Adventures in Narration

Everyone around me was so supportive and curious about my first job as an audiobook narrator that I wrote many facebook posts and journal entries about the day-to-day process. For launching my new website, I decided to gather them all together here and share the ups-and-downs.

 

May 09, 2016 1:15pmdog-on-mats

So, when I was doing over voice and video production for my last employer, we turned the closet in my office into a recording booth. I got laid off, so I decommissioned it.

Now I’m planning to record audiobooks and I am re-installing. These cushy gym mats will be the floor (I like recording standing), if I can get them out from under the dog….

 

 

May 09, 2016 9:37pm

Chapter one, in the can, Shéa MacLeod. Editing tomorrow, which is where the real time is spent. I’ll also be laying down the voice tracks so that I can keep the voices consistent. The new microphone my husband bought me is LIKE BUTTER…

 

May 24, 2016 11:38am

Mary, Colin, do you ever feel completely narcissistic enjoying listening to your own voice? I have a lot of fear that it is like enjoying my own story: Am I hearing something no one else does? How does one acquire objectivity without a director or client on-site? I am trying to stay objective so I can do the work, and DOUBT IS CRUSHING ME…

 

May 25, 2016 9:15pm

In today’s edition of Confidence in Audio Recording 101, “Trust yourself, you know what you’re doing,” is exemplified by the number of times the first take is waaaaaaay better than that second one you did.

 

Audio Clip
Audio Clip

May 25, 2016 10:01pm

Audio editing takes a lot of focus. Sometimes you start seeing things. A faux tipsy recording of “We’re all tired” looks like a butterfly (left).

 

 

 


May 26, 2016 3:01pm

I admit, I am tearing up with joy. You are all invited to celebrate with me as my dreams come true in real-time: I uploaded audiobook files I’m working on and received this feedback from my “rights holder”:

“OMG, that sounds GREAT! I love how you do NAME, especially during the drunk scene. So perfect. And you’ve really got NAME’s voice down. AWESOME!”

<sniffsniff>

Never give up, people.

Get out there and become/live/do/be whatever you always Wanted To Be When You Grow Up.

Oh, and this is really important: Work with great people and let them help you. I’m looking at Mark, Shéa, and a special shout out to my audio mentor, Phil Mayes of http://philandmaude.com/. Phil’s book just came out and if you have an interest in great relationships with a side of excellent puns, check it out!

 

June 28, 2016 3:06pm

Switching to my split-shift workdays so that I can record in the evenings, sleep, workout, edit, nap and begin again.

 

July 06, 2016 3:49pm

Lordy, sometimes work is just work. The learning curve on Audacity is ridiculously steep.

This may be unrelated, but I am feeling a little competent about something and want to share:

For each character I “voice” (meaning I change my voice slightly in some way to distinguish between characters) I lay down a track with their name on it in a separate audio file. My INCREDIBLE audio mentor, Phil Mayes taught me to do this so that when the character shows up later in the book, I can go listen to what they’ve said at the beginning and mimic/recalibrate myself. (SIDE NOTE: I also make actual notes in a spreadsheet about how to stand, hold my mouth and what their voice FEELS like.)

I was just laying down a voice track for a new male character and I noticed, because they are all in the same file next to each other, that the vocal signatures –what the waveforms looks like– all look VERY different from each other.

I can actually SEE in my file that the characters are different. The pacing of their words is different. The roundness of speech is different. And each character has an internal consistency that is visual.

I’m not saying that sometimes I won’t slip and not quite do a voice 100%…it can be hard to remember that Kyle says sure with two syllables, “Shoo-wer” instead of “Sure” like Viola, but I feel good about training myself to be better and better, and notice these things over time!

If anyone I know does audiobook narration or audio-editing work and has tips for me, everything is always welcome!

 

July 08, 2016 10:01am

#1 – don’t wear anything that makes noise when you record. I’ve been told this over and over, but one day last week, I forgot. Well, more like neglected to sufficiently audio check.

#2 – Stupid happy to have just removed the fabric-rubbing noise from the background of my audio. LEARNING IS FUN!!!

 

July 08, 2016 11:28am

It’s the little things: I just edited my Audacity Keyboard Shortcut Preferences to better match my editing needs. YAAAAAAAAY!

Does anyone else find that working at a standup desk makes you hungry faster than sitting? I mean, I guess that is OBVIOUS, especially since I try to do yoga stretches, plies, and belly dance shimmies most of the time I’m working, but damn, HUNGRY!

A thing that cannot be done while editing audio/video: eating snacks. Chewing makes too much noise in my head…
July 10, 2016 2:30pm

I am just over 25% done with the audiobook I’m producing, at a run time of 1:25. It has been tough, but I hope that I’ve learned enough lessons in the 60+ hours of work I’ve put in to get my ratio of finished audio/editing time down. Spending 45 minutes to an hour per every minute of finished audio is…not good.

 

July 12, 2016 3:48pm

Christopher is a prince among men. His call with moral support reminded me to remind ME that 60 hours is not long at all in the working world.

After less than two weeks of practice, expecting myself to be a perfect director, voice actor, character voice actor, narrator, audio engineer and audacity software specialist…maybe my expectations of myself are a little high.

Tanis reminds me that I “like big challenges,” but that doesn’t mean harshing on myself when I don’t magically achieve them.

Exuberant Optimism vs Dispirited Realism feels like a CON roll of 6 for this lifetime. Luckily I have Dawg +3, Party of Friends +4, and Hubby +5, so I’m good to go!

 

July 13, 2016 4:09pm

Audiobook chapters 7 & 8 delivered. I’m getting faster. It’s getting easier. I’m trusting the process. Two more tomorrow and I’ll be at 50% done. My goal was to be done by now, but hey, this is a learning process. Hey, Ma! Watch me Learn! #nosafetynet

 

July 19, 2016, 1:52am

Two chapters of audiobook and 30 minutes of “interview” questions recorded for another client. Thankfully I’m only recording the interview content, editing is someone else’s problem.

If I can record 2 chapters a night, reviewing for any errors the next day, I’ll be finished by Saturday, in time to leave for a week of classes in SF.

The classes I’ll be taking are about creating voiceover characters. Followed by a week of how to narrate audiobooks.

Sometimes life gets oddly out of sequence.

 

July 21, 2016, 11:40pm

Voice acting is hard. Here’s an example:

I am pretty sure I’ve spent 20 minutes trying to make the one-word dialog, “Lies?” sound like the sentence, “I’m not sure I believe you. Are you really telling the truth? Because I kind of believe the other guy.”

It does help that in the follow-on content the other person gets really angry, but Da-yam! Tough! No matter how much I picture it and emote, it wasn’t coming out in-your-face enough to warrant the response from the other character.

Ah well. I can only do my best. I’m almost certainly overthinking now and making it worse. Calling it done and moving on.

Holy Moley! After scaling “Mount Everest, the learning curve,” the end of this audiobook is near. I can taste the sweet, sweet sense of accomplishment. Now I cannot wait for my friends to experience Shéa MacLeod‘s hilarious Cozy Mystery, The Corpse in the Cabana! Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement as soon it becomes available!

 

July 23, 2016, 6:38am

I woke up strangely early for a Saturday, which was great because all is quiet at 5AM – a perfect time to record…except that I usually record at night. My voice was cold from six hours of sleep.

I was extra gentle with my stretching and voice warmups, and extra careful to run lines a few extra times. I listened skeptically to my pickups, not sure I could get them to match because my voice was cold, but I was pleasantly surprised that my voice is…my voice. I can make it do what I need it to do. Full of WIN!

The other thing my audiobook reading has taught me is that I need to be a better actor. Specifically, I need to put more exercises in place to “tune my instrument” and get WAAAAAY better at “preparation.” Luckily, I think my cousin can help me with that!

When I make careless choices – or no choices – about the interpretation of the words of the book, I can tell. And when I move my vocal range too far (too low, to do dude-voice) it is really hard to maintain that abnormal sounding voice AND be emotional. So I think many of the men in the book are flatter than I would like.

And I’m probably going to get flak for bad dialects, but I did what I could with the basic info I found on YouTube. I should probably learn a LOT more about how to study up, practice, and have someone “check” them before recording.

 

August 06, 2016 9:26pm

The main thing I have learned over the past two weeks is that I am not an actor.
My voice sounds edgy, sardonic, harsh, commanding…no matter what I’m thinking about on the inside…my imagined thoughts are not hard wired to my emotions. This shocks me.

I suck (now) at substituting a real person, experience, emotion, while I read copy. And I can’t ground, call up attitudes, opinions, emotions, and infuse my voice with the physical and mental gymnastics I’m doing. My internal experience does not match the external.

But I listen to my audiobook and it’s funny. The comedic timing is there. The snark of the main character is hilarious. I am absolutely encouraged to go on with my projects, even while recognizing they are not yet “professional” VO level.

I also paid for a 1:1 with the school owner. I have no doubt what her voice related feedback would have been, after the classes over the past few weeks. I know what I need to practice. Instead, I asked her to critique two things:

1) the ambient sound of my recording booth & equipment

2) my editing/mastering skills based on the raw/edited clips I gave her.

I am heartened that she said I “could be proud” of my final edited product sound. Not the content – that’s a whole different issue; too flat, sibilant, etc. etc. But from the limited perspective of assessing the final sound…it’s all right. I’ll take it and sleep on it.
‘Night all!

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Eva Barrows

says:

I really appreciate you sharing your experience with us Yvette! You had an awesome goal, learned a lot while you accomplished it and now have a finished product you can be proud of. Congratulations on your achievement 🙂

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