(This blog post was written by Jim Edgar. Jim is a full time voice actor, VO audio technical consultant, and core instructor here at Voice One. Jim shares a new blog post every Tuesday over at JustAskJimVO - be sure to check them out!)
“What are the ‘right’ settings to use for a VO audition?” “What values should I use to meet spec?” “How do I get that pro sound in your home studio recordings?”
These are all reasonable questions to ask. They speak to the desire to deliver professional work. Ask them in a discussion group or forum and you are likely to receive all kinds of very detailed responses. The question, however, is whether any of those will make things sound better in your specific setup. Without first listening to what you are producing, it is pretty unlikely.
Without first hearing the raw audio, there are probably only two settings which I would ever recommend. The first is where to apply a High Pass Filter filter on your recorded audio. The second is the input gain setting used when recording.
In both cases, I’m going to err on the side of being more conservative – unless you have a super deep voice, a High Pass Filter set around 75 Hertz is probably going to be fairly safe. That’s going to get rid of the rumble and lower frequency hums which live in most studios.
Then if you are recording in 24 bit for your raw recordings (which is a good practice), adjusting the gain on your interface so that the peaks end up in roughly in the -12 dB range is a good plan (though a touch under that wouldn’t be a problem).
Beyond that though, all bets are off. Unless I’ve actually heard the recording, it’s impossible to recommend EQ corrections or compression settings without potentially negative effects upon the recording. There are too many variables.
One possible cause is that we often are trying to listen with our eyes rather than our ears. The computer sort of seduces us into this approach and it’s tricky to resist. The first time we encounter a delivery spec request from a client on a voiceover project, there are all kinds of numbers involved: Sample Rate and Bit Depth, Loudness, and Peak values just to start.
That reliance upon numerical values tends to force things into an equation. We get focused on those numbers and lose sight of the basics of what we need to do: deliver great sounding audio. We need to trust our ears.
Loudness and Peak might provide solid, usable values. However, there are no ideal values for EQ or Dynamics. That’s were we need to listen.
The dynamic range (quietest to loudest possible sound) on an animation project will be quite different than what you might encounter for an audio tour. When we start talking about EQ and Filtering into the vocal range, things get quite complex. There may be frequencies added by the room which need to be reduced. A combination of voice timbre and microphone might need a judicious boost to find a balanced clarity to grab the listener’s ear. Both of those fixes depend greatly on the context of where the audio will be used and where the problems lie.
It’s critical to hear that raw recording before offering those corrections. Acoustics are complex. There is no one size fits all.
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