Voice-overs are an extremely useful technique for telling a story in a video. They let your viewer sit, listen and take in the information you want to get across.
There are many reasons why it’s better to hire a professional to help you with the recording process. But sometimes you might yourself recording your own voice-overs, DIY style.
Recording your own voice-over to a high standard isn’t easy, but it’s not completely out of reach for most people. That’s why we’ve put together these key points to consider when recording your own voice-over. We hope they help!
Invest in a proper microphone
Using your mobile phone, your earphones or a low-quality laptop mic is the worst way to record yourself. These microphones are designed for low fidelity phone calls and video conferences – not professional video production. If you want to record high quality audio, you’ll need to use a dedicated voice-over microphone.
For DIY voice-over recordings, we recommend easy-to-use microphones such as the Rode NT-USB and Blue Yeti. These microphones connect to your computer with a USB connection and have dials to control the sensitivity of the mic. They’re aimed at beginners, so the setup process is usually quite simple and easy to follow.
For slightly more serious home-recording rigs, the alternative is to invest in an audio interface such as the Focusrite 2i2. Through this, you can plug any type of XLR microphone into your computer. If you’re shopping for secondhand equipment, which is usually a bit cheaper, or you want a bit more flexibility, this could be a better way to go. But be warned, the experience isn’t as plug-and-play as a self-contained USB microphone.
Reduce background noises
You’d be amazed at what gets picked up by modern microphones. Before recording, you’ll need to turn off any air conditioners, fans, washing machines, tumble dryers, fridges, ovens… in short, anything that emits a buzz, hum or whirr. Our brains filter a lot of these noises out, so we don’t always notice them in our day-to-day lives. But a microphone will pick up everything.
You should also close the windows and try to record in a room where there’s minimal noise from traffic and/or people in the street outside. If your home or office is near a main road, you might not be able to block out loud noises like ambulance sirens. But you should try your best to minimise constant noises, like the hum of traffic, as much as possible.
Also speak to your colleagues, spouse, children or housemates to let them know that you’re recording. You don’t want to be interrupted by loud conversations, blaring television sets or heavy footsteps pounding through your home or office. You’ll also need to consider controlling noisy pets, like dogs, who might unhelpfully contribute to your recording.
Position yourself correctly
When recording a voice-over, your mouth should be be between10cm and 15cm away from the microphone. This keeps your voice front and centre of the recording, and prevents it from sounding too echoey.
If you’re reading from a script, make sure that you hold it up in front of you. Don’t have it on a table or in your lap. You want to have your chin up, so that you’re not squashing your windpipe. You want your voice to be loud and clear.
We also strongly encourage you to speak past the microphone, not into it. This reduces the impact of hard letters like bs and ps – known as plosives. If words with these letters are spoken directly into the microphone, they can sound distorted and unpleasant. It’s also a tell-tale sign of an amateur recording!
Use a pop shield
To reduce the impact of plosives, you could also invest in a pop shield. This puts a mesh in front of the microphone that catches hard breaths. You can purchase them relatively cheaply, or you can make your own out of household objects.
We still recommend angling yourself away from the microphone though, even with a pop filter.
Record with a sample rate of 48kHz
Most audio recording software, such as Audacity, will make you choose between a variety of options when setting up a project. When recording a voice-over for a video, you’ll need to record it with a sample rate of 48KHz.
The reason that this is important is because most audio applications are configured for music recording by default. Music is typically recorded at 44.1KHz. If you don’t set this correctly, your voice might sound weird or the recording could cause technical problems for the video editor.
If you’re not sure where to find this setting, try searching online for “How to change the sample rate in [name of your audio application].”
Prepare your voice
Finally, before hitting the record button, you’ll need to prepare your voice. This means warming up your voice so that you can talk comfortably for the length of the recording.
What works best for you will be unique for voice, but as a rule of thumb:
- Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly before and during the recording. (Don’t just chug water beforehand. It’s important to build up a good hydration level throughout the day.)
- Get a good night’s sleep. A good voice-over needs energy to retain interest and you don’t want to sound tired and groggy.
- Watch what you eat. Milk and chocolate can cause our voices to sound thicker and mucus-y, while spicy foods along with coffee and tomatoes can cause acid reflux in your throat, which will affect your ability to vocalise.
- Avoid smoking before recording – and generally, if recording voice-overs is going to become a big part of your day-to-day activity.
Keep still while recording
During the recording, it’s easy to pick up a pen and click away at the lid, tap your foot, or rustle a piece of paper while recording — but the mic will capture all of this. There’s nothing worse than having to bin a fantastic performance and start over because you’ve accidentally captured the clicking of a pen midway through.
Additionally, if you’re reading from a script, put it somewhere you can see it rather than holding it in your hands. The sound of the paper rustling will spoil your take. If possible, read off something firm that won’t shake, like a notebook, or pull the script up on a laptop or tablet.
Finally, at the end of your script, don’t rush to stop the recording straight away. Give the recording a few seconds of breathing room before you reach over and stop it. This makes sure that there’s a “clean” end to the recording. It prevents any bumping, clattering or mouse clicking overlapping with what you’ve said.
Having a tough time recording your own voice-over?
We hope our tips help you get set up with recording your own voice-overs. However, we know that it’s not always easy. Whether it’s the dog barking, the children being noisy or the complicated technical requirements, even the simplest voice-over recoding tasks can sometimes require a lot of work.
If you’re getting stuck, we’ve got a professional voice-over recording booth at our studio in Southampton, and we can also help with on-site recordings at your office or home. We’ve got everything you’ll ever need to make your next voice-over sound fantastic.
Why not give us a call or drop us an email? We’d love to help!
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