Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standards

Narrating and Producing Audiobooks.
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tanktronic
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Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standards

Post by tanktronic » Fri Jul 03, 2015 4:24 am

Hi! I'm new to the forum, and new to audio recording. Before I even start I want to mention I've been lurking in these forums for a few days, and I'm impressed and thankful for the thoughtful, complete, and thorough responses from Koz and Steve. It sucks to go into something new knowing almost nothing and stumble your way around - it's even worse when those that DO know talk over your head and make ya feel dumb. You guys are cool as hell and tremendously understanding. Next beer's on me...

Ok, so I set up my "studio" and took a crack for the first time, tonight. I ran a short clip through the tests Koz has linked elsewhere in the forum, checking the Noise, RMS, and Peak values. At this point I have zero regard for the "theatrical" or even editing aspect of my clips - I want to know I'm in the ballpark technically before I put that time and effort in.

The short snippet, attached, seemed to be pretty close to hitting the marks. The peak measured -5.4db, the noise floor of a quiet section in the middle was -64db, and the RMS was around -25db. Could it possibly be that I stupidly lucked my way into being so close that I simply need to goose my levels up across the board by a couple db to hit the correct peak, and bring my RMS within standards as well?

Secondly, do your trained ears hear anything in the raw file attached that will be a problem as I keep going? Breaths and bad reading aside, it seemed ok to me, clear of pops and tinny-ness.

I am using Audacity 2.1.0
Windows Vista
Blue Yeti with pop filter
Gain on Yeti turned down to about 25% max, input on Audacity at 0.61

Any advice or corrections would be tremendously appreciated as I get moving....
Attachments
SMALL SECTION1.WAV
completely unedited and unprocessed.
(682.04 KiB) Downloaded 105 times

kozikowski
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Re: Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standa

Post by kozikowski » Fri Jul 03, 2015 10:49 am

Are you using the one-click ACX Check (Zip attached) or the manual process? Unpack that Zip and slide acx-check.ny into your Audacity Plugins folder. In use It appears under Analyze, not Effects.

You appear to be missing The Yeti Curse. The frying mosquitoes in the background that many people experience, so that's a grand start right there. Good natural reading style without odd speech artifacts (that I can tell right this second).

If you prepare another test clip, you might do it this way.

http://www.kozco.com/tech/audacity/Test ... _Clip.html

That gives us all the needed parts of the testing and patching process in one short clip.

I got your clip to pass with minimum of fuss and I'll publish the fuss when it's daytime.

Koz
Attachments
acx-check.ny.zip
(3.19 KiB) Downloaded 101 times

flynwill
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Re: Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standa

Post by flynwill » Fri Jul 03, 2015 3:41 pm

See!!! The Blue Yeti can make nice quiet recordings!

Just so I can keep your system as a data point, what sort of computer do you have?
How long is the USB cable?
Is it the cable that came with the microphone?
Is it plugged directly into the computer or into a hub of any sort?

Otherwise your recording is going to need a touch of compression to meet the ACX RMS requirement. With practice you might be able to pick up the level of the trailing parts of your sentences without becoming monotone, and that will reduce the compression need. Acoustically it sounds good, no obvious echos or environmental problems.

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Re: Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standa

Post by kozikowski » Fri Jul 03, 2015 6:22 pm

Acoustically it sounds good, no obvious echos or environmental problems.
Exactly correct. You might pass on to us how you did that. Chances are good you're not recording in your kitchen or bathroom. That one step kills people trying to read for AudioBooks.
a touch of compression to meet the ACX RMS requirement.
And that's how I did it.

Step one is to get rid of rumble and low pitched sounds. This step does change your voice very slightly, so listen to it before and after you apply the tool. It's a home-built filter and does not come with the stock Audacity.

Effect > Equalization: LF Rolloff for speech, 8191 Length > OK

See Attached: LF_rolloff_for_speech.xml.zip

Unzip it and apply it to the Audacity Equalization tool.

Adding Equalizer Curves
-- Select something on the timeline.
-- Effect > Equalization > Save/Manage Curves > Import
-- Point at LF_rolloff_for_speech.xml > OK. (it won't open the ZIP. You have to decompress it)
-- LF Rolloff for speech now appears in the equalization curve list.



I artificially made your voice louder and denser (hopefully without changing the quality too much).

I work from top down so I force the loud bits to a standard value.

Effect > Normalize: [X]Remove DC, [X]Normalize to -3.2 > OK

That solved Peaks and Noise, but not loudness (in your case).

Effect > Compressor: Thresh -20, Floor -50, Ratio 2:1, Attack 0.2, Release 1.0, [_]No Gain Makeup > OK

That solves Noise and Loudness, but not peaks.

Effect > Normalize: [X]Remove DC, [X]Normalize to -3.2 > OK

Yes, that's the same tool twice.

See attached, last sentence.

Koz
Attachments
Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 11.20.04.png
Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 11.20.04.png (40.49 KiB) Viewed 1975 times
LF_rolloff_for_speech.xml.zip
(326 Bytes) Downloaded 85 times

kozikowski
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Re: Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standa

Post by kozikowski » Fri Jul 03, 2015 6:34 pm

Assuming your attached clip is raw and unprocessed, you are already reading at the recommended volume (occasional peaks into -6dB — the yellow zone), so the only way to improve it would be to dial back the vocal expression slightly. In real life, it's good to vary your expression and volume to impart interest, but pushing volume variations too much will lower your RMS (loudness) and could demand higher processing.

You should probably not end sentences by fading out. We're picking fine details here, your existing work does fit.

If you find yourself getting dangerously close to loudness (RMS) violations (-23dB to -18dB), try increasing the Compression Ratio to 3:1 from 2:1. Your voice should become slightly denser and louder.

Koz

tanktronic
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Re: Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standa

Post by tanktronic » Fri Jul 03, 2015 8:17 pm

kozikowski wrote:Are you using the one-click ACX Check (Zip attached) or the manual process? Unpack that Zip and slide acx-check.ny into your Audacity Plugins folder. In use It appears under Analyze, not Effects.

You appear to be missing The Yeti Curse. The frying mosquitoes in the background that many people experience, so that's a grand start right there. Good natural reading style without odd speech artifacts (that I can tell right this second).

If you prepare another test clip, you might do it this way.

http://www.kozco.com/tech/audacity/Test ... _Clip.html

That gives us all the needed parts of the testing and patching process in one short clip.

I got your clip to pass with minimum of fuss and I'll publish the fuss when it's daytime.

Koz
Thank you sir!! Yes, I just did a manual check based on your 1-2-3 guide I saw elsewhere. I have since installed the plug in and will be using that.

The next you hear from me [tonight likely] I will follow the protocol suggested and actually think about my speech, and resubmit in this thread.

I can't tell you how relieved I am that I'm not too far off. Getting this audiobook made is a big deal for me for a host of reasons. Thanks for being so quick to help.

tanktronic
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Re: Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standa

Post by tanktronic » Fri Jul 03, 2015 8:30 pm

flynwill wrote:See!!! The Blue Yeti can make nice quiet recordings!

Just so I can keep your system as a data point, what sort of computer do you have?
How long is the USB cable?
Is it the cable that came with the microphone?
Is it plugged directly into the computer or into a hub of any sort?

Otherwise your recording is going to need a touch of compression to meet the ACX RMS requirement. With practice you might be able to pick up the level of the trailing parts of your sentences without becoming monotone, and that will reduce the compression need. Acoustically it sounds good, no obvious echos or environmental problems.
It's about time I got a lucky break on something! 8-)

My setup is very low-tech :) I patched together the best I could after hanging out here and watching the ACX videos. I actually have an older laptop. The details :

- my DAW is a HP Pavilion g7 Notebook running Windows 7 [thought it was Vista...TIL]
- the USB cable is the one that came original with the Yeti. My guess is it is about 10 feet in length [3m]
- it is plugged directly into my PC, my PC is older so only has USB2.0 ports
- I am recording directly to a Seagate external 500GB hard drive... I have seen arguments for and against recording externally. If this is a bad idea someone let me know...

My recording "studio" is my walk-in closet. I noticed a while ago when blabbing on the phone it sounded different in there. The hanger rods form a "U" shape, so I removed the clothes from the bottom of the "U", hung a blanket there as a backsplash of sorts, and set a TV dinner tray in front of it, covered with a towel. The USB cord was long enough to keep my laptop PC outside the closet. The fan on this thing is way too audible.

Between the carpet, clothes, and blankets, it seems to work. Also helps that my walk-in is upstairs, at the opposite end of the house from the A/C unit and refrigerator, and I record at night when there's no traffic or lawnmowers outside.

Photos of my super-professional setup attached...
Attachments
2015-07-02 22.57.36.jpg
2015-07-02 22.57.36.jpg (1.88 MiB) Viewed 1969 times
2015-07-02 22.48.51.jpg
2015-07-02 22.48.51.jpg (1.76 MiB) Viewed 1969 times

kozikowski
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Re: Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standa

Post by kozikowski » Fri Jul 03, 2015 9:02 pm

The USB cord was long enough to keep my laptop PC outside the closet.
Where you can't see it? You have to watch the Audacity recording meters while you read. The first time you get expressive and loud, you could overload the sound channel and that signals a do-over. Overloaded sound is one of the reliable ways to kill your show.

Number 2.

The Four Horsemen of Audio Recording (reliable, time-tested ways to kill your show)
-- 1. Echoes and room reverberation (Don't record the show in your mum's kitchen.)
-- 2. Overload and Clipping (Sound that's recorded too loud is permanently trashed.)
-- 3. Compression Damage (Never do production in MP3.)
-- 4. Background Sound (Don't leave the TV on in the next room.)


On the other hand, if, over the course of a chapter you start fading, that may kill your loudness match. There are ways to fix that manually, but it's not pretty and you may fail noise even if you do get the voice to work.

People have been known to remote the monitor to the booth interior. It doesn't have to be a 75" monitor with 3D and hot and cold running beer. It just has to be enough for you to see the meters flipping.

Image

Koz

flynwill
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Re: Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standa

Post by flynwill » Fri Jul 03, 2015 11:50 pm

tanktronic wrote: - I am recording directly to a Seagate external 500GB hard drive... I have seen arguments for and against recording externally. If this is a bad idea someone let me know...
One of the ACX videos recommends recording to an external hard drive, I'm not entirely sure what their reasoning is. In any case as long as the hard drive is on a totally different USB bus from your microphone it should be fine. You will have to dig into the details of your laptop's hardware to figure that out for sure. Unless your laptop is running very short on disk space I would recommend recording directly to the internal drive and then transfer the recordings to two different external drives (ie have a master and a backup) at the end of each session.
tanktronic wrote: My recording "studio" is my walk-in closet.
Not to worry, we've now see several artists using their walk-in closet, they seem to work very well. Typically the worst problem is the lack of ventilation.

You might check out local yard sales or EBay and pickup an older low-res LCD monitor cheap to plug into the external monitor port on your laptop. That will give you a quite way to be able to see the meters.

kozikowski
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Re: Complete noob, looking to see if I'm close to ACX standa

Post by kozikowski » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:34 am

I'm not entirely sure what their reasoning is.
And they're emphatic about it, too. Nothing wishy-washy here. Earlier on in video editing, it was highly recommended to have two internal drives. Put the OS and program on one and the show on the other. The machine had perfect, high-speed access to everything it needed.

Putting the show on an external USB drive just makes my teeth hurt. It's not universally correct. I will put money that you can't do a musical overdubbing session that way. The timings are just too sloppy. So it only works with straight vocal capture.

Koz

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