The Technical Considerations for a Great Voice Over
There are three aspects of capturing a great voice over:
- Artistic: Encompasses the actor you hire and their caliber or ability,
- Business: Related to how you will you use and promote your end product, or yourself as a voice talent
- Technical: The influence of the equipment you use and the environment you use it in.
In this section, we’ll go in-depth into the technical aspects of creating a great recording – from the software available, to microphones and the recording environment.
Recording Software for Audio & Video Professionals
At one time, the biggest consideration involved in setting up a voice over studio revolved around the microphone. While voice over mics still hold importance, software has taken center stage as the big necessity for high-quality voice overs. Curious about the voice acting software currently on the market? Consider investing in one of the voice over recording software programs detailed below:
|Adobe Audition CS6||Mac OS X; Windows XP, 7 and 8||Automatic speech alignment; pitch correction; parameter automation; HD video playback; clip spotting; cross-platform design||Former Soundbooth users are encouraged to upgrade to Audition for $99||$350|
|Adobe Soundbooth CS5||Mac OS X; Windows Vista, XP and 7||Task-based interface; multi-track audio projects; dynamic linking of video sequences from Adobe programs; royalty free scores||Sales of Adobe Soundbooth officially ended in April, 2011, although voice over artists on a budget may be able to access Soundbooth from other sources||$200|
|Audacity 2.0.2||Windows; Linux; Mac OS X||Conversion and remastering for old recordings; multi-track recording; multi-file import and export; sync-lock tracks||Open source sound editor||Free|
|Sound Forge 10||Windows Vista, XP, 7 and 8||Noise reduction plug-ins; musical instrument file processing; floating window docks; tabbed browsing; interactive tutorials||Sound Force Mac edition available — Mac version is similar to Sound Forge 10||$500|
|GoldWave||Mac OS X; Linux; Windows||Audio analysis; remastering for old recordings; file conversion; sound mixing; speech recognition; audio extraction; visual plug-ins||Impressive compatibility as compared to other for-pay sound editing programs||$50|
|Cubase 7||Mac OS X; Windows 7 and 8||MIDI composing and sequencing; music notation; chord generator; multi-track editing; warp quantizing; user community||Versatile software that meets the needs of composers, musicians, voice over artists, engineers and producers||$500|
Updated as of Spring 2017:
|Adobe Audition||Microsoft® Windows® 7 with Service Pack 1 (64 bit); Windows 8 (64 bit); Windows 8.1 (64 bit); or Windows 10 (64 bit) Mac OS X versions 10.10 (Yosemite); 10.11 (El Capitan); or 10.12 (Sierra)||Mix, edit, and create audio content with a comprehensive toolset that includes multi-track, waveform, and spectral display. This powerful audio workstation is designed to accelerate video production workflows and audio finishing — and deliver a polished mix with pristine sound||Replacement for Adobe Audition. Free trial available.||$19.99/month|
|Adobe Soundbooth||Discontinued||N/A – see previous versions||Replaced by Adobe Audition||N/A|
|Audacity 2.1.3||Windows; Mac OS X/macOS; GNU/Linux||Audacity can record live audio through a microphone or mixer, or digitize recordings from other media. With some sound cards, and on any recent version of Windows, Audacity can also capture streaming audio. Import sound files, edit them, and combine them with other files or new recordings. Export your recordings in many different file formats, including multiple files at once. Easy editing; tracks can be fully manipulated using keyboard; multiple effects, plugins and analysis capabilities||Newly updated to fix the following issues: Now properly supports Windows 10; New Distortion effect, Rhythm Track, and Sample Data Import; Effects are no longer grayed-out when in pause; New scrub ruler and ‘pinned’ option so the waveform moves and the recording/playing head stays still.||Free (option to include donation)|
|Sound Forge||Microsoft Windows 7 | 8 | 10 (64-bit systems)||State of the art metering tools; completely overhauled recording workflow; features a completely redesigned recording interface; features a new Waveform Overview Bar that makes file navigation easier than ever -this new feature also serves as an excellent locator and auditioning tool; threshold recording; midi timecode, timestamp recording; record up to 32 channels of high resolution multichannel audio via discrete inputs.||Comes in two versions: Pro 11 and Studio 10. Offers a free 30-day trial of both versions. Not compatible with Mac||Starting at $59.99|
|Goldwave v6.27||Windows 10 (64 bit); Windows 7, 8, 8.1 (64 bit); Windows 7, Vista, XP (32 bit); Linux with Wine||Play all your favorite songs, record from any source, edit audio with familiar commands, apply dozens of different audio effects, remaster old vinyl or tape recordings, analyze audio with real-time recordings, process hundreds of files in a few clicks, very configurable.||Not compatible with Mac OS||$45/Lifetime or $15/Year|
|Cubase 9 (Pro)||64-Bit Windows 7 / 8.x / 10; Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan / macOS 10.12 Sierra||Cubase Pro condenses almost three decades of Steinberg development into the most cutting-edge DAW anywhere. Used by star producers and musicians for composing, recording, mixing and editing music, Cubase Pro combines outstanding audio quality, intuitive handling and a collection of highly advanced audio and MIDI tools. Whether you record an orchestra, a huge live rock show, or a band in the studio, Cubase Pro is sublime in every sense of the word.||Comes in three versions: Pro, Elements, and Artist||$579.99|
Selecting The Right Recording Program
A number of factors need to be taken into consideration as you strive to select the right audio recording program for you. First, decide on a software budget. While free programs like Audacity can get you started, you’ll eventually find your recording capabilities limited if you fail to upgrade. As you may have noticed in the above chart, there’s a wide price range involved in audio recording software. It’s possible to obtain decent software for under $100, but for the ultimate recording and editing experience, you may need to pay a bit more. Keep in mind that there may be additional fees for add-ons and plug-ins.
Another thing to consider: How serious are you about your voice over career? If this is just something you are doing for fun on the side, fancier software setups may be a waste of money and storage capacity. On the other hand, if you’re in the midst of setting up a professional business, high-quality software is worth its weight in gold. Keep the type of voice overs you intend to record in mind as well, as professionals who place a greater emphasis on music, sound effects and multi-track recording are best served by top-of-the-line programs such as Cubase, Audition and ProTools. ProTools in particulare is considered professional voice-over software. Ultimately, your budget is the determining factor, but don’t hesitate to save up a little extra for the appropriate voice over recording software.
Purchasing Audio Recording Software vs. Free Audio Recording Software
While you may be tempted to save some money on your audio recording software, you may also be asking “Should I use a free software package for recording my audio files instead?”
When software is available for free, some may be tempted to equate the price with ‘low quality,’ however, there are a number of reliable programs available for no cost (e.g. see the list above which references several free programs).
There are a lot of options available for download on the internet. So in order to help decide if investing in software – or downloading it for free – is a better option for your needs, it’s worth it to ask yourself a few key questions.
Here are a few you may consider:
- Do you identify as a professional? With the professional title, there may come an expectation for professional grade equipment and software (among other things!). Research what the ‘pros’ use and see if the program is generally available for free, or if it tends to be a cost of business.
- What software might your clients be using (e.g. you may need to collaborate)? And will it be compatible with what you have in your studio? Compatibility can be important. While it’s impossible to anticipate what every client uses, at least understanding the industry standard can be very helpful in deciding between software options.
- Is the software user-friendly? If you can’t use it… then what use is it to you really?
- Does it allow you to do what you need to do? A good quality program should have all of the ‘tools’ you need to do your job.
- Is it compatible with your system? Whatever tech you acquire should be compatible with your operating system.
- How does it sound when you use it? Quality is key!
- What do reviewers say online? If the program has a poor rating, it may not be worth your money or your time.
Depending on how you answer the above, you may find that making an investment in software will help define your professional business and help you to create better products that will work well with your clients’ systems.
However, you may also discover that for right now, free software helps you accomplish what you need to – and the investment in professional grade technology may make more sense down the road as your business starts to pick up steam.
Microphones for Voice Over Recording
You can have the most expensive software, an immaculate studio, and a well-tuned voice, but all of it won’t matter if the microphone you’re using just isn’t up for the job.
There’s nothing worse than crackling sound that cuts in and out, or adds tinny overtones to your smooth voice.
The following microphones have been time-tested by many of the talented professional voice actors on Voices.com. Although there are many great mics out there, this is a shortlist of some of our talents’ favorites:
- Blue Yeti (Blue Yeti Pro), Blue Spark Digital, Blue Baby Bottle
- Rode NT1
- AudioTechnica AT2020 or AT4051
- Apogee 96K
- Samson Meteor or Samson C03U
- Neumann TLM103
- AKG C214
- Rode NG3 Shotgun
- Sennheiser MKH-416 and MK8
Additional Notes on Selecting a Microphone
Selecting the right microphone is key, but how do you know which is right?
There is no clear cut answer, because the ‘right’ mic will be different for each person because it depends on your needs, set-up, budget and voice. You’ll just have to try as many as possible to find the one that fits!
But no matter what, steer clear from:
- gaming headphones with a mic attachment
- a handheld recorder
- a stage mic (or dynamic mic)
- a web cam mic
While all of the above do serve a purpose, they are not going to provide you with a solid recording for your voice over audition or job.
Setting Up the Right Voice Over Recording Environment
The recording environment may not seem as flashy and exciting as the other components of technology – like microphones, computers and software – but it is crucially important. Plus, when the recording studio is in your home, it becomes even more important think about the acoustics of your room. For instance, rooms of different sizes, that contain different materials (e.g. a wood floor vs. a carpeted floor), can sound very differently when it comes to audio recording.
As a general rule of thumb, any recording will take on characteristics from the space it’s recorded in. So your job becomes trying to control those effects so that the result is a neutral sound balance – which highlights the qualities of your voice – and not the qualities of the room.
So once you’ve identified the best space in your home to conduct your recording, the next step becomes optimizing it by reducing sound transference or resonance. Essentially, you want to make sure that sound from outside the room doesn’t travel in, and that the sounds you make in the room don’t echo when recorded.
While the science of acoustics is complex, there are some simple materials that can help improve the sound within a room. For instance, several voice actors use acoustic tiles, carpeting, and even egg cartons and heavy blankets.
The online world is full of resources as to how to improve several sound issues. We recommend searching through YouTube or your chosen search engine to uncover how others have effectively dealt with similar problems.