Voice Overs

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Avatar of Logan Nicholas Long (thebamboopandaman)
Logan Nicholas Long (thebamboopandaman) on May 30, 2012 at 12:59 am

In the short film I’m directing, the entire sound is a voice over with music in the background. But, I’m not sure what I need to use to get good quality audio for the voice over. I’m not sure what kind of cameras have good mics, or what computers or devices have them.

Avatar of Jared Charles Choate
Jared Charles Choate on June 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm

From my experience, almost no camera has “good” quality sound. It really depends on your definition of “good”. But you can get some fair quality sound that’s at least better than camera built-in mics for like $25 and up. I think for really good quality, to just stick with a good quality microphone that isn’t made for cameras and add it in afterwards.

Avatar of Zdenek Ruzicka
Zdenek Ruzicka on June 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Hi Logan,

you would be surprised how much you can “clear” your sound in the post-production.

Keep in mind where you will record your voice-over, room tone will be quite important in this case. Also, you’ve said that there will be music in the background. That actually gives you a great cover up for any unwanted noise. My suggestion – go with the recording device you have now ( be it even built-in mic ) and try to play with the file. You can find many tutorials on Youtube on the topic of “clearing” your sound. See how it sounds like and then make a decision.

Borrow a mic for a voice-over if you need to, maybe someone in your area have a good gaming headset, you could use that. Be creative is my advice, rather than spend money. I always try to do test footage of everything I have in my head, to see how it works and then I’m making decisions :)

Hope this helps a bit, looking forward to your short Logan!


Avatar of O'Ryan McEntire
O'Ryan McEntire on November 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Pretty much any decent non computer mic will work for your voice over. The trick here is how you record it.

If you record it in a small room, it’s going to sound small and as though it was recorded in a small box. (technically it was)

The acoustics of your recording space are going define how your voice over feels to the listener. When you are inside there is a specific type of reverb that your brain uses to detect environment size. A small room has a very short and tight reverb. This is very hard if not impossible to hide in post. It’s also a dead give away for amateur ADR or lip dubbing. You need to record your voice over in a clean environment or one that matches your target environment. If you have a ‘dry’ recording you can more easily create the effect you need with little correction.

One thing I used to do in the studio when I was recording voice overs (I still do it this way, actually.) Is to find a large space. Doesn’t have to be huge but something that’s about 20-30 foot square. set up a mic stand somewhere near center (but not centered!) and face a wall slightly off axis. This way you aren’t 90 degrees of any of the wall in the room. Then about 4 feet away from the mic you hang heavy blankets around the front and sides of the mic. I used to use mic stands to hang my blankets in the middle of a room. Make as tall a T shape with your boom stand as you can and drape the blanket over the mic stand. The balankets should hang just above head height and drape all the way to the floor. Careful, this isn’t the most stable of ways to hang the blankets. The stands will probably be a little tippy.

Congrats you have just built a simple isolation booth!

Now if you have a pop filter or foam spit filter for your mic, use it. This will help cut down on the plosive and sibilance noises (‘Ps’ and ‘Ss’) If you don’t have either of these you can google how to make a DIY Pop filter for a mic, or you can simply have your talent face slightly off axis tot he mic so they aren’t directly breathing into the mic but their voice is still crossing directly in front of the mic.

Have your talent stand about 4-6 inches away from the mic. Any closer and you start to get excessive proximity bass issues.

Do a sound check have your talent speak the softest part they will be acting out and also the loudest. Set the volume so that at no point does the input levels peak (or go into the red) but also set it high enough that you are getting as strong of a signal as possible with out peaking. If you peak, it can’t be easily fix and it’s abrasive and sounds like garbage. If your signal is too low, you will get lots of noise and poor quality audio when you turn it up. Also not easily fixable.

I was an audio engineer both in studio and for live sound for a long while before I decided to pick up a camera. So if you have any questions or any of that is unclear just ask!

Avatar of Ken Dickerman
Ken Dickerman on December 8, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Also, to add onto what O’Ryan said in regards to recording sound, you can set your Gate and compressor levels prior to recording. Even a program as simple as Garageband has this built into the system. If anyone is unfamiliar with the terms, the “Gate” is basically what tells the recording device that when there’s enough sound going to the mic, the gate will open and it will record what is being said,sung, or played. I’ll set the gate up just a little bit when recording in my apt. so that humming from the heater or AC doesn’t get recorded if i’m not saying/singing anything. When I am speaking/singing into the mic, its usually loud enough that you can’t tell if there’s anything in the background. The second, and I think, more important one is setting your Compression. the compression is what’s going to help even out your recording. Your softer stuff will sound more upfront, but the louder stuff isn’t gonna red line your levels. This works great if you are recording something that has more variation. If you record it first, and THEN try to compress it, you’ll still hear the distortion and it won’t be able to correct it after the fact. I’m gonna get a little technical, but this should give you a little bit of a guidline for compression in vocals:

The attack time (how quickly it compresses it) should be medium fast, probably 3-5 milliseconds
The release time (how quickly it stops compressing it) should be a medium long release. about 1/2 second to 1 second
The ratio should be between 3:1 and 7:1

If you’re using something like Garageband, I’ll usually move the slider anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 the way up, depending on how it sounds and i’ll perform a bit while watching the levels to see how they respond.

Bottom line: You should be able to hear soft and loud parts equally well without distortion.

Also, a cheap pair of pantyhose and one of those wooden rings used for cross-stitching makes a great pop filter!

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