This is an amazing story about copywriting: for the past 18 months I’ve enjoyed recording dozens of daily telephone prompts for an international audio-branding company. However, the copy has always been very hard to read. Single spaced lines and center aligned. 10 pt. font. Not very user-friendly Script Formatting for Voice Overs.
Before Christmas, I finally broke down and politely asked to change to 1.5 or double spaced lines and larger font. I suggested that this would also reduce the huge number of typos their writers made. I reformatted the scripts as an example for them to consider. I also acknowledged that I’m just some voice over talent and I know my place in the production chain! Today the scripts came in formatted per my suggestion. The Head Editor made the changes company wide! My producer contact said voice talents were turning around the copy faster and there were fewer typos. Everybody loved it.
The funny part is that previously the scripts had long sentences that were clunky for the spoken word. Voila! With the new formatting, all the writers are now writing zippy short-sentences.
Never use single spacing unless you have to!
Guidelines for Script Formatting for Voice Overs:
Here’s are some general standards to follow when formatting voice over scripts.
1.) Use 12 pt. font.
2.) Choose 1.5 or Double-spaced lines.
3.) Avoid narrow columns (difficult when story-boarding, I understand).
4.) DON’T WRITE IN ALL-CAPS! THIS IS AN AFFECTED THROWBACK FROM WHEN PRODUCTION PRINTERS OUTPUT ONLY IN ALL-CAPS.
5.) Use left-alignment, so that all the words have uniform spacing between them.
6.) Don’t use garbage fonts like Comic Sans or Papyrus.
7.) No, really, please don’t use garbage fonts. Thank you.
Following these guidelines won’t just help your voice over talent. It will help everyone in the production chain work more easily with the scripts. They’ll be easier to proof, mark-up, and follow along. It’s a win-win for everyone.
2016 was a trying, stressful year for many of us. Fortunately, my family didn’t suffer any calamities. Well, a tree feel on my house. Our hot water heater caught on fire. But fortunately nobody was hurt! My 2016 voice over year in review was thankfully rewarding and satisfying. I learned a lot. Tried to do things differently. Reach out to new people and new ways of thinking. Stray outside my comfort zone whenever possible. So here we are at the end of 2016, looking forward to a great 2017! Why has the year been so rewarding? Because I made a point of investing in my career.
Investing in My Brand
First off, I invested in getting a new professionally produced commercial demo to enhance my brand and marketability. I enlisted the coaching, directional, and audio production talents of Eric Romanowski at Ear Blowing Audio in Virgina Beach, Virginia. As I’m in Atlanta, we collaborated at length over emails and recorded the sessions via my ipDTL account. He really captured my money reads and then pushed some of it into new directions. And the investment has paid off, in ways I could not have expected. For example, I had never done television spots for toys and now I’ve done several for well known brands. On my own, I’ve compiled and edited my new audio and video demo reels for Corporate, E-learning, Explainer Video, and MOH/IVR voice overs from pieces of actual work.
Investing in My Relationships
Secondly, I invested in the time to learn from others. One of the best things I did this year was attend VO Atlanta in March for the first time. The panel discussions and seminars were outstanding, and it was great to meet so many people that I knew well online but not IRL! Plus, I got to meet new people in person that now I know well online too. I’ll be attending again this coming March. Come see me at the ipDTL booth where I’ll be available to discuss what it’s like to use it as voice over talent.
Speaking of ipDTL, I invested in the ‘Tel’ subscription of ipDTL. Not only can I bridge to ISDN on-demand, and stream live to studios; but it’s also a superior replacement for phone patch and Skype. It even works fantastic for connecting to mobile lines if I drop the rate to 64 kbps. So many of my clients love using it to direct sessions live, and it’s really made all those old cranky phone patch or Skype sessions sound so much better and go more smoothly.
Investing in My Voice Over Studio
When it comes to investing in one’s voice over career, there’s always the opportunity to upgrade one’s studio. I upgraded from Adobe Audition 3 to Audition CC. Yes, the monthly subscription is a bit much, but I think of it as an investment. It’s as if it is my monthly rent for my digital office. And it’s the price of doing business in a way that provides the best results for my clients.
I also upgraded from a CAD E100s microphone to a Rode NT-1. Same self-noise level but the Rode has a much hotter output and a more flattering tone for my voice. I love it! I’ve owned a TLM-103 and a MKH-416 in the past. The NT-1 sounds very similar to the 103 but with a tighter pattern; it also doesn’t sound tubby and phasey like a 416 can if you’re not working it closely. I also switched from the first generation Scarlett interface to the Second Generation Scarlett which is an improvement in so many ways: preamp, latency, controls, and in the ability to switch seamlessly between programs and sample rates. I’ve got my eye on the new Millennia one-channel preamp for an upgrade in 2017!
Finally, what I am most grateful for in 2016 are my repeat clients and my new clients that have become repeat clients in this year. One of the best parts of my job is building relationships with people from all kinds of businesses from all around the world. I look forward to working with all my clients in the new year.
In:Quality has launched its ipDTL 3rd Anniversary Upgrades Remote Recording Voice Over Solution. As a result of the new upgrades and features, ipDTL becomes the here-to-stay complete remote recording solution for live-directing of voice over sessions. The new Silver subscription allows 2 simultaneous connections of low-latency broadcast-quality audio and the Gold subscription makes 4 connections. Most of all, it lets you connect to anything: ip, ISDN, land lines, and mobile phones.
And, in a first for ip voice over products, one can record the incoming audio as mp3 or wav files! Here’s a .wav sample of one of the many recent tests I ran of the beta version of the upgrade. I’m joined in the test I recorded within ipDTL at my Atlanta studio by Jan Anderson from the San Francisco Bay Area and Andy Kavanagh from Newcastle in the United Kingdom.
First of all, check out this video from Kevin Leach of ipDTL explaining how the new features work:
ipDTL 3rd Anniversary Upgrades Remote Recording Voice Over Solution
With the new Third Anniversary beta updates, ipDTL can do what ISDN can’t:
1. Much lower latency
2. Lower latency with two simultaneous connections: with an additional option for four simultaneous connections in the premium studio versions.
3. The ability to solo inputs with PFL options via the interface mixer
4. The ability (finally!) to record the incoming audio via ipDTL
5. The ability to record the incoming audio and download as separate takes either as a high-resolution .mp3 or as a 48 kHz 16 bit stereo .wav file.
6. Live chat feature which will keep all parties connected online even if the audio or video connection is dropped.
7. Live collaborative script editor. Paste in your entire script from word!
8. With the new “Tel” and “Tel +” subscription options, you can also still bridge to ISDN on-demand 24/7/365
9. Also, with “Tel” you can connect to land lines. No more terrible Skype Connections
10. With “Tel +” you can connect to land and mobile phones and call ISDN lines. Standard Tel can only receive ISDN calls.
New Audio Mixer interface
Let’s walk through the faders from left to right:
Red fader controls the send level of your microphone
Blue fader controls the level of the uploaded playback audio clips (another great ipDTL feature)
Maroon fader controls the first ipDTL user you connect to.
Orange fader controls the second ipDTL user you connect to.
Black fader controls the total output of the mixer that you send ‘down the line’
Finally, the Silver fader controls the mixed feed to the ‘Receive Audio’ device. It doesn’t include the audio you send down the line.
There will always be very good reasons to use ISDN for many applications. Live broadcast events springs to mind. However, as a production solution for live-direction of remote session voice overs, ipDTL is all-encompassing. The ipDTL 3rd Anniversary Upgrades Remote Recording Voice Over Solution is a comprehensive solution for media production: voice overs, music production, interviews, podcasting, and mult-party voice acting.
Don’t Settle for Skype! Use ipDTL
Because so many remote sessions are being done by producers on their cellphones or in conference calls, don’t settle for Skype to interface with. Skype doesn’t cut it. Classic phone patch doesn’t cut it. The audio is terrible. How many times do you have to ask the talent “Um, I’m not sure if you said the plural S on the end of the product name in the fifth line?” Yet that won’t happen with ipDTL. It’s been years since Skype promised a high-quality audio “Skype TX” and it was never delivered.
In conclusion, ipDTL has been good on its promises to improve every year and listen to the demands of the media production people that use it all over the world. As a result, the ipDTL 3rd Anniversary version delivers on being the complete remote recording voice over solution.
How do you get that professional finished sound for voice overs from a home or remote studio? You don’t need to spend a lot of money on gear if you have no weak links in your audio chain. And you don’t need to have the best gear if you use it correctly. A U87 positioned incorrectly is not the best gear. Here are 10 Tips for Great Voice Over Recordings: including audio processing for corporate or E Learning clients that do not have post-production capabilities.
Pre and Post-recording audio tips
Have a great sounding room. Make sure your recording area is quiet, with a noise floor of at least 60 dBFS. The room should have acoustic treatment with DIY or professionally built acoustic panels and bass traps. Some foam and absorbent blankets can help. The idea is to eliminate reverberation and any overstated low frequencies that create a tubby or muddy sound. Also watch out for close sound reflections that can come from a large desk area or a metal script stand. It’s a good idea to cover these with carpet samples. When I record close to a computer screen, I tilt it slightly away from me, so the sound isn’t reflecting straight back.
Have a good microphone. While studios may ask specifically for a U87, TLM-103, or MKH 416, you don’t have to own one to get a great sound these days. There are so many manufacturers out there making great microphones. Look for a mic that has a consistent response pattern and low self-noise. Below 14 dB-A is ideal. Consider the pick-up pattern. A tight-patterned cardioid mic is good for recording voice, but if it’s too tight it’s difficult to stay on axis to do voice acting.
Have a quality preamp Again, this doesn’t require the best gear. It’s how you use it. I’ve heard plenty of voice overs done with $2000-$3000 preamps that well, didn’t sound all that great. It’s all in how you use it. Whatever you use, if it has an on-board High Pass Filter (HPF) set to 100 Hz or higher, do not use it. There is a lot of sound in the voice between 70 Hz and 100 Hz, and the 100 Hz filter is essentially removing the lower octave resonance of the voice. It will sound thin! Filters set to 80 Hz and below are fine. Many new preamps and mixers are using 100 Hz HPF to ‘limit proximity effect’ but that should be resolved with better mic technique. Many audio interfaces now have good to excellent preamps built into them (Audient, Metric Halo, even the affordable Focusrite gear) so this might not even be an issue.
Gain Staging. If you’re using an outboard preamp, set your gain there, and then send it line in to your audio interface. Important: make sure the gain on the interface is as low as possible. When you are running two higher sets of gain it’s a case of ‘too many cooks spoils the broth’. The sound will be veiled and muddy. Another thing to note is that you should set your recording levels to be between -20 dBFS and -12 dbFS on your DAW recording software. “dbFS” means “Decibels Relative to Full Scale” which is the decibel wave amplitude measurement in digital systems. -20 dBFS is the digital equivalent of the good old “0” in VU analogue recording. Don’t record things too hot. Keep it cool, and then turn up the volume heat after you record. For further explanation about recording levels for DAWs, check out this good article from Sound on Sound. In many ways, Gain Staging is arguably the most important of the 10 Tips for Great Voice Over Recordings!
Record at 48 kHz /24 bit. Okay, okay…I know 44 kHz / 16 bit is all that is needed for excellent sound for the range of human hearing. However, if you are going to process the audio for post production, the effects will work a bit better with the higher rates. Then, you can down convert however you’d like.
EQ I always send raw, unprocessed audio files to professional studios. But when I’m sending to corporate or E Learning clients that do not have dedicated audio engineers, I’ll do some gentle processing on my side. For EQing, I usually run a parametric EQ like the one below in Adobe Audition CC. The HPF is set to 70 Hz. There’s a little notch at 200 Hz to take out some muddiness. A slight bump at 3 kHz for presence, and two more at 12 and 18 kHz for ‘airyness’ or sheen. Note also that I EQ before running a compressor. I want the compressor to reduce the right frequencies. If I run the compressor first, it will react to the overstated frequencies.
Expanders – If the noise floor is at -60 dBFS, you don’t need an expander. But if it’s slightly above, I would recommend a gentle expander set to 2:1 at -60 dBFS. I usually set them to have the same attack and release as my compression, which is 8ms and 80ms respectively.
Compression – I set my compression to 2:1 with 8 ms attack and 80 ms release. The threshold is set to where the compression never reduces more than -3 dB (the meter on the right in the picture below)
Full Signal – If everything has gone right so far, all you need to do is raise the volume to peaks no higher than -3 dDBF. I want to give the end client some headroom when uploading their video or mixing in some music.
Always check your video’s audio when it’s uploaded. On many occasions I’ve seen a client upload a voice over video and it was badly encoded on the upload with harsh or distorted sound. Most of the time this happens with YouTube, but also with some dedicated websites. QC your audio when it’s uploaded. If it doesn’t sound right, all it takes sometimes is just to re-upload the video.
Good luck, and I hope you found these 10 Tips for Great Voice Over Recordings helpful. Let me know in the comments what other tips and advice you have to share with others. Thanks!
When producing my new commercial voice over demo, we didn’t target toy commercial voice overs. Sure, we wanted to make it lots of fun, humorous, and show my friendly-dad personality. But the concept was to sell toys for grown up kids. Think: cars and pizza! And not toys for real kids. However, that’s what I’ve been doing a lot of lately. And it’s been a blast!
It’s a fun challenge to have lots of energy but not sound ‘big’. In most of my work I imagine that I’m speaking to a business colleague, or a neighbor next door. But not to a kid playing with toys inspired by the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. That’s what I’m doing in this commercial!
Speak Like Your Audience Speaks – And Still Be You.
The language in this spot is very basic, with short sentences. So how does one sound excited and engaging without sounding patronizing? Always try to speak to your audience in a way they understand and can identify with. I tried to imagine how this toy would be described by my kid or my neighbors’ kids. And also what they might say when playing with it.
Next is a spot for Thomas & Friends MINIS Motorized Raceway by Fisher Price. The language here is different. It’s for slightly older kids and the copy reads more like something for cool bikes and cars for older kids. However, it still needs a lighter touch. The direction was specifically to be like a “Hot Wheels” spot but not too big. Got it!
The last few toy spots I voiced required an altogether different tone. In these spots for Tonka and Dynacraft, the audience was not just kids, but their parents as well. The toys are larger more expensive toys that parents really need to be sold on. Those large dump trucks and cars that kids can drive around with an electric engine. So I needed to speak like a dad talking to other dads; while at the same time engaging with the kid audience watching their favorite shows. Thankfully, most of the heavy lifting was done by the great copy. But it still took understanding and care from both the talent and directors to get the right kind of fun tone for the spots.
I’ve had such a great time working on these commercials and look forward to more in the future! That’s why I love my work. So many different dynamic clients and types of projects!
The Vimeo Voice Over Group showcases voice overs in various styles and languages from around the world. Our group features short films, animations, documentaries, and works of a highly creative nature. All of which make use of voice over and narration in engaging and dynamic ways. You’ll find everything from big-budget international commercials to experimental student films. Also, The group is truly international, with voice overs in Arabic, French, German, Spanish, and Russian among a growing list of languages. Almost all contributors are film makers, animators, and voice talents themselves.
Guidlines for Video Submission and Membership
The group welcomes submissions in any genre, length, or language. Even demo reels are approved if they are true video reels of actual work. However, videos that promote voice over related events, conferences, or products are not welcome. Furthermore, please do not submit podcasts or video round-tables about voice over. Otherwise, the group is open to the public. Most of all, feel free to join and submit your favorite videos today!
The Vimeo Voice Over Group: A Place to Share and Learn
I started the Vimeo Voice Over Group in 2010 and I’ve greatly enjoyed being its moderator. I’ve learned so much from seeing the different uses of narrative from around the world. Currently, the group has 120 members and 130 videos. While I love the contributions of our members so far, my goal is to have 200 videos and 200 members by the end of the year. As a result, this week I added this fantastic advertisement for Emirate Airlines, and this beautifully animated and voiced explainer video. Our group is a great platform for sharing your own work, or just work that you admire. In addition, It’s also a way for voice over talent to connect with and be inspired by excellent directors and film makers. Tell your friends and colleagues, and feel free to join in the fun!