Easy and Free Punch 'n' Roll Recording

Here we go talking about audiobooks again.  If a 30-second radio commercial is a 20-yard dash, then an audiobook is the Boston Marathon.  Marathons are not for everyone.  Actually, marathons are not for MOST people.  It takes a lot of concentration, consistency and….well I tried to come up with another C, but I couldn’t find one.  Maybe I’ll have another article called “The Three Cs of Audiobook Recording.”  Well not today.

TODAY…we are going to talk about the two different recording styles that audiobook narrators use, the one I prefer (and most producers prefer), and how to accomplish it without using ProTools.


Markers vs. Punch ‘n’ Roll Recording

As I mentioned, there are two basic recording styles used by audiobook narrators.  The first is using some kind of marker.  When recording a 10 hour (or even 1 hour) book, you will inevitably make mistakes.  When you make these mistakes, you need to correct them.  When most narrators catch their mistakes, they will fix them on the spot.  The narrator that uses markers will make some sort of a mark in the audio which indicates an error.  Then they will restart that sentence, and splice everything together when they do their first editing pass.  I use this method when I record short VO.  I make a click noise with my mouth, it makes a mark in the audio that looks like the picture below, and then I proceed to record the audio correctly.

Click Noise For Marker

After I finish recording, I go back through and splice in the correct audio.  I know by the visual marker that there is an error after the marker and a correct version after the marker.  Makes it quick to find errors and correct them.

The second method is called Punch ‘n’ Roll recording.  In this method, a narrator will read until they make a mistake, they will then stop, move the playhead to a break point (usually the beginning of a sentence) and hit record.  The software then backs you up a few seconds, plays the audio you just recorded (to help get you back in the groove) and then begins recording again where the playhead was placed.  If done correctly, there is no splicing after the narration is completed.  This method takes longer than the first method (ESPECIALLY if you have a hard time staying in a creative mindset while doing something technical) but saves time in the long run by removing an editing step.

This is the method I use, and this is the method I’m going to describe to you.  If you have wanted to use the punch ‘n’ roll method, but don’t have the software or knowledge to do it, here is how!  My love for Adobe Audition wanes slightly here, as there is no way to use this method with AA.  I’ve complained…they said they’d fix it someday.


What to Look For

So in order to do an effective punch ‘n’ roll, here are the things I have found most necessary:

  • Pre-roll Setting
    • In order to play back the audio you’ve already recorded before you begin “rolling” you need to have a pre-roll setting.  This setting gives you the ability to change the number of seconds that play back before you start recording.  This is what is missing for Adobe Audition CS6.  The only quirk with Studio One is that you have to set the preroll time in bars.  So if you want to fine tune the amount of time, you should do it by adjusting the tempo (faster tempo will mean 1 bar is shorter, slower tempo means 1 bar will be longer).  It hasn’t been an issue for me.
  • Overlapping on a single track
    • You need to be able to set the playhead in a silent section of audio and record right over the top of what has already been recorded.  This way, you don’t have to go back and delete the audio that was previously recorded.
  • Ability to Export to Single Audio File
    • I’m pretty sure all programs can do this, but you need to know how to take that composite track and bounce it to a single mono audio file.
  • Automatic Repositioning Playhead after Recording
    • THIS is why I love Studio One.  When you make a mistake, drop the playhead before the mistake, start recording, and then if you make the same mistake AGAIN, Studio One allows you to hit Undo (Cmd+Z on Mac, Ctrl+Z on PC) and it automatically stops the recording, deletes the section you just recorded, and drops the playhead in the exact position it started in.  This REALLY cuts the time down for those words you just can’t get out for some reason.  Real time saver, and I don’t know if any other program does it.

With those items, you can effectively punch ‘n’ roll record.


The Setup

It is VERY easy to set Studio One up for punch ‘n’ roll recording.  Here are the steps:

  • Create a session with a single track
  • Set up your audio interface to record and playback appropriately
  • Press ‘O’ or click the preroll button next to the metronome on the right side of the transport
  • Start recording using punch ‘n’ roll methodology

That’s IT!  Nothing crazy…just start recording.

Now to export, you have to do it right or it will end up as a stereo file instead of a mono file.


The Export

Here are the appropriate steps to get the audio out of Studio One for editing:

  • Immediately after you hit stop on the final section, drop a marker.
    • This marker should be labelled ‘#2’.  If it is not #2, this will cause an issue.
    • To drop a marker hit ‘Y’ or click Event -> Insert Marker
  • Export Stems
    • Press Shift+Cmd+E or click Song -> Export Stems…
  • Set the location and title of the track you are exporting just like any other program
  • Set the Range
    • Under “Export Range” in the Export Stems dialog box, make sure you select “Between Selected Markers” and “Start – #2” is the option that is selected.
    • This means that you will be exporting the audio that is located between the start of the track and the marker labelled $2.  If you have multiple markers THIS WILL NOT EXPORT YOUR ENTIRE RECORDING – IT WILL ONLY EXPORT BETWEEN THE MARKERS YOU TELL IT TO EXPORT BETWEEN.  Make sure you have the markers in the right place or your will make yourself crazy.  One time, I did this wrong and had to re-record 30 minutes of an audiobook.  Don’t make that mistake.
  • Set your Options
    • Under “Options” in the Export Stems dialog box, make sure “Preserve Mono Tracks” is selected.

You now have everything you need to punch ‘n’ roll record in Presonus Studio One.  The program that I have found to be MOST effective at this procedure.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask away!  Check out the video tutorial if you need clarification or want to see an example.  Thanks for reading!

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JasonEasy and Free Punch 'n' Roll Recording

Comments 9

  1. Karla

    Thanks so much! I am an newbie audiobook narrator looking to purchase my editing software. I know I need punch and roll, but can’t afford ProTools. I’ve been frustrated by the lack of capability in this area from so many other programs. I hadn’t heard of Studio One before, and now am checking it out. They have four different levels for purchase; do you know if punch and roll is available at the Studio One Producer level or do I have to go to Studio One Professional?

    1. Jason

      Hey Karla,

      Studio One is definitely great. Studio One FREE allows you to do punch and roll just fine, so there is no need to pay for any version. One other thing to think about is that Pro Tools is coming out with a free version pretty soon as well. I may be switching over when that comes because Studio One has it’s oddities…like not being able to export as MP3 without paying for the “add-on” they offer.

      Either way, the free version is all you need. Cheers!

      1. Karla

        Jason —

        Thanks so very much for all the help! Great and much needed info. I have signed up for info on Avid’s upcoming release and in the meantime, will give Studio One a try! Thanks for helping to simplify and clarify this somewhat frustrating process for me! Much appreciated!

  2. George Utley

    I use Audacity for my DAW. Whenever I make a mistake I stop the recording, pick a spot in the script before the mistake to start again and hit record. Audacity starts recording on a NEW track, giving me a clear indication of where to edit when I review the entire section. I have no doubt other DAWs have features that would make editing easier but I like Audacity for its relative simplicity and price (FREE!)

    This way I can concentrate on recording without losing my feel for the subject matter and do all my editing at the end of the session.

    1. Post

      That is a cool way of doing it! We definitely need to all find the way that works best for us. Studio one is also free and I’m pretty sure you can set it up so that you start a new track with each recording. Glad that Audacity is working out for you!

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