The Audiobook Blues

Why haven't I blogged in so long? It's a long story.

So let's begin at the beginning. Not the very beginning, of course, but the beginning of my audiobook career. Because doing audiobooks wasn't really what I set out to do; it just sort of happened, really.

It started when I read a book on getting your voiceover career going, and one of the main suggestions was to record a public domain audiobook for Librivox. Up until this point, I'd only done voice work in audio dramas, but I'd tried recording an audiobook once. It was a project of my own, just for fun, but when I listened back to how I sounded on my little Shure mic with no noise shielding, I got discouraged. Nevertheless, I was trying to up my VO game. I bought a Blue Yeti, and after taking part in a couple of multi-read collections, I recorded my first solo audiobook. Ashton-Kirk, Investigator by John T. McIntyre.

If you're thinking of getting into audiobooks, doing one for Librivox is a truly excellent idea. It's a great way to familiarize yourself with the process and figure out if this is right for you. It's also good for throwing your weaknesses into sharp relief.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the process of recording the first Ashton-Kirk novel, so I followed it up with a second, Ashton-Kirk, Secret Agent. By this point, I'd upped my game again, buying a Porta-Booth to cancel out the noise. And all was well.

(Incidentally, check out those Ashton-Kirk novels, because my goodness they're odd. They're pulp mysteries, starring a character who might as well be named Shmerlock Shmolmes, but there's something readable about them. Keep in mind, they're both a bit racist in that clueless, this-was-written-100-years-ago sort of way. Not really malicious, though.)

In November of 2012, I responded to an audition notice from Dynamic Ram Audio Productions, and was lucky enough to be one of those chosen to record books that people would actually purchase with money.

I recorded three books in pretty quick succession in 2013; Hugh Monn: Private Detective made it to Audible fairly quickly after being recorded. Then I went to work on its sequel, then Sentinels: When Strikes The Warlord by Van Allen Plexico.

Chris Barnes, the man behind Dynamic Ram, had--and has--a very full plate. In addition to producing multiple audiobooks by multiple narrators, he had his own books to both narrate and produce. (You can read about his odyssey trying to record High Moor here.) I recorded a fourth book in the meantime.

In the end, Chris asked me to take over production of the other two books. Which is where my descent into madness began.

Making the leap from producing audio drama--where a little background noise can easily be lost in a sound effect or music cue--to producing an audiobook--where a little background noise can take the listener completely out of the narrative--has been quite the education. Quite the painful, painful education.

Chris has been very helpful during this process, offering suggestions and encouragement and acting as a sounding board. Which is good, because trying to get this audiobook wrapped up feels like...similes fail me, it feels like something really difficult, and every time I think I've got it wrapped up, something else seems to pop up. Whack-a-Mole, there we go, it's like Whack-a-mole.

Step 1 was going through the chapters and getting them into broadcast condition. Beyond processing, this involves listening with a fine-toothed comb and removing every little tick and pop you can hear, and if you can't remove it, you mark the line for rerecording. This was slow drudgery.

Step 2 was listening again, and this time marking up lines that had background noise, or bird calls, or just sounded like I said them with half my mouth closed. There were many of these, Many, many, many of these. Something the entire page of the book was yellow with highlighting.

Step 3 was--did I say was? Ho ho, chuckle chuckle, I meant is--rerecording.

Now.

My recording setup was simple. Computer on the floor, next to the desk. Microphone to the right of my monitor, safely ensconced in the Porta-Booth. I recorded four books in this position. Should be no problem, right?

Nope. Every time I recorded, there would be some damn thing or another. Echoes. Weird bass. I couldn't get the noise out of the lines. I moved the microphone. I moved the computer. Nothing worked.

(Also, just as I was about to start the rerecording process, I got sick. I don't get sick, but man, I got sick. I was literally bedridden. The cough has still not quite gone away.)

So I built a sound booth. It's a good booth. It's made out of three doors, with a furniture blanket serving as the entrance. (Yes, of course I'm going to paint it blue, I just said it was made out of doors, come now.) Inside, there's a shelf where I can put my microphone and stand up my tablet to read off.

I bought 24 square feet of Auralex foam, which was just about enough to cover the inside of the booth from the shelf up. And I recorded. And all was well.

Except.

There is...The Boing.

It's not on every line. It's only on some lines. B sounds, mostly. There is a distinct bouncing buzz, one that is just noticeable enough to make me grind my teeth. One that is unacceptable.

So. I have some more foam. It isn't fancy foam, but it's foam. I have attached it to the bottom of the booth. I will reattach the stuff on top with hardier adhesives. And then I will test and test and get this wretched microphone into the proper position, from which it will henceforth never be moved, and so eliminate The Boing.

I will finish this book. I will finish the other book. And I will finally, finally start a new project.

...and that's why I haven't been blogging lately.