So, how do you meet ACX requirements that you submit recordings that fall within -23 to -18 dB? Is it, in fact, some kind of witchcraft or can anyone do it?
I'm here to tell you, I had no idea how to meet this requirement when I first started recording with Audacity. I thought if the green bar (see illustration above) was within the -23 to -18 range when I was recording, that was (probably) going to be just fine for ACX requirements. Probably ... maybe ... I hoped.
Newsflash: I was WRONG. TERRIBLY WRONG. And, I had to learn the hard way just exactly what ACX was looking for me to do, as a narrator-producer to hit this benchmark.
How do you do it? Let's take it step by step.
Step 1: Record it right. First of all, you need to be recording at the right level. See that little microphone icon above the green bar? You want to be hitting between -12 and -3 on that baby when you are recording live. Below that, and you will definitely need to crank up (amplify) your original recording, which can lead to distortion that *might* not sound good.
Step 2: Finish recording a 3- to 5-minute sample of the chapter you want to submit. We will use this sample to do the next steps.
Step 3: Use the Contrast feature to see what Audacity says about your recording. I like to think of Audacity like my own personal Mr. Spock, giving me the scientific information I need to make those command decisions. Make sure that you have the entire recording highlighted for analysis BEFORE you click the next thing. Then, use Analyze>Contrast. It will look like this when it opens:
Now, you will see you have the choice of measuring the foreground and/or background. You will be using the top MEASURE SELECTION button ONLY. You only need to know what the Foreground measurement is. You don't care about the Background. Contrast with silence is what we care about for ACX requirements.
Next, hit MEASURE SELECTION. You will see a result pop up in the Volume and Contrast Result windows. It will look like this:
Do you see that number in the Volume box? It says -22.39 dB. That's within the target range. That's what you need to see: between -23 and -18 to pass ACX's requirements for RMS. See that other thing? The "Background not yet measured" message? We don't care about that. It's not important for our purposes.
What if your number is too low or too high? We will talk about that in another post. Don't worry. You can (probably) fix it. We definitely have some tools we can try.
You have finished your hours of recording and the author has approved it. You are feeling good, certain that you have figured out this whole audio production process. Then, there's bad news.
Maybe you have just received this message in your email ...
She looks so happy about your "issues", doesn't she?
Don't panic. You can handle this problem and we will take it step by step. First of all, know that there are several different versions of these emails, each with their own "issue" noted. Sometimes, you have more than one issue with a set of files.
In this post, we will look at the ROOM TONE AT BEGINNING AND END error. This one is pretty simple to fix-- that's why we are looking at it first.
Question: What does ACX mean by "Room Tone" at the beginning and end?
Answer: "Room tone" means literally the sound of the empty room you are recording in. When I first started recording for AUDIBLE, I spliced into 2-3 seconds of lead-in silence for my first projects. This was a mistake and it will get your project bounced.
How to fix it: ACX wants the audience to be able to hear that subtle room tone before they hear your voice. All you have to do is, after you hit record, wait for 2-3 seconds in silence BEFORE recording any voice and, VOILA, you have room tone at the beginning. The same rule applies for AFTER you are done recording. When you end a chapter, wait for 2-3 in silence BEFORE turning off your mic or hitting the stop key. Do this every time you record, for every chapter and every project. Then, you will never have a Room Tone error again.
But, one last piece of advice. Review the Room Tone requirements carefully because they are very specific. As of the time of this post, ACX wants exactly 1 second of room tone at the beginning and 0.5 to 1 second of room tone at the end. Do NOT attempt to submit something with room tone outside of these parameters or it will get bounced. It's basically: room tone within their exact requirements or it will bounce.
I hope this advice will help solve your Room Tone errors. In coming posts, we will look at other common errors and discuss how to fix them.