Monday, 28 June 2010

Soundings - Making Books Talk in an old Methodist Church Hall

 The old Methodist Church Hall in Whitley Bay is the perfect place for Soundings Audio Books. The Methodists have always been big believers in the power of the word and the power of books. I went there on Wednesday last week to look round, meet the staff and see how audio books are produced. I did have a vague idea how of how it worked but it is digitised nowadays and more complicated than I had imagined and also a good deal faster than I had thought. Soundings has the most important thing of all, dedicated, knowledgeable people getting it right.
This is Peter Douglas from Ulverscroft with Gillian Bell who is the general manager at Soundings. When Peter arranges author talks at libraries he does all the difficult bits, sorting everything out with the librarians, collecting the author, the driving, the carrying of books, he's goes around and talks to everybody and then with a bit of luck after the talk there is lunch. He sells big print books and audios all over the north for Ulverscroft and gets to go to lovely Scottish islands to see what they want to read and hear there.
Gillian started as a typist at Soundings and worked her way up . She has a staff of eighteen and oversees the production of six books a month in three formats, from their recording in two purpose-built studios each operating seven days a week, through the editing, duplicating, quality control and despatch processes.
Soundings was started twenty one years ago by Derek and Stella Jones in the nearby Roxburgh Terrace, was acquired by Isis publishing in 1999 and became part of the Ulverscroft Group in January 2001.Ulverscroft do the distribution and invoicing and Isis buy the books and send them to Soundings.
Gillian decides who will read the books and has a core of people,some of whom have done many recordings. When choosing the reader consideration is given to the genre of book, the kind of characters, whether most of them are male or female, regional dialects and if it is a series, ensuring the the same reader is used to provide continuity.The reader is given the book about six weeks before recording begins and there is arithmetic to be considered too, the book has to be divided so that it fits the number of cassettes or CDs allocated to it.
 When we were there we were lucky enough to see a recording. The studios are two little rooms with a window between, one person reading into a microphone and the producer who also acts as engineer on the other side sitting in front of a computer. He can stop the reader if he makes a mistake or if anything needs to be altered. This is called drop editing. Gordon Griffith who was recording at the time has done over five hundred recordings for Soundings. 
 After this the script goes upstairs to the editing room where the two engineers rectify the drop editing and  adjust time and pacing. Music is added. Above is Alex who is married to Gillian and  in picture above is Steve, in the editing room.

This is Marie in the next office who deals with customers, invoicing and accountancy.
A master is made on CDs.The master is proof read to ensure that nothing has been missed and quality is assured. It is then sent for duplication. Hundreds of cassettes and CDs are duplicated weekly in this department using high speed machinery. Andy and Louis work in the duplicating department. Once the cassettes have been duplicated they are labelled, packed and despatched to Ulverscroft Large Print Books in Anstey for servicing to the library customers' specification before despatch.
In the storeroom Dave and Barrypack new releases to go to Isis and Ulverscroft and replacement orders for libraries.Mick and Glen in the department where they do new releases and load CDs for duplicating. The cassettes are labelled by machine for main release.And this is Dean, one of the producers having a well earned cup of coffee.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous post, Gill. We had a talk at the Leicester 2007 conference by Carolyn Oldershaw, senior producer at White House Sound. They also produce audio books for Magna/Ulverscroft, and it was absolutely fascinating to hear the details. Lucky you, going to the studios!