Thursday, 30 April 2015

Audiobooks - A Narrator's Job (Part Two)

Some months ago, I posted Audiobooks -A Narrator's Job (Part One), thinking that a few days later I would compose Part Two. But that's the thing about a Narrator's job. Sometimes it doesn't rain, and then it pours. I have been practically locked in the booth, creating incredible audio versions of some astonishingly well-written books for endless weeks! And now that the storm has subsided to a reasonable British kind of drizzle, I finally have time to write the next segment.

So. After all that preparation of reading, researching, character and accent study, it is time to hit the booth. But first things first, WARM UP! I have learned the hard way that not warming up thoroughly before long audiobook recording sessions can have real consequences down the line, both in terms of the quality and the consistency of my work, but also in my vocal health. As a result, I begin my recording days with a lot of humming, trilling, stretching out and steaming my vocal cords. I bought the best steamer I have come across recently, as used and recommended by many West End singer- leading-lady friends of mine, who swear by them in their dressing rooms. The Dr Nelson's Inhaler  is great as you can steam the vocal cords without having to get your chin or nose wet like with so many other steamers (plus the vintage style is very en vogue). I now consider steaming as an integral part of the narration process - prevention rather than cure for vocal strain symptoms.

I stretch. I consciously loosen the muscles in my shoulders and neck. Sometimes I start my day off with a few yoga-style poses and stretches to prepare. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can greatly affect you physically, and I like to be ready to combat or avoid those discomforts. I recently reacquainted myself with Alexander Technique classes too, as it is now (cough) a few years since I last took them at Drama school, where they were compulsory. They help me be mindful of not carrying unnecessary tension as I speak and stand.

If part way through a book, I listen (as I steam) to the last 5 or 10 minutes of audio in the last chapter I recorded, to remind me of tone, pacing, and emotional intensity of the part of the story the listener will currently be experiencing. If I am working from my home studio, then I check that all of my levels on my mixing desk or audio interface are the same as the previous day, and I check that the microphone is still at the same height and distance as before.  (Sometimes if I have been working on commercial work using my ISDN line/Source Connect/ipDTL these need to be adjusted quite significantly). I always keep a written note of what all the settings are at the start of a book. If working in an outside studio, I am thankful that this is one part of the process that the engineer can look after.

I tend to use Pre Sonus Studio One as my preferred recording software for narration work, as it works, and it is free! From time to time I consider swopping to PRo Tools, but an engineer I work with closely keeps reminding me that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I know this software well, and it works for my purposes. I set Studio One to allow me to Punch and Roll record, (or Pre-Roll as some refer to it), and I'm ready to go.

And then the narration begins!

If case you missed it, Audiobooks- A Narrator's Job (Part One) is available here.