ACX check robotics and RMS

Narrating and Producing Audiobooks.

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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:05 am

Dueling posts.

the parameters that ACX demands for just plain flat out narration!

This isn't a cellphone call or a Skype conference. You're replacing a studio and recording engineer. Sometimes it works out better than others.

I like the Car Talk radio show. It's produced in the WBUR Boston studios. The Car Talk executive producer decided to save a bunch of bucks by shooting the show themselves at home. No WBUR studio fees. They made it through two ratty, unstable network radio shows and went back to WBUR.

See if you can post that sound clip. I'll try to give you step by step how to process it for submission.


You should have the Audacity 2.1.2 record meters set for colors, not the split green display. Forget RMS and noise for now. The goal is to make the room as quiet as you can and announce so the tips of the sound peaks turn yellow every so often as in my pix. That's recording volume centered between overload damage and distortion from low volume. The recording sweet spot.

Nobody will come out with a gun if you're a little low volume. We are trying to avoid the performances where the blue waves are almost a straight line and the bouncing meters are over on the left. Those are just trash as are the shows where the sound meter is red and the blue waves fill the timeline.

Crank out that test clip and I'll talk you through the rest of it. Don't process the clip. Export WAV and post it.

Koz
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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:40 am

I found one of the clips. I don't remember how I did this one, but I can see from the notes I didn't do much past announcing and setting general ACX sound levels.

ACX recommendations are for higher volume than you can comfortably do in live recording, so it's almost always required that you adjust overall volume. Maybe I pushed a pinch of Noise Reduction in there. I don't remember. -72 is quieter noise than I usually do.

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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:42 pm

I write short stories. Sooner or later I'm going to set up and record one of those myself. See if I can make it pass without 52 filters and effects.

"Once upon a time..."

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Re: you're a great well of patience, Koz

Permanent link to this post Posted by Edward1 » Thu Oct 27, 2016 1:27 am

Dear Koz –
You really are, and thanks again – what you mean by standalone test? A raw file that I narrate? I have a confession to make. He's in failing health now but my brother-in-law is a broadcast engineer in Bethesda Maryland. We're a close family in feeling but far apart in physical space. He owns and runs a company called Absolute Pitch, and helped me get voiceover work from years back, and even got an Emmy nomination for a Discovery channel series called "SEA WINGS" which I had the good fortune to narrate.
It's a complete audiovisual production house but I hate to bug him during an election season because that's the really busy one. But he has offered to clean up some of my files after the election.
What I am really wondering about after visiting ACX.com and checking out all those tutorials is whether or not I might be using the wrong recording software. I don't have an mbox preamp or a real fancy mic – it's just an A- 21 audio technica with a pop filter and I've had it positioned all wrong according to the tutorials. My recording space is so tiny – and even though I have most of it lined with egg crate foam, I can see from those videos at ACX that there is some sound bouncing around in there and just breathing sends the green recording meter up to about the physical size or circumference of a nickel and sometimes a quarter – and that's not breathing heavily. I did have my mic recording volume up full, but but then pulled it back to about 70% and tried it that way without it helping very much.
ACX seems to be pushing the ProTools platform almost exclusively and I know my professional broadcast engineer brother-in-law swears by it. I have a feeling I can do all the things that I originally envisioned doing by taking advantage of his professional expertise and processing all the way out in Bethesda. I can send him the zip files on all the music and sound effects that I purchased the rights to (Sounddogs and Melody Loops) he already has my opening file through chapter 6 that sounds perfect to me, but will never pass ACX standards. I think he has the expertise to make it all work. I think he might also be interested in coming on board at ACX as a producer in his off seasons. He has Parkinson's and is limited to the amount of time he can devote to anything really. So I am semi-on my own and trying to cover all the bases. You obviously have been at this longer than I have and I am curious as to what your set up is…
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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Fri Oct 28, 2016 2:18 am

what you mean by standalone test? A raw file that I narrate?

Yes. As it says in the document, hold your breath for two seconds, announce for about 18. Stop, export as a mono WAV and post it on the forum.

That's a grand first step to figuring out what's gone wrong.
just breathing sends the green recording meter up

It's supposed to. One important difference between the blue waves and the bouncing sound meter is volume. The blue waves only show you the loudest parts of the show. If the volume of the performance falls below that, the display just flattens out and that's that, even though the performance is still going. That's at about -30dB if you're keeping score. Audio recording limit is -96dB. Quite a difference.

The sound meters, depending on how you have them set, move when you have almost any sound at all. So as long as it's not carried to extremes, having the meters move when you breathe is perfectly normal. All these conditions are a matter of extreme. That's why that raw clip is a big deal. We can tell in 20 seconds how your studio is working.

I am curious as to what your set up is…

Everybody gets this one wrong.
The most valuable part of my setup is the third bedroom.

One of the original owners of the house played drums and that room has home-style soundproofing on the ceiling and walls and heavy carpet on the floor. My recording computer makes little or no noise. Past that, it almost doesn't make any difference. I got super close to an audiobook test clip by announcing into my laptop built-in microphone and recording in Audacity.

ProTools is a delightful software package, but I didn't have any trouble recording voices and sound effects commercially with Audacity. Unless you're doing something dreadful wrong, the recording software is the least of your problems.

Audio Technica doesn't appear to make an A-21 microphone.

ACX seems to be pushing the ProTools platform almost exclusively

ACX wants to make their job easier and one way to do that is insist on top quality equipment. Note in the videos, the question isn't whether you are going to have a sound booth, but which one. Also note the laptop isn't a noisy Dell. It's a quiet MacBook.

Image

This peels off the announcers who can't afford all the top equipment and makes it much more likely that an audiobook submission is going to pass without a lot of hand-holding. Hand-holding is expensive. ACX publishes a list of forbidden effects.

Image

I know of few people who can deliver a performance without some of those tools, but that, too, peels off the lower quality announcers. A noisy studio requires stiff Noise Reduction and stiff Noise Reduction can be heard in the voice. Those fail in ACX's Human Quality Control. The complaint is "Overprocessing."

So figure out the microphone identity and forward a test clip. I used to tell people to select a clip from existing work, but I stopped doing that because the Room Tone (silent) section at the front is important and an existing segment doesn't always tell us what we need to know. You can submit stereo (two blue waves) but stereo cuts off at 10 seconds instead of 20.

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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Fri Oct 28, 2016 4:21 am

That silent portion is harder than you think. Obviously, we can hear you breathing, so hold your breath. Not so obviously, we can also hear you scratching your head, shifting in your seat and shuffling papers. Boost the volume of your silent section temporarily and listen for human noises. The goal is just the room noises (the phrase "Room Tone") and noises the microphone itself or the computer is making.

Some microphones (again, in the lower rank of quality) make objectionable noises by themselves. We'll find out if you're in that camp with your clip. ACX doesn't use the "legal" (hazardous work environment) definition of noise. They use the definition that simply measures everything that's not you talking. Anything. In some cases you can fail for noises only bats can hear and cats can feel. Fortunately, those can be detected and dispatched, although those represent steps you must take at each and every recording.

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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Fri Oct 28, 2016 5:36 am

I'm not joshing. Attached the built-in microphone of a 13" MacBook Air sitting on a desk in my quiet third bedroom. The first is the raw clip and the second is gentle noise reduction, careful compression and volume set.

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I don't necessarily recommend this because you don't have good control of the shoot, I just post it to prove no, you don't need to spend a million dollars on a microphone to make this work.

But a quiet room goes a very long way.

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Re:Audient iD14

Permanent link to this post Posted by Edward1 » Sun Oct 30, 2016 1:29 am

Dear Koz –
Thanks again for all your concern about this and the help. I finally checked out ACX.com in full and watched all the tutorials. I've got myself set up now with an audient ID 14 for a preamp and hooked that into my DAW. The tutorials for the thing only deal with ProTools, so I'm thinking about going in that direction if I should find out that Audacity cannot work with my new preamp. I also purchased a new microphone now on the way to me, cost me about $230 for a Rode NT 21 or whatever it is with a shockproof mount. I'm also building a little tent structure with audio blankets around my set-up which will be complete next week and then I can start practicing doing the complicated thing I started out to do.
Those ACX tutorials are great, but the learning curve is still a monster, but it is starting to make a little more sense to me.
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Re: addendum to my last post…

Permanent link to this post Posted by Edward1 » Sun Oct 30, 2016 1:52 am

Dear Koz –

I decided to get rid of my little closet studio. Any movement at all I made in it seemed to magnify tremendously. My tent structure is being set up in my normal computer room where I have more room to move around. It's an audio technic a mic that I have been using that I picked up for about 50 bucks or so, but I decided on the advice of my brother-in-law (the real Pro at this stuff in my family) and the tutorials on the ACX page to at least start with the best equipment I can afford and go forward from that. I will be submitting that sound file as soon as my mic comes and I get everything hooked up properly.

I am still fiddling with the audient ID 14 which I bought from Sweetwater because of their two-year free warranty and the help and advice I can expect from them in adding or upgrading later on – I am going to need all the help I can get as I move on with this project. All my stuff is fiction – at least for now, and I wanted to have the best presentation it can have to entertain a bored beach population who don't have the imagination to simply read a book, closing themselves off mentally from a raucous environment and enjoy it the way the author meant for them to. Music and sound effects tastefully and artfully put in place at the right moments can enhance any presentation and cause good word-of-mouth in the sales arena.
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Re: ACX check robotics and RMS

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sun Oct 30, 2016 4:10 am

Looking forward to your first submission.

I think up the post I pointed to the basic instructions for posting a test.

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

It turns out over many uses, the most difficult part of shooting that thing is Room Tone or the two second silence. Freeze and hold your breath.

Room Tone can go at the beginning or the end. Doesn't make any difference. One sister posting to this one made it through the voice part of the test perfectly and then, I joked, it sounded like they were struggling to take their pants off during the silent portion. Rustle, rustle, rumble, rumble, clunk.

That doesn't work. It has to be the sound the room makes without you moving or breathing.

Music and sound effects tastefully and artfully put in place at the right moments can enhance any presentation and cause good word-of-mouth in the sales arena.

Did ACX say that? Music and effects can interfere with their automated quality control system and cause you to fail when the voice part of the presentation is perfectly OK.

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