Sunday, 19 June 2011

Tip #73: Record high quality voice over

By Dan Parkes (Director)

"In a world...."

We are now all familiar with the seemingly ubiquitous deep film trailer voice that sounds like he has smoked a hundred cigarettes a day... (epitomised by the legendary late "Don" LaFontaine -picture left- who never smoked!). But that deep, crisp and velvet like voice over is now something possible for even low budget filmmakers to achieve.

In Ambleton Delight we had narration as voice over that starts and finishes the film and this was recorded in a living room.

Here are some tips on what we learned along the way:
  1. Is voice over really necessary? There are times when it is a too easy or safe option. Other times it is necessary for backstory.
  2. Reading written narration can -depending on the person- be quite an art form and require some practice to make it sound natural. Audition and rehearse as you would for any speaking part.
  3. If you can't record in an actual studio then try to replicate one. Reverb and echo is what will ruin your recording -eliminate it by recording in a small enclosed space, or by creating one using duvets, sleeping bags, blankets, cardboard, egg crates etc
  4. Treat the recording session the same as when directing actors on set -give as much or as little direction, back-story, motivation as required.
  5. Don't underestimate the power of a good microphone. That does not necessary mean an expensive one -you could possibly borrow or hire one for the day. Generally speaking capacitor microphones are better than dynamic for voice over.
  6. Make sure you have a pop guard -something that goes between the microphone and mouth to help reduce the puffs of wind from such things as the letter 'p'. You can use stockings to create one.
  7. Have large-print print-outs of the voice over, double spaced and a paragraph or less to a page. Don't have any notes that require page-turning as this will make a noticeable noise.
  8. Use a music stand to hold the voice over notes.
  9. Record high quality uncompressed digital files such as 48K WAV files.
  10. Make sure someone is monitoring with headphones and have this option also for the voice over artist so they can monitor themselves.
  11. Number takes and label accurately.
  12. Add compression and other effects as required afterwards (Pro Tools has a 'voice over' setting).


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