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.
This is NOT the kind of LAME we're talking about, but I thought you might chuckle at the thought. I know I did when I first heard I was going to have to using something called LAME to make Audacity work the way I wanted it to.
LAME is the MP3 converter tool you are going to need to make Audacity do what Audible wants it to do. Remember, when you upload files for review by an author, they must be in the MP3 format. For various reasons too painful to go into in this blog, you will need a tool to make Audacity recordings into MP3 recordings.
So, what is LAME? It's a tool that's been around since 1998 created by a member of the audio production community. Think of it like a little app that does what you need done.
Can you trust it? YES. I've been using LAME for several years with Audacity. It's not going to give your computer a virus. It's actually a quite small little add-on that you can download here: http://lame.buanzo.org/. If that site looks scary, then go back to Audacity's site and let them redirect you to the converter from their own pages (it's going to be the same place).
Still worried about downloading it?
You can go through Audacity to get the link at http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/faq_installation_and_plug_ins.html. Don't worry, it won't hurt my feelings if you don't trust my links. Do it the safe way.
Once you get it, you can convert your recordings into the most holy, revered MP3 format. How? It's easy.
1. Record your audio file.
2. Under File>Export Audio.
3. Select MP3 as the format.
4. Congratulations-- you are now an MP3-enabled Audacity user!
Bummer, man. You just recorded your first words in Audacity and it sounds like the picture at left. What now?
Don't panic. You can fix Mr. Poop with the right equipment. If your recording sounds like Mr. Poop, it's probably one of two problems.
Problem 1: Your headphones suck, dude.
Solution: Get a good pair of headphones, you are going to need them.
By the way, they are not going to be the trendy, low-profile "ear-bud" style of headphones. They are going to be the nerdy, remedial reading center kind that go over the ears. May I recommend my favorite: Audio-Technica ATH-M30 (or better quality, if you can afford it). Check them out here.
Problem 2: Your microphone sucks, dude.
Solution: Get a good microphone. You are going to need this more than any other piece of equipment, if you plan to do any audiobook production that won't be sh*t.
Note: It's not going to be the crappy little stork-neck looking mic that costs $5 at the dollar store. It's going to be the phallic, beefy-looking kind that sits on your desk in an intimidating way. My favorite is the Blue Yeti mic. Check it out here.
In the next post, we'll examine some common reasons ACX will bounce your production. Don't worry, you can fix it.
Welcome to the Seahorse Audio Blog. In this blog, I plan to share with you everything that I have learned about using Audacity to produce high-quality audiobooks for Amazon/AUDIBLE/ACX.
If you are new to audio production, don't worry. I learned how to use Audacity for this exact purpose and you can, too.
First of all, you should know that ACX recommends Pro Tools for audio production. There is only one small problem for those of us living in the real world of finances. I will let you decide what that problem might be when you examine the image below:
I have no problem with Avid's Pro Tools. I'm sure it's a wonderful suite of options for the financially-enabled consumer. But, maybe you are like me and have a family to support. Or maybe you are just getting started and want to jump in without spending all of your cash right away. If you don't have $600 laying around, may I recommend the FREE option: Audacity.
Yes, Audacity can look a little fishy to someone who is trying to find a way to download it for the first time, but I can assure you-- as an Audacity user for the past four years-- this is a great piece of software and you will not get a computer virus from it. It's safe and it's everything you need to live the dream. I recommend you download it here from the official site at www.audacityteam.org.
Open it up and start recording something by hitting the red record button. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare. Maybe it's just you saying random things like: "chicken sandwich," "clowns are reaaallly scary," and "I'm gonna be rich."
Now, put on your best headphones and check out what you recorded with the green play button.
What did your recording sound like? Did it sound like sh*t? It could be one of two things. Check out the next blog post to find out what they might be.