Listening for the Snap

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Read the text version below:

As I record voice over narration, I run into unexpected challenges.

Recently, I was putting the final touches on my edit for an audiobook.  I was feeling pretty darn good, because I was ahead of schedule.  As I listened a final time to the full book, I suddenly heard something I’d completely missed before.  Halfway through a chapter, dead in the middle of a sentence, right there underneath my voice, there came a click.  A snappish little click – like a briefcase snapped shut.  I was stunned.  I had listened to this section of audio before, more than once.  How had I not heard this?

To my astonishment, as the recording continued, I heard the snap again, twice more!  Egads!  I thought.  (I was not alive when people actually said, “Egads!” but I read a lot of old books.)

This could not stand, of course.  The book was due the next day.  I had to salvage the recording.

At first, I tried editing out the snap. When a noise or breath or other unwanted sound is recorded, it generates a significant waveform pattern.  I employ Adobe Audition for my editor.  Now, I carefully studied the waveform patterns as I played the first snap over and over.   You can snip out an offending section, if it stands alone, but...

This little snap did not stand alone.  It wrapped round my words like a boa constrictor wrapped round some defenseless prey.  There was no way to separate word from noise.  I gave up on that, fairly quickly.

Next, I went back to my original recording.  Normally I make several versions of my narration as I edit.  Each time I make significant changes, I save a new version of the file.  I went all the way back to the original recording.  I was looking to see if I’d recorded the specific section more than once.  Possibly, there was an unsnappish version.

But no, no joy.  Only the version with the snap came to my ears once more.  (Two notes about this.  First, every time I listened to the snap passage now, it grew louder.  I could not not hear it.  Second, at the risk of getting ahead of my story, I would later that night, start having nightmares about the snap.)

It seemed the only thing to be done was to record the section afresh.  I should be able to record just the passages with snaps and insert those into the recording.

So I did.  I recorded new versions of the passages, sans snaps. Then it was back into my Audition editor.

I snipped out the first un-snappish section from the new recording.  Then I pasted it over the old snappy section in the offending file.  Piece of cake. At this point, I just had to make sure the two pieces matched well. So, I selected a starting point a ways back from where I’d inserted the replacement section and listened.

Well.

It was as if two different people had made the recordings.  My voice just did not sound the same.  What I’d hoped would be a transparent edit was anything but.  It was obvious that a piece had been inserted and it just sounded so wrong.

Vocal consistency, I’ve discovered, is key in long-form narration.  Minor differences from one section to another can be accommodated.  But major changes in the sound of your voice, or the pace of the reading, or style – those will push the listener out.  The spell is broken.  And this applies as much to non-fiction as fiction.  There is a mood created by the narrator.  Don’t do anything that kills that mood.

In this case, the solution was to re-record the entire chapter.  After listening to and emulating the style of the original recording.  It was extra work, but it was the only way I could insure I was delivering consistency to the author and publisher of the book I was narrating.

Since then, I focus more on listening for the snap during my first review.  I can easily record again at the time, with less effort and time.

Lesson learned.

Oh, but what was that snap?  It was a loose, foot rung on the chair I record from.  Pressing down with my foot on the rung made it snap.  I don’t do that anymore.

But I do now listen for the snap… constantly.

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