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10 Tips for Great Voice Over Recordings

10 Tips for Great Sounding Voice Over Recordings

10 Tips for Great Voice Over Recordings

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.Voice Over EQ - 10 Tips for Great Voice Over Recordings
  7. 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.
  8. 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)Voice Over Compressor - 10 Tips for Great Voice Over Recordings
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

Toy Commercial Voice Overs

Toy Commercial Voice Overs

Toy Commercial Voice Overs: A Different Audience!

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

The Vimeo Voice Over Group

What is The Vimeo Voice Over Group?

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!

International Voice Over Talents

International Voice Over Talents

How to Find International Voice Over Talents

Here’s a guide to help you find international voice over talents. Because I’m an American voice over talent for International media, my clients hire me for my neutral accented voice for their US English translations or overdubs . However, usually these projects require versions done in several languages. As a result, that’s why I keep good relationships with several of my colleagues who perform voice overs in diverse languages from around the world. In addition, they’re all wonderful people! The following are my highly-recommended fellow voice over talents that I have happily and successfully recommended to my clients:

Spanish Language Voice Over Talents:

Armando Plata, based in Miami and Atlanta, has a authoritative voice of gravitas that my corporate clients have loved on many of their projects for Latin-American audiences in North America. Penelope Saray is an accomplished voice over and on-camera talent. She also is an experienced script-writer and translator!

French Language Voice Over Talents:

Liz De Nesnera is a versatile native-French speaker and English voice over talent based in the United States, with a specialty in IVR and E Learning projects.

German Language Voice Over Talents:

Roy Gablinger, based in Zurich, Switzerland, is one of the best known German voice over talents. Recording commercials for brands like Lufthansa, BMW, Apple, UBS, Roy also narrates for imagefilms, explainerfilms, and e Learning.

Andreas Otto, from Hamburg, Germany has a great voice for imagefilms. Also, he’s superb for promos and voice acting for dubbing and animation.

British English Voice Over Talents:

Got to give it up for my US-based UK pals Mike Cooper and Chris Flockton; due to both of them being talented voice actors with very engaging styles. And, for cartoon voice acting and fantastic impressions, you can’t beat Darren Altman. Female British Voice Over Talent? That’s an easy one: Emma Clarke.

Russian Voice Over Talents:

Natalia Aleynikova is a native Russian voice over talent and an excellent English and French to Russian translator. Her husband, Konstatin translates English and German into Russian. Together, they’re quite a team! Pavel Kuklin lives in Queens, NY. He brings an authentic Russian voice while also dishing out a New York attitude and whimsy! He’s a top-notch talent that can handle a full range of voice acting. You can check out a lot of his work at the Vimeo Voice Over Group that I founded! 

Female American Voice Over Talents:

Finally, The Voxy Ladies is the go-to guild for the best American female voice over talents. There, you’ll find some of my female colleagues like Kelley Buttrick.