-record those parts and then mix them in.
  8. Last step is the mastering. Making sure that the levels are clean all the way through and that the book is ready for production. Steps 7 and 8 are by far the longest parts and will probably take about 20-30 hours of work. Luckilly, the finished book isn’t due until February, so LOTS of elbow room. (Still, I’m going to try to push for early January in case there are any further edits)

So that’s it! I will have my manuscript soon and I’ll start recording shortly after that. This is the first dip into what I feel is my dream job and if I can persevere through the training process on the software I am sure that I’ll do great!