Podcasts Voice Over Experts Audio Production with Bradford Hastings
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Audio Production with Bradford Hastings

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Geoff Bremner
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Join Bradford Hastings, a seasoned voice actor and audio expert, in this exciting episode as he shares valuable tips for mastering natural and authentic voice over. He uncovers the six essential gear items that every aspiring voice actor should know: gain, filter, gate, compressor, EQ, and limiter – the key ingredients for top-notch audio.

In this episode, Bradford dispels the misconception that complexity equals professionalism, revealing that industry-leading studios have relied on these fundamental gear pieces for years to create remarkable audio. You’ll also learn practical techniques from Bradford to overcome common challenges like mouth noises and breathing sounds, allowing you to deliver a polished performance.

How's it going? My name is Bradford Hastings. I'm your Voices featured coach for this month and a little bit about me so that you don't think I'm some whack job they just handed a microphone to. I've been a voice actor for over 20 years, worked in the audio industry for over 20 years, and I've been coaching voiceover and audio production students for about ten years now.

My focus in coaching is on authenticity and natural conversational voiceover. And in my opinion, that starts with audio. If your audio sounds too processed, there's no amount of good conversational read that's going to get you past over processed audio. Sorry. So let's talk about audio. What are we going to talk about?

First, we're going to talk about the six essential pieces of gear that you need, the only six essential pieces of gear you need and what they do. We're going to briefly talk about the main problems that I hear from people like the two things that everybody usually hits me with right at the beginning and how to fix them. Number three, we're going to talk about EQing and sort of how to think about EQ. And then I'm going to talk about a bonus thing, which is a plug in. That's not a plugin. And it's something that I believe everybody should have and it can help you.

So let's talk about the six essential pieces of gear that I believe every voice actor should know how to use. And if you do know how to use them, you do not need anything else. There's so much information out there, and so many new voice actors believe that complex is professional and it's not simplicity shows the master. If you have a fundamental understanding of these six pieces of gear, you don't need anything else. And anything that can't be fixed with this. If it's performative issue, you got to change your performance. If it's an electricity issue, you got to deal with that. If it's a room issue, plugins shouldn't be used to fix those things. It's a bandaid on a gunshot wound. Doesn't help anybody.

So let's talk about these six pieces of gear, the only six pieces of gear you'll ever need to use as a voice actor. And they are gain, filter, gait, compressor, EQ, limiting that's it. You don't need any of the other stuff that people are constantly trying to sell you. It's ridiculous. You don't need it. Studios have been using those five pieces of gear for decades and creating some of the greatest music, some of the greatest audio for films and TV and voiceover. And they've been doing just fine. And you can, too. Right now. You probably have just said to yourself, I heard words.

And let me explain gain that's the knob on your Scarlet or your interface or whatever that sends electricity to your microphone. It doesn't make your microphone louder. It makes your microphone more sensitive. Remember that filter? A filter is just a stylized equalizer. It cuts off the top end and the bottom end. Generally, that's how a filter for voiceover is going to be used. There are various kinds of filters. I prefer low pass and high pass filters. Use those properly and you're set gate. Gate is basically an on off button for your microphone. If you're talking, your mic is on. If you're not, your mic is off. Simple enough. Compressor. Your compressor is a babysitter. It makes loud things quieter. That's its job. It makes the things when you go a little crazy, it keeps them in line. It makes them quieter. That's all it does, by the way. It does not make things louder. It makes things quieter. That's what a compressor does.

Then you've got EQ, and that's how you sculpt your sound. That's how you shape and make the microphone that you have sound a little bit better or a lot better if you've got a crappy microphone and then you've got a limiter and the limiter is at the end because the limiter is sort of the mean babysitter. It's oftentimes called a brick wall limiter. And there's a reason for that. It is basically you set an output level, let's say minus four. That limiter is designed to make sure nothing ever goes above that minus four, no matter how much you're pushing through. You could be trying to push 20 gallons of water through the eye of a needle, but it's only going to allow as much water as the eye of that needle can allow. That's how a limiter works. I'm punching my hand because it's hitting a brick wall and it stops right there with those six things. You can make perfect audio for Vo.

Now let's talk about the common things that people always come to me with. And the two main ones are mouth noises and breathing. I have too much mouth noise. You can hear my breathing, blah, blah, blah. First off, I'm going to say this. It's not as bad as you think it is very, very rarely. I think in 15 years, maybe two people, I've been like, oh, yeah, okay, that microphone is really bright or yeah, there is a bit in there that you could probably take out or whatever most of the time.

However, if you were to start Raw, which is what I asked them to do, send me just raw. No EQ, no nothing. It's going to sound okay. It's going to need some help, but it's very rarely going to sound super bright, which is where mouth noise comes from, or super loud, unless you're over gaining it. But the fact is probably mouth noise is probably there because you're EQing a little too harshly. And one of the things or two of the things that you can do to solve both of these problems is utilizing a filter correctly. So utilizing a low pass filter to say twelve decibels Proactive. This is what I usually do immediately to any microphone, twelve decibels per octave at between nine and ten K. And when you do that, you're rolling off some of that high end, which is where those and SS come from. Right. We don't want to do too much because we need that high end. But you can roll some of that off. And then what I'll also do is on the bottom end, same twelve decibels per octave. I will roll off from about 70 80 on down at twelve decibels per octave. And that gets all the subsonic frequencies out of there that we don't really need, that we don't want to hear. And that's how generally you can deal with them with a filter. The other thing you can do is step off the mic a little bit. If you're really getting a lot of that right, if you just come back about two inches, they go away. They're not as pronounced. They're going to be there. Don't focus on it because they're going to be there. You're going to hear your mouth. Why?

Cause you're using your mouth. And the same thing with breathing, if you step back a little bit, it might help. The other thing with breathing, though, is it can also be performative. I want you to now just start noticing when I breathe, because I just breathed. By the way, there are points when we're speaking where you're going to breathe and you're not going to hear it necessarily because it's just the place where you're going to breathe. What you tend to do when you're reading a voiceover is you tend to take a breath and then you tend to read and read and read until you get to the end of a sentence. And then you notice why I still have air in my lungs. So I don't need to breathe. I'll get to the next sentence and I'll keep doing this and I'll keep doing that. And then you get to the end of the last sentence and you go, and then you breathe, and then you go and you're like, why can you hear my breathing? Well, because you're not breathing properly. You're not breathing naturally. We breathe in the middle of sentences. We breathe in the middle of thoughts. There is no reason or rhyme to it necessarily, other than our body needs oxygen. So we breathe. And I've been breathing this entire time, and it's not getting in the way. And because I don't have to gulp, therefore I'm not going to over breathe. So relaxing, understanding that you're a human being and you will breathe. So breathe and don't try and cut them out. It just sounds horrible.

So let's talk about EQ. Now, what are we trying to achieve with an equalizer? We're trying to achieve balance. And so an EQ is a sculpting tool. And how do we achieve balance? Well, we either raise or lower frequencies. And so when you're listening to your voiceover, I want you to ask yourself, right what does my voiceover have too much of or not enough of? And of course, we're breaking this down into low frequencies, low, Mids, high, Mids and high frequencies. And so if you say to yourself, well, it has too much mid range, it has too much of that this sort of nasally sound. Right? Well, that's great. But now you have to make a choice. Most people are going to reach for the midrange frequencies and cut them. And that, I believe, is a mistake.

Mid range frequencies are absolutely essential. We don't want that scooped sound. So perhaps in achieving balance, what we need to do is perhaps raise the frequencies around the mid range so the low frequencies and the high frequencies to achieve that balance. So instead of I'm not saying you can't cut the meds, but I am saying that there is also the option of creating balance by looking at the frequencies around the quote unquote defending frequency and perhaps bringing them into balance that way. But do remember that midrange frequencies are essential when you start to cut mid range frequencies. I just cut one K by three decibels, and all of a sudden, this has no life to it. If I bring it back in, it's now going to cut through. It sounds louder, it sounds more balanced, and it should. But midrange frequencies are essential, and they tend to be the ones that people reach for to cut.

And I would say instead of cutting the midrange, try bringing the lows and the highs up a little bit around it to bring them into balance. Nothing sounds more processed than a scooped mid range. Keep that in mind. And the bonus really quickly is the plugin. That's not a plug in. I've talked with people about this several times this week, which is why I'm adding it in. And it is a power conditioner. Power conditioners basically filter and clean up your power. So if you live in an apartment or you live in a place with just dirty power, a house with dirty power, an old house or whatever, you can get a or you can get a buzz. When you start plugging a bunch of things into a single outlet, you're going to get digital noise, you're going to get electrical noise. A good power conditioner can fix that and can mitigate a lot of problems that you may be having. And I'll tell you, if you've got noise in your signal, your gate might help a little bit. You might be able to EQ a little bit, but you could just get a power conditioner and fix it. And then guess what? If you ever move, you never have to worry about it. I've carried my power conditioner around with me for 20 some odd years, and it has saved me so much heartache because it just cleans up your power. Not to mention, it also guards your equipment against power surges and lightning strikes and things like that. So there's that. Okay. So quickly let's recap the six basic components. Gain filter gate, compressor, EQ limiter master. Those become a master of those and you will never need to use anything ever again. We talked about how to help with mouth noises and breathing. Stop thinking about it so much. It's not as bad as you think it is. Also back off the mic a little bit or use your filters right? Use your high pass and low pass filters. They will help mitigate some of those issues.

We talked about EQ a different philosophy on EQ how to think about it as opposed to reaching for something to cut it because it's an offensive frequency. Think about balance that maybe the frequencies around it might need to be raised instead of cutting. I'm not saying that that's how it should always work. I'm simply saying that's a new way to look at EQ and then finally we talked about the plugin. That's not a plugin which is your power conditioner. Get one. I promise you it will never be a bad idea. So thank you so much and if you have any questions or you just want to get in touch with me about coaching or whatever Hastingsvo.com is my website coaching at Hastings email address for coaching so please feel free to get in touch with me directly. I'll answer your questions or whatever. We can set up a free 30 minutes consult because I do that and I look forward to hearing from you. Bye.

Geoff Bremner
Hi! I'm Geoff. I'm passionate about audio. Giving people the platform for their voice, music, or film to be heard is what gets me up in the morning. I love removing technical, logistical, and emotional barriers for my clients to allow their creative expression to be fully realized.
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