Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Audio Book - 1

How would YOU pronounce the name Gythal?  And what does a giant sound like when talking?  Think about that for a while.

I have finished recording the book "Hapenny Magick" by Jennifer Carson.  It has been a fun process and I have learned a lot throughout.  It is an almost 200 page chapter book and my daughter loved listening to it.  I read it through once to get a feel for the writing style with her and then read it again so I was familiar with the writing and story before recording.

Because I knew at nearly 200 pages it would not be done in one take, I set up my studio space and marked where everything was.  This was a precaution against my kids coming in and borrowing or moving things around (or myself for that matter).  To make sure I had the same sound, everything would have to be in the same place.  So duct tape was stuck everywhere to mark where I stood when reading and where the microphone stand was placed, and the height of the microphone and sound baffles.

Each day I recorded, I warmed my voice up*.  I found that 'jumping into the studio first thing in the morning' was not the thing to do!  Some days the kids were around, but I got most of it done before the summer vacation began. I recorded the stories for my third CD in this same studio and it sounded great (getting a Gold award from Parent's Choice and an honors from Storytelling World).  I now I have better sound proofing so I know this will sound at least as good, even better.  However, my mic still picks up the sound of mowers, large trucks, kids playing, and cars passing by.  The passing cars can be painful as there is a 25 m.p.h. speed limit and those gracious enough to oblige take a LONG time to get out of sound range.  In the middle of a take, that can be annoying!  When the kids are in the street playing it is easier, as it is simply time to quit until playtime is over!  So in some respects, for me, recording this book is like a live performance: being aware, whilst reading and recording, of the environment around me.  And with all of what can happen, it is like performing for squirmy kids some days!

I have a microphone which I could plug directly into my computer, but I have found that there is noise on the mic (it is not an expensive one).  So, I have used the digital voice recorder I have (the high quality one which was used for "A Tangle of Tales"), and then move the tracks (one for each chapter) to the computer where I use my DAW (digital audio workstation) to edit out the 'bad bits'.  Bad bits can be the cars passing, or some folks walking by with their dog talking to one another, or a 'plane flying overhead.  But it is as often me mucking it up.  Sometimes I stumble over a word, or a pronunciation.  When I first read the book and did a preliminary recording for the author, I miss pronounced the title characters - Hapenny's - and I kept doing that every once in a while throughout the book.  Instead of saying hah-penny (like happy) I would say hay-punny like the old British coinage!  Sometimes my English syntax would have problems with the American syntax the book was written in, but after a couple of tries I got it flowing.  Also, when I have read a certain line, especially in dialogue, I might try doing it two or three times in different ways.  Sometimes I would just flub!  Sometimes it would annoy me and a stream of expletives would fly (I record on my own!), and sometimes I would be silly with it and laugh at my own expense.

To give an idea of time of recording time down to the time of a finished piece, chapter 18 (15 sides of paperback book) began as 23 minutes of recording, and was edited down to 19 minutes.  But the editing down to that 19 minutes took a long time.  I actually re-recorded most of chapter 18 twice.  Why?  Because I had so much editing to do what with cars, and flubs that it should have been quicker to do a better take and edit less.  When you edit, you listen to what you have recorded, mark the bits that need chopping out, chop them out, move the piece together and listen to it again; maybe make some other adjustments such as making the gap of 'silence' bigger or smaller, or using fades etc. and then double check that it flows and sounds natural.  Sometimes it does not, so you need to undo it all and do it over again!  This hopefully does not happen too often and takes patience.  I have inadvertently learned a lot more about my DAW than I knew before! So it is all good. The third time I had to re-record was because my voice was a lot rougher the second time I recorded than the first time, and it did not fit in with what I was keeping.  So I recorded those parts a third time and it worked a charm.  Sometimes (not always) it is quicker to re-record than edit a lot out.

When I began recording this book initially, I was still looking for the right voices of the characters.  And in one instance the author did not like one of the voices. One of the characters voices was not how the author had envisioned it, so we got on the phone and talked it through.  It was the giant.  I was so glad we did because it sounds a many, many times better now.  I was able to drop the voice in with some careful editing; fortunately, most of the time, dropping a voice in is easier than making some of the other corrections.  However that does not apply when the dialogue is fast between two or three characters.  Funnily enough the giant was not a fast talker!

One thing I found as I re-did certain parts and edited them, was how much fun the book was.  I liked it when I gave it the initial read-through (with/to my daughter).  The second time I read it, I was working out how I would read it and was figuring out voices and flow.  But in listening to it, listening to the words I had read, I found the book was really good.  I discovered that I had read it the first time thinking only of it as a job.  But as the work progressed I found this book was/is a little gem.  And I have become attached to it.  I have also spent 57 hours with the story so far!

All the chapters, the intro-credits and the outro-credits are now with Jennifer Carson who is listening to it all. I have been providing the chapters as I finished editing them, in case I had missed something, or mispronounced a name.  Once I hear back from her, I will be off to see my friend and colleague Stevens Blanchard who produced my last two CDs.  He and I will then polish what I have done to a brilliant shine and add a bit of flute. Once that is done, I will be handing over the finished work to Jennifer who will have the work made into a 4 CD audio book with a running time of about 3 1/2 hours.

Oh, and Gythal is pronounced Gith aal.  Who knew? (The author!)
And yes, my warm-ups can sound like those Bill does!! A shout needs to go to Bill Ratner for giving me the encouragement to go this route!  Thanks Bill.