Microphone technique is critically important for all voice-over work, because you don’t want the audio editor to hate you do you?
Of course not!
This article was motivated by our audio editor Alex recently having to spend twice as long editing a voice-over recording than it should have taken him, mainly due to incorrect – downright bad – microphone technique. It gives him the chills just thinking about it.
What’s most frustrating is that for the most part, having a good mic technique is easy. A bit of forethought is all that’s required to get your recording perfect.
And crucially this will have an affect on how producers like Alex feel working with a voice actor again. If a producer has to spend twice as long as normal editing out issues, it DOES affect the decision to work with an otherwise brilliant voice talent again.
So, here are 5 tips to the perfect microphone technique for voice-over. They will make the life of the audio editor 1000x easier and, in turn, should make you more bookable for repeat work!
Stand further away from the microphone than you think
Too many people stand with their mouths touching the pop shield. You’re not a rapper. You’re not beatboxing. STOP IT.
All this does is increase the amount of tongue, mouth and breath/air noise that needs editing out.
The microphones are very sensitive. You don’t ever need to be that close for standard voice-over narration. If you are recording in an acoustically treated room (it really doesn’t have to be too much!), then you can get between 1-2 metres away and it will sound fine.
If you watch any behind the scenes footage of a Pixar film, you will see where the microphone is positioned in relation to the actor, who is often moving around constantly to act out the parts.
Do it like that! Whilst also taking note of the following point.
Project your voice at a consistent loudness
This ties in with the previous point. If the microphone is a bit further away, you need to bear in mind the need to ensure the words you are saying are reaching the microphone clearly and loudly enough.
Abdominal breathing is one such technique to ensure your voice is projected.
However, it really just takes practice to ensure that your voice is not TOO loud. Remember: the microphone is very sensitive, you don’t need to shout. Just project clearly from your abdomen and try to keep it consistent. If you vary in volume constantly, it requires considerably more editing to balance out the level.
Project your voice, not too loud, and keep it consistent.
ALSO READ: What is the Best Microphone for Voice Over?
Breathe quietly please
This may seem like someone saying, “stop blinking so loudly”, but it is vital to ensure a good voice-over recording that needs hardly any editing.
If you are breathing properly from your abdomen, you should breathe VERY quietly anyway.
It takes practice to train the muscles in your abdomen (called the diaphragm) to breathe quietly AND deeply, but this skill is what sets professional voice artists apart from the amateurs.
You should NEVER take great sucking breaths between sentences or paragraphs, or hold your breath. And when you do breathe, it should be softly.
If you are standing further away from the microphone (see tip 1!), then you will barely hear the breath on the recording at all! Great stuff!
Drink plenty of water before and during the recording session
I only mention “before and during” the session because you can really do whatever you like after the recording is finished. You can go to the pub if you want. Whatever.
Anyway, the point is ensuring you are well hydrated reduces: the number of times you will feel compelled to lick your lips.
The amount of tongue and lip-smacking noise generated by trying to keep your busy mouth nice and m o i s t and keep the saliva flowing will be greatly reduced by drinking plenty of water. Your stamina and ability to project at a consistent level for longer periods of time will also be given a boost.
It might seem patronizing or obvious to have a tip that is just “drink water”, but to record effectively you really need to be well hydrated. It’s so important, you could make a bespoke drinks stand like @MartinWhiskin
One of my proudest moments, not only as a VO, but as an adult… a DIY drinks stand. Fashioned from an old pop shield clamp, a coaster and some superglue #voiceover #voiceactor pic.twitter.com/KPKYexqssc
— Martin Whiskin (@MartinWhiskin) June 17, 2019
Wear rustle-free clothes
There’s not really a dress code, of course, just make sure you’re not wearing your favourite, but noisy, silk pyjamas, or a full leather bodysuit. Jangly jewellery is also a no-no. And whilst not something you wear, also pay attention to your seating and desk for random noise generation.
If it creaks, squeaks, rustles or wobbles then it’s best avoided for VO recording!
And that’s it! Those are the absolute 5 tips to keep the audio editor happy.
In short, always:
Stand further away from the microphone that you think
Project your voice at a consistent loudness
Drink a lot of water before and during the session
Wear fairly rustle-free clothes
If you follow all these steps (particularly the first two) then you will be every audio engineer’s favourite voice artist in no time!
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