Audiobook Week: An Interview with Ted Scott

25 06 2012

Like many people, I enjoy listening to audiobooks from the first introduction, to the final credits. If you have listened to as many Audiobooks as me, you begin to become familiar with certain manes in the Audiobook World. One name that has been credited many times and on some of my favorite Audiobooks is Ted Scott. Ted Scott has worked with Stefan Rudniki and Gabrielle De Cuir’s Multimedia Production Company Skyboat Media for years. He has worked with many talented narrators. I have always been a behind the scenes kind of guy. I worked my way through college doing Sound and Video work for plays, dance recitals, conferences and working at my college radio station. For Audiobook Week, I wanted to highlight one of these behind the scenes guys who help make the medium I love perform at it’s very best.

 

First off, thanks for stopping by the blog today. Could you give us a little background on how you got started in the audiobook industry and an overview on your career?

Ted Scott: No problem. Back in 1999, I was asked to do live sound for an event with author Byron Katie. I was a house painter at the time, but since I have a background in music and understand signal flow and was cheap, I took the gig. She liked me and asked me to “tour the world with her” as a sound engineer. I pitched her for a much bigger role in The Work Foundation and became her sound man, post production engineer, and digital archivist. Eventually she scored a deal with Crown for her first book. Around that time she and I met with John Hunt from American Audio Literature, who wanted to obtain the rights to her first book as well as her live workshop archive. As part of the deal, I was hired by Audio Literature to continue oversight of the archives and edit her first book, Loving What Is. This is when I first started working with Stefan Rudnicki, who produced the work along with Joel Heller. Shortly afterwards, Stefan offered me  the chance to edit The Rock Rats, by Ben Bova, a 10 hr. multireader book, followed by Xenocide, a multireader by Orson Scott Card. I guess I did a good job, because the rest is history.

What exactly does an audiobook editor do? At what point do you get involved in the process?

Ted Scott: My work starts the moment the recording is finished. Typically, I’m sent a director’s script with markups as to what happened during the session, as well as the sessions themselves. It’s my job to premaster the sessions for editing, which involves setting levels and reducing ambient noise to acceptable levels. Once that’s done the work of editing begins. I “cut the chaff,” so to speak, by removing all the extra takes and cleaning up obtrusive breaths and mouth noises. Of course, during the sessions, there is direction, page turning, and other interruptions in the narrative process. I basically try to honor the pace of the narrator and mimic what they would have done had there not been an interruption. Once the edit is done the book moves into a quality control (QC) and analysis phase where misreads, inconsistencies, and final cleanup notes are delivered back to me. In most cases we call the actor back in for pickups of misread sentences. I implement those pickups and spruce up any issues that come up in QC. Occasionally I’ll fix misreads by editing. Once the book is fixed we move to a final mastering phase where I’ll bring the levels up and prepare the audiobook to spec for the publisher. 100% of the time this involves creating a download product, and about 20% of the time it will involve mastering a CD product as well.


I’m not sure exactly how many of your titles I have experienced. I know it’s probably a good number. As someone who listens to a lot of speculative fiction, I know I’ve heard you name associated with productions by Audible Frontiers. and Blackstone audio, and probably plenty of others. Is there a different approach you take to a production if it’s science fiction or fantasy, as opposed to non-fiction or some other genre?

Ted Scott: Not specifically.  A lot of the approach I take is decided for me at the production level. I will say that science fiction does tend to lend itself well to certain production values, such as multiple POV’s (Point of View), in which a different reader is used for each POV shift. Stefan Rudnicki and Skyboat are innovators of this type of production, and I’m very happy to be an integral part of that process. The recent Galactic Center series by Gregory Benford is a good example of this, and of course the works of Ben Bova and Orson Scott Card are classic examples of this type of production. Of course, a lot of books are just more appropriately read by a single reader. If the casting is there, and with Skyboat it always is, all I have to do is honor the pace of the narrator and the rest will fall into place.

As someone who works on the production side of the audiobook industry and have had to deal with a lot of different narrators, do you have any narrator pet peeves? Something that just drives you crazy every time a narrator does it?

Ted Scott: Not really. You’d think I would, but the truth is that most pro narrators are a joy to work on. They tend to have a tremendous amount of focus and positive work ethic. While everybody has their quirks, it’s hard to overlook the fact that you’re actually watching and listening to a master at work on their craft. It’s amazing.


What advice would you give a new narrator, for optimizing the technical side of their performance?

Ted Scott: I’d say, trust the producer who cast you, breathe, and relax. It’s important not to rush. If they are working alone, such as in a home booth setup, which is quite common these days, I’d say consult with a studio engineer regarding mic placement, then consult with a post engineer to tweak the studio sound so that the technical side can be forgotten and energy can be placed on performance. Try to learn from the experts by watching and asking questions if you can. The best narrators have a remarkable consistency in their levels both from one end of a sentence to the other, as well as from one end of a book to another. Stefan Rudnicki is a master at this. Other narrators that come to mind are Stephen Hoye, Hillary Huber, and Scott Brick.


Do you ever listen to audiobooks for entertainment? If you do, how do you keep from keeping your knowledge of the technical aspects of audio production from affecting your ability to simply enjoy a good audiobook?

Ted Scott: I do. I think in most cases the production values tend to be fairly high. If there are serious technical issues, such as bad levels or just a bad production, I’ll just pass on it. I can tell that kind of thing from an Audible sample, so I don’t listen to poorly done books. Sometimes I can get thrown by an editors sense of timing, but for the most part, the narrator does all the work and it’s easy to forget about the small stuff and just get into the story.


I’m sure in the course of your work you encounter tons of narrator miscues, misreads, and mispronunciations, are there any that stick out for you as especially funny or absurd?

Ted Scott: I once had a narrator misread a three word phrase as “Split Pea Pedicures”. None of those words were in the phrase. It had nothing to do with anything! We all got a great laugh out of that one.

Is there any particular production you feel especially proud of, and why?

Ted Scott:Wow, there are kind of a lot that come to mind now that you mention it, but if I had to pick one thing that really stands out it would be the short story collections by Harlan Ellison. I am so happy to have been able to work with him. He is an astounding writer and an unparalleled performer. His work tends to bring out the greatest performances from pro narrators. Check out the story collections The Deathbird or Shatterday, you won’t regret it.

I also never pass up a chance to recommend A Long, Long Time Ago, and Essentially True,  by Brigid Pasulka. This one was read by Cassandra Campbell and directed by Gabrielle DeCuir.  it’s a beautifully written book, and Cassandra’s performance is incredibly moving and sensitive.

 


I know that you have probably gotten the chance to work with a few celebrity narrators. Do you have a favorite moment working with a celebrity narrator? What about a horror story?  Do you prefer to work with professional narrators, or celebrities?

Ted Scott: I like working with both professional narrators and celebrities equally. Pro narrators are really good at what they do and often make my job easy. They tend to be very consistent in their levels and use tone to convey mood rather than volume shifts. Many of them are skilled in ProTools and have their own home studios, which can be quite nice. They’ll often deliver sessions which are edited (to a degree) on the fly during the recording phase (called “punch and roll”), and this can be quite convenient.  Celebrities, although often not “expert” narrators, tend to be really good actors, at least the ones I’ve worked with. There is a certain satisfaction I get as an editor in helping the production come together for them.  Sometimes the performance is so good that it brings out a totally different level of editing from me, a level of willingness and dedication that’s on a different plane, just as these actors are. I’ve experienced this numerous times with Tim Curry, Anne Hathaway, Elijah Wood and Annette Benning, among others, and many of the celebrity books I’ve done have turned out to be some of my best work, thanks in no small part to these fine actors.

I know a lot of actors have superstitions or habits that they perform before heading on stage. Do you have any superstitions before heading into the studio to work on a book?

Ted Scott: I just shut my phone off.

After a long day of making people’s words and voices sound good, how do you unwind?

Ted Scott: With physical activity, definitely. Sitting for many hours at the computer can take its physical toll after a time. I’ve spent thousands of hours in the seat over the years, and in fact, I don’t even sit anymore when I edit, I stand. A run, a walk, or lifting heavy things in the evening is good for my body and mind. On days off, I tend to head to music venues, play guitar, or go hiking or camping with my wife and kids.

Finally, if someone was to write the story of your life, who would you want to narrate the audiobook version?


Ted Scott: Ewen McGregor, which is kind of odd because as far as I know he’s never narrated an audiobook. Then again, I’d never edited an audiobook the first time I did it. Anyhow, I think he’d be good and I’m always suggesting him in hopes that he’ll do it someday. If I couldn’t get him, I’d of course go with Stefan. Sorry Stefan, it’s Ewan McGregor man!

 

A Huge thanks to Ted Scott for taking the time out to answer my questions!

Check out Ted Scott’s Website 50 Nugget Wash and be sure to follow him on Twitter at @50NuggetWash. 

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4 responses

25 06 2012
Kristilyn

This is a great interview! Thanks for posting. 🙂

25 06 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

So interesting! I really don’t have any sort of good grasp on what goes on behind the scenes of audiobooks, so this is fascinating.

25 06 2012
Squeak (@AkChocoholic)

Thanks for posting this interview. I learned something new today. If I hear breath sounds, page turns, or other bizarro stuff happening in the studio, it’s the editors fault! LoL

Happy AudioBook Week!

Dorothy – The Alaskan Bookie – Squeak
Blog ~ http://alaskanbookie.blogspot.com/
Twitter ~ http://twitter.com/AkChocoholic

25 06 2012
Laurie C

Wow, so the narrators don’t just read everything off that smoothly with no coughing, laughing, clearing their throats, etc. It seems so smooth and unedited while listening; I never realized how much editing goes into it. Although, every once in a while I have heard a word or phrase that seemed inserted after the fact, occasionally in a different voice. Not very often, though!

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