AUDIOPHILE: I've been a professional actor since I got out of college. So in the early 1990s, when I noticed an ad looking for audiobook narrators, I put together a tape and sent it in. At first, the job was straight narration, reading works commissioned by the Library of Congress, from textbooks to fiction (they do as many as they can for the visually impaired). Then maybe four years ago, my company, the Cutting Corp., started building a division that does work for commercial audiobook publishers, including some science-fiction series. We started creating sound effects: a gigantic door opening on a huge cavern, a disembodied brain living in a vat of liquid.
BRING IN 'DA NOISE: We don't work like old radio theater, where the spurs on "Gunsmoke" were a jangled set of car keys. It's a lot more sophisticated now: We digitally manipulate sound and have huge sound-effect libraries. If we need something standard, like splashes or explosions, we can get them prerecorded. Of course, sometimes we need to create something that doesn't exist -- like the outer hull of a spaceship grinding, creaking and finally collapsing under extreme pressure. Then you have to get creative. For the spaceship, we ended up using a pie tin. For the huge brain, we needed a wet, viscous sound; I took a recording of my son blowing bubbles and slowed it way down. I have some recordings of his toys that I use a lot, too.
MULTI-TASKERS WANTED: Not everyone can do this job. You need imagination and acting skills to be able to tell the story and get emotionally involved. You also need to be able to change your voice as much as is humanly possible -- you may have to do as many as eight characters in a story. The Actors' Center (www.actorscenter.org), in Arlington, has voice-over classes at least twice a year; their hotline is also a good jobs resource. You'll probably want to put together an audition tape; I did a three- to five-minute reading, half fiction and half non-. But there's a lot more to it than narration: Maybe if you don't have the voice, you can be an editor or technician.
LIKE FATHER: My son, who's 6, has picked up on what I do. When "Pirates of the Caribbean" came out on DVD, he caught an audio edit problem. Near the beginning, Commodore Norrington snaps shut Jack Sparrow's compass case -- you hear the noise, but on-screen the case is still open. He notices those things now.
As told to Sandy M. Fernandez