Tag Archives: production advice

This Week in Links: April 3 – 7

For Rights Holders:

Your Media Book Pitch Can Open 1,000 Doors! – via The Book Designer – Looking for opportunities to promote your book on TV? Find out who to contact and what to say in this helpful post.

The Ultimate Book Marketing Strategy is Surprisingly Simple – via The Write Life – “A lot of the foundational skills of writing and storytelling are a good foundation to build from for the rest of this stuff. If nothing else, your readers are coming to you for your voice, and that is one thing you are an expert in.”

Repeat After Me: “Goodreads Is My Friend” – via Writer Unboxed – Learn how authors can make the most out of bookworms’ favorite website.

How to Use Instagram to Promote Your Book – via CreateSpace – “A lot of authors are initially a bit baffled as to how to use such a visual medium for book promotion. To get you off on the right foot, here are four of the most common questions I get about Instagram from clients, answered.”

For Producers:

It’s Booth Gear, Baby! – via J. Christopher Dunn – “The accumulation of booth gear doesn’t necessarily reveal the type of person you’ve become. It’s not a reflection of what makes you, you. Instead, it’s what makes you comfortable so you can do an excellent job recording and impress the heck out of your clients who will shower you with repeat work.”

Surviving Marathons at the Microphone – via Dr. Ann Utterback – “So how do you survive a marathon at the microphone? I have an easy process for you to remember.  It’s based on three P’s:  Prioritize, Plan and Pace yourself.”

What The Heck Does PFH Mean in Voice-Over Job Quotes? – via Gary Terzza – For newbies, Gary’s got a quick explainer on what goes into your per-finished-hour narration rate.

Choosing the Right DAW – via Dave Courvoisier – “If you’re a complete beginner, this article will take you through the entire process of choosing the DAW that’s right for you. You’ll also learn what other equipment you’ll need, such as an audio interface, studio monitors, and software plugins.

How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 4

Welcome back to How to Succeed at Audiobook Production. If you’ve been following this series, then you’ve read up on The ACX Mile, which helps you perfect the art of narration recording, perform a complete edit and QC your recorded audio, and learn audio mastering best practices. If you haven’t perused these posts, I recommend doing so before continuing on.

NoAndrew_250x320w that you’re caught up, let’s move on to the fourth and final part of my series: encoding and file delivery.

Rounding The Final Corner

Upon a successful master, your audiobook production is not quite finished. Keeping that in mind, watch the final video in our series, and review the key points I discuss after.

The Home Stretch

I recommend you perform another final QC pass on your audio before moving on to encoding and delivering your audio. After putting so much effort into your production, the last thing we want to do is send an audio review notice to fix missing chapters or out-of-order audio files. The post-mastering QC pass needn’t be as in-depth as what I recommend in the article on editing; it could be as simple as verifying the volume levels are meet our specifications, that the content is complete, and that the audio files are numbered and named in the proper order.

If everything looks ready, then we can begin the encoding process. I cover this in more detail in my post, Encoding Audio with Andrew the Audio Scientist, but I’ll summarize here. That post contains a link to our instructions detailing how to encode your audiobook to ACX specifications using the free and cross-platform fre:ac encoding software.

Keep ACX’s Encoding Requirements in Mind.

All files in your audiobook must:

Also be cognizant of ACX’s file-level requirements. The encoding options you choose can potentially cause the run-time or the file size to go over our specifications. Each file must contain a single chapter, be under 120 minutes in length, and be no larger than 170mb.

Crossing the Finish Line

Once you verify your audio complies with our MP3 encoding and file-level requirements, you’re ready to upload our audio to the ACX production manager! Here are some last-minute tips that could potentially save you from an audio review notice.

1. Be smart about your sample. The retail sample you provide will likely be a customer’s first glimpse into your work, so make this moment count! I recommend grabbing the audio from an early point in the book, so you don’t give away plot developments. Also, be mindful of the ACX sample requirements, which expressly prohibit erotic/mature content. If your book is on the wilder side, find a section that is appropriate for all audiences.

2. Double-check your book’s chapter order when uploading your files. Files arrive to ACX in the same order as they are uploaded to the Production Manager. Doing this last check will make the QA process simpler and faster, allowing us to get your title on sale more quickly.

3. Ensure your file names are clear and concise. To help ACX best understand your audio, I recommend naming your audio using a template such as:

  • 01-BookTitle-OPENING.mp3 <<Your book’s Opening credits.
  • 02-BookTitle-PROLOGUE.mp3
  • 03-BookTitle-CH1.mp3 <<Chapter one
  • 04-BookTitle-CH2-p1.mp3 <<Chapter two, part one
  • 05-BookTitle-CH2-p2.mp3 <<Chapter two, part two

Thank You

Since we are at the end of the How to Succeed at Audiobook Production series (but not the end of my regular contributions to the blog), I want to take this opportunity to thank our users, subscribers and readers for your loyal viewership.

But don’t worry, I’ll be back with more audiobook production tips soon. In the meantime, share your own with your fellow readers in the comments below!

How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 3

Andrew the Audio Scientist here, and today I’m presenting part three of my How to Succeed at Audiobook Production series. Let’s dig into one of the most important, yet least understood aspects of audiobook production: Mastering. But before we tackle that, make sure you’ve done proper editing and QC passes on your raw audio. Check out last week’s post for more on those important steps, and read on for my advice on audiobook mastering.

Andrew_250x320Mastering the Art of Mastering

Before we get to the video below, I want to remind you of the key to producing reliably great sounding audiobooks, especially in the mastering stage: consistency.

Mastering is, in essence, the process of bringing your files closer to one another in terms of sound quality and dynamic range, so the listener will enjoy a book which sounds the same all the way through.

The most important thing to remember about mastering is that it is done not to make a poor recording sound good, but rather to make a good recording sound great. Mastering, like editing, is a key aspect of the perceived professionalism of your production. While the average customer is not thinking about the mastering of a title while listening, the boost of clarity and consistency your narration receives from a proper master cannot be ignored. So, while the process of mastering an audiobook may appear cryptic at first, it is essential to achieving an optimal sound quality for your production.

Now, let’s watch part three of How to Succeed at Audiobook Production, and after, review the mastering tips I suggest below.

Mastering Breakdown

Audiobook mastering involves a few major steps:

  1. Assess all audio files to ensure no peaks or clipping exist in the audio. A good recording and careful editing are both necessary to achieve this.
  2. Group all similar files together during the assessment so they can be processed at the same time.
  3. Bring each group of audio files into your DAW, and perform the following processes in the following order (this is referred to as your “mastering chain”):
    • Remove all unnecessary low and high frequencies to clean up the sound of your recordings and provide more headroom in order to boost your files levels effectively. This is a great way to minimize hum and hiss in an otherwise good recording!
    • Bring all files up to the proper dynamic levels as specified by the ACX Audio Submission Requirements page by using normalization, compression and/or limiting, and, if necessary, a final volume adjustment.
  4. Check the audio after mastering to ensure the operation did not over-process or under-process the recordings.

A common mastering chain for an ACX production is as follows:

Equalization/filtering

Remove low (80hz and lower) and high (16kHz and higher) frequencies by using a high-pass and low-pass filter, respectively. Set the high-pass filter to remove sounds below 80hz, and set the low-pass filter to remove sounds above 16kHz. If available, set the Q to the highest-possible setting for both filters. Usually, that setting is 24dB or 48dB per octave.

Normalization

Typically, you should normalize your peaks to -6dB.

Compression/Limiting

We recommend using a limiter, if available, instead of a compressor. Compression can achieve similar results, but it may also decrease the dynamic range of your vocal recording if used improperly. To properly utilize limiting on your files, start by setting your limiter’s maximum output to -3dB. Then, turn up the gain on your limiter until you have achieved a loud, clear, and consistent sound. Don’t boost the level too high. Otherwise, you may distort your voice, or bring up the noise floor of your recording too much. Remember: the better your recording and editing, the easier this process will be! If you have not yet read the first and second parts of this blog post series, I strongly recommend you do so. It can greatly reduce the workload involved in mastering your audiobook.

Tips for Each Step of the Mastering Process 

Before you begin mastering, record and edit the entire audiobook to completion. Then, make a final “completed edits backup,” – which I refer to in my prior blog post on file management – of each chapter. Maintaining a backup file is imperative, in case you discover any issues with the audio while mastering.

A good recording is everything. Prior to mastering, a well-recorded audio file will have an RMS value no greater than -28dB RMS and peaks at a level no higher than -12 dB This provides the headroom needed to boost the volume of your production without needing to compress the signal heavily. If your peaks are already nearing -3dB before mastering, make sure no loud noises remain in the audio. If no erroneous sounds are found, then it’s likely you recorded too loudly. This is why learning how to properly prepare for and record your narration is essential to performing a successful master.

Plugins cannot help an inconsistent or noisy recording. Some people attempt to fix deficiencies in their recordings or their editing by using noise reduction plugins and gates. Software like this can be effective if used properly, but more often than not, the use of such plugins will cause more harm than good on an audiobook production. I strongly recommended you take the time to focus on your recording environment, as well as your recording and editing techniques, so you do not need to resort to the use of such software. It will save you valuable time as well as money – those plugins can get expensive!

In order to group your audio files together effectively, leverage the audio measurement tools available in your DAW to find the audio files that are similar to one another. If you are an Audacity user, the “stats.ny” plugin will be essential to performing this task. See this thread from the Audacity forums for installation and use instructions.

Most DAWs have a similar capability, so if you are not aware of what tools can be used to achieve these actions in your particular software, contact the manufacturer to receive assistance in their use.

Double-check your masters. Use the same function on your DAW that you used to group your pre-mastered files in order to check your new mastered files. If your audio measurements fall within the ACX Audio Submission Requirements, you should be good to go, which brings us to our final step.

Verify the following ACX Audio Submission Requirements. Are all of your files’ peaks hitting around -3dB? Is each file’s average RMS between -18 and -23dB RMS? How audible is your noise floor at normal listening levels? There’s no shame in attempting a second master if you’ve found flaws in your new mastered files – that’s why you saved your Completed Edits Backup files after you completed your edits.

In truth, the most important mastering tip I can impart upon you, is to try, try again until you get it right! Mastering is very much a process of trial and error until you learn the tips and tricks that suit your production environment. Once you find settings for your mastering chain that work well for your voice and recording space, remember to save the configurations as presets so that you can easily reference them for your next ACX title. If you’ve established a consistent workflow for the recording and editing stages of audiobook production, then your mastering workflow will be a piece of cake!

Do you have mastering tips that Andrew didn’t cover here? Share them in the comments below, and join us next week for the fourth and final part of Andrew’s series: encoding and file delivery.

How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 2

Greetings! Andrew the Audio Scientist here, back with more advice for ACX producers. Today, I present the second part in my four-week video series, How to Succeed at Audiobook Production. Last week, I introduced The ACX Mile and covered best practices for the preparation and recording of your audiobook productions. This week, I’ll address editing your raw audiobook recordings.

Andrew_250x320Editing and QC

Before we get to the video below, I want to remind you of the key to producing reliably great sounding audiobooks: consistency. Establishing a routine you can return to time and again will set you up for success in the later stages of your productions and result in high quality final audio.

Editing an audiobook can be as demanding a task as recording one, but optimizing your editing practices can greatly reduce the workload. Let’s watch part two of How to Succeed at Audiobook Production, and after, review the editing tips I suggest below.

Editing Breakdown

Audiobook editing is broken down into two phases: an audio editing stage, followed by a QC stage.

Audio editing involves:

  • Removal of extraneous and distracting noises from the audio.
  • Modifying the pacing of the narration.
  • Dividing the chapters into individual files, and preparing their heads and tails to ACX’s Audio Submission Requirements.
  • Noting errors which may necessitate a re-record.

The QC involves:

  • Listening through the entire audiobook again to confirm the quality of the narration and the completion of the content.
  • Marking and verifying all errors identified as necessitating a re-record
  • Creating a QC packet to organize all errors.
  • Re-recording the phrases needing improvement and placing these new recordings into the edited audio.

Basic Editing Tips for Successful Audiobook Production

Mark your audio filesWhile recording narration, I recommend you place a marker at the beginning of each section or chapter of your audiobook in your DAW. This is helpful in verifying the completion of the recordings, and also gives an excellent point of reference to use in the QC stage of the editing process. While editing, place markers at all errors you’ve identified as requiring a re-record of the phrase/section in question. This makes the QC stage much easier. Click here for a sample QC sheet to help you note errors in your recording.

Always use headphones – Editing spoken word audio requires a good pair of headphones. In last week’s post, I alluded to the fact that most audiobook productions only contain two sounds: your voice, and your recording space. Pesky clicks, chair squeaks, and other external noises are more easily heard in audiobooks because they have nowhere to hide. These sounds can limit the listener’s immersion into the story, and thus diminish the listening experience. Luckily, professional headphones are more affordable than ever before. Check out the entry on headphones in the ACX Studio Gear series for recommendations.

Clean room tone is a must – Replacing gaps of silence with room tone is essential to a well-produced audiobook. Depending on your narration style and editing technique, you may also want to use room tone to modify the pacing of your read – an effective means of improving the clarity of your narration without needing to re-record the passage. However, if the room tone you’re using to perform this task contains noise of its own, then the entire editing process would be for naught. Be sure to listen back to your room tone at a high volume before editing it into your production to ensure it is sufficiently quiet.

Don’t be afraid to crank the volume – Because you have not mastered your audiobook yet, the dynamic range of your recording may require you to ride the volume of your headphone output. This is OK! You want to ensure every portion of audio is clear enough to discern the clicks and extraneous noises that are contained within the recording. Mastering will bring up the volume of your recording substantially, including all sounds not caught during the edit stage. If they aren’t removed at this stage of the production process, those noises will present  significant difficulties later on.

Be mindful of your time – Experienced audiobook editors spend roughly three hours editing every hour of raw recorded audio. In addition, the QC process involves listening back to the entire book a second time. This equates to roughly 4 hours of work per hour of un-edited audio. If you are breezing through edits at a much quicker pace, then you may want to give your audio a second pass. Audiobooks are lengthy productions, so it’s in your production’s best interests to be thorough. On the other hand, if you find yourself obsessing with one issue, you may want to mark it and come back to it later. People have a tendency to be harder on themselves when they’re editing their own voice recordings, so it may be best to take a step back from the issue for a while and revisit it later. In any event, if you find yourself spending more than a minute on one issue with your audio, it may be best to simply re-record the line instead.

Read part 2, which covers audiobook mastering, here.

How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 1

Welcome to another installation of Andrew the Audio Scientist’s insights on audiobook production! Today, I present the first part in my four-week video series, How to Succeed at Audiobook Production. Week 1 addresses the preparation and recording of a new ACX title. Coming up, we’ll cover editing, mastering, and delivering your audiobook productions.

Andrew_250x320Achieving Consistency in Audiobook Production

Ask any member of the ACX Quality Assurance team what the most important aspect of audiobook production is, and they’ll all give the same answer: consistency. Your time on ACX should be spent acquiring new acting gigs, not tinkering with the technical details of last-minute production issues. To help you achieve consistency and avoid pesky technical problems that could threaten the success of your productions, I’d like to share with you my presentation from the 2014 Narrator Knowledge Exchange, which details a new concept I’ve dubbed “The ACX Mile.”

The ACX Mile

To better understand the need for methodological production, I have broken down audiobook production into a comprehensible four-step procedure, which I lovingly refer to as The ACX Mile. When running a race on a track, a runner may not begin a new lap until he or she has fully completed the current lap. Consider the audiobook production process as a four-lap race, with an appropriate warm-up period preceding it:

  • Warm Up: Script and Studio Preparation
  • Lap One: Recording
  • Lap Two: Editing and QC
  • Lap Three: Mastering
  • Lap Four: Encoding and Delivery

Now, watch part one of How to Succeed at Audiobook Production, and after, review the pre-production and recording tips I address in the video.

Basic Recording Tips for Successful Audiobook Production

  • Draft a production schedule – An experienced ACX producer will spend roughly six hours in production for every hour of completed audio. This means , for a five hour title, an ACX producer should anticipate spending at least 30 hours on the successful production and completion of their title.
  • Perform a thorough script prep – Before recording, ensure you’ve read, notated, and fully understood every line of your title. Audiobooks are all about using your voice to tell your Rights Holder’s story, so  fidelity to the title is a necessity. Send questions unanswered by your script prep to your Rights Holder, and don’t be afraid to do some research. Sites like AudioEloquence.com are great for determining the accepted pronunciations of foreign, historical, and other uncommon words.
  • Log your optimal settings – Once you’ve obtained a good microphone gain on your audio interface and positioned your microphone perfectly, mark the area with electrical tape so you have a reference. This way, on the following day of recording, you’ll be able to set your position and settings to the exact same positions as before.
  • Verify your room tone before recording – After setting your record levels, ensure you have recorded 30 seconds of clean room tone to analyze. Listen back to your recording with headphones, ensuring no undesirable sounds are contained within. If the sound is clean and quiet, you should be ready to record.
  • Back up your raw audio – If you have not established a file backup technique, see my previous post on File Management.
  • Noise reduction plugins can’t fix a bad recording – Utilizing plugins, such as noise and click reduction, is strongly discouraged. The improper use of such software may introduce new artifacts and undesirable sounds into your audiobook, and they are rarely effective at addressing the noise concerns of audiobooks.

If the room in which you’re recording is just too noisy, even after isolating your space, putting up acoustic panels to deaden reflections, and utilizing an in-line high-pass filter to reduce rumble and hum, it’s likely your recording space is not located in an ideal setting. The best solution may be to simply install your recording studio elsewhere. Such a step may seem drastic, but nothing is more important to a successful audiobook production than a great initial record.

It is important to keep in mind that, like a marathon, The ACX Mile is best run slow-and-steady. Very few audio errors can truly be “fixed in post,” so it is best to start off on the right foot, even if that makes the actual work a little more time-consuming. I suggest making an ideal and permanent recording setup a top priority. Luckily for you, great audiobooks consist of only two components: your narration, and the recording space. Get that step of the production process down pat, and the rest will come with a little perseverance and healthy amount of impassioned storytelling.

Read part 2, which covers audiobook editing and QC, here.

This Week in Links: May 19 – 23

Before embarking on that Memorial weekend trip, take a look at our roundup of this week’s best audiobook related links. Planning a staycation this year? Working through the weekend? Even more reason to educate yourself on your craft before the day is done.

Enjoy the links below, and share anything we missed in the comments below!

For Rights Holders:

The Iron Triangle of Interesting Characters – via Writers and Authors – “What makes a character interesting? This infographic gives one take on how to make characters interesting and might give you some ideas for when you’re developing your characters.”

Editorial Matchmaking – via Writer Unboxed – When you’ve taken your novel as far as you can, it may be time to call in a professional editor. Dave King has advice on finding the right one for you.

What the Marine Corps Taught Me About Writing – via Writer’s Digest – Author and US Marine William Ballard discusses the 4 things every Marine recruit learns, and how they apply to writing.

5 Tips to Gain Confidence and Overcome Writer’s Doubt  – via Live Write Thrive – Guest blogger Bryan Hutchinson has advice for writers suffering from a lack of faith.

For Producers:

The ACX Twitter Chat – via @acx_com – This month’s guest tweeter, George Whittam of Edge Studio, answered your questions on audiobook recording and production.

A Caddyshack Alum on Surviving the Tumultuous Audiobook Industry – via Wired – The actor on the receiving end of Bill Murray’s famous “Gunga Galunga” speech recounts his time in the audiobook industry.

How To Handle Rejection – via Actor Inspiration – Wendy Braun offers some perspective on those times when you don’t land the part.

 

Wendy Braun
Wendy Braun

File Management with Andrew The Audio Scientist

ACX’s resident audio scientist first joined us on the blog last month, when he discussed the theory and best practices for encoding audio. Today, he’s back to discuss the bedrock of any successful audiobook production: file management.

File Backup and Preservation

Andrew_250x320Anybody who has produced a lengthy audiobook will tell you that it can be rather arduous. After hours of prep work, days of recording your narration, and several additional days of editing, QC and mastering, the last thing you want to have happen is a disastrous and sudden loss of all your hard work.

As a former Audible Studios engineer, it didn’t take long for me to realize the importance of backing up my work. While it may be obvious to some producers that data backup is important, learning file storage and archiving methods appropriate for audiobooks is key to your project’s success. Today, I’d like to go over some best practices for data preservation and how you can help prevent any tragic file loss for your next ACX production.

5 Keys to Proper File Management

  1. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. Make a habit of saving your work every five minutes. It takes almost no time at all and will ensure that, if data loss occurs, you will be able to recover most of your current work. The keyboard shortcut to save is almost always “Ctrl+S” in a Windows program, and “Command+S” in a Mac program (command is the “⌘” key on your Mac keyboard).
  2. Each chapter’s audio file should be backed up upon completion of each stage of production:
    1. Completed Recording Backup – The WAV or AIFF file containing the completed raw recording of your chapter.
    2. Completed Edits Backup – The WAV or AIFF file containing the completed edits to your recorded audio.
    3. Mastered Audio Backup – The WAV or AIFF audio file created after putting the Completed Edits Backup file through your mastering chain.
    4. Encoded Masters – The Mastered Audio Backup file that has been encoded to MP3 for ACX submission. This is your final, retail-ready audio.
  3. At the end of each day of production, you should make a backup of your DAW session, making sure the filename contains the day’s date.
  4. Each time you make a backup of your work, it is strongly recommended that you store the files in two storage locations. (We recommend doing automatic backups to an external hard drive as well as cloud storage. More on that in a bit!)
  5. Until you are ready to encode and submit your audio to ACX, back up all audio as WAV or AIFF files. No chapter file should be backed up as an MP3 unless it is 100% complete and ready for ACX submission. Making changes directly to an MP3 will lower the audio quality of your final production.

The above practices are important habits to form. Should you ever need to make changes to your files or fix an error found by our audio QA team, having consistent backups at each stage of your production will ensure that changes can be easily committed. For instance, if you master a chapter file only to discover that you want to re-record a particular line of dialog, doing so would be as easy as opening up your chapter’s Completed Edits Backup file and re-recording the line. Without this file, you will be forced to record and master your new dialog to a different file and paste it on top of your old Mastered Audio Backup file. Things can get messy!

Data Storage Options

File preservation is important, but it is undoubtedly a hassle. Luckily, file storage is more versatile, cheap, and reliable than ever before. We producers can take advantage of not just excellent portable hard drives, but specialized software and online backup services as well! We recommend the options below.

Portable External Hard Drive – The easiest and quickest file storage solution is to simply purchase an external hard drive. We love the Seagate Expansion drive series, which has a 1TB option priced at only $64.99. Cheap and easy to use, these drives should be on the shopping list of every beginning ACX producer. However, using it can be a bit clunky, as you must organize all of your files manually.

Backup Scheduling Software – Luckily, there exists software for both Windows and Macintosh platforms that aid file backup. We strongly recommend that Mac users utilize the built-in Time Machine feature on OSX to automatically back up and organize your files on your external hard drive. For Windows, I love the free FBackup by Softland. Both of these tools are easy to use and can be configured to automatically back up your files to external locations every night, or even every time the file is modified.

Cloud Storage – Amazon, ACX’s parent company, knows as well as anyone how important reliable storage solutions are for consumers. AWS, Amazon’s online web storage platform, is the leading “cloud storage” solution on the web. What is cloud storage exactly? In essence, it is a series of interconnected servers which safely handle and store massive amounts of data for customers of all stripes. Amazon provides this service to consumers for free as Amazon Cloud Drive. Upon signing up, all users receive 5GB of free storage! Using Amazon Cloud Drive in conjunction with the free Cloud Drive App, you can automatically back up your files to the Amazon Cloud Drive network without needing to lift a finger. Once you finish installing the Cloud Drive App, simply follow the on-screen instructions to set up your computer for automatic nightly backups.

In following these best-practices, you may save yourself and your rights holder from a potential disaster, and you will be putting your best foot forward by amply protecting both your hard work and your rights holder’s intellectual property.

What is your file management and backup process? Do you use any of the methods Andrew recommends above?

This Week in Links: April 21 – 25

Every we week scour the web for the best audiobook related links to inform your writing and producing. This week, actors can learn to get comfortable marketing themselves, and what to do about those tricky in-studios noises. Authors can find new sources for ideas and inspiration while learning how to handle their creative pursuits like a business.

Whichever camp you belong to, read our picks for the top articles from the past week, and add your favorites in the comments!

For Producers:

Noises in the Studio – via Jerry’s Voice – Where do all those little noises in your studio come from, and what can do you do about them? Jerry’s got you covered.

Voice Talent Wisdom: Not Your Typical Advice Column – via Christian Rosselli – Christian offers his take on a number of VO-related topics in this wide ranging post.

Free Pro Tools Classes – via Sam Ash – Sam Ash music stores is offering a FREE 4 week intro to digital recording class. Don’t pass up the chance to get free instruction on one of the industry’s most popular pieces of software.

Why the Horn-Toot is so Vital for Voice-over Marketing – via voxmarketising – Self-marketing can feel awkward and arrogant, but it’s necessary for your VO success.

For Rights Holders:

How to Treat Your Book Like a Business – via Wise Ink – “In a business, you install a process, a series of steps that lead you from the beginning of a project to a completed product. A process will insure you’re doing all you can to write the book with the quality you deserve.”

How to Find Inspiration at Any Point in Your Book Project – via How To Blog A Book – “To reignite your sense of inspiration so you can power on to the end of your project, remind yourself how your writing project combines your passion and purpose.”

The Single Best Way to Sell Books (Or Lose a Sale) – via Kristen Lamb’s Blog – Join Kristen as she covers the importance of strong sample pages.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas? – via Kill Zone – Nancy J. Cohen discuss the various places a writer’s ideas and inspiration can come from.

Encoding Audio with Andrew the Audio Scientist

Today, we’re debuting a new blog feature from the ACX Audio Team. Our resident audio scientist will be stopping by occasionally to tackle a different technical aspect of audiobook production. For his inaugural post, Andrew takes a look at the process of encoding your audio and introduces a new resource to aid in your productions.

Decoding Encoding

Andrew_250x320Today I want to talk about one of the nerdiest aspects of audiobook production: your audio files. I’m addressing this now because we’ve recently added a helpful audio encoding guide to ACX, and I want to make sure producers understand the concept and can use it to create audio that will meet our encoding requirements.

As the last step in the audiobook production process, audio encoding tends to get overlooked, and it’s easy to understand why. After spending hours producing an audiobook – from recording, to proofing, editing, and mastering – it can be easy to forget to tick the right check boxes and configure the necessary settings in your encoding software. But overlooking this step could block the file from successfully uploading, or cause the files to be rejected during our Quality Assurance check.

What is encoding? It’s the process of converting your uncompressed audio files into a format more suitable for certain applications. For example, most digital audio workstations (DAW’s) will output files by default, and each of your audiobook’s WAV files may end up being several hundred megabytes in size. This is fine for audio production environments, but it’s not an ideal format for uploading your files to an external location (like ACX), so we require users to encode their audio with the MP3 audio codec. This process compresses the data in your file, reducing size and allowing for faster uploads without severely degrading the sound quality.

The ACX Audio Encoding Guide

We want Audible’s customers to have the best possible listening experience, and we don’t want any ACX title to be held up because it contains files that don’t meet our requirements. This brings us back to our new audio encoding guide, which should help you navigate these tricky waters. The techniques used work on both Windows and Macintosh platforms, and if followed correctly, will encode your audio into standards that meet the ACX Audio Submission Requirements.

I’d like to end my premier blog post with one final note: at the end of the day, all digital audio is data. It’s made up of the same zeroes and ones that comprise an eBook’s manuscript, the ACX website, and everything else in the digital world. The integrity of this data is critical to your audiobook’s success. Keeping this thought in the back of your mind while producing your next audiobook may very well lead to an even better final production.

Kindly,

Andrew, the ACX Audio Scientist.

The ACX Narrator Knowledge Series: Editing & Proofing

We’re back with more production advice from the experts at Audible Studios. Today, ACX presents editing and proofing an audiobook the Audible Studios way.

In the video found here, Audible Studios Post Production Associates Darren Vermaas and Brett Lubansky cover basic editing and proofing techniques, providing audio and visual examples along the way. Editing is both a technical skill and a craft, requiring attention to detail and an understanding of the proper flow and pacing of a great sounding audiobook. If you’re taking notes at home, make sure to pay attention to the following topics:

  • Popular self-recording techniques and how they factor into the editing workflow
  • Recommended DAW and headphone options
  • Pacing of various genres of audiobooks
  • What to listen for when proofing your audio (aka the QC pass)
  • Resources for ensuring proper pronunciation of words
  • Proper methods for marking and reinserting corrections or “pickups.”

If you’ve still got editing questions, put them in the comments below and let your fellow readers help you out!