Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Software Shenanigans

I did it. I swapped from a PC to a Mac! Yay! Go me!

Please don't think this was on a whim. No. I have procrastinated over this for a very, very long time, and decided I would wait until my PC finally, utterly and devastatingly let me down.

I hate change. One of the main things that had held me back from changing previously was the all-consuming fear of having to change my preferred recording software. Until now, Audacity, the freebie DAW (that is Digital Audio Workstation, or for those of you less well-aquainted with technical terms, the place on the screen where the squiggles appear when you talk into the
microphone, which you can then cut and paste to get improved results) had done me proud. Audacity was simple. There was nothing fancy, it did what I needed, it recorded my voice, and I could edit, I could compress, and normalise and all the basic tools were there for shorter jobs.

And then I tried Twisted Wave on my iPad. It is so quick, easy and intuitive, I began to wonder how awesome it must be on the Mac...I read comment after comment on Twitter about fellow VO's being pleased with it, and I grew curious, and ready to make a change. Having done so, I can confirm that it works very well: it is a clever, easy to understand piece of software that is the ultimate in simplicity, and for day to day work, it is currently my preferred tool.

However, recently my work has taken me further and further into the world of Audiobooks. With long form narration, comes the absolute necessity to cut down on editing time. Every minute, every second of your time counts when you have 14 to 16 hours of finished material to lay down and then edit.

I had heard of the legendary Punch-and-Roll system available on Pro-Tools, but I have to date felt that whilst I am proficient at editing, it is not my field of expertise or passion. Me, I'm all about the Voice work.  When necessary, I would rather outsource extensive production to an engineer gifted in that area, and as a result I have felt reluctant to tie myself in to a monthly fee with Pro-Tools (I could be wrong, but I believe it is a piece of software that you pay for monthly to lease, and there is no option to own it). Little did I know that there were much cheaper options out there. And then I stumbled upon a solution that is free!

Pro Sonus Studio One is a popular choice with Audiobook Narrators, since you can use what they term 'Pre-roll' to playback and then 'drop-in' and record over the top of previous error (i.e. you hear a brief portion of the correct sentence you last spoke before you flubbed, immediately before you can re-record a new version of the next sentence) . Meaning that when you get to the end of your long narration, since you have taken the time to record immediately over your mistakes, you are left with a seamless recording of the entire chapter you have been working on, and no unwanted extras. I can't tell you the hours this saves in editing. Ofcourse, you still need to listen through for pops and clicks and breath and movement noise, but you know that  all the right words are there, in the right order. You can have faith that you have managed to achieve the same tone and pacing that you used first time around, because you have created it all 'in the moment'. Pro Sonus offer various levels of their software, but the Studio One Free version does absolutely fine for getting you started, in a cost-conscious way.

Which software do you love, and why?

Right, enough studio-avoidance. That book series won't narrate itself. Off to the glorified cupboard I go.