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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Audiobook Tools and Process

In my last blog, I promised a look at the tools and process I am using to create the audiobook of both Hooray for Pain! and With It or in It. Today's blog will cover the tools I am using, and my next one will detail the process I use from beginning to end.

To start, the hardware (quick note, I was not given any of these products, for a review or otherwise):

And the software:
Now, a little bit about the iPad and Audio Genie II. I initially bought the Røde VideoMic Me as part of an effort to upgrade the audio capture for a film project I'm pursuing (Almost 22). The microphones on the iPhone and iPad are okay for FaceTime and telephone calls and telling Siri where to go when she doesn't understand you, but they are not professional quality audio. While I'd prefer to have a couple of boom shotgun mics—which would definitely be part of the audio upgrade for my Indiegogo project—the small shotgun Røde VideoMic Me is a reasonable first step. It allows me to capture audio separately from video, and position audio capture equipment to get the best sound, as this is not always the same direction as the lens will face. When I initially started using the mic, I would plug it into my iPad and record directly into GarageBand for iOS.

While going through some items that are left over from my father's estate, one of the things I happened across was the Audio Genie II and RCA adapter cable. Dad was a musician all of his life, professionally with the Army for 20+ years and later as a music teacher in high school and middle school music programs. He had all kinds of recording and sound equipment, some of which was many years old (reel-to-reel tape recording equipment, for example) and either non-functional or no longer really useful. We've sold off most of the equipment that we could and donated what we couldn't sell, but there were still several boxes & bags of things we'd not finished going through yet. In one of those was the Audio Genie II. Essentially, what this device is, is an analog-to-digital sound conversion device, with a small built-in pre-amp. The controls are minimal: a Line/Phono switch and a gain knob. That gain knob really is what I was after: the ability to amplify the raw audio signal before conversion. The VideoMic Me has a monitor mini-mic in the back, useful for monitoring the sound while recording.

So, now what I could do was take the sound as heard by the mic, immediately increase the gain, and send it straight to my Mac (in Sound Studio). For me, this is useful in a studio setting, such as at home recording an audiobook. This would not be my preferred setup for capturing audio on a set or on location while filming, for that I'd capture into GarageBand on the iPad and transfer later. But in the Studio setup, for me it works better to send it straight to the Mac.

Now, if I had to start all over again but knowing in advance I had the Audio Genie II … well, I might still have gotten the VideoMic Me anyway, because I didn't initially have the thought for studio work, it was (and remains) focused on the film project. It just happens to work out that now, in the studio, I can send the audio straight to my computer instead of doing an intermediate capture on the iPad.

In the next blog, I'll do a step-by-step of how I'm capturing audio now, as well as the editing I do once I have it captured. At the end of this process, I will also put together a video demo of how I do this, which may make it easier on you. 'Till next time!


  1. I look forward to learning more about your workflow - can I ask, why not use Garageband on Mac since it's free & seems pretty capable, especially if you'd use Garageband on the iPad? I am sure Sound Studio is better, but what makes it worth the money?

    Thanks - and I look forward to the next instalment!

    1. Initially, that was my plan, and when I do remote sound capture—when I leave the laptop at home and use GarageBand on the iPad to capture sound, for example—that'll probably be my first step.

      When I'm in my home office recording, though, I route the audio through the Audio Genie directly to my laptop. Once there I opted to use Sound Studio partly because I already owned it (I bought it, on an impulse, several years ago), and partly because the option to normalize the sound is right in the main window. Garageband for iOS doesn't normalize sound, or at least I couldn't find any option for that (and multiple google searches seem to confirm that it doesn't exist). Sound Studio has an option to normalize sound right in the default toolbar.

      Part of the rationale behind routing it to the laptop directly is the Audio Genie has a gain control. I have found the optimal non-distortion level of boost through the gain for my home office, and it significantly improves the quality of the sound. Combining the optimal gain added from the Audio Genie with the ability to normalize the recording made for much better soundtracks.

      There's another issue with GB on the iPad vs. Mac, though, and that's this: they are not compatible projects! After sending the song as a project from my iPad to my laptop, GB on the Mac forces re-saving the project when it is double-clicked. It's a relatively minor step, but a stupid one, IMO.

      Finally, why use the iPad at all if I'm just going to route to the laptop, at least at home? Well, the mic was purchased with the specific intent of improving sound capture while filming with my iPhone (for which I use Filmic, and capture audio with the video track). It is designed for that use, and requires the three-prong audio jack in the iPhone/iPad (or any smart phone with a L/R out & mono in mini-mic jack, I'd bet). It does not capture sound at all unless it is being actively monitored through software that captures audio. So there's that. :)

    2. Thanks for the very detailed reply! I've read the follow up and it all makes more sense now, too. I'm writing at the moment, and hope to do an audio version myself so this is very helpful.

      Thanks for sharing!

    3. You're welcome! Let me know how your effort to create the audiobook version goes!


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