Recording and Editing an Audiobook
“Books recorded by famous voices produced by established production companies, sometimes with full casts and sound design Books recorded by professional voiceovers in some deal with an author or publishing company Books recorded by the author All of these are quite legitimate and have produced a wide range of styles and, possibly, quality.
There are a lot of tutorials out there advising authors and self-producing voice overs what equipment they should buy and how they should go about recording the books. And some of these are very good.”
No equipment purchase required. The Spot Shop has all the equipment and studio space to capture great sound.
“It Takes Time Looking through some of the advice I have read, I was a little horrified by how quick people think the process should be. I regularly come across advice that says you should allow twice the reading time to cover editing.
So, tip number one — it should take longer than that.
Unless you are or are recording an experienced, professional voice, you will be stopping and starting frequently. Actually, in the studios, we did that even with the best of voices.
Audiobooks are normally recordings of books that were intended to be read, not said. So they include plenty of tongue twisters and complicated sentences. Even with a fully marked-up script, you may take a few runs at certain passages before you get that perfect read.
How fast should I read?
This is a harder one. Generally, the advice is to read much slower than you think, but you run the risk of sounding wooden. I have listened to several recordings now that are so mechanical in the read that they could almost be a bot — but they aren’t!
The reality is a lot more complicated; your speed should be variable.
Part of this is about how you deal with emphasis. There is a common misconception that you emphasise a word by saying it louder. But the best way to emphasise a word or phrase is to say it slower. But if you are reading very slowly in the first place, then slowing down yet further for emphasis could be tortuous. The trick is to read parts which are less important a little quicker and slow down on the parts that need to be highlighted. This also can give a sense of gravitas to the read, especially if you slow down at the end … of … sentences!
Spacing is also worth paying attention to. How much gap you leave between paragraphs, sentences and phrases can change the mood and help keep the story clear, even when some of the read is quite fast.
As with the overall read speed, you will probably want to leave longer gaps than is natural, but in the context of a nicely paced read, they will be fine.
Tip: If in doubt, leave long gaps. It is very easy to shorten a gap in the edit, but more difficult to increase a gap. If you are unsure of perfect spacing, overdo it and sort it out at the edit.
Breaths in a recording are quite natural and perfectly legitimate. The idea that they all should be edited out somehow is bollocks. I have heard several excerpts where most of the breaths have been removed, and again it just sounds like a robot.
Breaths not only prove you are human, but they carry an enormous amount of emotion, so they are important. However, they need to be handled in the same way as the rest of the text.
Editing And really, everything else has been building up to this.
The editing process has two aims — repair any mistakes and polish the final version.
Editing the mistakes is easy. If you have taken care of everything I have talked about above, then that part of the editing should be logical.
Polishing is more difficult but vitally important.
The edit is the time when you get to make sure all the breaths are doing what they should do and that the timing, the spacing between phrases, sentences and paragraphs is ideal.
There is no fixed formula here, and indeed, you should avoid making all the spacing identical — you will kill the read. So, much of this is down to experience and looking at the edit from a creative point of view rather than a technical point of view.
When you record, you should always make sure you get a couple of things right immediately. The most important is record levels. This is not just how much you have the mic turned up, but how far from the mic you are sitting. Once you get a position that gives you the best sound (tons of tutorials out there about this), remember it! You are not going to record your book in one go, so you need to keep consistent. I admit I am not always that brilliant at this on my own recordings, though I am scrupulous when working for someone else.
The other thing is to make sure you record some buzz track. Sorry, I notice that people seem to call it “room tone” these days. We always called it buzz track, probably because of all those big, buzzing machines we had back then! Basically, this is a short recording with the mic open and the room set exactly as it is when you record. You only need ten seconds, but it will save your life in editing.
Right, let’s break this down.
There are lots of problems you might need to sort out.
Some are possible, some are not and you will need to re-record a section. So, if you are employing a voice, get it right before they go home!
Here are things that really are difficult or impossible to sort out in the edit:
Pops — this is a blast of air on the mic. They are not always caused by the letter P, but also B and Qu — like Quite. Sometimes you can filter it out, but they are such a pain to deal with, get it right in the record.
Whistles. This is whistles through the teeth with words like shoot. Impossible to deal with. Breaths welded on the ends of words. If you want them, fine, but if you change your mind, they are very difficult to lose. Again, get it right in the record.
Furniture or other noises under words. If the neighbour starts shifting his skip between words, you can edit it out, but if it is under a word (and it probably will be) then you are buggered. In film, the most common reason for re-recording dialogue after the shoot (called ADR) is because the set had noisy props!
Wet mouth. Clicks and some wetness can be edited out, but there is always the few that can’t. Don’t spend hours struggling, just re-record the line.
Once you have sorted that lot out, other repairs are more possible. For instance, breaths can be replaced with a bit of your buzz track. But sometimes it is better to keep the breath, unless it is ugly, and just lower the level. It feels more natural but is less intrusive. I used to do this a lot when editing.
Other Tips There are a few other things that we used to do that may be useful for you.
Don’t spend hours recording. When you record very long scripts it is inevitable that the front of the read will have more energy than the end. So, I used to break the recording up into sections of just a few pages. Actually, the more experienced voiceovers would ask to do this anyway. And lastly, back to where we started, take your time. Unlike making a documentary or a commercial, there is no fixed running time for an audiobook. Find the right pace by recording and playing back till you are happy, then use that as your metre.
Oh, and enjoy it. This is a performance at the end of the day and people are paying to be entertained. So, be fussy, be careful, but be entertaining!”
Recording an audio book is complicated. The Spot Shop can make it a better experience by using our experience to help you get it right. Contact us. We can answer your questions