Here at Cloudaloud HQ, we get busy every autumn and winter making seasonal audiobooks for you and the little ones to listen to over the festive period. This year, one of the Christmas audiobooks we recorded is an American classic called The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, a story about the (sometimes foolish) lengths we'll go to in order to give our loved ones a happy Christmas.
The title of this story refers to the tale of the three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, truly a package fit for a king! We reckon this is a nice little metaphor for our audiobook-making process.
GOLD: the right voice
The first step is to find the right narrator by sifting through voice reels until we find the one that sparkles. The voice of the person reading a story has to match comfortably with the content. Factors like age, accent, and cultural background are all things that go into the casting process. Would you cast a Scottie dog to read a story about the plights of Persian cats? Of course not! It has to sound natural, and the reader has to be able to relate to the story.
FRANKINCENSE: a good recording session
Recordings take place in a studio that is soft, quiet, and has no echo – ambiance and calm are a must! Readers will have a director listening in and making sure the story sounds right, and the reader is sticking to the script. Directors are there to help with lots of things, like the pronunciation of "floccinaucinihilipilification," or fetching tissues. They also make sure all the tech is behaving and that the story is being properly recorded. It’s not unheard of to finish recording a book and realise there’s a blank audio file, so directors must be fed plenty of biscuits to stay focused!
MYRRH: sleek editing
Once the audiobook has been recorded it goes to an editor, the essential ingredient. The editor will chop it up, take out all the mistakes, and iron out the soundwaves to make it sound professional. Have you ever noticed how much noise your mouth makes when you speak? There are things we don’t pick up on in day-to-day conversation that sound positively tummy-turning on headphones. Without the wizardry and boundless knowledge of our editors, our audiobooks would be a whole lot less fun! Many of them are also experts in sound effects and musical composition, which helps to build a truly immersive audio experience.
A dedicated audio-editing keyboard
So, these three "gifts" make up the finished product. Lots of brain power and teamwork goes into the making of a lovely audiobook, and each person’s contribution is just as important as the next. Once each step is completed, we are ready to send our gift, a completed audiobook, out into the wilds of our listeners' imaginations.
Merry Christmas, and happy listening!
The Gift of the Magi is read by Jennifer Calvert, directed by Mary Bolingbroke, and edited by Kathleen Sparks.