Have you ever wondered how a professional voice over is produced? Perhaps you’ve dabbled in voice overs and found yourself wondering how they achieve that warm, punchy, in your face type sound on the radio? There’s really no secrets, it simply a combination of a number of important factors. The following list highlights a few of the critical components when foraying into the world of professional voice overs:
Everyone has their own 100% unique voice! Cultivating a professional speaking style is often the element that separates a voice that may be considered for a professional session, rather than one that may be overlooked. Believe it or not, the more unique and unusual your voice sounds, the more chance you will find a perfect niche market where you become the go-to person for a particular style. First step is to determine the overall category you might fit into. For example, are you a baritone with a deep speaking voice? A higher pitched female voice with an aptitude for corporate speaking? This is a great starting point which can set a foundation for the following tips as you progress.
ARTICULATION & INFLECTION
A professional voice over artist is often proficient in speaking both clearly and with correct pronunciation. If you have had experience as an actor or received drama training, you may find you have an advantage over someone that has not. To grab the attention of the listener, the voice needs to have the correct emphasis in the right passages of text and the script needs to be delivered with the appropriate pace and feel. The script is arguably more important than anything at this stage, because a poorly written script can rarely be rescued, even by the most experienced voice actor. Depending on which area you might choose to focus on, it’s recommended to gain voice over experience in various genres to establish a wider portfolio and increase your potential opportunities.
Now we can briefly get into some of the technical requirements on how to get the right sound. First and foremost, choosing the correct microphone for your voice style makes a huge difference to the end result of the recording. There are two categories of microphones that are widely used for voice overs. They are dynamic microphones and condenser microphones. Dynamic microphones are great general purpose mics, they usually only capture sound that is directly in front, are not particularly hyped in any frequency range and do well to cut out some of the room noise. Condenser microphones capture a lot more detail and require a bit more planning to get the best result. Here’s a few links to some regularly used microphones for voice overs:
(NOTE: It’s also advisable to obtain a pop-filter, link with info below)
The environment used to record a voice over is arguably more important than the microphone and recording equipment itself. Firstly, the voice overs you hear on the radio and TV are recorded in professionally treated acoustically isolated rooms where there is virtually no concerns of room sounds or reverberations. If you are working from home or a space that perhaps is not ideal for recording, even a small amount of acoustic treatment can go a long way. You can also obtain a reflexion filter, these can be helpful however often can have unwanted resonances which can affect the tone of the recording (try before you buy, if possible!). Acoustic baffles are a great solution, particularly if you are able to position them in a corner whereby the area both behind and in front of the microphone have acoustic treatment. Experiment with different positionings and find something that works for you. Trial and error is important, record multiple positions and listen carefully comparing each recording to determine which one is the best representation of the voice sound you’re aiming for.
Depending on the type of audio interface you are recording into, a good quality pre-amp is an important part of the signal chain that can significantly improve the sound of the recording. A good pre-amp will also help get the best out of the microphone. In summary, a pre-amp is simply an amplifier for the microphone or instrument you are intending to record with. There are dozens of options and if you are only planning on recording voice overs, then a single channel high quality pre-amp will go a long way. Here are a few links to start you off:
POST PRODUCTION & PROCESSING
Once you are confident you have recorded a voice over that you are happy with, the next step is the processing that happens before the recording is ready for broadcast or distribution. It’s easy to get carried away with the plethora of options from both hardware and software. In my experience, less is certainly more with voice overs. Light compression is important to get a nice, even sound. In most cases, you can comfortably filter out any frequencies below 80hz (if it’s a female voice, sometimes you can easily filter out everything below 150hz). This removes any unwanted rumble in the recording (also, a good pre-amp will have a high-pass filter to deal with this at the recording stage). There are some highly sophisticated programs that efficiently deal with things like removal of mouth clicks/smacks, room noise and other pops/clicks. If used moderately and tastefully, these tools are essential for any serious voice over artist. Aim to get the recording spot on, then you will find that less post production will be required.
Until next time,