Thursday, 15 October 2015

10 Worst Places to Record your Audiobook and Other Mistakes Narrators Make

Narrating audio books is not just about the microphone and the recording equipment, but the environment in which you record. Here is a list of the worst mistakes a narrator can make when setting up a place to record.

Acoustic foam
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I have recorded a number of audiobooks and have learned by trial and error how to get the best sound for my audiobook narration. Big mistakes are:

1 Do not record in a room with hard surfaces. This includes bathrooms, kitchens or any room that contains lots of mirrors and/or tiles. Harsh echoes will reverberate all over the place. The room should be a ‘dead’ room, where all echoes are eliminated by the use of acoustic foam or towels.

2 Do not record in a large room. You don’t want to sound like an orator within a large hall, addressing a congregation. The energy within your voice will also be lost. A closed studio will create intimacy to the recording.

Listen to the audio sample of Falling Awake describing a woman bluffing her way through a phone conversation with seedy moneylenders. Notice there are no echoes in the recording. The result is an intimate, studio feel.

Do I Need Soundproofing?

3 Do not record in a room with a high noise floor. The room may seem quiet at first, but sit in it for a minute or so and you may nose ambient noise, which will come from a number of sources: fridges, distant traffic, lawnmowers, perhaps a dog barking. A sensitive mic will pick up everything. Be aware of the noise floor in any room.

4 Don’t record in damp conditions. This will affect the performance of the mic, particularly a condenser, which must be kept in a dry place. I have had to re-record sections of my narration because the mic didn’t seem to perform so well on wet days.

5 Similarly, avoid rooms that are prone to temperature shifts, such as conservatories or outhouses, as this will affect the recording equipment. Cooling overnight will create condensation. Exceptions are if there is a period of settled weather and you are able to pack the kit away after recording.

6 Allow the mic to adjust to the studio conditions before recording. If it is kept in a cool place, allow the mic to adjust if the studio is relatively warm. I will give my mic about ten minutes after setting it up. If it comes with a dust cover, as my Rode does, place the cover over the mic. Of course, don’t forget to remove it before recording.

7 Don’t place the mic too close to any surface. Allow the mic to ‘breathe’. I learned this the hard way after placing my mic within a padded partition, hoping to buffer the sounds of distant traffic, and although this worked, my voice sounded too confined and lacked clarity.

The Recording Booth
8 Don’t record in an uncomfortable environment. Take time to set everything up properly. You need enough space to sit straight or stand up within the recording space. This will permit lung stretches when narrating. Have comfy cushions to sit on, a heater when it is cold, and most importantly, to place the script somewhere easily read and convenient.

The Question of Acoustic Foam

9 Don’t spend thousands on buying costly acoustic foam and sound-proofing. You can get great sound by improvisation. Use soft towels and duvets to kill echoes within your recording space and reserve the acoustic foam for the areas around the mic only. Few people can afford soundproofing, so I simply waited for the ‘quiet’ times, which was in the evenings. You will find that thick material will eradicate high frequency sounds, such as birdsong.

10 Even once the room has been decided on, trial the sockets via test recordings and listen for buzzing sounds that feed into the audio interface. Watch out for socket that shares power with other appliances in the house. Power surges from fridges or washing machines could cause unwanted feedback. If necessary, use an extension lead to plug into a more remote socket.

More Articles about Narrating Audiobooks

Tips about using noise removal
Worst places to record your audiobook


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