I need ME advice before I record.

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by StevenGurg, Jan 28, 2005.

  1. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    I do softly spoken word recordings (medical hypnosis applications), and have an 6 week deadline to record a 16-CD instructional project. I have never used an ME before but would like to trust my audio files to an ME for this project. The audio publishing company is quite prominent and has a studio available with engineer/etc. However they mentioned running all their projects through a finalizer for mastering the final before production. The part about the finalizer makes me worry. I've used one before, but I find it much less enriching than good ears and using a wider variety of tools if only necessary. In fact, I have opted to do all of the recording and editing myself in my own studio rather than use their studio and finalizer. I would rather handle all of my own recording and trust my sound files to an ME.
    So, here is my question: in two parts
    A) How shall I best prepare for the recording, editing and sending the sound files to an ME?
    B) Are there ME's that specialize in spoken word or is this a dumb question?

    My signal chain will be amongst:
    AEA R84DJV ribbon or Lawson L47MP
    Millennia Origin or UA6176
    Apogee PSX-100SE converter
    Lynx AES16
    Dawbox (custom) using Sound Forge 7.0
    I usually record in 88.2 and 24 bit.

    Thanks in advance everyone...
    This project excites me as it is my biggest gig yet and affords me the opportunity to use an ME.

    Thanks again for your help.
  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Your chain looks good. If everything is consistent, an ME should be able to come up with something that's very affordable. I would say 24/88.2 would be fine to deliver to most ME's, but you should check with the one you are using to make sure. Data DVD's would be best to deliver the material on, again check with your ME. A lot of people I know can also handle FTP'd files, depending on you internet speed may or may not be an option.

    I agree that you should be a little concerned if all they have is a finalizer. Although spoken word material doesn't require an arsonal of gear, it would be nice to have at least a quality chain to run it through. Are there any things in your recordings that are a concern to you or that you would like to see fixed or just improved? A good ME should be able to handle spoken word with no problem. It's much easier to deal with than a complex musical arrangement. If you want, you can drop me an email or sample if you would like someone to take a listen to it.
  3. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Steven - Mostly as a "disk space" issue, if your target is a CD (16-bit, 44.1kHz) have you tried recording at 44.1/24 instead of 88.2/24?

    If the difference is clear, by all means continue. But you've got some good quality converters there - I would imagine that the difference would be nearly inaudible - If audible at all - especially in a spoken-word recording.

    And although most M.E.'s would likely use some sort of analog processing (at least I'd like to think so :lol: ), the loss in quality from a sample-rate conversion may offset the benefit of the higher sample-rate in the first place if they stay "in the box."

    Again, if you know your M.E. is likely using an analog chain, or if the difference is something you're used to and comfortable with, go with what works for you. I'm just a big fan of recording at the target rate - Less surprises, it seems.
  4. come_on

    come_on Guest

    Maybe a dumb question!!

    What does the term ME stand for??

  5. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Mastering Engineer
  6. come_on

    come_on Guest

    Oh!!! Dumb me.. Pardon my ignorance...
  7. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    not to be a pain in the ass, but I used to do a lot of voice-over recording (mostly ad work) when I first moved to Chicago years ago. The main thing I remember with VO work was how does the ROOM sound (along with a clean signal path-which you seem to have covered in spades). If you do your fair share of editing, and there is any noise or excessive buildup/reverb in the room, you're in for a bit of trouble.

    I think I remember that you were the one doing hypnosis-style recordings, no? Chances are the speaker will get pretty quiet, I would guess, making the room noise more of an issue than the room "boom". I did a few hypnosis/sleep tapes in Russian, and that was some hard work.
    1. I don't speak Russian
    2. Just the pace of the voice had a hypnotising effect, so it was hard to pay attention without falling asleep.
    3. Their idea of sibilance and ours is quite different.

    Also, what monitors are you using? As Massive always says (I can't BELIEVE he didn't in this thread) you can't hear what you can't hear. Or something along those lines.

    What I've typed is probably redundant, as you seem to have everything under control.
  8. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    Michael, John, Papa... thank you for your help. You raise some great points and good questions and excellent advice. Let me fill in the gaps you noted in your responses.
    1. I am the voice talent and engineer in these recordings. I created a project studio in my home (a former bedroom about 10x11). I have 'audiomute' blankets hanging from ceiling to floor on all walls. In one corner I have put together two Aurelex Max-wall systems to make a 4x4x6 vocal booth with a roof upon it. I have a table next to my makeshift booth holding a flat panel monitor which I can point toward the single plexiglass window so I can watch the Sound Forge screen while recording. I use a wireless keyboard so I can start/stop/mark the recording. The room is flat... I mean real flat. I think if I hit a crash cymbal in my booth it would make a clunk sound. (yeah, some exageration perhaps). The room might be too flat for mastering and your previous comments in another thread about listening in another room or on full size loudspeakers is well taken. However, for this type of spoken word I have really just had to try different listening devices similar to what my listener might use (i.e., boombox, discman, home stereo, etc). Since it is hypnosis, I advise not to listen in the car, but to find a place where they can focus on spacing themselves out.

    2. I currently have some Event PS6 monitors, but am awaiting two Dynaudio BM6A's that were Tom Stenerson's demo models at Tidepool Audio in Portland. I listened around and liked the BM6A's over the others I heard for spoken word clarity.

    3. Your point about recording in 44.1 never occurred to me, but you are right about the quality of my converters and it should be inaudible. Early on when I started doing my own recording and mastering, I over-processed everything and thought that it would be better to do the processing in 88.2 and then down-sample and bit convert after all processing was done. Processing like: noise reduction (pre-flat/quiet-room), compression, gating, eq, and things like Ozone, PSP warmer, de-essing, and way too much back then). But if the processing (if any) can be done just as effectively in 44.1/24, I might as well record at that sample rate too. It sure saves on hard drive and disc space.

    4. I usually record with peaks at 2dB and the majority of volume in the 8-14dB range. So, I can usually hear everything. In fact that has been the greatest tracking/recording issue... mouth sounds. Although I am getting better at learning mic positioning, keeping plenty of water handy, and using a Pauly or VAC popscreen. Up to now (hearing your advice in the forum), I have used L2 or Sonitus compressor to lift the level to 1dB on the final master. Previously I used Sound Forge's "wave hammer", but after updating to the current build version of SF, I cannot get the wave hammer plugin out of demo mode. And trust me, Sony sucks at tech support. They have been more trouble then they are worth. I wish they had never purchased Sonic Foundry's stuff. So, I am open to your opinions about other editors too.

    5. Editing... yeah, Papa, when the hypnosis tone and cadence is right on, it is difficult to stay focused. There have been times when I have had to listen in 5 minute intervals to keep from noddning off to my own monotone voice. And then when I finish, I usually play the disc in our bedroom boombox to hear the whole thing. My wife and I usually fall asleep within minutes and it might take 2 weeks before we actually hear the whole thing well enough to release that title on our website. Some customers emailed me last fall about one of my titles repeating the 'instuctions' track twice. I thought they had flawed players or discs, but it turned out that I had inadvertently doubled clicked twice when burning the disc with CD Architect and there were two files on the CD. It wasn't repeating, there were two indentical tracks back to back that I never heard when I tried to listen to the final master. I think that besides the nature of the recording (i.e., hypnosis/monotone/cadence), there is my own voice and words, which I may already have heard so many times that it just bores me into a stupor (at times). I can just see you doing the Russian work, way cool.

    So, I guess at this point, I am really curious about all of your thoughts on doing the recording in 44.1/24, any processing matters, and tips on listening during the setup and editing that will enhance spoken word.

    Needless to say, I am very grateful to each of you for your genorosity is sharing your expertise. When we visited the audio publisher a couple weeks ago, I had a meeting with the audio producer (a former RE) and studio manager/engineer. My wife was there and afterwards commented that, " I have never seen such enthusiasm as when you and recording people talk about these things... you all really love this, don't you?". She is right. And the folks I meet (this is all of you) are really nice and it is obvious that you love doing what you do and continually strive for the better and freely share what you know. I am grateful.
  9. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    That's something I never thought about - Most of the VO stuff I get in is storytelling, instructional and the like... Hard enough to stay focused during the session.

    For hypnotherapy, I'd probably have to get my apprentice in the room (wearing isolation headphones) to poke me in the head with a stick once in a while. :lol:
  10. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member


    Ask your apprentice not to wear headphones :shock:
  11. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Well, I feel that processing anything at higher sampling rates is better than at lower. Capturing is one thing, processing is another. Anytime that you use a non linear process such as compression or limiting, harmonics are created beyond what these lower sampling rates can handle. If you are working at lower sampling rates and processing with non linear plugs, these harmonics are aliased back into the audio spectrum resulting in increased distortion. At times be very significant. Processing at higher sampling rates has more headroom to capture these harmonics so that they are not aliased back in at lower frequencies. Then using a good filter or even a great SRC will filter out these frequencies so they will not foldback into the spectrum. If you are processing in the analog domain, then this is not as big an issue as all A/D converters have filters that will do this too. Over processing is a big problem with any material. Also with male vocals, a lot of times you can look at the waveform and see that its not centered. This is because voice tends to be asymetrical. Radio stations correct for this by putting a phase rotator in the process chain to make it more symetrical. More symetrical mean more headroom, means less processing for level purposes, less processing means cleaner sound.

    Mic placement is key, you can do more with mic placement than anything else.

    For some reason I do a lot of Yoga CD's and DVD's. Don't ask me why. These include actual classes and meditation practice. room noise, mouth noise, papers shuffling, popping, esses, all become big problems because there is nothing masking this as with music. So keeping an eye on this stuff becomes the make or break in these types of recordings. Sometimes just backing off the mic a couple of inches will do wonders. If you make the hawaiian cool sign with the thumb and pinky, you can use that as a ruler for mouth placement to the microphone. This keeps enough air between you and the mic to reduce some of these problems while close enough to keep the room noise at a minimum. There are many things that can be done after the fact but none as good as doing it right to begin with.
  12. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    So Mike, you are the Yoga guru?
  13. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    But if we BOTH fall into some tranquil, relaxed nirvanic state during processing, who'll set the index points?!? :?
  14. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Yes, I can walk you through 4 levels of difficulty in both english and German.
  15. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    Four levels of difficulty... like noise reduction, EQ, compression, level setting... der neuzlessen, EeCue, Kompression, lefelsetten?
  16. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    what a cool fascinating thread... thanks guys for sharing!
  17. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Ahh, getting clever are we? But seriously, keep us posted on your progress and pitfalls if any.
  18. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    I knew someone would catch on.

    I have a question for you Michael (others too, as this is a forum of us). Is is reasonable to send just one disc or one track to a mastering engineer and pay to have just that one track or disc done, as a way of evaluating the benefit of having all the others mastered. As I mentioned, I am creating a 16-CD set of spoken word, with a March 1 deadline for delivering the final or masters. Since there will be no music (apart from the intro to each disc that they add later), all of my discs will sound the same. I am planning to keep all settings the same, the booth will be the same, and all knobs, levels, etc the same so as to keep the recorded sound equivalent. So, if I send one track or disc to an ME, I would expect that all of them could sound exactly like that. Is that reasonable? BTW, I am scheduled to be in NYC around March 20-27th which would allow sitting in or at least meeting you or other ME's in the city. Again. would this be a reasonable approach?
  19. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    That is more than a reasonable approach, That is how I would do it. Win win for both parties. Just be sure to let them know that this is what the game plan is and to save their settings if you decide to go with them.

    Drop by and say hi when you get into town. It's always good to put a face to the posts even though your avatar looks nice and all.
  20. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Less surfing, more narrating.

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