English is a global language, with over 430 million people speaking it as their first language. But it is also the global business language, with estimates that 1 to 1.5 billion people speak English as their second language. To reach this audience, many of my corporate and commercial voice over clients produce media in English even if it isn’t specifically targeted to countries where English is the primary language. The way most people speak English around the world isn’t American. It isn’t British English either. So what is the alternative for an international sounding voice? There is the Neutral Accent English for Global Business Voice Over. But what is that? Let’s first examine what it is not, and then discuss what it is and when it is the right choice for your voice over.
Neutral Accent English: What it is Not
Many of my voice over colleagues in the US and UK dismiss the Neutral Accent as a non-existent myth: an affectation. They cite cheesy Americanized radio DJs in the UK, or the way movie stars and the elite spoke in the US in the first half of the 20th century. However, that is the Trans-Atlantic or Mid-Atlantic Accent. And my colleagues are right that it is an affectation. It relies on several characteristics that the Neutral Accent English voice do not have:
A high register/pitched voice
Dropped “R” sound (non-rhotic)
Over-pronounced hard “T” sound
Deliberate or conscious attempt to shift vowel placing from American to English RP (Received Pronunciation), even if not fully so.
Neutral Accent English in the Real World
Every day, Neutral Accent English is spoken by millions of people outside of the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. It is the accent of Global Business Voice Over. My German and French clients who are fluent in English speak it. Anyone from a country where English is not the native language, but learned it well, speaks it. They don’t try to sound American or British. It’s not possible, because Neutral Accent English has:
A lower register/pitched voice
Pronounced “R” sounds
Neutral “T” sounds
No deliberate attempt to adapt vowels or phrasing/song to American or British
So when is Neutral Accent English the right choice for your voice over? I’ll cite the reasons my clients give. First, when you want a voice that isn’t distinctively English or American. My German, French, and Scandinavian clients often request this voice. Second, when it is for an English Language channel in, for example, Amsterdam or Dubai. I have recorded commercials and corporate videos in both of those markets with Neutral Accent English. Finally, another good reason to chose such a voice would be for an international trade fair, international e-learning, or a commercial to air in multiple countries. A great resource for international English voice overs are bi-lingual voice talent. You can find some of them on my list of international voice over talent.
To hear my 60 second demo of voice over clips using Neutral Accent English press play below. Thank you for reading!
I’m pleased to now offer to live directed sessions with Source Connect for voice over. Robert Marshall, Co-Founder of the Source Connect company, Source Elements, went above and beyond with a call to go through the set up, use, and features of this powerful ISDN replacement tool. While I use REAPER as my DAW, it is fully supported by Source Connect. We successfully tested the remote control video sync playback for dubbing.
Speaking of dubbing, that’s part of the reason why I’m going with Source Connect for voice over and no longer subscribe to ipDTL. I love ipDTL, and it’s a fantastic tool for podcasting and broadcasting. But, it doesn’t have video playback for dubbing/ADR. I paid for the full package for ipDTL, including the dedicated Los Angeles ISDN number, and none of my clients wanted to use it.
In fact, my European clients who had both ipDTL and the similar SessionLink Pro were using the latter exclusively over ipDTL. They found their SessionLink Pro connections to be better and of higher quality with fewer artifacts, and we could do video playback with it.
Providing the Right Tools for My Clients
This brought me back to a core value: providing the right tools for my clients. If a client wants to do an ipDTL session and they own a subscription, I can still log into their session. But choice isn’t mine as the voice over talent. Over the years, I managed to encourage a few corporate clients to try ipDTL; but in general they are not interested. Lately, they prefer to use Go To Meeting or Skype for Business because most of these projects require conference calls hosted in an office, not in a production studio.
ipDTL confused too many of my corporate clients. Podcasters and broadcasters understand it, but not business people. It took me an hour once to show a video game producer in the UK how to set up her laptop for ipDTL. And on top of that, the Opus Codec on which ipDTL runs is highly unreliable on Windows 10 for a substantial number of users. Note that on September 18, 2018 they launched a big update of Opus Codec which hopefully fixes many issues. Check my previous post on alternatives to Chrome for Opus Codec streaming.
I realized that my Corporate, E-Learning, and Explainer Video clients don’t need ipDTL at all. My studio is covered for them with phone patch or Skype, Go To Meeting, and so on. But for commercial, animation, and dubbing, I need the right tools. Those tools are ISDN and Source Connect. Major American production studios have adopted Source Connect; and accept them going through their firewalls, which is not the case with Opus Codec solutions. As for ISDN, I have access to many nearby Atlanta recording studios for ISDN sessions. From my own studio, I’m happy to offer Source Connect for voice over. An added bonus I can offer for live sessions is with my Yamaha MG10XU USB mixer, I can playback takes on demand whether using Source Connect, ipDTL, or SessionLink Pro. It’s all about having the best tools for my clients.
Voice Over recording and editing with REAPER just like one would do in Edit Mode of Adobe Audition is not only possible, it’s easy and more powerful. Admittedly, I looked at Reaper several times in the past and it seemed too complicated, and I couldn’t figure out how to make quick time selection edits which are crucial for VO editing. But then I found a hack by that makes it just like editing in Edit mode in Adobe Audition. The video on how to do it is here at The Booth Junkies YouTube Channel. You just set up a Action command key to do four steps at once. It takes one minute to set it up. Okay, maybe two or three with a good cup of tea or coffee.
1.) Go to the Actions menu
2.) Choose “Show Actions List”
3.) Then drag and drop the following actions into the custom actions section:
1.) “Set Ripple Editing Per Track” 2.) “Item: Split Items at Time Selection” 3.) “Time Selection: Remove contents of time selection (moving later items)” 4.) “Go to end of time selection”
4.) Set a key shortcut and name for these Custom Actions (I chose “Delete”). I also then set “0” for deleting sections of track Items so I could do that as well.
Yes, there is a learning curve with REAPER, but I got it up to speed in three days and I’m doing e-learning editing, etc. with it. In principle, I’m not paying Adobe a likely $3k over the next decade in their quest to replace human voices with digital ones. You know that Audition is not going to be $19.99 a month ten years from now, right? But you get so much more with using REAPER over Adobe Audition, and for only a $225 one-time payment, which also covers upgrades through version 6.99. That should leave you set for about a decade. There is a 60-day free trial period, and if you are making less than $20,000 with REAPER, the non-commercial license is $60. Another nice bonus over Audition is according to the terms, “If you own multiple computers, you may install the same license key on all of them, as long as you only use REAPER on one computer at a time.”
Doing More with REAPER than with Audition
Once you’ve worked out how to do voice over recording and editing with REAPER, you will soon see that it’s incredibly powerful, similar to DAWs like Cubase. There is fully customizable punch and roll capabilities. In Audition, there is only a nice but limited free Add-On to do so. REAPER also has spectral editing, but what I love is the Spectral Peaks capability, so you can really see what the words are in the wavelengths. Here’s an example below. Different peak frequencies appear in different colors. Perfect for unicorn-lovers and chasing away the drab interface of Audition.
Note two other things in the screenshot above. You can drop in markers as you record (the red lines), and the grey/gray separation lines are for the ‘items’ that are automatically created when you make an edit. No more confusion as in Audition as to what you actually just cut, especially since REAPER is ‘non-destructive’ editing. I added in the little track icon for the shotgun mic, one of the nice features for labeling tracks.
You can apply effects, such as noise reduction, to the whole track or selections. Honestly find the built in dynamic processing in REAPER to be superior in quality and speed to that of Audition. As for VST plug-in use, I noticed that running Izotope RX6 Elements Noise Reduction had better latency and quicker rendering with REAPER.
Another nice feature is that you don’t “Save” keeper takes/files. You “Render” them. So, when I’m done with a voice over I select the time parameters with the cursor and Render the time selection to a computer Directory. On Adobe, it just shows you the time it will take to Save. In REAPER it pops up a window with a live-generated waveform and metering levels of the audio. So you can see ahead of time if the exported levels are correct, and if there’s any clipping. Sweet!
Time-Stretching Audio and Video Editing with REAPER
One of my biggest beefs with Adobe Audition is their gimmicky pre-sets without the power to do substantial things. For example, you can play-back at 2x speed with Audition. That’s helpful for editing long narration, but with even the latest Audition CC 2018 any hard consonants come across as popped plosives. And 2x is a bit too fast for intelligible playback. Even basic Sound Forge lets one play back at custom speeds and the playback is flawless. With REAPER, the playback at higher slider-selected speed it excellent. Just remember to set it back to 1.0 when you Render your files, otherwise it will save it at the fast speed! When I first made this mistake I realized something: REAPER’s time-stretching/compressing power. You can shorten or lengthen audio and it sounds perfect. Just press ALT and move the cursor to the edge of an Item. You can pull it out or in. It will re-set to the new speed to fill in the space. You can make a :30 a :20 and it doesn’t sound artificial like it does in Audition. Whenever I tried to make time changes of more than 8% there would be all kinds of staggered sounds. Not so with REAPER! Here’s a :12 clip followed by it again sped waaaay up to :09. And this edit was done using an mp3, not even a loss-less file!
And yes, when you make these changes when working with a video file, it will change the video timing too! You can make simple video edits within REAPER. If you copy, delete, or paste a section of the audio, it will do the same to the video. Pretty cool stuff. If you are working on Windows, in order to work with video in REAPER you will need to download the free VLC Media Player available here.
So far so good – after using Audition for much of my voice over career I’ve switched to REAPER and I’m doing more with it than I ever did with Audition. I’ll post more as I learn new tricks and tips. For now, there’s a great amount of YouTube videos on voice over recording and editing with REAPER that are extremely helpful. I encourage you to go check them out as I will be doing when I have the time!
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!
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
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!
Adobe has greatly improved Audition CC 2018 with its new release making it a more flexible and powerful DAW for voice over post-production.
What does that mean for you as an audio engineer, a voice over client, or a voice over talent?
Some of the more notable features are:
Auto-ducking of music beds via the Essential Sound panel.
Support for the Mackie HUI control surface protocol.
New updated version of the discontinued Premiere Pro Dynamics
Impressive Generate Speech function. I was able to turn a 30 minute script into a high-quality male or female computer voice in 90 seconds. The functionality of this is basic for Windows but comprehensive and very powerful on Mac versions.
Learning How to Make the Most of Audition
To make the most out of Adobe Audition CC 2018, you must change a setting they reversed for monitoring inputs. All one needs to do is uncheck the “Enable Smart Monitoring” preference. Otherwise, your monitoring will loopback while recording. Choose “Preferences>Multitrack>When Arming Tracks For Record>Enable Smart Monitoring”. Then to monitor while recording, click the “I” button on the channel strip. Nice of Adobe not to warn anybody about this ahead of time, but now you know!
Audio Engineer Mike Russell has a helpful YouTube playlist of all his video tutorials about using the new features in practice.
I’ve really enjoyed using AA CC 2017 this year as an upgrade to my previous Adobe Audition 3 recording software. My only two complaints have been the obvious ones shared by other users. First, the subscription price is steep compared to other DAWs. Second, automatic upgrades have been deleting user Keyboard Shortcuts.
Note that when you upgrade from Audition CC 2017 to the 2018 version check to see if you will have to re-enter those Keyboard Shortcuts. Mine saved perfectly, thankfully. Also, you will need to re-load your VST and VST3 plugins, and then assign shortcuts for those. Perhaps most importantly, make sure that you go to Edit > Preferences > Audio Hardware to make sure it is seeing your settings for your audio interface properly. It will default to MME in most Windows computers, so be sure to select ASIO under “Device Class” drop-down menu in the Audio Hardware page.
The Essential Sound Panel will be very helpful for audio editors when mixing sound and narration. My favorite preset in name at least is “That Public Radio Sound” which indeed does not disappoint, just like the rest of this new Audition upgrade. My hope is that most of these presets are not-very subtle, especially the impact of compression, and that most people will adhere to the rule “if you notice the effect of an Effect, dial it back.” But it’s nice to have these tools in the kit with Adobe Audition CC 2018 for Voice Over Production. I’m finding that the Vocal Enhancer setting which has male and female settings are pretty much a set it and forget it solution for full sounding voice over auditions, and could be a great tool for editors on a tight schedule.