Sunday, January 02, 2005

Producing an MP3 of Grasshopper -- Part 2

Once Dave Z told me he would post a recording of "Grasshopper", I started looking around at what I had to do it with. At the office we had an Olympus W-10 digital recorder. It's about the size of a small A-1 Steak Sauce bottle and cost $100 at Best Buy. They have digital recorders that cost less and some that cost more, but we got this one because it said on the packaging that it recorded in Wave format and had a USB cable to download the recording to a computer. So I borrowed that to make the recording.

Actually, if any of you own one of the iPod clones manufactured by iRiver, Samsung, or Creative, you've already got digital recording capability. To my knowledge all of those have either a line-in jack or microphone jack. Apple also gave iPod a recording capability, but true to long-standing tradition, they crippled it.

For my recording studio I chose the office where our network server resides. My own office has too many hard surfaces, and I figured that would cause some reverb problems. Boxes of software, wiring, spare parts, etc, line the walls of the server room, so I thought that would deaden any echoes. The only problem was a noisy cooling fan on the server. It wasn't too noisy, and I knew I could filter most of that out later.

So, I printed out a copy of the story, turned on the recorder which I held in my hand, and started reading. I made mistakes. I stumbled over words. I got tongue-tied. No big deal. When something like that happened, I stopped talking and stayed silent for 2 to 3 seconds. Then I began again with the beginning of the paragraph I had screwed up. The silence helped identify the mistakes during editing. When my mouth got dry or my throat threatened to seize up, I paused the recording and took a sip of lemon tea. Once I quit gurgling, I started the recording again. I don't know about anybody else, but I can't speak without involuntary sound effects right after drinking something.

The final length of the unedited recording was 16 minutes and change. I then made a second recording, just to be on the safe side. Next, I listened to them playback on the recorder. Not bad, considering. It was not recording studio quality by any means, but it wasn't bad from a technical standpoint. The volume levels weren't constant in a few places. I think that's because I was holding the recorder in my hand, letting it get closer to me or farther away at times. When I do it again, the recorder will be on a stand.

My performance wasn't terrible, either. I'm certainly no Lawrence Olivier. Hell, I'm not even Joey Tribiani. My enunciation could stand some improvement. I slur some of my words, but not to the point that it hurts intelligibility. My timing wasn't the best. The next time I'll use different color highlighters to indicate character changes and pauses. I noticed that as I read through the story, I had a tendency to speed up. I was able to recognize this before it got out of hand and correct it. Hoping to get to the end, I guess. Sixteen minutes of straight talking is a LONG time. At least for me.

OK. The recording was done. Now to edit out the mistakes and make it "purty" for Dave.

Next time, Adventures in Editing.