Join Voice Over Expert Dan Lenard as he explores recording software in his lecture “Recording Software for the Voice Actor : What’s Best For You?” Get some historical perspective on how recording has evolved and learn more about how to decide which software program is right for you.
Dan Lenard, Master VO, home recording studio, audio, technology, hardware, software, microphones, audio recording techniques
Transcript of Recording Software for Voice Actors
Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voiceover Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voiceover Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else.
This week Voices.com is pleased to present Dan Lenard also known as Master VO.
Dan Lenard: Hi, I’m Dan Lenard and welcome to the Master VO Dojo. The most common question I get about home studio recording is regarding recording software. Boy, talk about choices. You have quite a few and believe it or not, most of them are pretty good. They all record audio. That’s the most important thing. So, what’s best for you? I guess that depends on what your needs are. What it is you do most in your studio and what skills you have and need to develop?
To get a start at understanding the questions you need to ask, I’ll start with some historical perspective. Now, in the good old days before PC recording, in fact before many radio stations employed the use of multi-track tape recorders, jocks like, myself recorded commercials on analog real to real tape recorders in real time. We used different sound sources like a record on, yes a turn table or another tape deck at the same time and mixed the levels manually on the fly. It took a little rehearsal and sometimes a bunch of takes. Editing on audio tape was done with a grease pencil, a razor blade and a tape editing block. It was cumbersome but it worked. More importantly it gave practitioners of this mayhem great understanding of the logical process involved. We had to slowdown and plan ahead with what we were going to do with each and every script.
The mental process hasn’t changed in the 30 years I’ve been working in the studio. You still have to plan out what it is you’re producing and make the right choices based on the script you’re presented. Mapping the production in your mind was the skill we developed. The analog process was slower and by the way sounded like garbage compared to the (hits list bits and bytes) we used today but it made you very conscious of what you were doing. When multi-track machines were introduced widely into local broadcast production in the early 80’s, production directors like myself, marveled at how we could record things one at a time and punch in sound effects and music with deadly precision. Then you could mix down all the sync-recorded tracks, so everything sounded just right. It was great fun too. I have a whole carton of commercials I did back then on tape reels on a shelf in my basement.
You know, one of these days when I have time, I’ll digitized it all and rehash my youth but I digress. With the advent of digital recording in the later 80s and its development into the more sophisticated multi-track programs we have today, the physical process of recording and editing audio has become affordable and less time-consuming. What was once a quarter million dollar engineering wonderland is now a $2,000 investment and let’s be honest, that’s why many of you are here. Anyone can physically record their voice using a computer, convert the audio file to a compressed format like an MP3 and send it at the click of the mouse anywhere to the four corners of the earth, truly amazing.
But you want to know about recording software. Well before that, two other quick points. The first point is that most of the great gear in software we use to perform this modern marvel is designed for musicians and bands. All these multi-track behemoths are for recording lots of instruments, manipulating the sounds each track and mixing down your next hit. Not so with voiceover. The only thing you’re recording for the most part is your voice. Remember what it is you’re trying to accomplish in the physical recording of your voice. You want your voice to be faithfully reproduced and you want your final mix to be cohesive that is, sound like natural speech.
The skill you have to develop is editing. It isn’t just about getting things in the right order, in creating natural sounding speech with different recorded takes on a sentence. Editing is more about getting the correct length of pauses between clauses. All good recording software packages give you the tools to do this, like cut, paste, import and insert. They don’t give you the skills to use those tools however, that’s something you have to learn on your own. Today you have choices of multi-track software that all do pretty much the same thing, the only difference is how many tracks you can create and use at once and the physical layout of the interface.
Now, last time I mentioned Audacity and considering my 10-year-old is remixing songs using it, it’s a sure bet anyone can handle its simple and logical interface. Best of all, it’s free shareware. In the PC world, software manufacturers like Cakewalks, Sony, Adobe and even Magix all have great products that I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about. Sonar music creator, Acid audition and yes, Magix Music Studio all do the same thing. Now, of course you purists out there will cringe when you hear me say that but can someone tell me the difference to a beginner learning multi-track recording. On the Mac side, when you buy a Mac it comes with all you need, GarageBand. The more expensive models come with Logic Express. It’s Big Brother. Now, GarageBand is designed with the beginner in mind, simple, intuitive and it has basically what you need.
However, here’s Master VO’s big story here today. In an expert’s podcast a few weeks back, Rodney Saulsberry gave us some great advice about what we need to do to be more successful as a voice artist in 2008. One of the things he mentioned is as a home studio voice artist you constantly have to critic the sound your studio is putting out. How does it sound? Well, doing that about a month ago and playing things in a louder volume and through headphones, I noticed that my voice actually sounded much crisper using Q-base which came with my PreSonus Firepod. Apparently the codecs these higher-end program use are very powerful. The full feature version of Q-base is expensive and it is not an easy program for the technically-challenges. However, I realized that I had to upgrade and I started trying demos of new programs to see what worked the best for me. I thought about checking Adobe Audition. I went to the Adobe website and made an amazing discovery. Adobe was just releasing the perfect product for all of us voice artists. It’s called Adobe Soundbooth. Soundbooth is part of Adobe new integrated CS3 series. As the name implies it’s designed for what we as voice artists do. Like I said, the multi-track programs are for musicians and composers and commercial sound designers and producers.
There are many of us who are doing full production of commercial and presentations with music beds and sound effects. It’s a skill you can learn but not overnight. It’s a talent onto its own aside from voice technique. Most of you aren’t doing full production. You’re recording dry voice for producers who take it and manipulate it. You don’t need all those tracks. Soundbooth is a single track recorder. What makes it so special in my eyes and ears? The main problem many of us face is dealing with noise, mouth clicks, background noise, the dog’s snoring. Soundbooth let’s you get rid of it without actually cutting the whole track, you can zero in on things and erase it out like it was never there without disrupting the timing of your pronunciation. Absolutely amazing.
Now, I know technicians had this capability for years but now anyone can do it. Soundbooth also has all the other tools you’ve been playing around with like, reverb, compression, pitch shift, noise gates and EQ. It also has scrubbing so you can go back and fourth using your mouse or a track wheel and some control surface. It has an extensive selection or presets but you can customize each one for your own particular needs. Its interface is simple too. If you’ve ever used Adobe Premier for video or elements for manipulating photographs, the interface is the same, just different functions that relate to sound. Editing is logical and incredibly precise down to the sample. There are some great online video tutorials that show you how to use it that will make your jaw drop. There’s also a music-scoring feature that’s really cool too. Best of all Adobe makes it for both PC and the new duo core Intel Macs. I bought a new iMac just to use this program. It has been well worth it. You can also download free demos at Adobe, play around with it and see what I mean. In fact all the manufacturers genuinely offer free trials of their packages online, so you can play around and see what’s easiest to use and which indeed is best for your needs.
Now, in all fairness to the other great software companies, don’t take my word for it. Try it and compare it to some of the other programs that do this, like Peak and SoundSoap as well as the very consumer level Magix Soundlab 12. Those do this too and are also single track programs. If you need multi tracking to add music and effects, import your mono voice into Audacity or any other of the pile of multi-track programs and go from there. My advice, don’t use overkill to record your voice. Use something designed specifically for that. Single track programs will make things simpler for you and make you sound your best. As I always say keep it simple. Unless you’re doing voiceovers for NASA, it’s not rocket science. What do you want to hear about next on home studio recording? Let me and Voices.com know. Until next time, I’m Dan Lenard.
Julie-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voiceover Experts show notes at Podcasts.Voices.com/VoiceoverExperts. Remember to stay subscribed.
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Your Instructor this week:
Buffalo, NY native Dan Lenard has been a radio personality, an insurance sales consultant, a high school Media and Social Studies teacher and a stay-at-home dad. He earned his BA in Broadcasting from Buffalo State College in 1980, a New York State teaching certificate from Buff State in 1997 and then in 2002, an MA in Creative Studies from again, his hometown Alma Mater.
Now working from his home based, digital studio, Dan produces high quality audio narration in many genres. Specializing in Tutorial, e-Learning and Documentary narration, Dan also voices non-fiction, business oriented books as well as a wide cast of unique animation characters. Dan uses his vast life experiences to bring his clients just what they need; a knowledgeable voice that conveys confidence, warmth, intelligence and humor.
His years in radio and television production made his transition to his home built and based studio, seamless. His experience as a teacher and lecturer on many subjects allows him to convey the daily, nitty gritty of a home-based studio voice over business to the many newcomers in the industry with his dry sense of humor and a commitment to the American entrepreneurial spirit.