Author Topic: Hard to Understand the Narrators  (Read 8068 times)

DanWilburn

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on: February 01, 2016, 02:15:11 PM
Hello.  Thank you for all the stories.  I look forward to them but frequently I can't understand the narrator very well.  It sounds like there's an echo sometimes and I have difficulty understanding narrators with a foreign accent.  I wind up deleting about 50% of the stories without listening to them completely because I can't understand what is being said.  Kate Baker at Clarkesworld is always outstanding.  Maybe Clarkesworld has a recording studio that makes the sound quality better.  Please ask your narrators to speak slowly and enunciate clearly.  Just a comment.  Thanks!  Dan



BoojumsRCool

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Reply #1 on: February 01, 2016, 02:42:24 PM
Hi Dan! I don't work for or speak for Escape Artists but I have done narrations for other podcasts. I understand what you are saying, try to remember when listening that narrators in general are not paid and do this for the love of the stories. I know my first narration, which unfortunately is still out there is not something I am proud of, was rather...... bad. I didn't have good equipment at the time and little to no training. Like in your comment I rushed the narration and there was some background noise, I still cringe when I hear it. I think the narrators and the producers know about the quality issues, the time spent is not paid and sometimes you have to take what you can get. All I can say is keep listening and the more folks get the opportunity to practice their craft the better it will get. Hope that helps!  :D

Boojums ARE cool!


DanWilburn

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Reply #2 on: February 02, 2016, 01:42:42 PM
 :)
Thank You!
I'm glad it's not just me.
I'll keep listening.
Thanks!
Dan



matweller

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Reply #3 on: February 02, 2016, 03:44:03 PM
You might try some better headphones.



BoojumsRCool

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Reply #4 on: February 02, 2016, 04:38:03 PM
Quote
You might try some better headphones.
OUCH :-[

Boojums ARE cool!


danooli

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Reply #5 on: February 02, 2016, 05:45:47 PM
I know my first narration, which unfortunately is still out there is not something I am proud of, was rather...... bad. I didn't have good equipment at the time and little to no training.

Mine two.  Well, actually...my first two were not great. The second was a three person gig too...and my part sounded awful compared to Graeme and Marguerite!

Anyway, the good thing, DanWilburn, is that if you don't like an episode, a new story with a different narrator will be up next week.  We can't please all the people all the time, although it's certainly a goal.

Lastly, I'm very glad that you didn't single out any specific narrator. As BoojumsRCool stated, for the most part, EA narrators are volunteers and doing this takes a lot of time - a LOT more than you'd expect. It's a labor of love, and I am very glad that EA doesn't allow personal attacks on their site.



Fenrix

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Reply #6 on: February 02, 2016, 07:39:34 PM
EA also works really hard to try to match up the voice of the story with the voice of the narrator. It's not always quite perfect, but it improves constantly over time.

What do you pick when given the choice between 1.) sub-optimal sound quality but an authentic voice and 2.) perfect quality with a whitewashed narrator ?


All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


matweller

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Reply #7 on: February 03, 2016, 01:07:31 PM
Quote
You might try some better headphones.
OUCH :-[

I didn't mean it as an insult, I meant it literally as stated. And to be even clearer, I'd say "better" doesn't necessarily mean "more expensive," just "more suited to your hearing."

MP3s are small files. What takes a WAV file 450MB to accomplish, an MP3 does in 30MB. It does that by stripping out sound information - specifically high and low tones, working from the outside of the wave form to the inside, how much depending on the compression we choose. That means that if you have a narrator with a beautiful, rich, low tone voice and headphones or speakers that skew toward higher pitches, and then if you have hearing that skews high as well, you're losing a ton of tonal information before it gets to your brain.

I see tons of kids walking around every day listening to things on the external speakers of their phones and I cringe because they're basically negating the last 50 years of sound technology to play a file that starts with less-rich sound than you would get on a Victrola. I can't even begin to imagine why someone would want to listen to anything like that. It's like watching an HD movie on your laptop speakers. And earbuds are only marginally better. You want to hear 50x better? Get a $15 pair of over-the-ear Sony headphones like they used to sell with their Walkmans. Hell, the $15 SoundBot (SB240) Bluetooth headphones I use all day at work get better sound than any earbuds I've ever tried.

Point is, you don't have to have $200 studio cans or listen on a Bose surround sound system, but we have to target our sound for the largest possible audience, and the numbers suggest we're achieving that. If someone isn't hearing that, it could be their device, it could be their headphones/speaker, it could be their ears, it could be that the tones favored in our compression just doesn't match up to the reverberation characteristics of their skull -- there are any number of factors. Without knowing more information, the first (because it is the most likely culprit) and easiest factor to control for is the headphones/speakers.

Ya know?



Not-a-Robot

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Reply #8 on: February 03, 2016, 01:19:18 PM
Quote
You might try some better headphones.
OUCH :-[

I cringe because they're basically negating the last 50 years of sound technology to play a file that starts with less-rich sound than you would get on a Victrola.

OUCH!  >:(

Never insult my Victrola-  Edith Piaf sounds wonderful on my Victrola  :D



matweller

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Reply #9 on: February 04, 2016, 02:38:00 PM
Quote
You might try some better headphones.
OUCH :-[

I cringe because they're basically negating the last 50 years of sound technology to play a file that starts with less-rich sound than you would get on a Victrola.

OUCH!  >:(

Never insult my Victrola-  Edith Piaf sounds wonderful on my Victrola  :D
I just said it gets better sound than the most prolific modern technology, what do you want from me. ;)

Your Victrola trumps me, though. Best I can do is the reel-to-reel in my basement that I haven't hooked up since it developed a squeak.



Lyn

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Reply #10 on: March 02, 2016, 06:03:22 AM
Is there a way to apply to be a narrator?



danooli

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Reply #11 on: March 02, 2016, 12:30:11 PM
Is there a way to apply to be a narrator?

This link has info on submitting an audition to Podcastle for narrations...



Redsky

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Reply #12 on: May 05, 2016, 08:59:50 PM
As a "foreigner" (I'm assuming you meant not American?) I actually appreciate the fact that EA tries to use narrators who sound "authentic" - for example the Australian narrator for "the Burning Lands," and so on.

Not trying to insult you at all, but I think that many Americans could do with being exposed to accents different from the ones they hear at home. I know that sounds terribly smug and I don't mean to come off that way - but it seems to me that the majority of the culture your average American consumes comes from America or is made with American audiences in mind (for example, the old Tom Cruise film Far and Away, which is infamous for its terrible "Oirishness.") There is a feeling, outside of America, that Americans en masse are resistant to media that isn't made by or tailored specifically for them, and a consequent impression of Americans as being somehow wilfully ignorant of the fact that the rest of the world exists.

Again, I'm not trying to insult America or Americans here. The vast majority of the media I consume is American, and there are certain things no-one does as well as America. It's just that there are different angles from which one might look at things like the tradition of schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, or people hanging American flags from every available place. To Americans that is normal and unremarkable; to us it makes an American school look like something out of North Korea. It all depends on one's own cultural background and point of view.

It seems particularly fitting to be mentioning these ideas here because SF is so good at showing us the human condition from angles that are difficult if not impossible in mainstream fiction. Perhaps because of that, I've always had the idea that fans of SF are more open to looking at things from different viewpoints than their non-Sf reading brethren. That's partly why the general resistance from some corners of SF fandom to characters or writers that are not straight, white, cisgendered and male is so disappointing to me - I expect better from SF.

Quite apart from that, as someone who is not an American white male, it's always refreshing to find media that I can enjoy without doing the necessary and often unconscious work of placing myself in the male character's shoes. And EA podcasts are exceptionally good at providing stories that lessen the work required of me. For example stories that are about a female character as written by a woman and narrated by a woman. That's still some thing that is seen as "different" or "other" even though women spend their entire lives swimming in a sea of media that is "other" to their own lives and experiences. I'm sure that this is not news to you; I'm just mentioning it as an example of how what's "foreign" to an American man may not be quite so "other" for someone else. As a non-American, hearing stories read by people without American accents is refreshing and enjoyable to me in the same way.


Wow, I didn't mean to come in and start lecturing anyone, I hope this doesn't come off that way.  I have a habit of rambling. My point really is just that it always sounds weird to me when American narrators read stories set in, or written from the POV of, non-Ameican characters. I mean in a bigger sense than just pronouncing the names of places or slang words in a way that rings wrong - it just takes me out of the story. And yet, I'm not Australian, or Indian, or English, but I had no trouble understanding the narrators who speak with such accents, possibly because I've presumably had more exposure to these various accents than you; my assumption, then, is that it's unfamiliarity with the accents that's causing your issue rather than a failure on the part of the narrators. In other words, I don't think it's them, I think it's you, but I'm not saying that's your fault :)

Personally the narrators whom I've had difficulty understanding have always been Americans, but it's not because they're American - at least not directly. It's always because they're mumbling, or rushing, or placing the emphasis on odd words. These are all common errors when someone is not practiced at reading out loud - something which is harder to do well than most people realise at first. I am not complaining though; they're providing me with entertainment at a very very low cost, they're doing it out of love, and they'll improve with practice, so id rather have them continue than tell anyone "you're bad at this and shouldn't do it."
I have a personal theory that the non-American narrators automatically make more of an effort to speak at measured speeds and enunciate clearly, so that the American audience will understand them, while some of the American narrators are not used to having to speak more clearly than they do in everyday speech because everyone has always understood what they're saying. That could be complete rubbish though, I dunno.

I will shut up now.



acpracht

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Reply #13 on: May 26, 2016, 02:18:26 PM
Hi, all,
As the new co-producer in charge of narrators, I'd like to toss in here and give you some of my thoughts and a few updates that might address some of your concerns.
First - and most exciting to me - is that Escape Pod is now paying narrators as of May 2016! In addition, this also means that all narrators will be under formal for-hire contract for their narrators (for listeners, the big benefit of this is that I can legally require redos from narrators for any issues with the recording - including quality - or they won't receive payment).
My hope is this will elevate the overall quality and professionalism of the narrations and give you a better experience. Plus, I always think that paying for work completed (even if one would do it for free and for the love of it) is just the right thing to do.
Next, some have asked how one may apply to be a narrator. You may do this by dropping me an email to adam@escapeartists.net. If you want to jump straight to auditioning, include a file of about two minutes that demonstrate your abilities. At a minimum, it should include your normal speaking voice. It can also include any character accents or other ages and genders you want to demonstrate.
Make it the best quality you can - minimize background noise and record on the best microphone rig / setup you can manage.
Finally, I'd like to reiterate that EP will continue to seek out diverse voices to narrate the stories that appear on the podcast. At times expediency may mean that we might not be able to have the perfect voice recorded with the perfect quality. But we will continue to strive for it.
Thanks for expressing your concerns. We'll continue to work on making EP the best podcast we can.
-Adam



Fenrix

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Reply #14 on: May 26, 2016, 03:45:52 PM
Hi, all,
As the new co-producer in charge of narrators, I'd like to toss in here and give you some of my thoughts and a few updates that might address some of your concerns.
First - and most exciting to me - is that Escape Pod is now paying narrators as of May 2016! In addition, this also means that all narrators will be under formal for-hire contract for their narrators (for listeners, the big benefit of this is that I can legally require redos from narrators for any issues with the recording - including quality - or they won't receive payment).
My hope is this will elevate the overall quality and professionalism of the narrations and give you a better experience. Plus, I always think that paying for work completed (even if one would do it for free and for the love of it) is just the right thing to do.
Next, some have asked how one may apply to be a narrator. You may do this by dropping me an email to adam@escapeartists.net. If you want to jump straight to auditioning, include a file of about two minutes that demonstrate your abilities. At a minimum, it should include your normal speaking voice. It can also include any character accents or other ages and genders you want to demonstrate.
Make it the best quality you can - minimize background noise and record on the best microphone rig / setup you can manage.
Finally, I'd like to reiterate that EP will continue to seek out diverse voices to narrate the stories that appear on the podcast. At times expediency may mean that we might not be able to have the perfect voice recorded with the perfect quality. But we will continue to strive for it.
Thanks for expressing your concerns. We'll continue to work on making EP the best podcast we can.
-Adam

Hey Adam, in order to keep narrator submissions and auditions uniform, how about we get a portal set up for you with submittable?

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


Jon Padgett

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Reply #15 on: May 26, 2016, 05:10:50 PM
Hi, all,
As the new co-producer in charge of narrators, I'd like to toss in here and give you some of my thoughts and a few updates that might address some of your concerns.
First - and most exciting to me - is that Escape Pod is now paying narrators as of May 2016! In addition, this also means that all narrators will be under formal for-hire contract for their narrators (for listeners, the big benefit of this is that I can legally require redos from narrators for any issues with the recording - including quality - or they won't receive payment).
My hope is this will elevate the overall quality and professionalism of the narrations and give you a better experience. Plus, I always think that paying for work completed (even if one would do it for free and for the love of it) is just the right thing to do.
Next, some have asked how one may apply to be a narrator. You may do this by dropping me an email to adam@escapeartists.net. If you want to jump straight to auditioning, include a file of about two minutes that demonstrate your abilities. At a minimum, it should include your normal speaking voice. It can also include any character accents or other ages and genders you want to demonstrate.
Make it the best quality you can - minimize background noise and record on the best microphone rig / setup you can manage.
Finally, I'd like to reiterate that EP will continue to seek out diverse voices to narrate the stories that appear on the podcast. At times expediency may mean that we might not be able to have the perfect voice recorded with the perfect quality. But we will continue to strive for it.
Thanks for expressing your concerns. We'll continue to work on making EP the best podcast we can.
-Adam

Hi Adam.  Quick question: how much will EA Escape Pod pay narrators per story?

Thanks!



acpracht

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Reply #16 on: May 27, 2016, 08:48:19 PM
Hi, all,
As the new co-producer in charge of narrators, I'd like to toss in here and give you some of my thoughts and a few updates that might address some of your concerns.
First - and most exciting to me - is that Escape Pod is now paying narrators as of May 2016! In addition, this also means that all narrators will be under formal for-hire contract for their narrators (for listeners, the big benefit of this is that I can legally require redos from narrators for any issues with the recording - including quality - or they won't receive payment).
My hope is this will elevate the overall quality and professionalism of the narrations and give you a better experience. Plus, I always think that paying for work completed (even if one would do it for free and for the love of it) is just the right thing to do.
Next, some have asked how one may apply to be a narrator. You may do this by dropping me an email to adam@escapeartists.net. If you want to jump straight to auditioning, include a file of about two minutes that demonstrate your abilities. At a minimum, it should include your normal speaking voice. It can also include any character accents or other ages and genders you want to demonstrate.
Make it the best quality you can - minimize background noise and record on the best microphone rig / setup you can manage.
Finally, I'd like to reiterate that EP will continue to seek out diverse voices to narrate the stories that appear on the podcast. At times expediency may mean that we might not be able to have the perfect voice recorded with the perfect quality. But we will continue to strive for it.
Thanks for expressing your concerns. We'll continue to work on making EP the best podcast we can.
-Adam

Hey Adam, in order to keep narrator submissions and auditions uniform, how about we get a portal set up for you with submittable?

Sounds great... Email me details of how we go about that?



acpracht

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Reply #17 on: May 27, 2016, 08:50:31 PM
Hi, all,
As the new co-producer in charge of narrators, I'd like to toss in here and give you some of my thoughts and a few updates that might address some of your concerns.
First - and most exciting to me - is that Escape Pod is now paying narrators as of May 2016! In addition, this also means that all narrators will be under formal for-hire contract for their narrators (for listeners, the big benefit of this is that I can legally require redos from narrators for any issues with the recording - including quality - or they won't receive payment).
My hope is this will elevate the overall quality and professionalism of the narrations and give you a better experience. Plus, I always think that paying for work completed (even if one would do it for free and for the love of it) is just the right thing to do.
Next, some have asked how one may apply to be a narrator. You may do this by dropping me an email to adam@escapeartists.net. If you want to jump straight to auditioning, include a file of about two minutes that demonstrate your abilities. At a minimum, it should include your normal speaking voice. It can also include any character accents or other ages and genders you want to demonstrate.
Make it the best quality you can - minimize background noise and record on the best microphone rig / setup you can manage.
Finally, I'd like to reiterate that EP will continue to seek out diverse voices to narrate the stories that appear on the podcast. At times expediency may mean that we might not be able to have the perfect voice recorded with the perfect quality. But we will continue to strive for it.
Thanks for expressing your concerns. We'll continue to work on making EP the best podcast we can.
-Adam

Hi Adam.  Quick question: how much will EA Escape Pod pay narrators per story?

Thanks!

Currently we are paying a flat rate of $30 for a standard-length narration and $10 for flash fiction.

Of course, that could change in the future. Your results may vary. Void where prohibited. BlahBlahBlahLegalLegalLegal...   :P