Audiobook clinic: How far can you read without making a mistake?
February 5, 2014
Let’s play a game.
Take a page of text, settle down in your best reading position and begin to read.
How far did you make it before you made a mistake?
Now, let’s turn up the heat a notch.
Use your computer, or a smart phone, or a tablet, or a handheld recording device of some sort and try the same thing again with the “record” button turned on.
How far did you get this time?
I bet you didn’t make it anywhere near as far as you did the first time.
Why is that?
Because we all become self-conscious when we sit in front of a microphone and read.
Multiply that feeling of self-consciousness by a factor of approximately one hundred to get a glimpse into the world of an audiobook narrator as she works.
Audio recording is unforgiving.
It captures every sound, every lip smack, every pop when a person says a “p” too loudly.
But never fear.
In the world of digital audio recording, a narrator has the chance at endless do-overs.
Where else in life do we find that?
In these audiobook clinic blogs, I will give you a quick down and dirty about audio recording techniques.
Let’s begin with the do-over.
A do-over in the digital audio world is better known as “punch and roll” recording.
The technique is really quite simple, and it allows a narrator to fix a mistake on the fly without having to re-record a long passage.
Suppose the narrator sneezes in the middle of a sentence.
All she has to do is take the cursor that tracks the audio wave form, place it a few seconds before the sneeze, punch and roll.
I work in a Pro Tools 11.1 environment when I am recording, so I am giving you the technique as it exists there. But I am sure other digital recording software offers the same capability when it comes to roll and punch.
The thing that makes the punch and roll easy is the “pre-roll.”
So in the example above the narrator has placed the cursor a few seconds before her mistake. She has the pre-roll timer set for 2.5 seconds. When she enables the recording, she will hear in her headphones the two and half seconds of audio that comes before the spot where she will begin speaking. Two and half seconds doesn’t sound like a long time, but for a narrator who has practiced a little it is plenty of time to catch the tempo and feel of the passage so that she can jump in and keep going. As the narrator reads the passage again, she records over the mistake, her sneeze vanishes, and she continues down the page.
Without the capability to punch and roll, audio recording would be enormously more time-consuming. It’s already time-consuming enough. I doubt that many voice-over artists can read more than a paragraph or two without a mistake. Because of that inherent human limitation, they get quite good at punch and roll.
Next time we’ll talk about how to edit an audio session after a narrator has punched and rolled all the way to the end of a chapter.