Friday, 26 November 2010

Mind the gap!

Creative Content sound editor Al Muirden gives us more insights into editing audio...

I’ve talked in previous blogs about the pace of  an audio narration and how it can have a massive effect on what the listener hears, when it comes to building tension, creating excitement and generally bringing the written word…to life.

This week, I’d like to touch briefly on the spaces or gaps that as well as the pace, make all the difference when listening to an audio narration.

When we read a book, we naturally put in our own gaps and pauses, aided by punctuation - it’s this that helps to control the pace/tension/excitement of the written word.

When an audio narrator records an audio book, they have a script, with the same punctuation, but it’s a whole different skill to read the words out loud, interpreting the punctuation as it appears in the text - certainly not as easy as it may look and sometimes that punctuation gets overlooked!

Recently, I have been working on a superbly narrated book, but have had to spend a lot of time adjusting the gaps between sentences and lines punctuated with commas or colons or whatever - and it has reminded me how crucial these gaps are when wanting to build tension or create excitement or embellish the emotion captured by the narrator. This particular narration, whilst very excellently read, has benefited from some gap adjustment to make it ebb and flow and – and overall, a much easier listen.

As I’ve said before when talking about pace, there can be many reasons why some narrations speed up or slow down and as a consequence, lose some of their impact - but that’s where an edit can recapture that missing magic. The same thing applies to the gaps between sentences and words - pace and gaps are extremely important components to the finished audio product.

So, when listening to your next audio download or audio CD, try listening for space that you can’t actually hear - the very important…gap! - Al Muirden

photo by Marcin Wichery

Friday, 19 November 2010

From Russia(n Business Etiquette), with love...

 Ever wondered what the Russians’ attitudes to foreigners are? Authors Slava Katamidze and Charles McCall talk about here in an excerpt from our title “The Lowdown: Business Etiquette – Russia”


Q.  Generally, what’s the attitude to foreigners in Russia?

A.  Quite mixed. On the one hand, Russia is now a capitalist country whose economy is seriously entangled with the West. It supplies gas and oil to many European countries, Russian corporations have become involved in many international projects, and most of the goods in Russian shops come from Western countries.

On the other hand, nationalistic rhetoric has a powerful effect on the man in the street. For example, the old themes of ‘Great Russia being dealt with unfairly by the United States’ are often used to unite the country around dominant political figures and their entourages. As a result, many people in Russia today regard Westerners, and especially Americans, as people who aren’t capable of understanding Russian problems and Russian intentions, both on the world stage and at home. Some Russian politicians use this for political gain - it’s for domestic consumption, but for the average Russian citizen it sometimes manifests itself in resentment and suspicion.

Q: Do Russian businesspeople feel this way?

A: Some do. That’s my opinion, anyway.

Q. Can these feelings spill over into hostility?

A.  No. That would be extremely rare. Law and order is one of the main focal points of the Russian government, and historically Russians are law-abiding. Don’t forget: Russia, although a capitalist country with democratic institutions, is a long way from Western democracy. It’s still very much a police state, where the ruling class dominates society. To protect their investments and to control society, Russia needs law and order. 

Have you travelled to Russia on business? How did you find the experience? - LK

Friday, 12 November 2010

A word in your ear...

It's the 75th anniversairy of the talking book - and sound editor Al wonders why bookstores don't do more to promote audio books....

This week I thought I’d focus on the presence of the audio book as part of booksellers floor-space - I know I shouldn’t have to, but sometimes I get so worked up about the “poor relation” aspect of this particular medium when it comes to “in-store” displays of audio book product, that I have to put finger to keypad!

One very positive thing (that has become commonplace) is the simultaneous release of hardback and audio. It took me a while to realise that there was actually a system in at least one high street bookseller whereby the latest hardback releases could be displayed, with the audio version attached in its own little plastic “sub-shelf” - this way, prospective hardback purchasers could be made aware of the audio product at the same time as seeing the hardback on the “big-shelf”.

This was a revelation and meant that the prospective purchaser knew that the audio existed and also where to find it - I get very frustrated when you go into a bookshop have to play “search out the audio.” You have to look long and hard to find the audio section - or as some large chains prefer to call it the “spoken word” section (extremely dated and much in need of a replacement!).

Admittedly, publishers don’t always actually release the audio so that it arrives at the bookshop at the same time as the hardback and I suspect that that the retailer doesn’t always order the audio book - but I also suspect that when it comes to displaying the audio version, there isn’t always that sense of priority that is automatically given to the shiny new hard back. All too often, the poor audio book (which has taken a significant amount of effort to produce) is relegated to that often small and hard to find “spoken word” section.)

With digital download fast becoming THE way to purchase audio book/ eBook product, of course these problems are eliminated. This is one of the real beauties of the download medium - and of course one BIG reason for this is that a prospective purchaser has very little difficulty in finding the product on-line – quite a different from visiting a bookseller in the high street.

I know there are book retailers who do buck the trend and that is admirable and well worth a mention here, but I feel it’s far from commonplace…

So come on all you booksellers out there - the audio book deserves some equality when it comes to floorspace - make it happen! - Al Muirden

Photo by Hans van Rijnberk

Friday, 5 November 2010

Playing Poole

We’re back from the Poole Literary Fest – the first of what we hope will be a yearly event!

The PLF is a not-for-profit organisation founded in April 2009 by the glamorous Sue Luminati, and run with the help of a group dynamic unpaid volunteers (who looked after us so well on the day!). Former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo is PLF’s Patron and the inspiration behind establishing a Festival of Literature in Poole.

There were loads of great events, including creative writing workshops, screenings, interviews with authors, literary lunches, crime fiction quizzes and open mic events.

Our event was the Crime Writing Discussion Panel, which I chaired – we had the fantastic Minette Walters, medieval murder mystery writer Michael Jecks and BBC TV Crime Correspondent Simon Hall.  Our theme was ‘true crime’ and how it informs crime fiction. Our authors touched on everything from serial killers to suicide bombers and gave us a fascinating insight into the way each of them works. I was thrilled to see how many of the crime fiction fans are also audio book fans!

One of the really exciting things at the festival was the New Media Prize – the entries were fantastic, fresh and original. The prize was won by Christine Wilks for her piece ‘Underbelly.’ Check out Michael Bhaskar’s great blog about it. 

It was great to mix and mingle with such great authors – and it was personally a fun time for us too. We had two birthdays to celebrate – mine and sound editor Al’s. We drank champagne – and tried not spill anything on the acres of cream carpet in our gorgeous digs!

We can’t wait for next year – hope to see you there! In the meantime, why not become a friend of the Festival.... - LK