Compression Shorts – Week 12

In the last week, I have recorded and uploaded my first project, The City of Angels. Two days later, a second offer from in60Learning:

Roaring Twenties cover

The Roaring Twenties: A Time of Movies, Mass Production, and Moonshine By in60Learning

That gave me a little confidence boost, getting a second offer from the same publisher. Also, it was a much easier read as there were very few Native American words and names!

And speaking of a confidence boost, third offer came through as well:

Confidence Training CoverCONFIDENCE: Confidence Training – Become An Alpha Male by Mastering Your Confidence, Self Esteem & Charisma By Robert Moore

I must say, this type of book is not at all in my regular repertoire, but I am not buying it or endorsing it – I am just producing an audiobook. I suppose at some point, everyone has to make a decision as to what they are willing to produce. And what we are willing to have our names associated with in the realm of Voice over Work. I wonder where you might draw your lines? Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts on this you would like to share.

I had a message exchange with another narrator on LibriVox regarding compression, and thought this would be a good time to discuss this here. Normalization, you may recall, is the overall volume of a file, which has all the lows and highs present – it has the same dynamic range as when it was recorded, and may require a listener to turn up the volume to hear soft conversation if you recorded it with a range of dynamics. Normalization sets multiple files to play at the same peak volume.

Compression does something similar, but within the same file. It is your virtual audio engineer, monitoring a file as it plays and constantly adjusting the volume for you, so that you can hear the whispering clearly but not get blown out by someone speaking loudly in the narration.

How about a frinstance?

  • When you listen to pop radio, you will notice that every song sounds about the same when you consider the volume and the overall dynamics. During the sappy, sentimental bridge, you can hear the lyrics just as clearly and at the same volume as during the overdrive of Ozzie’s last chorus. That is accomplished through compression.
  • When the next song comes on, you don’t have to adjust your volume to hear Air Supply’s opening 12-string guitar. The volume of one song to the next is the same. That’s normalization.

Audacity has a compression plug-in that works quite well for our purposes. One thing, though, to keep in mind with compression on spoken words is that it is very easy to over-compress or compress poorly and ruin your story. Remember the previous lesson – record it correctly and you won’t have to fix much in post-production. Having said that, though, I will say that at this point I compress every recording I make.

In Voice over Work, I consider compression as part of the mastering. If we were producing music, we would compress certain tracks during the mixing process, and then compress the mix as a whole during mastering. Since we generally deal with only one track in our recordings, we don’t need to compress until the mastering step.

Which leaves us with two things to discuss further in the future – what is mastering, and what about some specifics for compression. They are both a bit involved, and we will tackle these separately in future posts.

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