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Hi, I recently put together an audio story. I was looking for a bit of feedback about how it has been mixed. It consists of a narration, a night-time room ambience of crickets, various sound-effects, and a couple of music tracks. I haven't done any compression of sounds, and just a little bit of panning, and I was just wondering does it sound alright, or could it have been mixed better?

http://soundcloud.com/fotwaudio/e-a-poe-and-the-krautrock-connection

Thanks for your help, Iain.

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4 Answers 4

I'm writing this as I'm listening to the piece, so my comments should come in chronological order...

First, I can hear mouth clicks, you might want to edit them out.

Compressing the narration would give it a bit more impact.

When the music comes in, we're not sure what is the prominent element: is it the voice or the music? I believe it is the narration that you want to project, so I'd expect more dynamics with the background music. I'd play it softer and make more space for the voice (using equalization), and use reverb to place it in another dimension than that of the narration's.

I like the material you chose, I'd try to establish greater dynamics for more impact.

Hope that helps and you agree with what I said, Cheers.

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Thanks Justin, much appreciated. Iain. –  IJ Wilson Nov 20 '11 at 14:30
    
dropping the music at 1k on your Eq can help in giving your narration space. –  edmatthews82 Nov 28 '11 at 16:50
    
Thanks Ed I'll give it a try. –  IJ Wilson Dec 8 '11 at 3:02
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Couple of things I noticed, but keep in mind it's merely my humble opinion and can be taken with a grain of salt:

Not sure if you're like me but I am well aware of the extraneous voices a human mouth can make. I would edit out at least the major clicks and I heard a few swallows in there as well.

The recording sounds like it was done in a medium-sized room with bare walls. When I record narration for audiobooks, I try to make it have no space at all - no discernible sense of "oh - this was recorded in a room", because most people will listen to this on headphones.

I'd add a bit more body to the voice - either by adding a touch (not too much) of compression, or weight like 80-100 Hz, though the voice doesn't naturally have this much bass so it might end up making it sound muddy. I would at least take out the 2K zing that hurts when you turn it up loud.

Same point as Justin - the levels could be more smooth. Bring what you want large up behind the narrator for a moment or edit the narrator to come in after the music comes in. Feather in the music if you want it that loud but don't overpower the voice if that's your message.

I'd make the sound effect of the record mono as if it's happening in the space (like foley) and then make the music start out mono and then gradually pan it into the stereo you've got it at. Because it starts out as source music and then switches to score (I think that's what happens in the story, anyway).

What microphone did you use to record? And what recorder? I can hear a bit of the digital I/O harshness.

But anyways, good job! Seems like a fun project.

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Thank you for the valuable feedback Utopia. You are right -- I have used a medium sized room, not a proper studio, but I have tried to pad out the area surrounding the microphone. As for equipment, I use a RODES NTA-2 recording into a Marantz PMD-661 audio recorder. I think the digital I/O harshness might be a glitch in rendering the mixdown, though I'm not entirely sure. How would I pan from mono into stereo? Thanks again. –  IJ Wilson Nov 21 '11 at 7:56
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I think its a nice piece of work! how to improve it? Ok here is an other humble opinion based in my short experience.

Taking into account that dialog is the first driver of the story telling I would:

Technically- I agree with Utopia about the sound of the room being present in the recording is not the best. It is true that creating an optimum recording space for voice over is not easy. I found a way round this problem could using a less sensitive microphone, a dynamic microphone like the good old SM58. As it so less sensitive than your rode it will not pick up the room specially if you still treat your space. I think it is normal to want to use the "best" possible mic for a job but sometimes the best mic is not the best tool for a certain job due to other factors, in this case the room.

Creatively- I think the narrator could to with a bit more practice with the (dramatizing/preforming/acting) to add more impact. This would also involve increasing the dynamics of the performance which could later be carefully compressed (As my friend Justin rightly pointed out) a careful compression would permit the voice sit clearer/more present with out compromising its dramatic content.

The ambiance could do with a few more layers to make it a bit more rich? (Sound scape).

I have added an example of dialogue recordings I carried out using a sm58 beta because of room issues. the narrator voice was recorded using a Rode NT1, all the other interviews were recorded with the SM. I then added different amounts of reverb to each recording to match the worst sounding environment which was a dance studio where one wall was covered with massive mirrors the other wall was all windows and the floor was polished wood! Its not the best example of how dry a recording you can get nor a lecture in voice recording but will maybe give you an idea of the sound quality you can get from this mic.

http://peric.podbean.com/2009/12/06/flamenco-in-scotland/

All the best

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Hi Eric, thanks for the compliment. I have listened to your audio doco, and I see what you mean about the use of different mics and reverb. I do need to learn more about techniques of spatial design for placing sounds in the audio mix, as I am making the stories with the intention of them being listened to on headphones. I have read a lot about compression, but I have not completely got my head around it -- what do you mean by "careful compression" is this compressing a certain area of the frequency range, or just applying it gently to the recording? Thanks again for your help. –  IJ Wilson Nov 23 '11 at 5:28
    
Hi Ij, Sorry for being so inaccurate with my terminology, its something I am working on :) I would say careful compression with voice more about being gentle and maximizing the use of its parameters (attack/ratio/...) Actually when I said this I was remembering something I read, so I run to my books and found the paragraph!! which I quote: "Mixing Dialogue- Mixing dialogue that sounds natural and intelligible and maintains enough dynamics to convey the emotion of the performance is a challenging task. Often, one of these aspects is in direct opposition to the other. –  Eric Baca Nov 23 '11 at 12:23
    
For example, to make dialogue more intelligible, compression if often used to increase the volume of of quiet passages. This works directly against the principle of retaining dynamics within dialogue that convey the emotion of the scene, as compression is designed to remove dynamics. Many times, the dialogue has to fight through a bevy of sond effects, music and even explosions, while still sounding natural and clear. Making sure it does is what dialogue mixing is all about. With experience, you will be able to reduce the dynamic range of dialogue tracks to maintain clarity - –  Eric Baca Nov 23 '11 at 12:32
    
- with out losing the emotional impact. Sometimes the only way to do this is to minimize the impact of the other sounds around the dialogue- turn the effects and music down! everything is driven by the script. (Extract from: Pro Tools for video, Film, and Multimedia, Second Edition) –  Eric Baca Nov 23 '11 at 12:36
    
I haven't heard about using multiband compression in dialogue (which I think you refer to when suggesting "compressing a certain area of the frequency range" Although I once used this technique at the mastering stage of a podcast to make the dialogue more present. As I said my experience is limited although dialogue is an area which I find the most challenging and amassing! –  Eric Baca Nov 23 '11 at 12:48
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Hi IJ, I liked your audio story. I recently did one myself and wanted to share it too. Funnily, it's an Edgar Allan Poe short story. I guess it sort of sits on the line between old school audio book, and more film based style.

I'd love to hear everyone's feedback also.

http://soundcloud.com/sampleflip/masque-of-the-red-death-audio

Enjoy!

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