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Recording an Audiobook

The audiobook industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the publishing business. With more people accessing audiobooks it’s important to be mindful of where and how you record as it has a significant impact on the quality of the product produced.

The publishing world is fast paced and unpredictable so it’s important to be prepared. If any audiobook is to be taken seriously, it has to be recorded with professional equipment, not a smartphone or a built-in laptop microphone. Low audio quality will be noticed by listeners and the books credibility will be jeopardised. It is always beneficial to read the book aloud before you record to get familiar with the content. Look for any tongue twister sentences or any individual words you get hung up on pronouncing. Practice these before going into the studio. Some voiceover artists we’ve worked with like to colour code each character to help them know who’s coming up next. All these extra preparations can make a world of difference for performance and of course time! If the session is a remote session make sure you’ve got all your routing prepared and tested. The last thing you want is to waste time wondering why your playback for talkback mic isn’t reaching Zoom or Source Connect! It’s also a good idea to talk with the supervising sound engineer about what mic they’d like to use.

There are many things that can cause background noise or changes in vocal tone that you may not notice until you listen to your recording in the editing phase. The room is also a big factor. The room needs to be large enough but also dead enough at the same time to be able to hear the space the actor is in. If the room is too small and hasn’t been treated enough it’s going to sound very “boxy” when talent is delivering very loud lines. If you have a larger room that is treated well enough when the talent delivers loud line you should be able to hear the controlled space/size of the room. Stay the same distance from the microphone during the recording session. Moving your head away from the microphone not only changes your volume, but also changes your tone.

Performance can suffer too; reasons can include inexperience, lack of preparation or character understanding and energy levels during the session. Preparation is also important for the engineer to prevent technical issues that could detract from the flow of the session. Sit still. Movement can cause extraneous noise and read from an electronic device to minimise page noise. In general, all narrators, even professional ones, get tired and start making a greater number of mistakes after 2.5 to 3 hours of recording. In addition, voices get tired and lose expression over time. Having a long lunch break can make the world of difference for a narrators mind and voice. Trust us; we’ve seen it so many times!!

Breaths in a recording are quite natural and can carry an enormous amount of emotion. Clicks and pops are also a natural part of voice recording but can be problematic if left to the edit stage. It’s better to catch them during the recording so it doesn’t require editing afterwards. It’s impossible to avoid all clicking/extraneous sounds but many can be captured by ensuring the pop shield is set up correctly, the narrator is hydrated and that there is nothing to add extraneous sound such as jewellery. Clicks and pops can be dealt with later in post using RX8 Advanced in the “De-plosive” module. The RX8 Advanced is great to deal with mouth clicks and random clicks in the “Mouth De-click” & “De-Click” modules. RX8 Advanced is an absolute power house when it comes to audio restoration. However its always better to avoid fixing it in the edit.

When recording it’s important to get the record levels right. One way to manage this is through mic placement. It’s not about how much the mic is turned up, rather how far you are away from it. Once the position that gives the best sound is achieved, remember it.

Lastly, don’t forget to style it out. The author will write for drama, natural and subtle styles to create emotion in the listener. By approaching the recording in a way that adds expression and personality can only help to lift the words from the page and deliver a unique experience to those who listen to the audiobook.


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