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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Audiobook Workflow & Tools, updated

So, I'm still waiting for feedback from ACX, but even if (as I suspect) their feedback is that the files do not meet their technical requirements, I do have some updates for everyone based on my trials and tribulations (if you haven't followed along, check out the first few entries in this topic posted over the last few days).

First, a slight update to the hardware. Instead of the Røde VideoMic Me, I am now using an Audio-Technica ATR-55 that I found for a steeply discounted price in a secondhand store. This is a dynamic shotgun mono microphone, with a tunable pickup pattern. It has three settings for pickup: off, cardioid, and hypercardioid (labelled "tele" on this microphone).

For the novice, the pickup pattern describes the shape of directions in which the microphone "hears," in essence. Without getting into too much technical detail, the "cardioid" pattern refers to a pickup pattern shaped somewhat like a human heart (for an excellent explanation, as well as an equally excellent diagram, check out this answer from Shotgun mics have a construction that tends to emphasize sounds to the front of the microphone (and, to a lesser extent, the back), and although they do also take in sounds from the sides (off-axis, if you think of it that way, with the on-axis being in the long direction of the microphone). Essentially, what happens is the microphone takes the sounds that come in from the off-axis, and then de-emphasizes them in favor of the sounds that come down the on-axis. With the "tele" setting turned on with the ATR-55, it basically makes that cardioid shape thinner, and stretches down the on-axis a little bit farther to the front (and a little bit to the back, as well).

I have also been doing some deliberate digging to find ways to not have to use Final Cut Pro X—which is still an excellent tool, don't get me wrong. It's just that it's really for video editing, and eats a lot of RAM & CPU time on my computer as a result. It may also not be your best bet, if all you want to do is narrate your own book, at home, because it is a $299 investment. It is really, really awesome, though, so if you already have it for some reason it is a great tool.

So I looked into some ways I could streamline by trying to have Sound Studio and Audacity do more work, possibly using Final Cut only for one or two steps (if at all) that couldn't be done in the other two. I have not completed this process, but I believe that I may be able to only use Audacity, and skip Sound Studio and Final Cut Pro X. When I finalize this process, I'll give more details. I am still planning to do a series of short videos as well, covering these topics:

  • Basic Sound Terminology and Concepts
    • This video will be a few minutes long, and will explain some of the terms used in sound editing & engineering, for the writer (who may not care other than the fact they need to have a basic grasp in order to self-publish audiobooks)
  • Hardware Setup
    • This will likely detail my specific setup, and point out where you might make changes or use different equipment (and why)
  • Software Toolchain and Workflow
    • This will show the tools I use, and then follow a single sound file from recording, to editing, to filtering & other manipulations, and finally to saving in the final format for submission.
These tools will be for Macintosh (since that's what I have and use), but will be conceptually identical on PCs running Windows or Linux—especially with Audacity, since it works on all of these platforms—and should be easy to understand in general.

I intend to have this workflow nailed down by about Monday evening (Mountain Standard Time, since I live in Arizona). That will likely result in a blog on the details Tuesday, and having the videos up starting probably Friday, 29 JUL 2016.

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