Voice Over Talent and some producers and directors ask me “How Do You Playback Audio to Voice Over Clients?” for remote recording sessions. Yamaha recently released their new small format audio mixers in the MG line. I’m pleased to report that my MGX10U is an all-in one solution for the voice over studio that makes audio playback easy. It has:
1.) Great sounding mic preamps that are clean and have great headroom
2.) Solid USB Interface with nice converters. They’re same ones found in Steinberg interfaces: yes, Yamaha makes those.
3.) Ability to playback any computer audio source to a director/client (including your DAW) without extra routing. Just press the red button on channel 9/10 when you need to play audio down the line.
I added it to my voice over studio because I wanted a 2-in/2-out USB interface like the Focusrite Scarlett but with better preamps. Unfortunately with Scarlett interfaces, even when one goes line-in from an external preamp on the bigger Focusrite models, the audio still goes through the Scarlett preamp. That’s not terrible, but I wanted something better, with the ability to run a gentle 80 Hz HPF as I recorded if possible. The MG10XU mixer is an audio interface and preamp all-in-one. And yes, the preamps, conversion, and playback all sounds better than the Scarlett. As a bonus, it’s not huge or heavy, and can fit easily in a briefcase for travel.
The Game Changer: Playback any Audio to Your Clients
But this isn’t just a Yamaha mixer, it’s an invaluable voice over tool. You can playback any audio source from your computer to the client without doing any routing tricks. The 9/10 Channel controls the playback from your computer…and it goes right back down the main output as long as the red button on that channel is switched from Monitor to Stereo output. So anything you just recorded in ProTools or Audition you can just cue it up and play, and control the output with the volume pot. Any streaming sound from YouTube or Vimeo can go down the line too. This works with all the remote recording solutions like Source Connect, ipDTL, Skype, and SessionLinkPro. If the client can hear you, they will hear the playback on command.
Update: I discussed this with voice over tech guru George Whittam and he said that the Yamaha AG03 also has this ability in a smaller travel-size mixer for half the price. If you don’t need the extra inputs and additional routing then the AG03 is a great solution also. I think I’ll be getting one for my travel rig!
Voice Over Recording and Editing with REAPER: Just like Audition
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 DAW 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 DAW
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!
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.