Guys, thank you, thank you!
That is such good advice — and all in one thread.
(Meanwhile, I have got more acquainted with Chris’s Compress Dynamics, RMS Normalize, Audacity’s downloadable Noise Gate, and the very effective, built in Noise Reduction filter.) I have summarised all the answers as I understand them in a fuller essay further below. If you’ve time, I’d be grateful if you could correct me on any misunderstandings.
In a nutshell, though, the lightening answers to my many questions are:
1) Yes. Filter first, then edit. But, before anything, Export a copy of your raw recording.
2) No need to Compress; it might make your reading sound flat and can introduce noise problems.
3/4) Either use Noise Gate or Noise Reduction; perhaps no need for either;
[–]but, if you must Compress, do the Denoise first — not after any other processing.
5) Don’t bother to Declick unless someone tells you to. Mouth noises are natural
[–](no one answered this, so I’m inferring from Koz’s remarks on just keeping processing to a minimum)
6) LF Rolloff is optional — but you’d better be in a very quiet room and not using a USB mic.
This leads me to two further questions:
- Regarding these “USB Mics”? I use a Heil (practically the opposite to a condenser mic, it is very up-close and directional, enabling musicians to isolate their singing voice from the echo of the band — and me to reduce background noise and reflection without egg boxes and a duvet).
It has an analogue cable requiring a preamp: I have that cable connected to a red Focusright Scarlett 2i2 box
— This, in turn, plugs into my computer’s USB socket (from which the Scarlett also draws its power).
— Does that make it a USB mic?
— Or, by USB mic, did you just mean something that plugs straight into your computer without preamplicication?
- One important final question: does RMS Normalize simply raise the volume of everything uniformly (thus keeping background noise absolutely constant)? It affects answers 2a and 3 of my longer summary below, which I may need to correct.
So here is the detailed summary for the solutions to my queries above.
- Best processing order:
Export a backup of your fresh raw recording to .WAV
Run any effects — esp. those described in Koz’s AudioBook Mastering version 4
(all tools and instructions on one page; just download and install the filters, and follow steps in the order listed).
- Run an ACX check to see you’re in the ball park.
Export another backup of processed audio at this point
(since still unedited, should match the raw .WAV file second for second)
- THEN do your edits (deletes, cuts and pastes).
- Save, run ACX check again, and Submit.
- Run any effects — esp. those described in Koz’s AudioBook Mastering version 4
- No need to Compress (sounds more natural without).
(That said, my client takes my samples out for a spin in his car and gets agitated if there is too much variation between loud and soft parts — so I’m resigned to some degree of levelling)
[–]So, if you wish to compress (especially with Chris’s Dynamics):
- No harm in running RMS Normalize first, right?
It’s simple and takes some of the pressure off the compressor
- With Chris’s Dynamics, try “running on” for a sec or two at the end of a reading (speaking gobbledygook or “Cut this, cut this, cut this”) which you can clip out in the edit (hopefully stops that volume fade at the end of paragraphs; that said, I found setting the “hardness” control high enough may also reduce this).
- I can find no one recently who uses the 1.2.7 beta, nor further improvements — nor, even,
- recommendations for any newer compressor. My client loved the sound of what I’d sent through Levelator. This works brilliantly and comes highly recommended, but it is older and pretty basic: there are no controls; if you’re unlucky, just sometimes things can come out a tad fuzzy — take it or leave it; and, since no longer supported, it may eventually become obsolete.
- The “Floor” and “Noise gate falloff settings” in Chris’s Compress Dynamics are handy — but less subtle than the downloadable Nyquist one (see top and 3 below); probably best left at 0 (certainly no more than 4); play around a little with the Floor setting so you don’t ever dampen your own speech. Better still, use the Nyquist one below
If you are compressing with low-level background noise, then do some gentle de-noising beforehand, or there might be unacceptable variation in noise levels (harder to strip at the end). You can use NoiseGate or Noise Reduction:
Noise Gate simply dampens sound quieter than a certain “floor” level, but leaves that sound otherwise unprocessed. This is pretty handy before you Normalize° or Compress°, both of which risk amplifying your background noise:
- Normalise raises the volume of EVERYTHING by a uniform amount: determined either by the loudest “peaks”, or from taking an average volume across your recording (RMS is short for Root Mean Squared) and boosting that average to a uniform level (which might lead to clipping — then to be pared down by a separate peak “limiter”)
Compress boosts the quiet bits and pares back the overly loud bits (Normalizer and Limiter in one package); as Koz points out, it could nullify some of the natural emotion in your reading as well as draw attention to background noise by “pumping” it up and down.
I tried gently using NoiseGate before Compress dynamics 1.2.6 and (especially when there was background traffic hum) it actually worked much better.
Noise Reduction… seeks specific steady background “noise” to strip out; it comes ready installed with Audacity (you might have to enable it), and does a great job on steady white hiss, traffic hum, fridge buzz, etc., but beware: although it applies itself more heavily in pauses, it may also gently strip some of those tones from your speech. ACX doesn’t like the voice to sound too electronic — also, after processing, your breaths may sound more intrusive — so just be wary of setting it too high; steer clear of double-digits. But, if used sparingly, on steady background noise levels, it’s damn handy.
Declicking. From what I’ve read, I’m going to infer that this is not necessary. Sure, if you have a seriously loud problem with mouth noise, then you may want to run the filter just once (and live with collateral loss of clarity where 't’s and 'd’s get inadvertently damped). And, sure, if you’re Stephen Fry reading Winnie the Pooh or Harry Potter, then they’re going to throw thousands of pounds at some studio bod who will sit for a month and clean up every lip-smack whilst preserving your fine articulation. But ACX wants natural readings at a bargain price. So don’t get bogged down. Right Guys? Same for de-essing? Only if you whistle like the musk rat in Deputy Dawg, right?
LF Rolloff. If I understood correctly, it sounds as though you can get away without the LF Rolloff Equalisation stage (but you’d better be far away from muffled traffic and not using a USB mic, or ACX’s automatic controls might reject you)
Also, from what I can gather and intuit, it would make no difference whether you use it right at the start — or even after the final edit. Right guys?