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first voiceover job

Discussion in 'Recording' started by David French, Feb 20, 2003.

  1. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Hi all.

    I run a small music production studio, and since I need the money, I have taken on a voiceover job. The job is to record an audiobook for a 60 year old female author and since I have never done this type of work before, I am looking for advice. I already have a small, silent, very dead booth. The types of things i'd like to know are:

    What mics are best for this purpose and why? My main vocal mic, an NTK, has too much personality. I was thinking of renting an RE20 or an SM7. Any thoughts?

    What are typical microphone techniques used for VO recording?

    What type of compressor settings are generally used on VO? I have an RNC for hardware and Waves for software. Should I use compression during tracking or mastering or both?

    What types of additional processing are generally employed? EQ settings? De-essing?

    What is the desired overall character of the voice's sound?

    What should the meters read on a spoken word CD? Maxed out with a brickwall limiter or -6dBu?

    Thanks a bunch,
    David French
  2. jdsdj98

    jdsdj98 Active Member

    VO's are 95 percent of the work that I do. Hope I can be of at least a little help.

    This is good. Nothing is more annoying on a VO than room-iness.

    I haven't used either of these. Beware of a bright sounding mic, as your talent is female. Chances are she'll be ess-y. I've found an 87 and a Sony C48 to be a little troublesome doing VO's with ess-y female talent. 414 and my Blue Baby Bottle have done much better. The Baby Bottle's my favorite mic overall presently for VO work. Very natural sounding, keeps those ess's tamed.

    Nothing special. If your room is as dead as you say, I'd put her 10-12 inches away with a popper stopper or the like.

    I like to run a really fast attack time with a release of 100ms. Pretty fast, I know, but it seems to work for me. I'll let it compress 4-5 db. Compress going in from the get go. Beware that if she smacks her lips before/as she opens her mouth, as most inexperienced VO talent does, she's gonna trip the compressor. I usually try to coach people on lip smacks, wet mouth while breathing in, and paper shuffling. Paper shuffling and general rustling noise is magnified in VO work, because there's nothing there to fill in the silence to hide it. Coach them as much as you can to BE STILL AND BE QUIET. FINISH READING THE PAGE BEFORE YOU EVEN THINK OF PICKING IT UP, PUSHING IT TO THE SIDE, OR TURNING IT. Make sure you have a copy of the script/book to follow along, and if you see that a sentence flows from one page to the next, stop them at a good point in the page they're reading and go ahead and arrange the sheets to be able to continue once they reach that point.

    Again, this is female talent. Chances are she'll be ess-y. So yes, be prepared to de-ess if need be. If your de-esser crunches out or can't quite handle it, also dip out 3-4 db at 6k-7k. Otherwise, just run the eq flat and use your hi-pass at the console. Room rumble and table rumble (from her putting her hands on it, kicking it, whatever) are magnified in VO's.

    I think that's subjective and will depend on the client's input and the talent's on-mic voice. Hopefully she has an interesting voice and will animate this book well. Just listen to how she sounds on mic and use your ears.

    Don't max it out. It's a human voice, and it'll sound unnatural if it gets squashed. Nominal -6dBu, peaks hitting at 0dBu is fine.

    I'm assuming this'll be going to DAW???? I'm a Pro Tools user, and will follow along in the script while entering auto-locate points at every mistake or every instance that I hear something I want to edit. I'll enter a point for every take of a pick-up, and then circle the take that is the keeper. This lets me fly through the edit while still doing a meticulous job. This way I don't have to sit and listen the the whole d*mn thing again. Also, the letters s,f,v,h, and w are the easiest to do crossfades on. hard consanants like k,c,g,d,t,p, and b are the easiest to pick up with. Remember that if you need to cut individual syllables of words together. I always tell 'em I can make 'em say whatever I want them to.

    VO work's a breeze.

    Oh wait, no, no, no, it's not. All you music guys would HATE it. Very difficult money. Save yourself the trouble and send 'em my way.
  3. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Thanks a bunch, Cycle 60! You rock!


    Nah, man. I'm usin' a Studer A820 24 Track with a Neve 8078 console... j/k ;)

    One more thing... what kind of ratio do you use on the compressor?

    Thanks again!
  4. jdsdj98

    jdsdj98 Active Member

    Somewhere 'round 4:1 to 5:1 works great.
  5. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Hmm...I've done a few books for Simon&Schuster.
    Usually it's to DAT (although things have probably gone more daw in the years since I last did one).

    The RE20 would be a very good mic for what you're doing.

    Not a slam...but why do people always recommend mic's that are not among the standards if you are renting (a Blue mic for instance, is not among the stock of most rental comp.)

    The producer will tell you their pref for logging. Usually they will also want a few miutes of "room tone"...basically recording dead air with the mic as it's set up (best to doi after the session...as this will have the same gain staging/compression, ect as when you recorded the talent). This can/will be used by the editor to help with edits, or in worst case scenario to match the sound of your room, if a pick-up is done somewhere else at a laterdate. (another reason to document Mic/Pre/Compressor settings, and not EQ/De-Ess).

    Mic placement: Chest hight, off to the left or right to leave room for the script works well.

    Try to use just a little compression. Fast attack &release, lo ratio's. Refrain from using any EQ. Refrain from de-essing unless you must...try and get it with mic choice & placement. The RE20 is gpood for this...kinda like a "dymamic U47".

    Cheeers...this gigs are really pretty easy.

    Oh...BTW, it's best to have TWO DATS rolling. Be able to ad ID's on the fly to both. Must the signal into both so taht if one F's-up you got a safety (machine as well as tape).
    The ID#'s can be marked on the script, as well as some other codes/notes (I forget now the sandard protocall...maybe someone else here can refresh us on them)..but the producer (as I've said) should know what they want here.
  6. jdsdj98

    jdsdj98 Active Member

    Thanks Recorderman. I wasn't aware that there was a widespread protocol on documentation. I'd like to know more about it if anyone here does know.

    I prefer to comress, de-ess, and EQ because all of the projects I work on I do from beginning to end, and rarely have I had experience with producers who have inputs on the logistics of how I do my job of recording and editing. If I were simply recording the job and then sending it out to be edited/finished, then I would have a much more conservative approach to processing.

    As for mic pref's, I can only recommend what I have experience with. Unfortunately, I've never had the opportunity to audition an RE20 in a VO session. The only studios I work(ed) in are voice only studios with an extremely limited mic selection. I just wanted to mention what has worked for me based on my experience. Thanks.
  7. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    I hear.
    Sorry if i sounded like a straight dis.
    Just wanted to keep from the tendency (as a far as advise is) to mention brands/models that are purchases as opposed to something that could fairly easily be rented.
    BTW..another good mic to rent for VO purposes...U87.
    Never ued one but one of those Coles Lip ribbon jobs (developed for the BBC) probably would be amazing...warm&phat!(if we're talknig about purchases)
  8. jdsdj98

    jdsdj98 Active Member

    Being mainly a VO engineer vocationally I'm glad to finally see a thread going on for this topic. Also glad to hear some new ideas for approaching VO. So let's say my female talent is splatting her ess's all over the place, as many do. My de-esser doesn't do anything but crunch out on them, my EQ does me NO good in taming them. When I have her back off the mic, I get just a little too much room-iness for everyone's tastes involved. How might I approach this problem through microphone technique? Can I coach her in such a way that she isn't left feeling like she has a speech impediment? I've already paid to rent this mic, OR, this is the only mic I have in the studio today, for whatever reason.

    Usually in this situation I just say, "oh, she's just really sibilant" and reach for the de-esser and knock 'em down a little bit. Now I'm looking for some new ideas to get control. Ideas?
  9. Rader Ranch

    Rader Ranch Member

    sure seems to me that the biggest standard for VO in LA is the Sennheiser MK416 (i also do VO's every day, for more than a decade)....and ';'cause it's a hypercardiod shotgun, if someone has very bad esses, mic placement can do wonders (no rule where to put, just experimentation)...plus you'd have to work pretty hard to get the room involved in such a directional mic.... and it's got a 'built in eq' that makes vo's really cut with little or no help, though with long form reading that could be a minus.

    in PT, between the waves de-ess and the waves Ren de-ess i've usually had pretty good luck. and if this is destined for books on tape, then i wouldn't be afraid to compress a fair amount with softer/slower/lower settings...something that sounds good in a soft home environment but still will be completely intelligible in a noisy car environment....again the Waves Ren comp can prob. do it....better still, do you have the bombfactory LA2A?
  10. jdsdj98

    jdsdj98 Active Member

    Thanks Radar. No, we presently do not have any of the Waves or Bombfactory plug ins, just hardware de-essers (2 dbx263's). However, we're in the process of upgrading our DAW, and I could press for plug in purchases right now. I was just throwing out a hypothetical to generate some thought on new approaches.
  11. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Those are great little de-essers....recommended to me by Jack Joseph Puig.
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Yeah, DBX 263's... These are my favorite de-essers! IMO they work far better than any others I have tried. I have one of these I picked up for $100 used! They also have a broadband setting that can be used when you want that VCA type of compression. A very useful piece. The Valley Dynamite is also a good de-esser but the DBX is the best .... Fats
    Tannoy, Dynaudio, Blue Sky, JBL, Earthworks, Westlake, NS 10's :D , Genelec, Hafler, KRK, and PMC
    Those are good. …………………….. Pick one.
  13. k.w.blackwell

    k.w.blackwell Member

    I myself have zero experience in this, but I have retained some tips from the numerous times this has been discussed on rec.audio.pro. Here are 2: have the talent chew a small amount of gum and press it against the back of the front teeth, thereby eliminating the physical cause of much sibilance; and when using a side-addressed mic you can tape a pencil to it such that it stands vertically in front of the center of the capsule. Use google to search and read for hours to find even more tips.

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