4 VOICE RECORDING TIPS TO SOUND LIKE A PRO

by Kevin P. McAuliffe

Whether you are producing a commercial, infomercial, corporate video or even episodic television, you’re going to need to know how to record the human voice.  Whether they are scratch voice overs for the editors reference, or the final voice track that will go in your piece, there are some essential things you need to know before you start recording.  Here’s my top four tips for great voice recording in the comfort of your own home:

1. PICK THE RIGHT MICROPHONE

This is the biggest one, and if you falter at this step of the process, your voice will sound terrible, and no amount of post work on them will fix it.  Choose the right microphone.  But where do you start?  Well, if you’re like me, and do tutorials for a living, I’ve tried out a lot of microphones for my home office, and the mic that I chose was the Audio Technica AT2020 cardioid condenser microphone.  Not only is the price reasonable, $179 US at Best Buy, but more importantly, it sounds great, and is reasonably small in size, which is ideal for smaller businesses.

2. USE A WINDSCREEN/MIC STAND

Believe it or not, this is one that just about everyone overlooks, and adds a much-needed element to your recordings.  First, never hold onto a microphone when you’re doing your voice recordings.  I’ve heard people’s rings “clinking” on the microphone, and their levels swaying in and out as the talent moves the microphone back and forth.  Whether you like to stand and do your recording, or sit down (they do have table mic stands, which is what I use), you need to have your mic stationary, and a mic stand will do it.  Next, going hand-in-hand with your mic stand is a wind screen.  Now, these can be as basic as pantyhose wrapped around a clothes hanger (yes, people actually do that), or you can just spend the $20, and get one that will attach to your mic stand.  The big question is “What does a windscreen actually do?  I’m not shooting outside where the wind will be a problem, so I guess I don’t need one”.  Wrong.  The wind I’m talking about doesn’t come from an external source, it actually comes from within.  A windscreen is going to remove the loud “S” sound from every word in your script that has that letter in it, and it’s also going to remove all the hard “P”’s and “T”’s that when spoken into a mic, will it it hard, and cause major popping sounds.  Most people just think “Oh, I’ll remove that later in post”.  That never works out the way you hope it does.  Trust me, spend the $20 to save yourself tons of headaches in the edit suite.

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3. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

You know the old saying, “Location, Location, Location”.  Yes, it’s true that your location will play a key role in how your voice recordings sound.  I live near an airport, so the planes landing directly impact my recordings.  I know when they take off and land, and plan my recording appropriately.  Now, my situation is unique, but not really.  You are going to want to pick a location that has the least amount of background noise, or you’re going to want to make sure that you plan ahead when setting up your studio by investing in equipment like Editorkeys’ Portable Vocal Booth Home version, which is designed to help remove annoying background sounds from traffic noise to heating and air conditioning hums.

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4. EDITING

If you’re doing voice overs, the last step to get a great result is the editing phase. The amount of editing will vary greatly, depending on your talent.  A professional voice over artist (yes, there definitely is an art to voice overs) will be able to give you a perfect read, which might require minor editing to remove some spaces in the dialogue.  An interview segment, that you might be dropping into your show, might require extensive editing to remove all the “Um’s” and “Ah’s”, that people naturally put into their talking, when they are thinking about what they want to say next.  It’s imperative that you remove all of these, as it makes the interviewee sound more fluid then they might have when you originally recorded it.  Remember, everyone has their off days when being interviewed, so you want to make sure that your interview audio/voice over sounds perfect, and sounds like that recording was the best they have ever done.

In the end, you can start making professionally sounding voice recordings for less than $200 US, and keeping in mind the tips that I shared above, every voice you record will sound crystal clear, and will fit smoothly into any production you happen to be working on.

For more information on live production, click here.

Kevin P. McAuliffe is one of the Senior Editors at Extreme Reach in Toronto, Canada. His current clients include Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, and E1 Entertainment, to name a few.  He produces a weekly tutorial series called Media Composer 101 that you can check out here!