Doing voiceovers ain’t rocket science, but doing it poorly can be the difference between a project being perceived as professional or not. Oregon Sound Recording has recorded hundreds of voice artists during thousands upon thousands of hours of sessions for everything from TV and radio commercials to industrial training videos and audio books. And we’ve learned a thing or two about this most critical process. Lower down on this page I’ve summarized the ins and outs of voiceover recording.
Click here for a partial list of previous voiceover sessions at OSR.
OSR has a stable of talented voiceover artists at its disposal, and with the advent of online services such as Voice123.com, there is a virtually unlimited and easily accessible talent pool.
Click here to hear some voice demos of the artists we’ve regularly worked with.
There are many elements that determine the quality of a voiceover track. First, of course, is the voice talent. Naturally great voices and acting ability don’t always make for a good voiceover artist. But if you combine those with great interpretive skills, a willingness to take direction, clean diction, minimal mouth artifacts, a strong sense of timing and an understanding of how to approach the microphone, you will have a great voiceover artist who is easy to record and requires little editing. Shortcomings in any of those areas don’t necessarily disqualify one from producing good voiceovers, but they will require more skill and involvement on the part of the engineer and director, which usually translates into more time and cost to produce a quality track.
A close second in importance is the script itself. Although describing a good script is a nebulous thing, we know them when we get them. Beyond the issues of content and artistic license, a well-written script is conscious of proper syntax, grammar and spelling. Scripts that must fit into specific time frames should be written so that the particular voice talent can read them at a comfortable pace. And they should be laid out on the page in an easy-to-read manner. Many script and copy writers are quite lazy about these things, and incorrectly assume that re-writing and fixing scripts during the session is just “the way it is done,” and that virtually anything that isn’t working can be fixed in the editing. They are wrong on both accounts, and while much can be potentially corrected both during and after the recording session, it will frequently lead to wasted time, added cost, and, most importantly, compromised quality.
Whenever possible, I try to get a hold of the copy well before the session to head off any obvious issues. My decades of experience and generally good grasp of the English language have made me very adept as a copy editor.
After the talent and script, the studio comes into play. At least as important as the equipment (to be discussed shortly) is the recording booth. Voiceover studios must be very quiet, and acoustically very neutral. The OSR booth has been designed with this in mind.
And of course there is the equipment used to capture the voice. At the front of the “recording chain” is the microphone. Each voice is unique, and choosing the proper microphone that sounds best on a particular voice in a particular room on a particular day is an art. Practicing this art is made easier when a wide variety of microphones are available, and a quick glance here at our microphone list will show that Oregon Sound Recording has just that. While certain mics are better suited for recording voices than others, the best choice is not always the obvious (or most expensive) choice. At OSR, matching the mic to the artist is always of prime concern.
Next in the chain is the microphone preamp. Less critical than the microphone choice, preamps can nevertheless have a noticeable influence on the recorded sound. In particular, some are noted for their clarity and lack of character, while others have a tendency to add “size” to everything. Again, at OSR none of these choices are taken lightly, and a glance here will show you our list of preamps and other processors.
Next in line are various processors such as equalizers and compressors. First option is generally to not use these while recording, but when considered necessary or desirable, OSR has a number of high-end toys to play with. And last is the often forgotten analog-to-digital converter, a necessary step in the capturing of all digital audio. Consistent with our overall modus operandi, OSR uses only highly respected, professional level converters.
Hmm, maybe voiceover recording is rocket science, after all.