Did you tune in last night for How to Pass QA Every Time, the fourth episode of ACX University 2017? David and Brendan from the ACX QA team joined us to discuss the top reasons your audiobook productions may get flagged during our QA process, how to avoid these errors, and what you can do to fix them after the fact. You can watch the full episode below, then check out our QA checklist that you can use to finalize your productions before hitting “I’m Done!”
The ACX QA “Top Five” Checklist
1. Properly Edit Your Audiobook
Here are some ways to set yourself up for success in the editing stage of your audiobook production:
☐ Record in a quiet, non-reverberant room to minimize background noise.
☐ Make sure there’s enough distance between your voice and the microphone to prevent pops, loud breaths, and unwanted vocal artifacts.
☐ Use a dynamic microphone as opposed to a condenser when recording in a noisy environment. Some popular mic choices in this category include the Electro Voice RE20 and the Shure SM7B.
☐ Use a pop filter placed in front of the microphone to help tame plosives and sibilance.
☐ Learn and use the punch ‘n’ roll recording technique. Recording through an entire chapter in one take will often result in the file containing repeated lines, noises, and breaths that need to be edited out.
☐ Record and save 30–60 seconds of clean room tone to use when editing out noises.
☐ Utilize a QC sheet to identify and resolve any editing issues.
Sounds in your recording that should always be edited out include:
- Narration with excessive mouth noise and vocal artifacts.
- Clicks and pops located at the beginning of a file before the performance begins and at the end of a file after you’ve finished recording a chapter.
- Long gaps of audio silence within the middle of a file.
- Heavy background noise.
2. Encode Your Files According to ACX Guidelines
Make sure all of your audiobook files meet the following requirements before uploading them to ACX:
☐ No files exceed 120 minutes in length or 170 mb in size.
☐ All files must be recorded at a 44.1khkz sampling rate.
☐ All files must be 192 kbs or higher MP3s, encoded at a constant bit rate (CBR), not variable bit rate (VBR).
☐ All files within a given production must be either all stereo or all mono files.
Some tips to help you avoid RMS issues include:
☐ Record at the proper volume. Your voice should peak around -12dB to -8dB. Adjust your pre-amp so that your voice peaks at this level, then keep it at that level. Set it and forget it.
☐ If you need to adjust the level at which you’re hearing yourself while recording, adjust your monitor level, not your preamp.
☐ Use proper mic technique to ensure your performance is within the appropriate volume range.
☐ Check file level statistics within your DAW to ensure you are meeting the ACX requirements. Group like files together in larger books to make mastering easier.
☐ Use normalization and compression to even out your files. Don’t EQ after compression, as this could affect your final levels.
☐ Keep your monitor level consistent during mastering.
4. Adequately Space Your Audio Files
☐ Make sure you are editing with both fidelity to the manuscript and the listening experience in mind.
☐ During the edit/QC stage, keep room tone handy to use when structuring files.
☐ Leave one half second to 1 second of clean room tone at the beginning and between 1 and 5 seconds of clean room tone at the end of each file.
5. Correctly Order and Structure Audio Files
☐ Ensure that all of your audiobook project’s files have been uploaded to ACX only once each, and in the proper order.
☐ Make sure you’ve included the appropriate chapter/section headers at the start of each file.
☐ Record each section or chapter in a separate track in your project file within your DAW.
☐ Include the file order number along with the section name in your file name. This will help you keep track during upload. Example: 01_Tom Sawyer_Opening Credits.mp3, 02_Tom Sawyer_Acknowledgements.mp3, 03_Tom Sayer_Ch01.mp3, etc.
Print this blog post out and use it as a checklist to ensure you hit all of our QA team’s recommendations. Following the QA team’s advice will put you on the right path to speeding your production to “on-sale,” and will help ensure a satisfied Rights Holder and happy listeners for your audiobook.