In the world of voice over…well, really in every world, efficiency is important. When things run smoothly things run more quickly. This is true of everything. So, the next few articles I send out are going to be about identifying and eliminating inefficiencies. Let’s hit the road by chatting about how to get your recording environment in shape!
Just think about driving down a road. You have to go from point A to point B, and it’s a straight line (which is rarely REALLY the case…but go with me here). Now, if you add speed bumps and obstacles in the road, even if it is perfectly straight, you can only go so fast. The same is true with running a business, building a house or mountain biking. If you can remove the speed bumps, obstacles and roadblocks, you can do your regular tasks more quickly. Today, I want to talk about how to set up your recording software for optimum efficiency. I use Adobe Audition, but this can be applied to other programs as well.
Determining the Workflow
Ok, so if you want to optimize anything, you have to start with some analysis. What do you do on a daily basis? What do you do on a monthly basis? What information do you need while you are recording or editing? What is the outcome that you are looking for?
The key in determining what your digital recording environment should look like is utilizing the sage advice of Steven Covey: “Begin with the end in mind.” Designing something really needs to start with a plan, otherwise you are wasting your time. Now, in the digital realm, you can redesign easily without wasting much time, but think about what you want to accomplish first.
My daily work changes from day to do, so when I put together my design, I looked at what I typically do over the course of a month. I looked at things like record and edit commercials, eLearning courses, audiobooks, web videos, and pickups for all of them. I also edit audio for other people, so I need certain tools for analyzing and processing audio that is not from my own studio. After all of my analysis, I determined that these are the items that I need on my desktop all the time:
– Record/Editor Window
– Level Meters
– Transport Controls
– Time Display and Selection Time Display
– Amplitude Statistics (not available in some DAWs)
– Batch Processing and Match Volume windows
– Open Files List
– Markers List
Breaking it Down
Each one of the items in the list above has a specific use, and I use them every day. Some are only used when I am working with multiple files, but that happens often enough for me to keep them constantly hand. Here is a picture of how I’ve set my Adobe Audition workspace up so that I have everything I need on a single monitor.
The record and editor window is obviously essential. You can’t record or edit without it open, so it needs to be largely prominent and front and center. I don’t think we need to go into that one. I think that the level meter and transport controls are just as obvious. You need to know your levels and need to be able to control your playhead (though I personally do not actually use the transport, it is not a bad thing to have open).
Next, we have the time display and selection time displays. The Time window shows the current position of the playhead on the timeline. Whether you are making corrections and they are listed by timestamp or making sure your :30 is within the spec’d limits, you need to know where the playhead is located. Selection time is also very important. Let’s say I need to have exactly 1 second of silence at the head and tail of an eLearning slide. Determining this is extremely easy when you can select a section of audio and this window just displays the time for you. Another easy way to do this process is to select some silence, click on the Selection Duration Time, type 1 (for 1 second), and then hit enter. Your highlighted selection will then be extended to exactly 1 second. Now hit copy. Now you can simply highlight all the silence at the beginning of your audio file and hit paste. It is then replaced with exactly 1 second of silence. Now do that again at the end (from the end of your actual audio to the end of the file) and you’ve got 1 second at the head and tail.
Amplitude Stats is something that most DAWs don’t have. There are some that can do similar things, but none quite as well as Audition in my opinion. This window allows you to highlight a section of audio (or the whole file) and hit Scan. This will then analyze the selection and reveal a plethora of information about the loudness of the file, including the locations of events like the loudest peak or possible clipping. After the scan, you can even click on the tiny little button to the right of the time display for each item in the box and it will drop the play head at exactly that point. So if you have a rogue peak in a 100 minute file, and it isn’t obvious from viewing the waveform, just click the button next to Peak Amplitude and it will drop the playhead on that high peak. Can be pretty useful. This is also how I determine the total RMS value of a file when mastering audiobooks with RMS requirements.
When processing a lot of files (such as eLearning or audiobook production), all the files need to have the same overall level and sometimes the same processing. To match volume, I use Match Volume, and to apply a favorite effects chain, I use Batch Processing. Both work by simply selecting and then dragging and dropping a group of files into their window, and then selecting the appropriate settings. Batch processing also allows you to export files to a certain location with a certain name and certain filetype WITHOUT doing any processing at all. Just select NONE from the favorite drop down box, check export, set your settings the way you want them, and then hit Run. This is a great way to convert a batch of files without having to use a different piece of software.
History will show you a list of every step that has been taken with the file you are working with, and allows you to go back to a certain place by just clicking on that particular step in the history dialog box. This way, you don’t have to hit Undo 50 times if you want to go back to the beginning of your process…for whatever reason you may need to do that.
You’ll need to see a list of files you are working with and easily be able to switch between them. This is what the Open Files box gives you. And, if you are working with Markers, the Markers box will give you a list of the names and timestamp of each marker that you’ve dropped in you audio. Double clicking will drop the playhead on any marker in the list.
That’s How I Roll
So now you have a basic understand of how I optimize my recording environment. I’ve also attached a video to show how I use each of the windows. This is only how I’ve found works well, and I would LOVE to hear how you have organized your DAW for efficiency. I’m always looking to optimize my own workflow, so leave a reply below about how you’ve done it!