Sebastian Zetin: Making Audio Books with TNT Voice Executor
Sebastian Zetin started working in the audiobook industry in 2007, and has since had extensive experience in every department of audiobook production. From the beginning (recording), to the middle (editing), and the end (mastering.) Along the way, he realized that there were particular EQ settings that regularly were used for most voices. So he took his knowledge of electronics and microphones, and set out to build a microphone based on the the industry standard mic, but with specific enhancements to get the perfect audiobook sound without any external processing. They are on sale at and there is more info is available at www.ZetinAudio.com.
Audiobook recording is a very specific category of sound engineering. What brought you in to that and what do you like about that?
Honestly, it started because it was VERY difficult to find any paid work in sound engineering. I saw the opportunity for a steady job in which I would get to practice on Pro Tools and also hone in my recording technique to make the books sound as good as possible. But once I started directing, I realized that I was pretty good at being detail oriented and that my books had very few errors that had to be re-recorded. So, I get to practice my skills, exercise my brain and imagination, and get paid...it is a good deal!
What is the most important thing about this job?
In the recording department, I would say that getting the levels just right is extremely important. If you set the expander/gate properly, it will cut down on editing time significantly. But if the threshold is just a little off, that will make for a very, very difficult edit. Also, you want the EQ to be pleasant for both the editor and the listener. They do process it in mastering, but starting with good source material is always helpful.
Sebastian prepared samples of usage of TNT Voice Executor when mixing audio books. Recorded with his Z87. See the videos.
Typically audio books are very long sessions. How many times do you have to hear the whole book before the job is done?
This answer won't be interesting. I only really have to hear the book once, but at a slow pace. Basically whenever they make a mistake, we go back to the last pause that they took and start recording with a 3 second pre-roll and they just drop in. So there is a lot of going back, but only when they make a mistake and usually only less than a sentence.
What brought you to Audified?
MixChecker! I love that plug-in. There is no other product out there that does exactly what this plug-in does. Then I was sucked in by their inValve package and the STA Delay. Then they have those amazing vintage German tube processors that just sound so very tasty.
What was your experience with the TNT Voice Executor?
TNT Voice Executor is a great way to do all of your vocal processing in a single plug-in with minimal hassle. The presets cover a wide range of genres. I found several of the speech presets especially well-suited to audiobook processing.
What is the most important when recording and mixing voice? (You can talk about the microphones too).
I think the biggest tricks are taming the dynamics, using the expander properly, and just making the voice pleasant. Compression is used to keep the dynamics of the voice (or any audio material) within a certain dynamic range, so that when the narrator shouts, it doesn't blow out the ears of the listener. Setting the expander can be very tricky, but will definitely save time in editing. Getting the threshold just right so that it cleans up the pauses between phrases, but doesn't make the actual speech cut out is very tricky. And as far as making the voice sound pleasant, the industry standard German microphone honestly doesn't sound very good without a lot of EQ. It has a very tinny quality and needs a reduction of the highs and a boosting of the lows. Over my years of doing this, I started to notice some patterns about the settings we would use for different narrators, and how several aspects of the EQ and de-essing were similar across the board for almost all voice types. To create a solution, I took my knowledge of the inner working of microphones and set out to make a mic that outdid the industry standard mic. I wanted people at home to have a high quality sound that actually sounds like a U87, but with some very nice EQ on it. It has a frequency dip where harsh sibilants occur, so that using a de-esser becomes far less necessary (if needed at all). Also, it has been described as "bringing the chocolate out" of the narrator‘s voice. So it is warm, yet retains the high-end airiness of the much more expensive industry standard microphone. It and information about it is available at www.ZetinAudio.com.
The Z87 and the TNT Voice Executor? That is a great combination!