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Archive for March, 2015

Why use Punch and Roll? Check out this video.

I sure am glad I switched to Punch and Roll myself. I make a ton of mistakes, and this technique is a lifesaver. It’s really nice for those few of us who make MULTIPLE mistakes over the same bit of dialog.  Once you set it up to punch in, you can repeatedly screw up and all you have to do is his space bar to stop the record, and control space bar to take another whack at it. Those are the shortcut keys for Pro Tools, but as Don and Amanda point out, there are other programs than Pro Tools to use for punch and record.

The Refrigerator Liberator

I wasn’t sure at first, but I’ve got to say, I love my new mic, the Shure SM7B. I think my refrigerator does, too.

See, I went from a Condenser mic to a Dynamic mic. That condenser mic was bothered by the refrigerator, the furnace, the mbox having electricity to it, maybe even the buzzy light in the next room. It was quite a production getting ready to record. I turned out the light, unplugged the laptop, switched off the furnace and threw the breaker for the fridge. I always felt bad doing that last because invariably, when I restored the power to the fridge, usually some hours after, it would begin to wail. My determined little fridge must have been working like the devil to get the temps back where they should be, no break. When it was just about there, it sounded like a low key banshee.

But now, I don’t have to mess with any of those things. I just set up my recording gear and go. I’m starting to feel like a pro…

Here’s a sample from the new mic, though, I mastered it myself, and my skill is not as great as Jared, my engineer. Still, it don’t sound too bad…

Gain Staging Woes

Don’t have my new mic all dialed in yet. I’m wondering if I’ve been baffled by bullshit. I was referred to these two articles to explain the importance of setting your recording levels correctly. It just doesn’t make sense to me. The idea is, if you set your recording levels low, you won’t record too much of your environment, translating to noise floor. Noise floor is super important when recording audiobooks, because the majority of listeners are using headphones where what’s in the silences is much more apparent than say, recording a vocal track that will be going into a mix.

But I’m not sure these issue apply so much when doing spoken word. Of course, we don’t want to clip, but I would have to work pretty hard to clip something. When I set up the mic and made some first recordings, I was dismayed by what I heard in the noise floor. I mentioned it to Justin when he called to see how everything was working for me. He suggested I try recording without the pre, so I did. It was really soft, so I cranked the gain to the roof, and was able to record something that peaked at about -12db. I couldn’t hear that noisy silence, but I knew I still had to boost the sound levels.

So I took the file and normalized it to -3db, then limited it to -6db. I imagine some sound engineer will get his panties in a twist over that particular move, only because I lack confidence. I think my logic is sound, though. Normalizing makes your loudest sounds only so loud (or you can work it the other way and make the loudest sounds softer) As it does this, it adjusts all the surrounding sounds an equal amount. Seems to me it’s just a way to control your amplification, but again, what do I know? Limiting takes any sound that is above your set level, in my case -6, and smashes that bit down to fit.

One thing you need to understand about sound is we are dealing with negative numbers, so -3 is louder than -6. So when I limit to six, it takes all my sound from -5.9 to the -3 peaks I normalized to, and adjusts their levels to fall into that -6 range. I like the results of doing things this way, since when I get expressive, I get louder and so my levels end up pretty uneven. I don’t know what the pros do, but I think Jared gets better results than I do, so I send my things for him to master. At least my big things. But for auditions and tests, it’s all me, and this is how I do it.

So I got into another discussion with Justin who cautioned me against having that gain cranked all the way up. He thought I should use the cloudlifter and not record so hot. He’s the one who referred me to the video and article, and I applaud him for taking the effort to educate me, but I believe my ears more than anything. So I recorded the way he suggested, and mastered it the same way as described above, and guess what? I don’t hear a difference! I’m not getting anywhere near clipping, either way I do it, and when I amplify the sounds to get the levels where they need to be, it seems like there is the same kind of amplification to the silences as there is to the sound.

It was suggested to me that recording with less gain, I wouldn’t pick up the low frequencies in the first place, so they wouldn’t be there when I amplified, but I don’t hear that happening. So I’m wondering, do I really need that cloudlifter? I could save myself $200 sending it and the extra xlr back, and I’m tempted. I know Justin will never tell me to do that because that is money out of his pocket, but I am just not following the reasoning here.

What do you think? Have a listen to my samples below. Put your headphones on and wait for the second sample. There is more mouth noise on the sample with the cloudlifter, but I think that’s because there way more mouth noise at that moment. I wasn’t planning on making these recordings public, so the read sucks, but I am really scratching my head on this one. I’d really like your input.

Vocales Interuptus

I finally settled down to a routine of just calmly punching and recording my mistakes, absolutely no increase in stress or heartbeat, just place the cursor, hit control spacebar and try again. Even, thanks to a facebook group link, found out how to automatically crossfade all those errors. Got a nice app on my ipad to read my documents from and make notes of all kinds as I go. And then

waveform 1

What you see to the left of the picture is what a normal wave form looks like, hitting at about -6db. I can’t explain what happened just to the right of center and to the far right. I’m told low frequency rumbles could have that effect, but I have my doubts. I have seen jumps like that when I have knocked something and jarred the mic, but that didn’t happen. I was just reading along and then bam! the sound cut out.

After conducting some experiments, subtracting elements from my sound booth, I determined that this was just something random occuring. I wanted to talk to the microphone manufacturers to see what they thought. When I went to find out about the warranty process, I was advised to contact the seller, which was Amazon. Actually, it was a third party selling through Amazon, but I couldn’t find any information about them on Amazon, so I contacted their help person.

He decided the thing to do would be to send it back for a replacement, but they didn’t have a replacement in stock. I couldn’t get a firm idea of when that would happen, though. I was just to wait for an email confirmation. After some thought, and the inability to record anything, I decided maybe I should have a spare mic. I spent a lot of time on the internet, but finally ended up calling Sweetwater, to talk to Justin, my sales engineer.

I didn’t just get me a spare mic, I got me the next step up. I laid out a significant chunk of change, but Justin gave me a deal on expedited shipping, so it will come to me in just a few hours.

I’m willing to believe all this happened for a reason, and that reason is to get me into this new microphone and I can start recording better than ever.

It would be nice to get a paying gig soon, because unemployment wrote to me today, telling me they weren’t going to pay me until they could figure out whether this narration business of mine would get in the way of accepting and looking for work. Oh joy.

Look for samples soon from my new mic.

Mouth Noise (the persnickety editor)

She may have been being snarky, sometimes it’s hard to tell on facebook, but my sister-in-law asked me, isn’t a mouth supposed to make noise? Well, yes, of course, but most of the time, we want those noises to form words, or music. When we refer to mouth noises in narration, we are definitely talking about the unwanted noises our mouths make.

Some people get it worse than others. Sometimes, the noise occurs when you open your lips to take a breath, or some other random place where there should not be any noise. This is bad enough. But if you are truly plagued by it, you will sometimes get noise right in the middle of a vocalization, such as

 The Culprit click this to listen, and listen closely. (There’s only so much you can do with free accounts)

Sure, it doesn’t sound like a huge deal, all by itself, but when there are a lot of these in the overall sound, it makes an impression. And not a good one. So, for someone like me, anal enough to give a shit, there is a program that is just perfect for dealing with these issues. Not all programs are created equally, I can tell you. I’ve worked with Reaper, Pro Tools and Audacity, but the one that deals with this issue the best, and in my opinion is the easiest to deal with overall, is Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio.

It’s the only one I’ve seen so far that breaks the wave form down into the single line you see in these images. They are really super zoomed in. This is what the wave form looks like in a less anal view.


But in order to correct that little clicky sound you hopefully heard in my example, you have to focus in really tight, zero in on the offending wave form, select it

zeroing in  be very precise about this selection. You must start and end at the infinity line. Do this by zooming in even closer

exactly make sure to hit that point on both ends of the selection and then

hit control “x”! Voila!

that's better have another careful listen.

Now imagine going through these steps 50 or 60 times a session! I gotta quit eating dairy!!

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