Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Wed May 03, 2017 6:02 pm

Is it tomorrow there, or yesterday? I can't keep track of what happens at the date line.
you shouldn't record in stereo

Some people have to. Some digital adapters force you to record in Stereo and you have to take steps later to split your performance into Mono for processing and submission. You have one of the adapters that allows you to work directly in Mono and I have the other, Behringer UM2. There may be others.

ACX recommends work in Mono but they won't come after you with a stick if you work in Stereo. They do say once you pick one you should stay there for a project.
RMS Normalize screen

I leave the setting default. It's one of the headaches Stereo people have. If you link them, Left and Right corrections are applied to both tracks. This keeps stereo imaging correct (violins on the left). The other setting treats Left and Right as independent tracks. This can be handy if your digital adapter puts you on the Left and nothing on the Right. The blank track will seriously throw off linked loudness settings.
it seriously takes FOREVER

Right. You should solve as many problems at the microphone as you can. We assume you're a business and the mantra is supply a minimum acceptable product for the least cost and labor. Correcting a presentation word by word gets really tired over a book-length show and generates many possible problems.
I know they say you should avoid plugins and things like De-essers and noise gates

I say that, too. Some corrections generate other problems which then need corrections.....etc. I was very pleased to get you to submission quality without Noise Reduction. Tools such as that can generate Essing and that means you need a DeEsser......etc.

Harsh, gritting Essing drives me nuts and I didn't hear any of that from your samples. You have one of the equipment suites recommended by ACX and in general works very well with few corrections.

As a personal exercise, I wanted to find out what I could get away with for a reading. I nearly made it with my iPod.

Image

So no, a very quiet room and reasonable microphone work just fine. I did use a free download recorder rather than VoiceMemo. VoiceMemo has voice environment processing.


That's not to say you got away clean. The metaphor for a book reading is not presenting before a joint session of the Prince Albert Academy. It's telling someone an interesting/juicy story over cups of hot tea. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but there are natural places for three contractions in your sample and you carefully avoided all of them.

"It is difficult," > "It's difficult." The presentation decision is a little rough if you're directly quoting published works and the works are written in stilted university-speak. This is where you pay attention to your audience with glances to the person writing the checks.

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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by vocaltalentpro » Wed May 03, 2017 9:53 pm

I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but there are natural places for three contractions in your sample and you carefully avoided all of them.


You're right, I am probably a bit too precise when it comes to reading the script exactly as written. There are times that when I'm reading a script and I will slightly rephrase something slightly because it flows off the tongue so much easier but then I get paranoid and I say it again exactly as written. But I am hoping to relax into an easier rhythm and sound more casual so thanks for pointing that out, I needed to hear it and it will be fresh in my mind now.

I watched the video series on mastering on the ACX site, and I have one other silly question. They suggest recording 30seconds of room noise, and then cutting that into smaller chunks to paste into the start and end of chapters, between sentences where needed, etc. But why would you cut up a long session of room noise recording into all those pieces when you could just cut and paste the same section over and over again? I normally do about 6-10 seconds of room noise at the beginning (well I did this because I used it for the Noise Reduction - but no more!)

My next bit of tinkering is going to be to rearrange my environment a bit, move my mic so that it's not in the centre of there room anymore, but instead is closer to one of the walls that I have treated with thick Autex sound panels. Right now the way it is situated, I have to speak sideways into it so that I can still see my screen to read copy. Up until now, 90% of my recording work has been short stuff (under 10mins or so at a time) so it didn't bother me much, but I can't read an entire audiobook out of the corner of my eye, I'll go even more blind than I already am... :geek:
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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Wed May 03, 2017 10:56 pm

I am probably a bit too precise when it comes to reading the script exactly as written.

Neither ACX nor Audacity have any horse in the race here. This is entirely between you and the client—and by extension, the audience. My favorite shows sound like the presenter is speaking to me, not me and 300 other students/legislators.

I have heard suggestions of pretending there's a cup of tea in front of you and you're speaking to someone on the other side of the table. I'm not a presenter, so I'm taking their word for it.
But why would you cut up a bit room noise recording into all those pieces when you could just cut and paste the same section over and over again?

I can answer this using SWAG technology (Scientific, Wild-Ass Guess). The mind has a remarkable ability to turn meaningless garbage into valuable information. Historically, it let us recognize hungry tigers hiding in the jungle. More recently, it's responsible for subliminal experiments, etc. I wouldn't be shocked to find after multiple repetitions that listeners begin to recognize that one chunk of background noise. It doesn't have to be explicit. Just that niggling feeling that something's not quite right. Anything that distracts from the story is to be avoided.

There are clear standards for submitting silence along with your voice work. It's not all just start talking and then stop. One thing you can do is intentionally record silent heads and tails so all you have to do is cut the room tone down to the proper amount.
rearrange my environment

Fatigue also contributes to the beginning and end of a chapter not sounding the same. Not recommended.

I would not have picked the middle of the room. There are some actual scientific reasons not to do that.

You don't always need expensive sound paneling. I did some perfectly fine presentation recording in a storage room surrounded with boxes of statements, billing and archival paper records. Given you have a quiet neighborhood, a stuffed garage can work for the same reason. Echoes don't have a chance in the presence of all that acoustically dead, oddly shaped and positioned cardboard. The goal is to avoid sounding like you're recording in a bathroom.

I recorded people in bare, live conference rooms using furniture moving blankets.

http://kozco.com/pix/oneWallKit.jpg
http://kozco.com/pix/partiallyConstructedWall.jpg
http://www.kozco.com/pictures/boothFini ... op-mic.jpg

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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by vocaltalentpro » Wed May 03, 2017 11:57 pm

kozikowski wrote:I personally stretch my meters the whole width of the window and then change the left-hand reading to -96dB. I think it defaults to -60.


By the way, how do you change that exactly, I'd like to make the numbers easier to read on my weak eyes!
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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Thu May 04, 2017 1:05 am

I'd like to make the numbers easier to read on my weak eyes!

Oddly, my change doesn't do that. I extend the range of the sound meters with Preferences > Interface > Meter dB range: 96dB.

Then I grab the meter edges and push and pull until they fill the frame left to right. The other panels should skooch out of the way when you do that. I think you used to be able to make the meters taller.... I don't remember that one. You can undock them and push them around your screen whether or not they're in the Audacity Window.

http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/mete ... #recording

But that's not why I do it. Nobody is going to be looking at -96dB sound levels. That's down where atoms vibrating make noise, but I wouldn't mind knowing what's going on just below -60dB. That's the area where turning off your noisy CFL desk lamp can make a beneficial difference, such as reducing noise from -65dB to -68dB. If your meters stopped at -60dB, you would never know.

Doing this dance to the meters is visibility neutral because the area around the -6dB colours doesn't change size.

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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by vocaltalentpro » Thu May 04, 2017 2:17 am

Ahh ok, well at least there is a broader color meter to catch my eye if things go awry! I often record very vibrant dialogues and scripts that go from near whispering intimacy to loud arguing/yelling and that is where I fear I am going to have the most trouble trying to get everything to meet requirements.

Also, just another question.... so I'm doing great with just the RMS Normalise and the Speech Roll-off now that I have my gain turned up so high. However, I'm noticing in a few samples I've recorded and ACX checked, that my Peak level is exceeding limits now. What is the best way to rectify this without making other changes I shouldn't? For example my ACX audition for that childhood obesity book I was working on is ready now, but I noticed that the ACX check shows:

Peak level: 0.911381 (-0.8 dB) << Exceeds ACX -3 dB max
RMS level: 0.101131 (-19.9 dB) .. Passes ACX
NoiseFloor: 0.000263 (-71.6 dB) .. Passes ACX

If this were my recording to be submitted to ACX for approval, I'd need to know best how to correct that. Should I Normalize? Use Limiter?

If if helps to see the recording you can access it here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/pgcc68vfnd6eq ... t.mp3?dl=0

Oh, and the good news? I got my 2nd Offer today. I'm over the moon, and so glad that you've helped me to streamline this processing chain down to a science, it feels much less daunting now to think of doing such long recording projects now that I feel more in control of my mastering skills :)
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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Thu May 04, 2017 3:56 am

You didn't follow the rules. Effect > RMS Normalize > Effect > Limiter > Effect > Equalization: LF Rolloff.

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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by vocaltalentpro » Thu May 04, 2017 6:13 am

Oops! I totally missed the Limiter instructions... going back to find those now!

**found it!**
Effect > Limiter: Soft Limit, 0, 0, -3.5, 10, No. > OK.
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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by vocaltalentpro » Thu May 04, 2017 6:58 am

vocaltalentpro wrote:I often record very vibrant dialogues and scripts that go from near whispering intimacy to loud arguing/yelling and that is where I fear I am going to have the most trouble trying to get everything to meet requirements.


Do you have any words of wisdom about how to go about these sort of chapters, will the settings you've already given me help sufficiently under these conditions? I know that I need to avoid clipping (red on the meter) at all costs, but should I start at a lower gain setting from the beginning to leave upper room? Or get further away from the mic during the louder segments? I am just worried that the normal speaking parts have to match the other sections/chapters, and how do I keep from getting too loud with the screaming/theatrical bits?

No rush on this answer if others need help... I just know that I'll have to do this eventually, but not this week...
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Re: Help me with RMS levels and mastering for ACX

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Thu May 04, 2017 7:08 am

That's it.

We never used to be able to set RMS (Loudness) directly with any reliable tools, so we always had to work around the barn with indirect tools and hope to goodness everything came out right eventually. Not any more. flynwill developed a proof-of-concept RMS tool and steve developed a finished effect. That would be SetRMS and RMS Normalize, resp.

In English: Adjust loudness, Limit those occasionally troublesome blue wave high tips (peaks) and check for Noise. The three ACX specifications in three tools.

Noise can be messy. That's the step that can split depending on what you have wrong, and that's the step that prevents us from designing a single mastering tool.

Rumble takes one tool, microphone hiss takes a tool and Yeti Curse Whine takes a third. Each one slightly damages the sound, so we can't just throw 'em all in there. We have to find the appropriate one.

And to be clear, you make full ACX Conformance without the rumble filter, but it's close. Since you have a woman's voice and you have a little rumble, LF-Rolloff is perfect.

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