Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

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Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by DianeFarr » Sat Nov 12, 2016 10:51 pm

Recorded my audiobook then ran the first mastering step (as I understood it), normalization, and the file sounded worse, not better. Someone at ACX's quality control very kindly listened to a sample chapter and gave me the following feedback:

"The main issue with your audio file is that it was recorded at too low a level. ACX requires that all submitted files have an RMS level between -23dB and -18dB, and a maximum peak level of -3dB. The submitted file measures at -40dB RMS, and -15dB Peak. When an audio signal is recorded at too low a volume, it produces a poor signal-to-noise ratio. Thus, when you peak normalized the file, it brought out the level of the noise floor which was not previously audible."

First question: How do I even know what level I am recording at? I am sure this is a dreadfully basic question, but I don't know where this information hides. Where can I view the RMS level??

Second question: Must I redo the recording, or can I fix the volume level through the compressor, limiter, or other settings?

Third question: Is there an "Audacity audiobook cheat sheet" somewhere that will tell me what steps to take in which order, and settings to try? I am completely baffled. This, despite having successfully recorded a novella a few years back! Can't find my notes and have no idea how I did it!!

Oh, the trials of being "talent" ... I actually used to do voiceover work in Hollywood, but back in the days when all I had to do was show up and read!

Many thanks for any words of wisdom you can give me.

Diane the Distressed
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Re: Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sat Nov 12, 2016 11:55 pm

How do I even know what level I am recording at? I am sure this is a dreadfully basic question

Basic, but not obvious. This AudioBook thing not a version of talking into your phone to your sister is Schenectady. You are replacing a recording engineer and studio. Which can be done, don't let me scare you, but there are some rules.

Audacity has tools and testing to produce good voice work and also make sure you're going to pass ACX testing without actually submitting anything. I'm thinking as I write that, we can give you a good idea of how to pass technical standards. If you can't read out loud, ACX may reject you for voice quality issues and that's kind of out of our hands.

viewtopic.php?p=297423#p297423

The submitted file measures at -40dB RMS

Chances are good we will not be able to rescue the work, or be able to rescue it in a manner ACX will be happy with. Did you read a whole book?

Since we'll be doing this across multiple time zones, it may take a while. It's not unusual for someone to want us to fix the show by tomorrow because the client is waiting. Probably not, but we do have a pretty good track record.

Describe your studio. If it's your kitchen table, say so. Which microphone have you got, which computer, and which version of Audacity? In the back of your mind, pretend I'm trying to buy what you have. Don't abbreviate numbers. I'm using Audacity 2.1.2.

If you're following an on-line publication, point to it.

Koz
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Re: Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sun Nov 13, 2016 12:16 am

I bet you're asking yourself "why isn't there a video or publication about reading for audiobooks?" There is. ACX has them. Step one: Figure out which soundproof booth you're going to install.

https://blog.acx.com/2014/06/26/how-to- ... on-part-1/

http://www.acx.com/help/setup/202008260

Their goals are slightly different from yours. They want you to record perfectly with a top quality microphone in a studio because if you don't, it's expensive for them to reject you. I know that's a little mercenary, but it's true.

There are other resources as well. Transom has good instructions for basic sound recording.

http://transom.org/

This started out as an effort by people at National Public Radio.

I really should make a collection of those. I've tried several times to organize a How-To here, but there are just too many variables. The microphone suppliers want you to buy a simple microphone, record audiobooks and retire to a nice island in the Mediterranean. Majorca is good.

It's a little more involved than that.

Koz
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Re: Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sun Nov 13, 2016 1:25 am

Now you have some idea what the person behind the glass wall was doing. We can give you a good push when we find out where you're starting from.

It would be good to get a sample of work you already did, but that can wait.

Koz
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Re: Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by DianeFarr » Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:27 am

Koz, thank you so very much!! Still digesting the information and need to check the links you posted, but very quickly ... I'm using a Snowball mic in a foam Portabooth. Recorded a novella in my bathroom a few years back, thinking it was farthest from street noise, but although it was accepted I definitely could tell it was recorded in a bathroom -!!- So no more tile floors for me. Now I record in my carpeted office with a blanket under my laptop to absorb any fan noise, and just pause when a car goes by. And yes, I have recorded an entire book, and it was a lot of work, and I haven't yet checked to see if all the chapters are low volume. Ai yi yi. They are likely to be similar, I'm afraid, because I tried to be careful to make my work consistent.

I am in a rather unique position as an actor and former voiceover artist who now writes novels. I *should* be able to do this-! They did compliment my narration, but if it has insurmountable technical issues I will simply have to start over. Since I've been working on the thing since August I am really, REALLY hoping I don't have to do that.

OK, I'm going back to read your posts again.
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Re: Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by DianeFarr » Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:49 am

uploading a sample per instructions on one of the posts you referred me to ...
Attachments
sample Diane Farr.wav
(1.52 MiB) Downloaded 31 times
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Re: Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sun Nov 13, 2016 3:27 am

I'm using your posting as an excuse to generate better graphics. The modern sound meters are miles (or km) better than the older ones, but you have to know what they're telling you, and my settings are different from the factory defaults.

Reading your post.

Koz
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Re: Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sun Nov 13, 2016 3:50 am

[Note to self: Get Diane to read all my forum posts.]

I applied two effects to your clip. Effect > Normalize which is a fancy way of saying I made it louder (under very controlled conditions).
Then I applied the most gentle possible Noise Reduction.
See sentence about 2/3 down.

Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 19.38.01.png
Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 19.38.01.png (42.99 KiB) Viewed 972 times

That panel is from ACX-Check that flynwill developed from existing parts that mimics the technical acceptance robot at ACX.
There is still a little rain-in-the-trees fffffff in there and now I have it together enough to critically listen.

As we go.

Koz
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Re: Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sun Nov 13, 2016 4:25 am

Open the clip in Audacity.
Effect > Normalize: [X]Remove DC, [X] Normalize to -3.5dB > OK
Effect > Equalization: LF-Rolloff for speech > OK. (this is a special download)

Listen to the first two seconds with the volume advanced a bit. Do you hear the little pencil drop at 1/4 second? This hold your breath "silent" thing is harder than it seems. That 2-sec segment is called Room Tone.

Drag-select from 3/4 second to 2-1/4 seconds (avoiding the pencil drop)
Effect > Noise Reduction > Get Profile > OK.
Select the whole clip by clicking just above MUTE
Effect > Noise Reduction: 9, 6, 6 > OK.

Analyze > ACX-Check [read it] > OK. (this is a special download)

I need to remember where the downloads are.

This is where I stand back and let the golden ears tune for tonal balance, sibilance suppression, etc. I think you could probably submit just like that. Does that sound like you?

Koz
Attachments
sample-Diane-Farr-Patched.wav
(1.52 MiB) Downloaded 21 times
Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 20.27.31.png
Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 20.27.31.png (43.48 KiB) Viewed 971 times
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Re: Need help interpreting mastering feedback from ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sun Nov 13, 2016 4:31 am

I know seeing all that written out is daunting, but contrast a printed recipe with watching your mum cook.

Koz
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