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.