Welcome the the Voice Over Blog and Links Hall of Fame. Tired of social media platforms? Miss news readers and active forums? Want to get right to the source with some of the best quality content out there related to voice over recording and production? Tired of foodie and cat lover pics on Instagram? Then you have come to the right place! You are welcome to suggest blogs and links in the comments section. Thank you.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation
If you are in the market for a small, inexpensive quality audio interface for voice over, one of the most popular choices is the Focusrite Scarlett. I had owned the 2i2 First Generation as part of a backup/travel rig, but upgraded to the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation when it came out in the summer of 2016. As a result, the improvement was noticeable in all areas:
- First of all, 8 dB more headroom for instrument inputs.
- Significantly lower latency than was achieved with the First Generation model.
- Surge protection for inputs and outputs.
- More even gain structure for setting mic levels. With the old version, good settings were often near the end of the dial.
- Better converters that handle up to 192 kHz and 24 bit audio.
- Ships with Avid Pro Tools First and additional plugins, loops, and software.
- Much louder headphone amp than in the original. This might be one of the best reasons to upgrade.
- And finally, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation has more clearly marked dials.
Making the switch to New Scarlett Audio Interfaces.
So, if you own a first-generation 2i2 or another Scarlett audio interface, I highly recommend you make the switch to the newer models. When buying, how can you be sure it’s the second-generation model? Focusrite has a handy guide to let you know. If the serial number starts with a V or W, it’s second-generation. If it starts with a S or T, it’s first-generation.
With all the amazing advances in voice over friendly audio interfaces over the past few years from almost all the popular brands like Universal Audio , Yamaha, Presonus, and RME, don’t settle for an old Focusrite interface. Make sure you choose the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Second Generation or other Scarlett Second Generation gear.
Voice Over Studio Equipment : Analog to Digital
When you book me for your voice over project, you are hiring my voice and talent: but also my expertise and training. And along with that, you are hiring me for my time, often including a built in rate for editing the voice over audio sessions into video edit-ready sound files. But you are also hiring me for my voice over studio equipment. Let’s go through the signal chain of my studio, from my voice to your ear.
1.) First, I am using a new Rode NT1 large diaphragm condenser microphone with 4.5 dBA self noise. Love it more than the TLM-103 or the CAD E100S I used to own! Great for voicing everything from videogames to e-learning. For my travel rig, I use a Rode NTG3 microphone. It has the same sound as a Sennheiser MKH 416, but with a little more response around 100-200 Hz. It has the same self noise of 13 dBA : but in practice the self-noise is lower because the Rode has a significantly louder output. So you don’t need to crank up the gain to get a full, clean signal that cuts through the mix but isn’t brittle. Perfect for voice over. I leant out my microphone to the VO Atlanta Conference remote recording booth while I attended and the talents and engineer George Whittam were very pleased with it.
2.) Next in the chain of my voice over studio equipment, my mic is plugged into high quality Mogami Gold XLR cables and mounted with a strong and quiet Rode PSA1 Boom Arm. It’s true that you don’t need massively expensive XLR cables, but the quality ones like Mogami, ProCo, and Canare do sound better than the cheap ones and have higher shielding coverage.
3.) From there, the cable runs to my Yamaha MG10XU mixer with nice clean preamps in them. All I have to do to play back any audio down the line during a remotely directed session is just call up stereo fader 9/10! But don’t forget that everything should have clean, reliable power. That’s why everything in my studio is powered with M-8×2 power conditioners plugged into Liebert UPC Battery Backup / Surge Protector units. I recommend the Liebert models over APC.
For my travel rig, I pair my NTG3 with a Focusrite 2i2 New Generation audio interface. The New Generation model, which is a great improvement over the first generation model that I once owned, has a great sound with extremely low latency and good headphone amplifiers. It’s conveniently travel-sized and you can buy them anywhere if needed
On the Digital Side of Recording Voice Overs
4.) The Focusrite interfaces then connects to my brand new iMac. Yes, after 12 years in the voice over business I’ve switched from a PC to a Mac! The final straw was that Windows 10 is simply incompatible with modern audio streaming services. A Mac is fool proof when working with drivers and streaming products. The iMac is silent, even though I record in a separate booth with a tablet and script stand. I didn’t go for a laptop as I prefer to have the larger 21″ screen for editing. I can still record on my PC laptop on the road. But I’m home at my studio with my voice over studio equipment nearly year round, even during holidays!
5.) Inside the iMac is my new favorite tool: the REAPER DAW. I’ve ditched my Adobe Audition Creative Cloud subscription, and REAPER can do so much more. What’s it like? Check out this video showing my open source customized REAPER skin. Amazingly, this video was edited and exported using REAPER without the use of any video editing tools. It’s that powerful. And it costs about the same as one year subscription to Audition Creative Cloud, but then you’re not renting it. You own it! To get the most out of my DAW, I record at 48 kHz 24 bit, no matter what the final file resolution is. Always the best quality for source material!
If you’re a corporate or E Learning producer with limited audio editing and processing capabilities, I can process the files for you using my suite of plugins to give you nice, gently processed, ready to publish audio with -3dBFS peaks. I was an audio engineer for film and broadcast years before I was a voice talent, so you can trust me on this! In the video below, I have recorded audio as-is in blue, and then the following yellow section is the same audio fully processed.
You can connect with me on Source Connect, Skype, or phone patch. And I’m experienced with connecting to studios that have ipDTL or SessionLinkPro. After the recording is done, I proof everything listening to my Yamaha HS50M monitors or Sennheiser HD280 headphones.
When you hire me, you are getting my voice, training, time, experience, and my voice over studio equipment. All having the highest quality. My goal is always quick turnaround, and lasting results.
All the best,
Why You Need Alternatives to Chrome for Audio Streaming
There are many resources now for streaming audio over an internet browser, such as ipDTL, SessionLinkPro, and Bodalgocall. While conventional wisdom says to use such streaming services on a Chrome browser, that’s not necessarily your only, or best, choice. There are now also many alternatives to Chrome for audio streaming voice over studio connections. Chrome uses the Opus Codec for streaming audio, but what is Chrome? It’s an Open Source Chromium browser. The difference between a Chrome and Chromium browser is well explained in this How-To Geek article. There are many of those other than Chrome, and they’re not made by Alphabet / Google. So, in fact, you can use these services in most cases with any Open Source Chromium browser such as Opera or Yandex. I was the first voice over talent to test ipDTL on either of those browsers and I regularly run my sessions with the Opera browser. But why would you need alternatives to Chrome for Audio Streaming? Consider the following four points:
- Chrome is a big resource drain on computers. Enough said.
- Google is always stripping out or killing off programs and capabilities, as well as releasing incompatible upgrades. Can you trust Chrome will always work?
- Privacy concerns. If you don’t already know how invasive Google is, Bing or Duck Duck Go it.
- Redundancy and backup services. Always good policy to have backups in the toolbox for audio streaming voice over in case Chrome lets you down.
Your Options with Google and Microsoft.
Outside of Opera and Yandex, there is another Chrome solution other than the latest Chrome browser. The support staff at ipDTL recommends using the M57 and not the latest version of Chrome. ipDTL has also released stable Chromium versions which are free to download at the Facebook ipDTL Users Group. Join up, and then search for Chromium Browsers. I highly recommend the group for all your technical questions related to ipDTL, and they’re very quick and helpful with their responses.
As for the Edge browser, they’re getting closer to supporting Opus Codec for streaming but dragging their heels. Recall that a few years back Microsoft promised a Skype TX high-quality audio streaming voice over service but that was all hype and no action. Not even an alpha version was developed. So, don’t hold your breath for that.
Streaming Audio with Firefox Quantum.
However, Firefox has upped their game in so many ways with the new Firefox Quantum browser. It’s fast, stable, and works with almost any application or site. Most of all, while Firefox has supported Opus Codec since 2012, it now supports audio streaming solutions. I’ve successfully used it on many sessions on Windows 10 with ipDTL and SessionLink Pro. Still, there is not complete support/compatibility with Firefox Quantum, but it’s very close. I asked Kevin Leach of In:Quality, the company behind ipDTL and he replied:
“Frustratingly, Firefox has always been slightly behind the Blink based browsers such as Chrome in terms of what we need to get the best out of ipDTL. That said, it’s come on some way recently and you can now run ipDTL in Firefox with just a couple of limitations, and this is a neat solution for those who have had audio problems between Chrome and Windows 10.
We’ve actually been throwing some of our own development effort into Firefox recently – as its open source structure allows us to do so – which should hopefully see things like output device selection being possible in the near future. This means that we’ll soon be able to announce full support for Firefox in ipDTL, allowing for greater flexibility in browser choice. Our contribution here will also benefit users of ipDTL ‘lookalike’ apps.”
So there you have it. If you need alternatives to Chrome for audio streaming voice over studio connections you have several choices: M57 Chrome, Custom Chromium, Opera, Yandex, and Firefox Quantum.
Good luck, and here’s wishing you a great session!
Using Voice Over Rate Guides
When hiring a voice over talent and fixing your budget for your project, there are many variables to consider. Yet all of which can be addressed with current and accurate Voice Over Rate Guides. Especially relevant are these questions:
- Union or Non-Union talent?
- What size of market? Which domestic or international markets?
- Duration of use?
- Which media? Web Usage is not inexpensive anymore, and is now more in line with conventional broadcast.
Union and Non-Union Rates
First, let’s look at the current rates for Union Voice Over Talent with the SAG/AFTRA rate calculator. This is an excellent interactive guide to show producers exactly how much a union voice over costs and what the money goes to. Even as a non-union voice talent in a ‘Right to Work’ state, I use these standards as an important reference. An eight-week option for an internet-only commercial is $1833.30. The days of a couple hundred bucks for internet use as a side item is long past.
If you have selected a non-union voice over talent, The Global Voice Over Academy (GVAA) has an excellent rate guide for Non-Union voice over work. As well as detailing non-union and union rates for radio, television, corporate, and E-Learning voice overs, it features a breakdown for rates by US markets. Most noteworthy is the newest addition to the rates: the overview of Web Usage. This is imperative as ‘internet only’ isn’t an excuse anymore for low budgets. Furthermore, the internet is now just as important as television or radio and in many cases has greater reach and impact. The GVAA guide Web Usage covers:
- Commercial Web-Only: Paid Placement, Pre-Roll
- Social Media Usage
- Non-Commercial Informational Web Videos
- Internet Streaming Radio
- Internet Closed Platform Radio
- Digital Greeting Cards
- Podcast Intro/Outro
International Voice Over Rate Guides
Gravy for the Brain put out another comprehensive rate guide for all types of media for the UK market. While I’ve seen rates slip a bit for the UK lately, especially for explainer videos, I hope this and other voice over rate guides will help reverse that trend.
In addition, French voix-off talent Thomas Dormoy discusses various rates in France in his blog here. I find that his rates are the same as my experiences with working for French clients. For a list of other recommended international voice talents, please see my post here.
One of the better European markets for requiring American English voice overs is Poland. As a result I’ve had the pleasure of working for many producers and talent rosters there, and the rate guide at Mikrofonika is thorough and well-presented. Hence, it gives a good benchmark also for comparing to other European markets outside of the UK, France, and Germany. And they have great creative projects too, like the one here where I play Leon the Cat!
Remember, just as no voice over talent is one-size-fits-all, rates will vary depending on the market, usage, and experience level of the talent. However, it is great that for both producers and talents alike that SAG/AFTRA and the GVAA have put together such comprehensive and easy-to-follow voice over rate guides. Most importantly, they both have addressed the prevalence of Web Usage and that it should be paid for accordingly.
Finally, if any of you have access to rate guides in various international markets, please write to me. I’ll add them to this post and be sure to credit you. Thank you!
All the best,