Liam Clayton: Behind the Scenes of Editing and Mixing Audiobooks

Step behind the scenes of audiobook production with our talented team member, Liam Clayton. As a skilled production sound mixer, Liam recently embarked on a remarkable project in collaboration with Big Finish Productions. In this blog post, Liam shares his experiences editing and mixing three captivating Iris Wildthyme audiobooks. From navigating long Pro Tools sessions to fine-tuning the audio mix, Liam's attention to detail and technical expertise shine through.
Iris Wildthyme - Enter Wildthyme
Released February 2023
Edit and Mix

In 2022 I took on the edit and mix of three Iris Wildthyme audiobooks for Big Finish Productions. The first of these, ‘Enter Wildthmye’ was released online in February 2023 with the others following shortly after. The books were read by Katy Manning and recorded by Jack Townley and JB Pilon at Buffalo Studios in London. 

For the edit I was sent all of the audio across three Pro Tools sessions with one for each book as it was recorded. As these are long sessions containing all of the audio for three books, the first task was to make sense of the huge sessions and ensure everything was in place with the files linking correctly. I was sent the original books as PDF files to work alongside and check for errors and corrections. The audio was recorded in long sections, with Katy doing pickups herself if she made a mistake, and the engineer making markers for pages and chapters as they went along. 

Working to a specification provided by the production company, I started by getting the audio to an average level for listening back and processing. I set gentle EQ and compression settings which I could tweak later on when it came to finalising the mix. 

Beginning the edit, I worked through the recordings in Pro Tools, referencing the book on my second screen to check for errors. I have two LG 29” 21:9 Ultrawide screens in my studio which allows me to have the book, script, or picture file that I’m working with directly above my Pro Tools session. 

The most important task when working through an audiobook edit is listening in detail for any audio issues, such as clicks and cracks in the voice, overly loud or unnatural breaths, and unwanted background noise such as page turns. I was also listening out for any times that Katy was too far from the microphone, as this introduces more room ambience and needs to be fixed in the edit. If I heard a mistake where Katy had stopped to re-read a line, I would make a cut in the audio (Pro Tools shortcut ‘B’), scroll back to find the place where she had picked up and make a crossfade to edit the sections together. In these instances I’m listening carefully to the edit to ensure it’s completely natural sounding and invisible to the listener. I edit using my Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro headphones so I can be extra critical of the recording!

I worked through the entire book in this way. For any errors that needed fixing, I would begin by trying to cut and edit around them, using correct takes or room tone to fill any gaps where possible. For clicks and pops or unwanted noises I would use iZotope RX’s advanced audio repair suite, which has a variety of plugins and tools for fixing and manipulating audio. RX De-click and RX Mouth De-click are particularly useful for these situations when cleaning up voice recordings. I have also found the relatively new Waves Clarity Vx Pro very useful for cleaning up difficult sections of dialogue recording and reducing unwanted ambience. 

During the edit I referred to the specification to keep a uniform amount of silence at the beginning and ending of each chapter, as well as between the chapter number announcement and the start of the chapter. This helped to maintain consistency throughout all three books.

Once I had reached the end of book one I finalised the audio mix. My goal for the mix was to keep the dynamic and exciting quality of Katy’s read, whilst achieving a professional, clean and clear vocal sound. It was also necessary to apply some gentle processing that would minimise the room ambience and reverb on the recording, creating a closer, more intimate experience for the listener. I’ve found that Accentize DeRoom Pro is a brilliant plugin for this kind of reverb reduction and it was really useful for this project. 

The final task after editing and mixing the audiobook was exporting the individual chapters and organising the files with a clear naming convention that would keep them all in order. All of the files are then saved into my Dropbox account, ready for review by the production company. Then it was time to move onto book 2! 

By Liam Clayton

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