Tag Archives: audiobook recording

A Critical Ear: The ACX Reference Sample Pack

Hi! This is Brendan from the ACX QA Team. I’m here today to introduce our Reference Sample Pack, a new tool we’ve developed to illustrate how your audiobook should—and should not—sound during the various stages of production.

This tool will help you spot problems in your audio and give you an idea of the audio quality your listeners will be expecting from productions on Audible. We’ve also included files that can be used to calibrate your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for recording. Mastering level specifications, especially RMS, can be difficult to understand via text alone. What better way to learn what kind of audio “passes” ACX QA than to have passable files at hand for you to refer to and test on your own setup?

Getting Started

To use the Reference Sample Pack, download the zip file onto your computer. Unzip this folder and you will find nine WAV files that can be loaded into your DAW of choice. We processed, and in some cases distorted, the same raw file for each example, then divided the samples into two categories: files that can be used as good production targets, and files containing issues you should try to avoid.

What’s Inside

Start with our PDF guide, which contains exact details on what you should listen for while playing.

 

The “Good Production” Files

File 1: A Raw, Unedited File (good-production_01_raw-recording.wav)

This file has a few issues that need to be resolved before it can pass QA, the mouse clicks and excessive spacing at the start of the file for example, but nothing you hear can’t be resolved during the editing and mastering stages.

File 2: An Edited File (good-production_02_edited-recording.wav)

This next file contains the same performance, edited properly.

 

Notice the edits made between “Step 1” and “Step 2.” We trimmed the spacing (circled in purple) at the top of the file to half a second, and removed the mouse clicks and deep intake breaths (circled in yellow), replacing them with clean room tone.

Learning proper editing techniques can take some time, but I’ve found that the Alex the Audio Scientist blog post on editing and spacing is a helpful starting point. I even use the same QC sheet referenced in Alex’s post when I work on my own projects.

File 3: An Edited Master, Pre-Encoding (good-production_03_edited-mastered-recording.wav)

Ever wonder what a file that meets our Audio Submission Requirements, with peaks around -3dB and RMS levels between -18 and -23dB RMS, would look like in your DAW? This is it! Observe how consistent the peaks in this file are, then check where this file peaks on your meters. If your file is too dynamic or sounds a little muddy, you may need to utilize mastering tools like those detailed in Alex the Audio Scientist’s Mastering Audiobooks blog post

The “Avoid” Files

The “Avoid” files contain common problems you should steer clear of during production. Included here are:

  • A file that has been recorded at levels that are too low,
  • A file that’s been heavily gated,
  • A recording processed with heavy noise reduction, and
  • Files with Peak or RMS levels that do not meet our requirements.

You should not use these files to calibrate your system for recording. Rather, train your ears to notice these sounds as you work on your own files, and use these examples to understand the most common issues you may run into during production.

Try It Yourself

The sample pack also includes the script used during the recording of the samples. If you are testing out your levels before you begin a new project and want to compare your recordings to the “target” files in this pack, we recommend you use this script, which can be found on the last page of the file “ACX—Sample Guide.pdf.” Record your read of the script and compare your noise floor and peak level to the “Step 2” file. The closer you can get to matching the samples, the more confident you can be that you will pass QA inspection later on in the process.

Final Thoughts

It can be easy to get caught up in post-production, using too many plugins or tools when trying to meet specifications, or trying to fix poorly recorded audio that is beyond repair. At ACX, we believe the best time to address audio issues is before they make their way onto your recording. Training your ears to know when problems are occurring will be far more beneficial than having the latest noise removal or EQ plugins will ever be. The better you get at listening to yourself, the better your productions will sound to others.

Did you find the QA Team’s Reference Sample Pack helpful? Tell us in the comments below.

This Week in Links: August 21 – 25

Did you hear the news? ACX University is back for 2017, with eight episodes coming in September. This year, we’ve expanded our premiere audiobook education event to cover topics for authors and publishers in addition to actors and producers. Check out this year’s curriculum, meet the panelists, and catch up on past year’s lessons here. Make sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, where you can watch every episode of this year’s program for free!

For Producers:

Why George Guidall Is the Undisputed King of Audiobooks – via The New York Times – Learn audiobook performance theory from the venerated veteran.

Should You Neutralize Your Accent? – via Paul Strikwerda – “Even though it’s fun to do all kinds of accents and characters, nine out of ten times clients hire me because I sound like me, and not like someone else.”

Should You Ever Volunteer to Do Voice-Over for Free? – via Edge Studio – “One way to add to your experience is volunteer work. But should you volunteer to do voice work for free? There are pros and cons, so read on…”

The Still Small Voice – via Karen Commins – Find out how rediscovering the love for her childhood instrument reminded Karen how listening to that little voice inside can be important for your VO career.

For Rights Holders:

Making A Great Author Website In 16 Steps – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – “First, look at your site from the eyes of those who would come to visit it…Second, ask yourself if you started from scratch, how different would a brand new site look in comparison to what you have?”

Brands to Avoid – via CreateSpace – When building your author brand, be authentic, and remember to highlight the positive aspects of yourself and your books.

4 Questions You Should Never Ask About Your Book – via Helping Writers Become Authors – “In short, good writing is not about finding the right answer. It’s about finding the right question.”

20 Inspiring Writing Podcasts to Subscribe to Right Now – via The Write Life – “For writers looking to bust writer’s block, hone their craft or spice up a boring commute, there’s no shortage of podcasts from amateurs and experts alike.”

This Week in Links: July 24 – 28

For Rights Holders:

What Are Authors Willing To Do To Get Publicity? – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – “If you can’t find much to publicize about you or your book then you probably should rethink who is going to buy the book and what will move them to be interested.”

16 Ways to Make Your Setting a Character in Its Own Right – via Helping Writers Become Authors – Let your audiobook narrator chew on some scenery for a while.

Airtight Plotting Strategies – via CreateSpace – Every audiobook project starts as a writing project. Make sure you don’t lose the thread on your next one.

8 Tips to Keep in Your Mind When Seeking Book Reviews – via where writers win – Learn the smart way to get professionals to review your book, and keep in mind the ways these tips apply to your audiobook as well.

For Producers:

How Dangerous Is Your Voice-Over Studio? – via Paul Strikwerda – “In order to truly feel at home, happy, and safe in my claustrophobic recording cave, I had to add some items and make some adjustments to make life a lot healthier.”

How to be Productive During a (Voice-over) Vacation – via Natasha Marchewka – Read about smart ways to both relax and be productive in your time away from the booth.

A Reminder… – via Dave Courvoisier – Dave’s back with a 15-point reality check for voiceover newbies. Can you pass the test?

Voiceovers And Working With Authors – via Tom Dheere – Tom’s here to remind you that you might not always be working directly with the author of the book you’re recording, especially if you’re working with an audio publisher.

This Week in Links: July 17 – 21

For Producers:

Cultivating Your Personal Brand As A Voice-Over Artist – via suchavoice – You know you need it, even if you don’t want to work on it. Read up on the five ways to “cultivate a personal brand that is really, and truly your own.”

What Are You Waiting For? – via Paul Strikwerda – Paul’s here with that kick in the pants that every freelancer needs from time to time.

4 Reasons You Should be Marketing Your VO Business on Instagram – via Dave Courvoisier – Learn why the visual social network is a great place to spread word of your audio services, and the best part is that now you can Buy instagram likes whenever you want, this will improve your marketing strategies on social media.

ACXU Presents: Inside the Booth: A Day in the Life of an ACX Pro Producer – via ACX – Get an idea of what it takes to make a career out of voiceover work with Audible Approved Produced Caitlin Kelly.

For Rights Holders:

How to Create Pre-Launch Buzz for Your Book Right Now – via Bad Redhead Media – As you read this, note the tips that can be repurposed for your audiobook launch.

A Step-By-Step Indie Authors Guide for Attracting Media Attention – via Book Marketing Tools – “If you’re like most indie authors who can’t afford the razzle-dazzle of today’s publicity masterminds, there is an option for you. It’s called DIYing your own publicity campaign, and it’s not as scary as it sounds.”

Authors and Marketing Fatigue – via The Book Designer – If you’ve got an excuse for why your book marketing isn’t working an are ready for a dose of reality, this is the article for you.

Tips on Writing a Sequel (When You Didn’t Plan to Write a Sequel) – via Writer’s Digest – So, you’ve heard that series do well in audio, and you’re kicking yourself for not planning ahead. Never fear, Writer’s Digest’s got you covered.

This Week in Links: June 5 – 9

Audible’s Matt Thornton stops by today to fill us in on an exciting new initiative Audible has recently launched.

The mixture of words and voices that give books their power is an even more fundamental element of the audio experience, which can bring together the best of writing and narrative performance. Last week, Audible announced a $5,000,000 fund to commission and produce new works by playwrights for Audible listeners. This project elevates three areas of focus that have informed Audible’s mission from the beginning: serving listeners, serving the professional creative class, and applying the best of emergent digital technologies on behalf of listeners, actors and authors.

Audible has enlisted an advisory board of distinguished theater talent to collaborate in the selection of recipients for the grants, and will solicit submissions for fund grants immediately. Read more about this program here, and inquire about submission at AudibleTheater@audible.com.

For Producers:

Dial Down the Intensity of Your Delivery – via Dr. Ann Utterback – “The problem is that if your excitement bleeds into your delivery too much, you’re doing a disservice to your listener.”

Refresh, Reboot, Refurbish, Renew – via Dave Courvoisier – Don’t collect digital dust. Consider these aspects of your voiceover business that might be ready for an upgrade.

6 Questions About Audio Publishing – via Karen Commins – Thinking of buying audio rights and becoming an audiobook publisher? Karen answers some questions about the process you may not have considered.

For Rights Holders:

Beginners guide to Indie Author Jargon: Book Marketing Glossary – via ALLi – You’ll find multiple entries for each letter from A – Z, with recommended blog posts for every term. Bookmark this one now.

5 Skills Every Writer Should Develop – via The Book Designer – Learn the attributes a writer should attain to become a true “autherpreneur.”

Can You Sell 10 Copies Of Your Book Every Day? – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – “Any goal that you set needs to have a number attached to it, something that’s measurable, realistic, but inspiring.”

Is Email Marketing Still Relevant? – via CreateSpace – It turns out the key to effective email marketing is… all your other forms of marketing. Who knew?

This Week in Links: May 22 – 26

For Producers:

Feeding Your Soul – via Paul Strikwerda – Find out why the “Nethervoice’s” best ideas come when he’s trying NOT to focus on business.

5 Customer Retention Tips for your Voiceover Business – via Victoria DeAnda – If you voice it (well), they will come. But how do you keep them coming back?

Get Into Voice-Over Work: Beginner’s Guide – via Gary Terzza – Learn the VO coach’s essential tenets of a successful narration career.

Storytellers: Amanda Rose Smith – via ACX – “For me, getting paid to do something you’d probably do anyway is the highest form of success.”

For Rights Holders:

Public Speaking Tips for Writers: 7 Keys for a Great Speech – via The Write Practice – We’d say the 8th key is “ask your narrator for advice.”

6 Tips for Creating Believable Characters That Win Over Readers – via Writer’s Digest – This one’s for the “give your narrator something awesome to say” file.

10 Ways To Approach Book Publicity – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – “Believe in your abilities, trust in your creativity, and take the initiative to get the media exposure you feel you deserve.”

Clear Step-By-Step Guide to Editing for Self-Publishers – via where writers win – Every good book deserves an editor (and no, your narrator doesn’t count!)

This Week in Links: May 15- 19

For Rights Holders:

Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – May 2017 – via The Book Designer – This month, the site’s lead writer shares her biggest marketing mistake: not taking her own advice.

The Key to Creating a Successful Blog: Evergreen Content – via The Write Life – Creating blog posts that are constantly wanted and searched for is a great way to attract readers through social media.

How to Form an Indie Author Collective (and Why You Should Consider Doing So) – via ALLi – [“K]nowing others are supporting you and holding you accountable puts wind in your sails.”

Branding vs. Marketing – via CreateSpace – “I’ve heard people use the terms interchangeably, and frankly, that’s just wrong. They serve the same purpose, but they are two different tools serving that purpose.”

For Producers:

On Excellence in Voiceover. Do You Dare to Push Yourself? – via Edge Studio – Where is the line between adequacy and excellence? Are you excellent enough to make the cut? And can you take pursuit of excellence too far?

2 Customer Service Examples: The Wrong Way and the Right Way – via audio’connell – Freelance VO’s need to give clients great customer service. Two anecdotes from other industries provide examples to follow.

10 Money Tips For Voiceover Freelancers – via Tom Dheere – “Make, save, and spend money like a business, not like a clueless rogue artiste.”

Tales From The Voice Booth – via People Magazine – Put some fun in your weekend with H. John Benjamin’s hilarious voiceover horror stories.

This Week in Links: March 20 – 24

For Producers:

Making Room – via Dave Courvoisier – “What old business practices, coaching tips, or social media schemes are you continuing to use… JUST BECAUSE you always have?”

What Can a New Voice Over Do To Get Noticed? – Pay Attention to Your Needs – via Voice Over Herald – “To help you find the root cause of your failures and rejections, get someone who will be honest with you, brutally and utterly honest.”

Joe’s VO Intel – Ep 93 “Audiobooks: Narrator vs Character – via Edge Studio – Learn how and when to vacillate between a neutral and emotional voice when narrating nonfiction.

ACX University Presents: Now Hear This: A Closer Look at Performing Top Audiobook Genres – via ACX – “Join ACX as we dive deep into performing in the best-selling fiction and non-fiction genres with help from some best-selling voices. Actors Mark Boyett and Piper Goodeve join Kat Lambrix of Audible Studios.”

For Rights Holders:

How to Hitch a Ride on Someone Else’s Holiday to Sell Books – via The Book Designer – “It takes time and requires patience. But most of all, it takes courage to step far outside your comfort zone, something most authors who are introverts are loathe to do.”

How to Create a Review Campaign for Your Book Launch – via Book Marketing Tools – “Honest, authentic reviews are the result of connecting with readers and either exceeding or failing their expectations. Contrary to what some authors might believe, however, getting reviews isn’t a waiting game.”

Workshops – via CreateSpace – “Why would I want to undertake such a task? Simple. It’s a way to associate my brand with a topic that is crucial to the theme of my books.”

The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now – via Bad Redhead – “Branding is not (solely) about your books. I know, right? Weird.”

This Week in Links: February 13 – 17

For Rights Holders:

Launching a Book? Why You Should Start Building an Email List Today – via Book Marketing Tools – “Besides generating more leads, email marketing identifies better-quality leads, shortens the sales cycle, improves conversion rates, reduces marketing costs, and more.”

Interview With Audie Awards Competition Chairperson Janet Benson – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – Get a peek at what an insider thinks of the audiobook industry’s top honors.

Her Debut Novel Just Turned 1. Which Marketing Tactics Worked? – via The Write Life – Learn went went well, what went not-so-well, and what comes next for new author E.J. Wenstrom.

Emotion vs. Feeling: How to Evoke More From Readers – via Writer’s Digest – File this evocative story under “give your narrator something to chew on.”

For Producers:

Bookkeeping Tips to Help You Keep Your Voiceover Business Financials Organized – via Victoria DeAnda – “You don’t want to be that person scrambling right before your taxes are due—only to send off your “financials” in a bag stuffed with receipts.”

Five Questions. Five Answers – via Paul Strikwerda – The veteran VO answers the questions he is most often asked, including “What is the one thing you know now that you wish someone had told you when you started out in voice-over?”

Your Business Plan – via Dave Courvoisier – Discover a business planning resource for saving time day-to-day and mapping out your career path.

R.C. Bray: From Audiobook Beginner to Audie Winner – via ACX University – Find out how the award-winning narrator of The Martian got his start on ACX

This Week in Links: February 6 – 10

For Producers:

Becoming a Frugal Freelancer – via Paul Strikwerda – Every dollar matters when you’re your own boss. Paul offers a detailed look at 7 tips to help you turn a profit.

Your Voice Could Be the Next Great Thing in Computing – via J. Christopher Dunn – Technology like Siri and Amazon’s Alexa may present new opportunities for VO’s.

What Are You Saying? – via Dave Courvoisier – Dave offers a meditation on rates for new talent and when it might be time to raise yours.

Super Bowl Sized Marketing Fail – via Marc Scott – “Beware what you share because EVERYTHING is marketing!”

For Rights Holders:

Top 15 Tips for Webinar Wannabes – via The Book Designer – Want to host a webinar for your book launch, or to build your email list? Learn how to do it correctly.

Book Marketers & Authors Must Improve Their Vocabulary – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – Find out how an expanded vocabulary can help your book marketing.

You’re Not Just an Author, You’re a Brand – via CreateSpace – “The point is that you are more than an author. You are a human being who dabbles in real life as much as any respectable human being.”

10 Creative Exercises That Will Help You Improve Your Writing – via Writer’s Digest – “[W]hen adapted for writers… the techniques taught through improv can enhance creativity, improve storytelling and dialogue skills, help make problems easier to solve, and make writing fun.”