ACX check robotics and RMS

Narrating and Producing Audiobooks.

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ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by Edward1 » Mon Oct 24, 2016 1:24 am

Can anybody provide a link to a tutorial that will give someone a step-by-step creation of a complicated audiobook file?

I got six chapters into a novel of mine (published back in 1970 by McFadden in New York City) that I'm trying to turn into an audiobook that will provide more than just narration of a novel. Part of the problem with audiobooks has to do with the fact that novels, or books rather, of any kind were meant simply to be read and not listened to. A script, on the other hand, IS meant to be listened to and is written expressly to that purpose. I learned that much working as a voiceover artist on a number of Discovery channel television documentaries. I always marveled at what those broadcast engineers were able to do with not only my voice but all the music and sound effects that went with it. Those technicians were top-of-the-line and had to of had doctorates in that profession. If we are talking in just those terms, I would not of gotten out of elementary school.

I have six chapters (out of almost 30) done to perfection, complete with music and sound effects, character voices, etc., but all this requires a dozen or more audacity tracks to bring together. I have tried noise reduction to get rid of extraneous sounds because I cannot afford an expensive sound recording room that is free from all that. Instead I have rigged up a very small closet with egg crate type foam coating the inside of it which seems to give me an extremely claustrophobic environment where my A–21 audio technica microphone while sent to three quarters of the meter's maximum range produces large green streaks on the recording meter when one is simply breathing inside that studio closet. My pop filter doesn't help that. Although voice is picked up beautifully.
The ACX check robot seems to think I'm going about this all wrong, it passes some proportion of a five-minute tape and trashes others. It seems I am always either under -3 DB are over -3 DB RMS on portions of my tracks.
I find that applying any sort of "effects" such as reverb, amplification (plus or minus), change of pitch, anywhere within those dozen or more tracks will often cause Audacity to ignore the "mix and render to new track" command after all the tracks have been selected, and takes about two seconds to do what it calls a render and leaves me with nothing but a narration track. It didn't used to do this before and I never had a problem with mix and render until I tried to go beyond the opening through chapter 6 (which has always worked beautifully) but it now refuses to mix chapters 7 and 8 which has its own project file.
I can't seem to get my chapter lengths for sound much under a gigabyte of data. How is an individual file that wants more than merely pure narration supposed to come in at 170 MB or under? As I read the requirements for that from Audible's list of them, the only workaround seems to be to turn one chapter into seven or eight or nine or ten mini-sections.
I am familiar enough now with Audacity to create the sound and the effects with music and narration to get what I want, but I doubt that I can ever get my files to where they will meet those very stringent requirements. If there is a workaround for this situation and anybody out there knows what it is (and can be made to work before the whole market for audiobooks simply collapses) please tell me…
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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:50 am

How is an individual file that wants more than merely pure narration supposed to come in at 170 MB or under?

It doesn't matter what the content is. I just created a one-hour mono show suitable for testing. I exported it at 192 quality MP3 and it gave me an 86MB sound file, generously under the 170MB limit. I'm also half-way to the other limit they post of not speaking over two hours.

a novel of mine ... I'm trying to turn into an audiobook

I don't think that's correct. You're trying to turn it into a theatrical radio drama. You all but said so. I'm surprised the company didn't comment on the addition of music and sound effects. That's normally not done.
It seems I am always either under -3 DB are over -3 DB RMS on portions of my tracks.

I think you're misinterpreting the technical standards.
This is an English version of the three standards.
viewtopic.php?p=297423#p297423

The first value, peak has an upper limit. Peaks may never, ever get louder than -3dB (70%), but they can be quite a bit lower than that without triggering an alarm.

RMS is a fancy-pants way of measuring loudness. That one does have two limits, an upper -18dB and a lower (-23dB).

It is possible and I have done this multiple times, to read passages into a microphone under good conditions, stop, gently adjust the overall volume, export an ACX compliant sound clip and break for lunch. So while admittedly difficult, this is not rocket surgery.

~~

I'm just now, after reading through that the fourth time, waking up to what's happening. The ACX Robot knows the natural cadence and structure of the human presenter/announcer. I bet you're driving it nuts with the special effects, production sounds and background music. Exactly the same thing happens when you try to put music into a conference voice system or record tunes with a default Windows sound system.

Since you're recording on a Windows machine, it's possible internal voice processing is causing some of your odd problems and wandering test values.

In my opinion you should create the full theatrical presentation and run it through a stiff, global compressor such as Chris's Compressor add-on to even out the lumps and bumps, and post it yourself — or — read the plain, flat audiobook and submit that to ACX. I don't think the full theatrical presentation will ever make it through ACX compliance.

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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Mon Oct 24, 2016 4:29 am

Reading it the fifth time.
produces large green streaks on the recording meter when one is simply breathing inside that studio closet.

You have help. Unwelcome help. A normal, flat audio recording system will not do that, but an automatic conferencing or chat system will. A presentation recorded like that, with volume changing by itself will never pass the third value, the ACX Noise Specification.

We wrote a thing about that. Follow this through.

http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/faq_ ... hancements

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Re: reply to Koz

Permanent link to this post Posted by Edward1 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:20 am

Thanks Koz, it never occurred to me I was trying to re-invent the wheel, I was just trying to come up with something a little more grandiose than flat out narration. One of the free gifts I got from Amazon was an audiobook of Game of Thrones, read by Roy Dotrice. That actor is very talented – nevertheless, his reviews for reading that were abysmal. I believe I know why... The audience must've seen an episode or two of the full-blown video production on HBO, and of course no audiobook can possibly hope to compete with something like that, so his reviews were unfair and could possibly damage his own career for other things. I just wanted to avoid a similar situation. I hardly ever listen to audiobooks, preferring to read instead of listen to novels I've heard good things about, but I have relatives who do listen to a lot of them and they told me that nearly everyone has some sort of music or sound effect attached to it.

Thanks again for the definitions and the advice, which I am going to try to follow.
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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:40 am

Did you go down that link to find out why Windows is messing up your voice? Your studio experience with moving sound levels is not normal.

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Re: second reply to Koz

Permanent link to this post Posted by Edward1 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 4:36 am

Yes Koz, I went to all the links you sent. I'm uploading a screenshot that I took of my last ACX response. I managed to come in under the peak levels but somehow the RMS is still too high. I tried the compressor affect and tried the maximum and minimum ratios on that and couldn't pass anything with that. It's still kind of a Sanskrit to me to figure out what the - plus the three DB actually means things like the lower you go the louder it is, and the higher the number the softer it is. Is that correct? Could using the amplification effect to lower the volume level help that?
Edward1
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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:44 am

Here's an illustration of some of the relationships. I changed the bouncing sound meters around so they're bigger and easier to see. You can do that, too. The little bar to the left is a position drag bar and a little bar to the right will let you set the sizes.

Image

The bouncing light sound meters are in dB and the blue waves are in percent. 1.0 = 100%. Maximum dB is 0 on the right and the sound gets quieter as you go to the left. The numbers are negative to the left, so they are actually getting smaller. In my illustration, I made it a point to have the sound meters flash at -6dB which is the announcing goal. The meters turn yellow when you do that. Every so often, the meters should flash up there while you're announcing. That corresponds to about 50% in the blue waves, also in the illustration.

I found it handy to start from somewhere concrete because if I don't, it's easy to chase my tail which is what I think you may be doing.

I published a process for announcing a test clip.

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

Open the clip in Audacity.

-- Select the whole clip or show by clicking just above MUTE.
-- Effect > Normalize: [X]Remove DC, [X]Normalize to -3.5 > OK


Run ACX-Check.

What do you get?

Now post the raw clip. The forum should let you post a 20 second mono WAV file. Scroll down from an Audacity forum window > Upload attachment.

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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:44 pm

If your browser is zoomed in too close, it will cut off the right-hand edge of the graphic. Zoom out slightly.

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Re-: I am trying…

Permanent link to this post Posted by Edward1 » Wed Oct 26, 2016 3:15 am

Thanks again, Koz –

I set it all up just as you advised… It would seem to be rocket science, though. Is there any way I can set Audacity up with permanent markers on those meters to keep me within acceptable limits? I find if I fiddle with it enough, I can pass the -3 DB and the -23 DB, but then I get killed on the noise floor or the RMS level. I find myself juuuussst over the limit every time on one of those after the ACX robot does its thing. My recording studio is always going to record my breathing while I speak and the recording meter does go nearly all the way to the left (where all signals start and grow to the right) and if one does any of the traditional effects built into Audacity it blows the whole plan and all bets seem to be off. If the idea seems to be to keep the meter recording between -3 DB and -23 DB throughout the whole clip, it seems an impossible task! A textual paraphrased metaphor for the process seems to me similar to Abraham Lincoln's famous observation "you can fool some of the metering all of the time, all the metering some of the time, but I can't fool all the metering all the time."

It seems to be terribly difficult to meet the parameters that ACX demands for just plain flat out narration!
Am I reading something wrong or what I wonder…
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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Wed Oct 26, 2016 3:30 am

We are doing a stand-alone test clip because I can feel the problems bubbling up. It doesn't work when we start analyzing a processed performance. We can't take processing out of a clip and there's a terrific chance we're going to recommend tools and filters that will mess with some of the processing you're already doing.

That and it's good not to work blind.

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