Jason Martin, Lead Audio Engineer at Penguin Random House AU, shares what it was like working on the audiobook for ‘Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing’.
Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing is one of my favourite books I have had the pleasure of working on at Penguin Random House.
The journey of an audiobook’s production always morphs and changes with every book we take into our care, and Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing was no exception. It had a very unique journey from start to finish.
The first step of the process is always recording. The book’s wonderful author, Jacqueline Harvey narrated the adventure from start to finish in the space of one day!
This is usually unheard of, but purely due to her amazing vocal talent she can really dish out pages at a time without even the slightest stumble. I am always gobsmacked by her wonderful character performances and the way she builds tension and wonder into her adorable stories.
Jacqueline is always a pleasure to record. She is a hard worker and really inspires me to be at my best in every session. Both during the recording and outside the booth, we discuss the flow of the book and how it can be best presented in audio format.
This is always a fun part of the process, as translating manuscripts into audio can sometimes be a difficult task.
During recording, I follow along reading and annotating a digital copy of the book. Here is where it gets fun, as we start to workshop ideas for SFX (sound effects) and musical concepts throughout the book. We wanted to add a little more life to the story by having splashes of colour with SFX.
There were moments where we stopped recording to talk about little details – Woof’s dog breed or how many pigeons were in a certain scene – and I would jot notes down for later on in the process.
Once the book is recorded from start to finish, no matter how perfectly it is recorded, we have to edit it all together to be ready for our listeners’ ears.
This requires a certain level of attention to detail as we glue all takes together, add timings of pauses and cut the book into its correct order. During the process, we also remove unwanted sounds such as stomach gurgles, coughs, trucks rumbling past the studio and squeaky chair noises.
After the edit pass, the project is handed over to the unsung hero of the audiobook world, the quality-checking member of the team.
This person listens to the book from start to finish in the correct order and marks out any unwanted sounds, wrong words, or missed edits. These notes are then passed back to be edited to ensure we have a completely finished book.
Sound effects (SFX)
Once everything is in order and ready to be finalised, we move into the creative world of sound design.
At this stage of the process for Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing, I collected and created little musical motifs to help add character to the already amazing story.
I tried to create what I felt would suit the charming and fun personality of Willa through the chapter header musical motifs. The approach for sound design was very interesting, as I scrubbed through sound libraries and made different noises in my house to collect a soundscape for the audiobook.
This was a truly joyous adventure. Honing in on the specifics like the type of birds that chirped and the flutter of pigeons, or trying to match Woof’s bark to his dog breed was very important. I also wanted to match the different door sounds of metal gates, heavy front doors, different doorbells or the sliding of windows to perfectly match the world that the characters explored.
Once all of this was layered together and passed through all the members of the team working on the audiobook, we hit 'render' to get it mastered and ready for our listeners' enjoyment!
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