In the 1990s I commuted into New York City on the bus. Several times a week my seatmate was Roy Yokelson, an Emmy-winning sound engineer, owner of Antland Productions. We saw each other through some rough times. Roy calls me his “therapist,” and I feel the same about him. When I moved to the next town in 2000 we lost touch, but a few months ago, when I wanted to record the first two chapters of my book to put on my blog, I gave him a call and we recorded the chapters in his studio. It was a tedious business of recording, re-recording, minimizing errors, erasing interference. My admiration for Roy spread from his sterling character to his professional expertise.
Roy liked the result and encouraged me to record the whole book. At his annual party — the guests were about 150 announcers, actors, voiceover performers, engineers, producers, and me — I got more encouragement.
Roy came to my apartment and set me up to record the whole book. We have fire engines, garbage trucks, construction vehicles, and the sounds of children playing in the park across the street wafting straight up into our apartment. There is often a noisy wind blowing and helicopters ply the Hudson River airways right outside our windows. The only quiet room is the tiny bathroom, which isn’t perfect either because it has an echo. So when I record, I line it with an old duvet hung on the towel rod on the south wall, a yoga blanket on the floor, and old towels spread over the sink and toilet. The laptop sits on the toilet seat and the portable recording booth with the microphone in it faces me from in front of the shower curtain. I sit on a folding chair. In order to get out of the bathroom, I have to fold it up; that’s how small the bathroom is.
Roy then left me to start recording. The first chore was finding the best microphone for my voice and recording circumstances. He left four different ones — for some of them I need to push the button on the Micro Port Pro (the connecting link between computer and microphone) and for others, the button is off. Some microphones are addressed from the side; others from the front. Some are small; some are large.
After recording I had to make copies of the raw files and send them to the larger computer in my “office” in the living room for initial editing. (It’s just a corner of the room, but serves me fine.) Finally, I made them into MP3 files to send to Roy.
Even I knew the first day’s recordings were poor, so I changed the drapery in the bathroom, set up the microphones more precisely and went to work on a second day, and again sent the results to Roy. I was pleased with myself. The new recordings were not so “roomy boomy” as Roy puts it.
At 10:45 last night I got an email from Roy saying, “I will make you laugh until you cry.” The joke was I had plugged the microphone in after starting my computer, which had disturbed the settings. I had plowed through the mysterious warning message on the screen, judging the efficacy of the system only by whether I could see sound waves represented on the computer. The result was that after laboriously changing the microphones, copying, tidying up, and sending the files, I had managed to make four recordings off the laptop’s microphone. The computer was not recognizing the exterior microphone. (Roy’s hint — tap the microphone itself next time to be sure that sound from it is registering on the computer screen.)
I’ve been working with computers almost 30 years. I know how they are. The screen transforms into something unrecognizable, it flips on or off, or an unfathomable error message arises. Like everyone else, I had to learn how to deal with these things, and by now I am fluent and quick in word processing programs. I am all thumbs in audio programs, but I’ll get there. Pretty soon, after hours of trial and error, mastering not only the computer program but also the vocal techniques needed to make a smooth and interesting recording, I will sail through my book. But not yet.
Thank you, Roy, for being so patient.