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Voice Over Studio Equipment REAPER Recording and Editing

Voice Over Studio Equipment : Analog to Digital with Lance Blair

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 Soundcraft Signature 10 USB mixer with nice Ghost 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.

Voice Over Recording and Editing with REAPER from Lance Blair Voice Over on Vimeo.

You can connect with me on phone patch, Skype, or ipDTL. I even have an ipDTL to ISDN bridge at +1 213 228 6850. 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,
Lance

Atlernatives to Chrome for Voice Over Studio Connections

Alternatives to Chrome for Audio Streaming Voice Over Studio Connections

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:

  1. Chrome is a big resource drain on computers. Enough said.
  2. Google is always stripping out or killing off programs and capabilities, as well as releasing incompatible upgrades. Can you trust Chrome will always work?
  3. Privacy concerns. If you don’t already know how invasive Google is, Bing or Duck Duck Go it.
  4. 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!

-Lance

Voice Over Rate Guides

Voice Over Rate Guides

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:

  1. Union or Non-Union talent?
  2. What size of market? Which domestic or international markets?
  3. Duration of use?
  4. 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,
Lance

International Voice Over Production with Audiovisual Intelligence

International Voice Over Production with Audiovisual Intelligence

International Voice Over Production with Audiovisual Intelligence

I recently had the pleasure of discussing International Voice Over Production with Audiovisual Intelligence chief, Alex Jacobi. His company has two main studios: one in Dusseldorf, and their headquarters in Aachen, Germany. The studios feature a growing staff of 27 media experts. He founded the company over ten years ago when he made the switch from being a music producer to producing sound for commercial work. He realized that he would need a reliable roster of voice over talent for the amount of corporate video work he was producing. As a result, he decided to create a web tool for that, and sprechersprecher.de was born.

Today they are the largest voice casting company in Germany with a vast international scope. AI features over 12,000 voice over talents in over 40 languages. Along with sprechersprecher.de, Audiovisual Intelligence also has an online presence with their casting app Wundervoices. The app design helps producers find the exact voice talents they need. More importantly, these are all vetted native speakers: judged for their talent and studio specifications. You can listen to an excerpt from our interview here:

ipDTL for Remote International Recording

On the many projects that I have recorded for AI, we have used ipDTL to connect my Atlanta studio to their German studios. Alex Jacobi notes that ipDTL is fantastic not just because it’s a cheaper ISDN replacement, but because they work with global talents in their native countries, including Southeast Asia and Africa. For this, the ease of use and ubiquity of ipDTL makes it the great choice for remote international recording. Also, it even works with a Chromebook. Audiovisual Intelligence screens native speakers of dialects through two-to-three other native speakers for approval. They also work with native speakers to get the copy just right for multi-lingual productions. This is especially true for their work for FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) voice over clients.

Future Trends in Voice Over Casting

In conclusion, Alex Jacobi notes future trends in voice over casting are influenced by manufacturers now producing their commercials and videos internally with extensive marketing departments. However, marketers do not necessarily have the same skill set or expertise as the media producers and directors one would see on similar projects 20 years ago.  Casting companies need to provide voice over solutions and knowledge for them in many languages. That’s where Alex Jacobi’s company comes in to provide Audiovisual Intelligence.