Recording Your Voice at Home
If you're keen to start recording voice overs at home, we have some tips to help you get started.
Voice overs can be a useful way of generating income using your performing skills, not to mention a good skill to have on your Spotlight profile. There's no time like the present to start recording at home so here are our tips to do a basic, relatively inexpensive setup.
Before You Begin
It's worth having a chat with your agent (if you have one) to see if they think if it's a good idea for you to get set up at home. Getting in contact with a voice over agent can also help you to decide if it is appropriate to make the investment in a home studio.
Getting set up at home to record voice overs can be trickier than you think so before you break out the credit card, try practising. Record some examples on your phone and once you get the hang of it, you can upload an audio clip to your Spotlight profile as a voice reel.
Choosing a Recording Space
You don't need to build an audio recording booth just yet. Get started by finding a quiet part of your home to record. Listen carefully to any background noise you can hear; fridges, busy roads and school playgrounds outside may well be picked up in the final recording, which you don’t want.
You also need to think about the acoustics of the space. 'Lively' is a word we use for rooms that produce a lot of hard echoes in it, such as a bathroom or empty hall. You should avoid recording in these rooms as the echoes will pick up on your recording, which isn't ideal. Instead pick a room with lots of soft furnishings, which will be less lively and more appropriate for your recording session.
A great way of testing how dead or lively the acoustics of a room are is by doing the ‘clap test’. Simply clap your hands and see how long the echo lasts and if there are any odd reflections of the sound. The shorter the echo and the less odd reflections, the better.
When people refer to an 'acoustically dead space', it means that the characteristics of the room completely absorb all of the sound waves i.e. there's no echo or reverberations.
If you ever go into an acoustically dead space it can be quite an eerie feeling. Whilst you don’t have to recreate a dead space at home - that would be very hard to do - you do want to reduce the acoustic properties of your room so that the audio on the file is just that of your voice.
Some ways to help deaden the sound in your room:
- Use soft furnishings. You can use things you have around the house like soft furnishings, coat racks (with coats on them), curtains, and even sheets hung from the walls to help deaden the sound.
- Acoustic treatment foam. Recording studios often cover their walls with foam that has pits and peaks, which absorbs the soundwave and deadens the sound. Acoustic treatment foam panels are fairly inexpensive but may not be necessary for someone starting out.
- Microphone isolation shields. A good substitute for covering your walls in foam or sheets is the purchase of a microphone isolation shield (sometimes called a portable audio recording booth).
Traditionally voice overs are recorded on condenser microphones as they have a wider frequency response and have a high sound quality. When using them, they need to be fairly close to your mouth so they can pick up the best sound.
Some things to consider when it comes to microphones:
- To start out, it would probably be advisable to get yourself a microphone that plugs directly into your computer - you can always upgrade later. Doing this means that you don't have to invest (at this point) in an audio interface for your computer with XLR inputs and all that jazz. A USB powered microphone such as the RØDE NT-USB is more than sufficient for a beginner.
- If you do want to get something bigger you can get the RØDE NT1-A Kit, which is a commonly used vocal condenser microphone. The kit comes with a pop shield, XLR cable and cradle. You will also need to get yourself a microphone stand and an audio interface to connect it to your computer. We would recommend a Behringer audio interface as they're good quality and widely compatible.
- The pop shield that is included with both of the microphones we've recommended is used to reduce what is called ‘plosives’ - this is a popping noise caused by the sharp blows of air on the microphone when you say words, typically starting with B’s, P’s and K’s. Pop shields are essential when recording a voice over as you want your audio to sound professional. When recording your tests on your phone, you can improvise a pop shield using other material - such as a pair of tights or socks stretched over a frame.
Now you've found your space, deadened the sound as much as possible and you have your mic and pop shield set up, it's on to recording! Before you press that button, here are some things to be aware of:
- Make sure that you wear clothes that aren't too noisy. Necklaces, leather, certain polyester clothes all make noises when you move so make sure your clothes are silent.
- If you’re using a condenser microphone, you should be positioned an open hand-width away from the microphone for the best results. Spread your hand out - the tip of your little finger is where the microphone should be, and your thumb should be where your mouth is, with the pop shield in- between.
- Turn the microphone to an ever-so-slight angle, so that you are not directly in front of it. This helps reduce any plosives that the pop shield does not remove and can improve the final recording.
- Sibilance is the harsh distortion that sometimes occurs when you record words containing the letters S and C, some microphones pick it up more than others and some people's voices produce it more than others. It is a common problem caused by a slight whistling noise made by the air from your mouth passing over your teeth. It can be quite tricky to teach yourself to reduce the harshness of those words, but a simple trick that you can use is by chewing some gum and sticking it to the roof of your mouth, which will reduce the whistling effect.
- If you are reading lines from paper or a tablet whilst you’re recording, make sure that you still direct your voice towards the microphone.
- If you use paper, scrunch the paper up a few times before you start recording to reduce the noise of the paper rustling.
- If you’re using a tablet, try to avoid tapping the screen as you don’t want the sound to be picked up by the mic.
- When recording, make sure that you set the Gain of the microphone so that you are not clipping, but also not too quiet. If it is too loud it can cause distortion. The average level of the recording would ideally be around -6 to -12db in the software. If it is too quiet, you’ll have to increase the gain afterwards, which can increase the hiss.
One of the best known and easiest to use audio recording software is Audacity. It's free and can be used to record, edit and export your audio file. It's also compatible with both Mac and PC.
There are many alternatives out there so do some research and find something that works for you. Here at Spotlight we use Adobe Audition for recording our podcasts and voice overs as it has a few more professional features, but it can be quite complicated to use.
Make sure you use your phone to practice until you get the hang of it but most of all have fun! We have lots more advice and tips about voice work and once you're set up and ready to record from home, don't forget to update your Spotlight profile.
Image by NeONBRAND via Unsplash.