Friday, April 10, 2015

What's Your Production Process?

This question is coming up more and more as of late, so I wanted to post something on my blog as a go-to explanation rather than having to keep repeating myself. 

First up: my production process will not work for you perfectly. 

The core reason for the above statement is that my skill-sets, life experience and abilities are vastly different to yours or anyone else's. 
Your own experience and ideas will be critical in getting to a workflow and a production process that you can put your name to. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t learn something from what I have to offer on here. 
So bearing that in mind, as a timeline, here is what I “usually” do to take a manuscript and turn it into an audiobook. 

Phase 1: Preparation

This is my first serious look at the manuscript outside of my initial browsing of it before signing a contract to narrate it. 
I read it cover to cover while at the same time, taking notes on each character as they arrive chronologically. 
At the same time, I start to think about what this character should sound like and I add in any appropriate notes to guide me on that. 
This is done on a custom-made sheet: 

The content of this may or may not work for you, but it forms part of a system I utilize as part of my self-direction process. Sometimes, if the mood takes me, I might add nothing to those boxes except the name of someone I know from experience whom the character reminds me of. It might be Jack Nicholson or it might be the postman. It doesn't matter. Character inspiration is everywhere. Take the woman you met on the subway yesterday: check out her voice, mannerisms, facial expressions and file those nuggets away for whenever you might need them. 

Phase 2: Recording

With the Character Map above, I'm into the booth to read. The amount of time I spend in there is anywhere from 30 - 90 minutes depending on the length of the chapter or how my voice is holding up. I have my good and bad days. The process of recording, however, stays the same. 

I press record and I read. If I make a mistake and it is a flub on a word, I will kill the line and start over. If I have my doubts about how I have read a line, I will lay down a marker, repeat the line and leave the other one in so that I can get the best of both takes later on in the editing process. 
Once I've done the whole book, I move it from the booth's hard drive to the computer in my main studio and listen back. This takes me a day. During that time I run through the markers and decide on which takes I like from the previous edits I did. 
Once that has all been decided and there are no glaring errors in the audio, it gets filed as "Approved" and sent to the editor. 

Phase 3: Editing

The more in-demand I have been over the past few years, the less and less I have time to get involved in the editing process of my productions. I employ an editor whom I trust implicitly to know where to make adjustments and where not to. (Trust your editor! You can't keep second guessing and an over-thinking mind filled with doubt will interfere with your ability to tell a story.) 
I have my own flow to stories and once there is nothing out of the ordinary, the editor is responsible for running the audio alongside the manuscript to ensure congruency, highlighting any flubs and sending me a pick-up list. 
The more books I do, the less pick-ups are needed. The 10,000 hour rule appears to apply here. 

Phase 4: Mastering

Again, this is outsourced to an awesome engineer in Switzerland, as I simply don't have time to master my own audio. Mastering is known as as one of the industry's "Dark Arts" and I would highly recommend that you choose a mastering engineer wisely. They will have the final say on what you sound like for your listeners. Remember that when you're deciding on how much to pay them! (Obviously, the same goes for your editor.)

Phase 5: Release

Once everything has been deemed correct and to standards, we release the audio files to the publisher for listening and final approval. 
If there is something that they are not happy with, we discuss options and make any amendments if necessary. This happens very rarely as almost everything is agreed before the signing of the contract. Woe betide narrators who do not wrap up everything in the initial negotiations. You will only ever make that mistake once. 

So there you have it. A quick overview of how we get a book turned into audio. 
Take note however, while it might look like a walk in the park having just five steps - knowing where and how to walk, takes years. 
It ain't as easy as it looks! 

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