Inside the Audiobook Studio with Maureen Johnson and Nicola Barber

Report on  The Name of the Star, the newest from Johnson, as recorded by Barber in the Brilliance Audio studios, featured in this post by Sarah Debraski on “The Hub,” YALSA’s literature blog.  I especially liked Debraski’s observations on being inside the audiobook studio:

There were really so many interesting things I learned about audiobooks, including:

Unlike filming a movie, recorded books are typically read beginning to end, completely in order.

Brilliance Audio uses the traditional “three legged stool” approach to recording–using a narrator, an engineer, and a director to create the recording.  The engineer and director both listen, but for different things.  The engineer is listening for sound quality (and indeed, twice, the engineer stopped the recording to go adjust a buzzing light that only he could hear), while the director is listening to ensure “fidelity to the book.”

They recorded using a common style called “punch in.”  In the punch in style the narrator, when she would make an error, would simply pause.  The engineer would play back the beginning of the sentence and she would just jump right into it, without having to start all over again.  It’s not like doing takes of a movie.  I was pretty amazed that they were able to do this without discussion about starting from where or when, they just did it.

Apparently it is exceptionally difficult to find an actor or actress who can truly convincingly go back and forth between an American and British character (which this narrator could do.)

A good standard ratio for a reader is 2:1, which means 2 hours of reading to get 1 hour finished product.  (They said that the narrator we saw was more like 1.25:1.)

Once the reading is done the production studio (which is where we were) does not have much more to do to the product.  It gets sent to the publishing company studios for finishing, which includes things like adding any music and credits.

A special fascinating tidbit for librarians:An audio recording of a book gets seven unique ISBNs for all the different formats!

Thanks for the report, Sarah! Can’t wait to listen 🙂

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About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

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