Friday, 8 April 2011

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll...

If you don’t work in the audiobook industry, you may not know that there are a couple of different ways of recording: there is ‘fluff and repeat’ and there is ‘rock and roll’ (or ‘punching in’ as they say in the States).

Fluff and repeat does pretty much what it says on the box: you read along until you make a mistake, at which point you stop and then just say it again. Or swear, and then say it again, if you’re me.

With the rock ‘n’ roll method, if you make a mistake, you stop and the engineer ‘rolls’ back (I’m assuming the name comes from the Jurassic days of tape!), replays a line or two, and you jump in at the right point (hoping you don’t make the same mistake again).

I’m told the advantages to rock ‘n’ roll for the producer are:

1. Less time spent editing, so fewer editing costs – but surely there is an increased studio cost, because I think everyone agrees that recording with the rock ‘n’ roll method takes longer.

2. The reader ‘matching’ the previous tone seamlessly. Um... hire the right readers! A good reader should be able to pick up the same tone, particularly as s/he is saying it again straight away.

The advantage of rock ‘n’ roll to the reader is, in my opinion - nothing! 

The thing I like least about rock ‘n’ roll is the psychological effect. I’m a pretty fluent reader. When I make a stumble, it’s usually something that I’ll stumble over several times in a row (why is “special space telescopes” so hard to say?!). With fluff and repeat, I just run at it and get it right after a couple (or seventeen) goes, leaving the editor to remove all evidence of my shame. If I have to be played in, it can turn into a nightmare – I’m like a skittish horse approaching a hurdle, and I tense up each time. 

Also, I think rock ‘n’ rolling breaks the flow. I find it much easier to keep the mood of whatever’s going on if I don’t have to wait for the engineer to reset. And heaven help you if you have a slow engineer! That can be very crabby-making.
I’d love to know what other narrators think and which method they prefer – am I alone in this?

photo by Motomboe


  1. I agree with you 100%. As a narrator, I just want to let it roll, and let the engineer slice the fixes out later. As an engineer, I actually prefer to slice the fixes out later too. If you have an engineer who's paying attention, they can usually tag the spots that will need to be fixed later on the fly, which will speed up their editing process significantly. And it's much easier to just slice out a couple of flubs than it is to stop the recording, rewind, cue the talent, press play, and punch in at an appropriate location.

  2. Thanks Matt! It's great to get a POV from the engineering/editing side. I think you make a good point about how much time is actually saved by rolling back. Thanks for commenting! :o)

  3. I've just happened upon your blog (thanks to Twitter)and I can see it's going to be a regular stopover, not least because I've enjoyed your voice on audiobooks for several years.
    I'm a former TV journalist/presenter and writer of romantic fiction and I'm now looking into the possibilities of republishing as ebooks - and also as audiobooks since (I hope) I should be able to produce them myself (husband is a sound engineer which also helps!)
    I think your advice and tips will prove invaluable - here's just one question to be going on with - how difficult is it to read the sex scenes aloud (in my case - especially as I'll have written them myself and my Mum will hear them...!)
    Anyway - that's long enough - thanks for reading. And thanks for blogging!

  4. With you on that. I once narrated a TV series with no time or budget for proper post, so the music was being added at the same time, all directly onto the digital video tape. Any fluff meant that we had to go all the way back to the start of the current music track. No pressure, then!

  5. Hi Gilly! Thanks for stopping by.

    Sounds like an exciting project - I'm sure narrating your own stuff will have its challenges (in my experience, writers like to 'rewrite' during the audio stage... :oD), but what a great adventure.

    And what a great idea for a blogpost! Inspired by you, I'll tackle sex scenes next week.

    In the meantime, trust me: do NOT think of your Mum when you're narrating sex scenes! :oD))

  6. Yikes! Richard! That's nuts! Well done for getting through it.... I think I might've been tempted to flounce out in a huff... :o)

  7. I respectfully disagree. With an engineer who knows what he or she is doing, "Rock 'N' Roll" is far more efficient than "Fluff and Repeat," An on-the-fly edit takes exactly two seconds (mark, roll back, play) whereas editing the double-takes out in post adds more than two seconds (each double take) to prepping the recording (to go over to quality control.) Moreover. with the one or two narrators we have had who have insisted on the "Fluff and Repeat" way, very often, in the re-take, the narrator will "adjust" the interpretation ever so slightly beyond simply correcting a fluffed word. Some narrators actually like to spend precious studio time to take the opportunity to give "alternate" readings," second-guessing themselves. "Rock'N' Roll" keeps the narrator focused and on track. "Fluff and Repeat" not only drives up studio hours and the post hours, but it delays payment to the narrator who is usually paid by the finished hour.

  8. Okay. So I'm way late getting in the game here, but I just saw this post. I've been narrating for about 5 years now (I don't count my first two years of narrating a decade ago because I was so bad). I currently only work with one studio (wish I could expand that) and I have to say I didn't even know that 'fluff and repeat' was an option! Oh, how I would love to just keep going.

    Mostly, I just do what is easiest for the engineer. If it's an engineer who can find mistakes easily, then I'll read until I've made a few mistakes, go back and plug the mistakes in. If it's an engineer that has a hard time finding punches, I stop when I make a mistake, fix it on the spot and move on. And if I have a director that is hard of hearing (it happens), I try to stop myself and fix any issues before going any further.

    Going back actually annoys me. Especially if an engineer takes forever to find the punch....then you lose all sense of energy with a scene.

    Luckily, most of my mistakes are more burp-caused than word-caused. It's ridiculous, but I'm proud of that.

  9. Really interesting to read both of your comments!

    dog eared copy, we will have to agree to disagree1 :oD

    Tanya, I agree about punching in - if it's not lightning-quick, it's SO annoying!

    Burping. An occupational hazard.