Using (and ordering) effects for VO production

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by richvoice, Jul 5, 2006.

  1. richvoice

    richvoice Guest

    I just registered here, and I'm looking forward to learning a lot: this looks like a great resource! Thanks to all of the pros here who help out those of us just starting out down the audio engineering path.

    I record voiceovers at home (well, mostly I record voiceover auditions, but every once in a while I actually book a job). I recently upgraded my computer and decided to get an external interface instead of moving the M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 card from my old machine to my new machine so that I could keep the old machine intact as a backup device. The process was painful, since I was using Adobe Audition 1.5, and it didn't seem to want to work with the M-Audio MobilePre that I bought. The problem might have had something to do with ASIO driver support, but I don't know, I gave up and bought an MBox2. Now I'm learning ProTools.

    I've used effects (reverb, compression, EQ, etc.) before with other software, but I never got all that proficient at it. Now that I'm learning ProTools, and it looks like I might be doing some sound design for a local theater, I figure the time is right to learn how to do things right. The problem is, I can't seem to find a good reference for recording VO. All of the books that I've looked at at Amazon are either geared toward the audio recording novice ("to record, you'll need a computer and a quality microphone") or toward music production. I know what compression is, including what the threshold, ratio, attack, and release values represent; I know what parametric EQ is; etc.; what I don't know is the best way to put them all together, and in what order they should be placed.

    My studio is still pretty meager: I've got a Rode NT1-A microphone (Stedman popscreened) going into a PreSonus TubePre pre-amp, which then goes through a dbx266xl outboard compressor with a dbx263x side-chained in for de-essing. The signal gets to the MBox2 via a 1/4" TRS cable, and from there it's all software. I add some software compression with a pretty high threshold (i.e., closer to 0db than to -inf) and high ratio to take care of occasional spikes. My recording space is a very "dead" closet, so I add a tiny amount of reverb to open the sound up a little. And I usually boost the low end (around 80Hz) and the high end (around 4kHz) slightly with EQ. (I've tried throwing in a limiter for spikes as well, but not very successfully.) Adding the effects in that order seems to work pretty well, but I'm not always completely happy with the sound, and tweaking becomes frustrating.

    So my questions are:

    -- Am I doing something that's clearly wrong in terms of adding effects to a dry VO track?
    -- Are there any good guides out there, in print or on the web, that address recording voiceover at this level? I'm skeptical about buying a book about audio production that will be all about music and spend maybe three pages discussing the specific needs of engineering VO, and equally skeptical about buying a book that's geared toward complete novices that might not give me any useful information at all.

    Any advice would be appreciated!

  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    richvoice, glad to have you here! Welcome. Here is a thread regarding your questions that I answered for lividbliss.

    So far, it looks like you're doing most everything right? Obviously you're not quite happy with your results? Equalize before or after compression? Yes. That is you can do it either way or both. You will get different results that will appeal or not appeal to you in different ways. Having an announce track without ambience is OK but not my favorite sound for an announcer. It's all a matter of personal taste. Generally I don't like the sound of announcers with ambience. I like them upfront, close and personal. I want you to French my ear! C'est la vie.

    I love Adobe Audition 1.5! You are the first person I've ever heard who had a problem with it. I don't do ProTools but it's probably good that you're learning it? Sometimes I like to take my chances in "Vegas", with Sony. I don't particularly like meth lab's but I do like WaveLab. OK enough with the funny stuff.

    I was looking at your process which all looks to be pretty well and good but I'm also wondering when you mentioned that you are adding some equalization, particularly in the low end, maybe you are experiencing too much proximity effect? Are you doing this all through headphones? You shouldn't be. You can get too turned on by the sound of your own voice and it will come out sounding rather funky and I hate that kind of sound when I hear announcer's doing that. It's too obvious sounding. I mean it's a great ego trip but it does not make for a good announcer track of your own voice.

    I don't know of any actual bookstore publications dealing with voice over tracks but I will try to help you in any way I can.

    I love commercials! They're so commercial sounding.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. richvoice

    richvoice Guest

    Hi Remy,

    Wow! You're a font of useful information!

    Thanks for the link to the other thread, it sounds like lividbliss is stumbling through the process like I am. I'm surprised to hear that you prefer transistor gear for VO announcers, I thought that a warm tubey sound was preferred by everybody. I don't have enough experience to know what I prefer; when I got the PreSonus TubePre I did some testing, and I liked it (with the tube driven about a quarter turn) better than the built-in mixer pre that I'd been using. But comparing a low-end mixer pre and a low-end tube pre doesn't really give you much to go on in terms of what's available.

    What do you mean exactly when you say "with ambience" and "without ambience"? Are you responding to my description of my "dead" recording space, or are you referring to something else? Unfortunately, I don't have too much choice on the recording space: the mic's in the same room as the computer, so if I don't put it in the closet, I get a lot of hum (which I could try to get rid of using noise reduction or a notch filter, but that adds one more layer of comlexity to something that's already a little bit past me), and if I don't put foam on the closet walls, it sounds like I'm talking in, well, a closet!

    I love Adobe Audition 1.5 as well, and it works great on my old computer with the M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 card. I bought the new machine, installed AA1.5, and bought an M-Audio MobilePre (thinking that using a device by the same manufacturer would be a good idea), and my recording clipped at -6db (actually -5.5db) consistently. I went through hours and hours of searching and trying to communicate with M-Audio tech support. It turns out that a few others have experienced the problem, but I could never get a definitive answer as to why it was happening. I eventually gave up and went with the MBox2. Unfortunately, I bought the device before I learned how finicky ProTools is; fortunately, it seems to work on my system, albeit with a glitch now and again (which will hopefully be remedied when I get an external FireWire hard drive). Had I known how picky ProTools is when it comes to compatibility, I might have been more inclined to try a different device, and/or upgrade to AA2.0.

    Anywho, yes, I'm doing most of my listening through headphones, mostly because my monitors aren't very good: they're harman/kardon powered speakers that were an upgrade from a standard on-board speaker when I bought my old PC 6 years ago. A decent pair of powered monitors are pretty close to the top of the list of gear that I need to get; when I get them, I'll probably switch to headphones while recording, and monitors for playback, since I know that headphones for final mix aren't the best choice.

    The equalization technique that I use I learned from an engineer that was recording one of the commercials that I did. I don't use it all the time, because it seems that the low-end boost does sound unnatural sometimes. It depends on the copy.

    So if outboard compression/de-essing -> software compression -> reverb -> EQ sounds reasonable, I guess it's just a matter of trial and error. I know that experience is the best teacher, but it's always nice to use somebody else's experience as a good springboard!

    Thanks for your tips, Remy, and I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

  4. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    I think you're getting a bit nuts with all the playing around with your signal?

    Depends on where your work is going? If it's going to the local cable company or a local independent video producer for a spot, to be just "dropped in" to one of their productions, you might want to add any effects yourself(Or not - ask them if they want them and then send a "bare" and a "processed" version!)? If it's going to another audio studio, who can/would rather do all effects desired, themselves, you just want to send them a "bare" VO. Still, I do add a tad of compression going in - like lemme' look here ------ -6db at 2:1, looks like. I DO have the (DBX 376) dee-esser "up" and running, but, I don't hear any difference, I just DID pay for the feature, so... I turn it on anyway...... s-s-s-sounds OK to me?

    Here's my suggestion - sorry you didn't get here "purchase prioi':

    Any ol' computer - my new one will be a screamer, but that's just vanity.

    Wavelab(Audition is fine, but a bit much for VO - so many channels, so few voices)

    LynxOne(LynxTwo if you can foot the bill? Not needed, really and LynxOne has MIDI, so you can play with your synth/keyboard between gigs?) Lynx cards are all XLR, balanced - just so darn cool...

    I use a mic pre(DBX 376 WITH it's own, built-in A/D converter and run it(AES/EBU - very "pro") into the LynxOne digital input. That way I have both analog inputs and outputs "free".

    I run my Lynx analog inputs TO my little Mackie mixer outputs, so I can "add a mic or play my synth through it", whatever.

    I run my LynxOne analog outputs TO the inputs on my BRAND NEW, DI-RECT FROM AUSTRALIA SM Audio "M-Patch 2"!!! Yayyyy!! And IT'S outputs to my powered speakers(Yammie MSP5A"s). This M-Patch, widget allows one to "control" the monitors(Using it's passive attenuator) AND to hear the headphones through it's built-in headphone amp(Something troublesome using just the Mackie)... At the mic I use Beyerdynamic DT-770 headphones - so I can really hear how horrible my room and I are..!

    There you go! A complete VO set-up in only several boxes...

    Your choice of mics though I would try for one PRIME dynamic - EV RE20/Senn 421? I have a Beyer M99. And one very good condenser - C414, Rode, whatever - I don't "know" the Rode you have. How is it??? With an eventual "super mic", or semi-super - I want the Brauner Valvet" AND the MIllenia Media Origin mic pre, to go with it!!! Ya' like to slobber(And what VO person doesn't?) check this baby out!!! Wadda'pre!

    BTW: At 80 hertz you should be CUTTING the response! You don't want 80 hz(Mostly rumble from the neighbors air conditioner) getting into your mic. Most pres have a "cut switch" just for this. You might find you have to "cut" considerably higher! DO what you must. A "boost" at your "presence" frequency"(Dial around you'll find it), can be helpful, but, a db or 2, no more......

    Seriously, try doing everything pancake flat, then take your recordings around and listen on different systems in different environments. If things sound "bad" flat, you need to change some basics - room(I suspect your closet isn't actually very "dead", unless you, or someone who helped you, really know accoustics? It's likely v-e-r-y "resonant" at many - most? - frequencies.), mic, positions of things??? If you must add effects to "make it all better", do so one at a time, very carefully and slightly - it's so easy to overdo......

    TG (Always helps to hear how terrible others are, ey?)
  5. richvoice

    richvoice Guest

    Hi Teddy,

    Good points.

    It makes sense to send a less-processed take for a final product that another engineer is going to work with. But I'm looking at adding the effects mostly for auditioning purposes, where I want the output to sound as good as possible.

    Your de-essing experience sounds like mine. :)

    I actually don't want to cut at 80Hz, because it's likely to get rid of a little of my own rumble (I'm not an air conditioner, but I play one on TV). I've got a pretty low voice (you can find my demos at http://); three As below middle C is 55Hz, and I can sing that low occasionally (first thing in the morning), so cutting at 80Hz using a parametric EQ can affect certain sounds on certain reads. But it depends on the copy: on "brighter" copy, where I'm speaking in a higher pitch, boosting that low makes it sound unnatural. In any case, I never boost anywhere more than 5db, and it's almost always 1 or 2db, as you suggest.

    My closet is quite "dead": I've got lots of Auralex up. Without it, the closet didn't sound so much "resonant" as "boxy," so I put up the foam. It gets rid of the "boxy" sound, but I also lose any resonance, hence the tiny bit of reverb that I've been adding (5% with a minimal decay rate of 50ms).

    Effects one at a time, carefully and slightly: yep, that's what I'm doing. I'm just looking for guidance!

  6. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    1. Aurelex does nothing for 80 cycles - or way up above 80 cycles. Again, your closet may "sound dead" as that's what Aurelex does - "helps" at the voice frequencies - at least the "NORMAL" voice frequencies! - the ones we can hear(Or most easily hear) the results of putting the stuff up most readily(It sells best that way, at $99 for a box of packing foam - good deal, ey? Wish I would have thought of it!). To get the interior of a closet-size room to "sound good" at low frequencies would be nearly impossible - with normal Aurelex foam absolutely impossible.

    2. If you're relying on parts of your voice that low, to seal a gig, I wonder - what gig? - as no radio or TV anything can air such low frequencies. The second harmonic of our(US) 60 cycle AC, is at 120 cycles - so most frequencies are "gone"(Or awfully carefully screwed with) below even this OR higher yet! Unless Richard Sturben, is retiring and you're auditioning to be an Oak Ridge Boy, "cut" at 80 cycles - or higher. While I haven't listened to the demos, I'm sure if your voice is that low it will still sound real low(Certainly when compared to mine) even when you cut out the absolute bottom. Nothing you own(Unless you've invested some very serious bucks) can even reproduce below 80 cycles all that well, not your mic, your preamp, your speakers - nothing. Yeah, you can hear stuff down there - but it "ain't right" - guaranteed.

    3. What do the producers want to hear on your demos/auditions. YOU - I've been at this for 35+ years and I'm still not quite convnced, but I just know it's true, so allow me to underline this - YOU. No effects, no EQ, no compression, no reverb, no fancy production, just YOU - their stuff, read by YOU to their specs - that's all. If they want fancy they'll pay for it later. I have never, ever knowingly been hired because of "that neat-o reverb on that one spot you voiced". If you think you sound best by leaving 80 cycles "in there", you're going to have to come out of the closet and go to a real studio(One Hell of a real studio! The ones I go to cut at 80!) to have any chance of properly recording yourself - I have no idea how a producer will actually hear you at 80 cycles, to say nothing of below(Yeek!) while he's driving home listening to CD demos in his old Toyota, with factory stereo?

    Sometimes we do too much in an attempt to impress....... ourselves. Well, OK, almost ALL of the time we do too much, think too much, process too much. Got to kick that habit. Got to trust OURSELVES, not some damned machine. Really a-b-s-o-r-b any "directions" from the producer, then --- read it nice, pronounce the words correctly - send it in - pray for a call -- learn to keep yourself busy, somehow, while you're waiting - don't just sit there watching TV(You'll get alot done, as you'll have lots of time.).

    Effects? Perfection? The biggest gig I've had, lately, was for a major pharmaceutical company, narrating a 200+ page script for a multi-media training presentation. I sat in a chair in a "corporate" TV studio, at a table, with the "recordist" sitting opposite me, some sort of old Sennheiser "TV" mic aiming down at me from about 3 feet above and a TV camera recording me(Just the audio), sitting, on the table, between us. Perfection? I don't know, I didn't listen to it and never will, but the money was good and the lunch was fair and paid for. I have no idea why they picked me for the gig, but I know it wasn't by listening to my series of 4-voice(All me), hyper, effects city, "fight spots" for the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino(You get those because you're "next on the list" - anyone can "do 'em" - they're all effects!).


    BTW: Don't tell me I'm no fan of Aurelex! I am the proud owner of a set of Aurelex MoPads - sitting right under my speakers - can't be much more of a fan than that(I bought them so I could bitch about their stuff and they'd have a harder time bitching about me, as I bought the stupid foam squares for 40 bucks - best looking logo thingey in the studio!). And, as soon as I get my room tuned the way I want it, I'll get me a box of that foam and glue it up, just so nice(Teddy G., spelled-out in green foam pyramids, if they have it?), so as to look pretty and professional - like I want to be someday...... God Bless advertising - I couldn't make a buck without it.
  7. richvoice

    richvoice Guest

    Hi Teddy,

    In principle, I agree with all of your subjective opinions (e.g., that producers want to hear YOU, etc.). I think you may have misconstrued my question, or I wasn't clear enough, or something.

    I'm not looking to add effects to change my voice, or to improve my ability to read copy, or to impress a potential client with bells and whistles. I'm simply trying to make what I do sound as good as possible. I mean, isn't that what we all do whenever we record something? Why do you use a studio microphone and a high-end DAC instead of a Soundblaster sound card and the little mic that came free with your computer? After all, it would still be YOU behind the little microphone, right? Presumably you use the better quality gear because it gives you a better quality sound, letting the "you" in YOU come through more clearly. And you do other things as well, like adding compression at a ratio of 2:1 above -6db (I've had others tell me that they regularly record using no compression, still others that they usually use 2:1 or 3:1 above -12db; the engineer that did the Capitol Expressway spots on my website told me that he cranks it up to 7:1 or 8:1 with a fairly high threshold).

    Similarly, when I recorded in my closet without any foam, it sounded a bit like I had my head in a refrigerator box, so I bought a bunch of Auralex and put it up (I got a great deal because a local non-profit audiobook organization had bought too much, and I couldn't resist buying 10 sheets for $10/sheet!), and I thought it sounded better. You might not have thought so, but opinions are like. . . well, you know. :) Anyway, I thought I sounded better with foam on the walls, but the overall sound was a little "dead," so I started looking at adding a tiny bit of reverb; to my ear, it sounds better that way.

    So yes, I want to give a client ME. But if I can do something that will increase the sound quality by even 2%, I'd like to know how to do it right. To my ear, the tiniest bit of reverb usually improves the sound ever so slightly; and to my ear, a very small boost around 80Hz sometimes improves the sound, and sometimes sounds unnatural. I'm open to any and all tips on getting a better sound!

    As far as 80 cycles goes, I didn't mean to imply that I had put up the Auralex to do anything for low frequencies specifically, I simply put it up to deaden the space overall. Which it seems to have done.

    And as far as "relying on parts of my voice that low to seal a gig," no, I'm not. I'm relying on it as a whole, and the low frequencies are part of that whole (FWIW, I could always sing along with the bass part of any Oak Ridge Boys songs, many of which I knew back in the day). I know that I checked on the frequency response of the Rode mic that I bought awhile back, but I don't remember what I found out. I don't know what the specs are on my pre-amp, but I'm sure you're right about my monitors not being able to reproduce the low end well, I doubt that anything under about 200Hz sounds right on them, given their size and location (my Polk Audio speakers in my living room are another matter!). But that begs the question: why are you cutting at 80Hz, if nothing in your chain can deal with frequencies that low? I'll try some copy cutting at 80Hz and not cutting at 80Hz and see if I see a difference with the gear that I'm using.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. It's all interesting to me!

  8. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Guest

    Youre doing VO!!!!!! NOT MUSIC.

    Most radios and televisions wont reproduce 55Hz, most home surround systems are bass managed at 80 to 100 Hz. You dont want voice to go into the subwoofer.

    I even cut God's voice (Don LaFontaine) at 80Hz!!!!
    If you do VO, look up the name above.
    VO below 80Hz, fights music and effects mixed in, its also very fatiguing.

    Rumble for VO occurs around 125Hz
  9. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    "In a world where time forgot, even I had my 80Hz and below rolled off."
  10. richvoice

    richvoice Guest

    Thanks for your comments, TVPostSound. No need to yell, though, I promise I'm listening. :)

    And no need for me to look up Don LaFontaine. I've only been in this business a couple of years, but his is one of the few names on the short list of famous voices I'm familiar with!

    I didn't realize that subwoofers worked in the 80-100Hz range, I thought it was substantially lower. Good to know! I'm not sure I understand why you don't want voice to go into the subwoofer, though: I can't remember any specific trailer that LaFontaine did (there were so many!), but wasn't the whole point the earth-shaking-ness of the rumble?

    And what is "rumble," anyway? I guess if it starts at 125Hz I've got problems, since that's the frequency of my speaking voice half the time! :D

    Feeling a rumbly in my tumbly,
  11. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Why I cut at 80 cycles or above - by Teddy G.

    1. Because I can't hear it anyway - at least not correctly.

    2. Because there is more rumble, AC power line noise("Rumble" is, sort've, basically, "machines running", which shake "large things", like houses and cities, creating very low frequency noise and it's... like... ahh, rumble... ya'know? - generally transmitted through floors, walls, brains, etc..?) and vibration from the neighbors refrigerator down there than "me". Hard to hear, harder to eliminate - but the "cut" switch helps..... some...... more is often needed.

    3. Frequencies below 80 hertz, generally(May I say, "generally"?) are "added later" to, for example, the soundtrack of a movie, for(We hope?) "careful use as - well --- rumble -- to shake the seats as it were - for "effect". Am I safe in saying that there is very little "content"(That most folk, such as us, can produce.) at such frequencies?

    4. Because if I leave it in there, other "real" studios MAY be able to hear it and I don't want them to snicker at me(Hey! C'mere! Listen to this rumble on Teddy's VO! HAHAHAHAhahaha....idiot!).

    The End

    Let the "real studios" do anything they want with your voice; compression, reverse-reverb, phasing, whatever, as long as you get the check - but YOU send them JUST YOU - at least for demo stuff(YOUR productions, you're on your own!). If they ask for anything else("Could you put in a teense of verb - fill-it-out abit?" - "Sure", would be my answer...). YES, we all(Well, I DO!) "add" a bit... A bit of compression, a bit of EQ - though I add no reverb, unless requested -- but just a bit, a smidge - just enough so I feel I'm getting my money's worth out of the stupid EQ I paid good money for. At my worst, I'll do a "bare" track and an "enhanced" track - tell them so - and let 'em pick one.

    Again!(Took me awhile, too, my friend... NO "bitching" from me, just what I think I know.). Aurelex DOES make the room "deader" AT SOME VOCAL FREQUENCIES! The very frequencies that "tickle" the ear and then the area around the wallet pocket. That does NOT MEAN the room IS a whole lot "deader", it just sounds that way in comparison to the completely untreated room you just walked out of. Sounds "neat-o"(Pro-ey like...), but it is, to a great degree, a falicy, an "illusion", as it were. NOT that it doesn't "work", just that it doesn't do nearly as much as it "sounds" like it does or likely needs to be done. A "real" studio WILL hear how your room really sounds. They use Aurelex, too, but - LOTS of other tricks - most of them very expensive and carefully designed - that's all...... I guarantee you I didn't "hear" the rumble and the other "room artifacts" until I started listening to my fancy soundcard "direct"(No mixer - and it's associated, rather poor, electronics.), through some nice phones, a passive attenuator and a nice headphone amp. Ick+! I need more room work, I need to get a better mic, I need to take up plumbing.

  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I think most people have also forgotten the fact that the Neumann U87, has a blocking capacitor to prevent anything below 80 hertz? Probably one of the reasons why it was such a popular microphone for voices. Those low frequencies only sound great in your headphones when you need an ego boost. Otherwise it really does not enhance your voice.

    Talking to hear myself talk
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I think most people have also forgotten the fact that the Neumann U87, has a blocking capacitor to prevent anything below 80 hertz? Probably one of the reasons why it was such a popular microphone for voices. Those low frequencies only sound great in your headphones when you need an ego boost. Otherwise it really does not enhance your voice.

    Talking to hear myself talk
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  14. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Guest

    I wasnt yelling!!!

    Regarding Don, I just wanted you to hear that there is nothing below
    80Hz in his voice.

    Rumble, as I meant it was "chest rumble" around 125Hz.

    Subwoofers in TV/Film/Video are only used as Low Frequency Henhancement. The cross over to a Sub is 80 to 100. We dont use the subwoofer as a "Subwoofer" as music people.

    You mean the80Hz HPF switch, so do Behringer mixers!!!!!
    Thats not what made the U87 popular!!!

    Stop messing with these kid's minds!!!!


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