Today, we’re joined by Audible Approved producer Andi Arndt, who takes us through her daily audiobook production checklist. When it comes to producing great sounding audiobooks, consistency and attention to detail are key. So, take Andi’s ideas to heart, then write up your own checklist and stick to it every time you’re ready for the day’s session.
Andi’s OCD Pre-Narration Checklist
Maintaining consistent audio and performance quality is crucial to long-form narration. It makes sense, then, to have a consistent approach to each day’s work. Every setup is a little different, but here’s what happens in my studio to start the day.
Turn the HVAC off.
Low hums and fan whooshes? No way. Climate control happens before a session starts and during lunch breaks. (In about a month or so, this won’t be an issue because I’ll be installing a lovely new Studiobricks One isolation booth with its own quiet ventilation system built in).
Put sweater and slippers on (fingerless gloves optional).
I learned the hard way that cold hands and feet often lead to a tight jaw and even stuttering. Horrors!
Fill water bottle to sip during session.
It’s actually best to pre-hydrate, as it can take a while for the water we drink to make its way to the mouth and throat. Maintain hydration during recording with smaller sips.
Grab a few sugar-free Ricola throat drops.
I use these constantly, and usually have a drop-in-progress on its wrapper to suck on anytime I stop to save files or confirm the pronunciation of a word.
After trying a bunch of different brands, I settled on the “Say Yes to Carrots” brand because of its lightness, and always have some with me in the booth. It’s a great way to reduce the “smackiness” caused by dry lips.
Fill Pat Fraley spray bottle.
Anyone who is an alum of Pat’s valuable audiobook workshops, co-taught by some of the best mentors a narrator could hope for (in my case Scott Brick, Hillary Huber and Kathe Mazur) has one of these little spray bottles. When you feel dry mouth smackiness coming on, a few spritzes and off you go.
Turn on microphone and open recording software on iMac.
Nothing like pushing record only to notice that the waveform looks awfully puny, because the input device is still set to the built-in mic. Oops. So yes, “turn on microphone” and “confirm levels” are on this list.
Set phone to silent mode.
There are few things more disappointing than being in the groove of a great chapter, really rolling along, only to have a cellphone step on your mojo. Set it to silent and leave it outside of the booth. You can check it between chapters— it’s too much of a distraction to have it within reach while narrating.
Turn on laptop in booth, activate screen sharing.
I thought using a laptop in the booth would be great, until I realized that recording directly to my laptop meant the noisy hard drive fan was getting picked up by my mic. To solve this, I looked for ways to record to the iMac outside my booth without having to purchase and set up an extra monitor. Controlling it from inside the booth, via my laptop, would allow me to take advantage of the time-saving aspects of punch & roll recording. Apple’s “Screen Sharing” function turned out to be the answer.
Turn off light in booth to set appropriately dramatic mood.
I didn’t always do this until recently. There’s something about turning the lights off that reminds me how intimate this medium is: just me, the listener and the author’s words.
Listen to (at least) the last five minutes of yesterday’s session.
There’s so much more to a consistent performance than just matching a dialect or the pitch of a character voice. The overall emotional tone, the pacing, the rhythm, the sensibility is something worth sitting in for at least five minutes in order to pick up where you left off.
To sum up: minimize noise, check the tech, set the mood, and GO!
Andi Arndt is an Audible-Approved ACX Narrator and Producer. She is a finalist for the 2014 Audie Award for Short Story Narration for her work on the multi-narrator collection “Nine Inches” by Tom Perrotta, published by Macmillan Audio. Andi records from a home studio in Harrisonburg, VA.