Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Recording My Own Audiobook: A Beginner's Journal Part 3

Day 4: Relocated my “recording studio” for the third time in three days. Now I’m in the closet of my daughter’s room. It’s the only closet that’s empty enough to squeeze my body into. I did this because yesterday’s decision to basically ignore outside noise was a ridiculous decision. This new space is as quiet a place as I have access to. Other than my car in my garage. It seems kind of inevitable that that’s where I’ll end up, but for now we’ll try the closet and see how things go. I mount (okay, tape) the voice screen (now I’m just making terms up) to a box of Pampers and set the mic behind it. But before I start the day’s recording I find I’m still not ready to give up on the iPad. I don’t feel good about using the Mac laptop since it’s a work computer. There’s sex and cursing and gratuitous descriptions of defecation in my book. I don’t want to get caught up in some weird public school scandal. I also have heard that anything created on these work computers becomes the property of my employer. I’d hate to lose out on the big bucks this project is sure to generate. I do some test reads on the iPad and then some on the Mac and I confirm yesterday’s decision. The iPad records a very loud background hum that’s not there when I plug in to the Mac. This is surprising since so many people online recommended using the iPad for voice recording. Again I have this feeling of dread and frustration that my lack of knowledge is the source of the problem, not the hardware. But googling “why does the voice recorder on the iPad version of Garageband have a background hum while the voice recorder on the Mac version of Garageband doesn’t?” yields exactly zero relevant hits.

And I discover yet another problem with recording on the iPad. The voice recorder doesn’t seem to be reading gain properly. The mic has a gain dial, but when I fiddle with it I don’t see the “needle” on the voice recorder display moving any differently. Why? Why why why! On the Mac version the gain dial visibly adjusts the gain. One more reason to commit to using the Mac.

My plan for the day, now that I’ve relocated and settled the hardware and software issues is to lay down at least an hour of content without stopping to edit. I want to get a good chunk of material that’s not a test, but the real thing. I suspect it’s important to read a lot per sitting so there’s some continuity in the nuances of sound quality. I’m not going to be able to reproduce the exact same levels every time I sit down, so I need to make the most of each session. I don’t want this thing to sound all cobbled together. I plow through the first four chapters of the book, pausing and lip smacking when I make mistakes. I don’t go back and listen to everything I record. I know I have to move forward and not stress every detail if I’m going to get this done. I also don’t stress the different voices I have to read. I just do my best to give each character a unique sound. This is the most interesting part of the process so far, realizing how physically altering your mouth and face when you talk gives your vocal delivery a slight variation. So what I end up doing is screwing up my face in a variety of ways when I talk. I become the characters. It feels like real acting, now that there’s this physical component in addition to the vocals. I imagine there would be a lot of gesticulating as well, if I had an inch to move in this cramped closet, or didn’t worry about knocking down the winter coats hanging above me (winter coats, incidentally, that will stay in the closet as long as Los Angeles continues to be in the 80s this winter).

My plan for tomorrow is to edit the hour of content as well as I can, trying out different effects until I find a sound that I’m happy with. And assuming I can get something I consider to be useable, what then? Thinking about the next step gives me the Howling Fantods. I don’t know what to do when it comes to turning my 40 or 50 one-hour segments into a finished product. I still don’t know if I want to put this up as a free podcast, or if I want to try and sell it as an audiobook on my website. I don’t know. And whichever option I choose, I don’t know how to do it. I’m confident I can learn, but there is a lingering fear that I’m going to record this whole book only to find that it’s not the right file type, or it’s too loud or too quiet, or that I’ll run into some insurmountable compatibility issues. The last thing I want to do is visit cnet.com to download some kind of conversion software that doesn’t work, or I can’t figure out how to make work. I’d like to think I can save worrying about all these issues until I’m done recording, but that’s not a smart approach. What I should do is try to take my one-hour of good solid content (assuming that’s what I get tomorrow) the whole way through the process. All the way to an uploaded podcast? How do I do that? Can I do that? On iTunes? On my website? Or do I mean take it all the way to an uploadable audiobook file, which it goes without saying I’m a far cry from knowing how that all works.

Wait, why am I doing this again?

Because you got a microphone for Christmas. And you always ask for shit you never use. Like the Xbox 360 you got two years ago. And Skyrim. You had to spend two fucking years playing that infernal game just to justify your request. Asshole! Or maybe it’s some high-level hardcore procrastination. If you weren’t recording an audiobook you’d have to sit down on this vacation and actually, gulp, try to write another novel.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. When I start work on anything beyond my first series, I have a friend that is vocalist for a death metal band, and can probably weasel some time in his garage studio. Until then, I'm paying $300pfh to a professional, and doing the proofing myself to save $50/hr. Expensive, but we'll see how it goes when it's done.