How to Record Voice Overs

In this segment we show you how to prepare a recording booth and choose proper audio equipment. Once you know the ins and outs of recording and editing voice overs, your narration will be solid and carry as much impact as the rest of your production.

Video Transcript

Well, your video project looks great and is about ready to deliver. You've got an excellent script and awesome voice talent; all that remains is the voice-over. So now what do you do? Never fear, we're going to show you the in's and out's of recording and editing voice-overs so your narration is solid and carries as much impact as the rest of your production.

The voice-over is a commonly used tool in today's video production world. Television news programs, commercials, documentaries, how-to videos, and even photo slide-shows, make use of the voice-over. An extremely important part of your production, let's take a look at a few of the details that will give you the best result possible.
Providing suitable space for recording voice-overs can be fairly involved - as in building a dedicated studio or even portable sound booth out of PVC pipe and mover's blankets or as simple as sitting in a parked car in a quiet place with the windows rolled up. It may be more appropriate though to simply take a walk through the various rooms in your home or office and listen for the quietest room you can find. Got it? What sounds do you hear and what can you do to minimize or eliminate them? Can that ticking clock be removed from the room? Can the air conditioner vent be closed or otherwise covered?
Once you've settled on an appropriate space and minimized potential problems, sound-proof the area further by hanging heavy blankets, drapes, egg-crate foam or other sound absorbing materials around where you will be recording. Cover any hard surfaces, as they tend to reflect sounds. If you have one available, a walk-in closet with plenty of clothing hanging about can become an excellent sound booth. Be sure your space has good lighting and is well ventilated.
Several types of microphones are available for recording voice-overs. USB microphones are affordable, have the advantage of plugging directly into your computer and can produce good quality recordings. For a more professional touch, use a dynamic broadcast or large diaphragm condenser microphone. These mics are used in broadcast and music studios and offer rich vocal reproduction. On the minus side however, they carry a higher price tag and require additional equipment to use them on a computer. Whatever microphone you choose, be sure to place it on an adjustable microphone stand in a good shock mount. You don't want your talent handling the microphone in any way during recording as that will introduce unwanted noise into your voice-over. Your talent should get close to the mic while speaking, about one to four inches. The further away you are, the thinner the voice sounds, and the more noticeable room tone or background noise becomes. To avoid the popping sound of plosives and the sibilance of esses be sure to use a pop filter placed a couple of inches in front of the microphone. These can be purchased or homemade, using an embroidery hoop, panty hose and some clamps. The fabric diffuses the rush of air created by these sounds and minimizes their effect on your recording.
While recording, your vocal talent may be watching and listening to the video playback. Provide them with a set of closed-back, circumaural headphones. These are full-sized headphones with ear cups that fully enclose the ears, effectively sealing the ear and preventing sound from leaking out and onto your recording.
There are a number of devices you can use to capture your voice-over. Ideally, you will record straight into a computer. This allows your talent to record directly onto your editing software's timeline while watching the video playback. Alternatively, you can record excellent quality voice-overs to a portable digital recorder, such as the Zoom H2n. However, a separate device is necessary for video playback and the recording will have to be synched in editing. Recording to a camcorder is possible but not particularly desirable. If you choose this method, use a high quality external microphone, if at all possible, and be sure to turn off the automatic gain control.

Now that you've gotten the final sound byte, it's time to get out of the sound booth and into the editing booth to make your best work even better.
If you own a video editing suite, then audio editing software may already be included or you may find that your video editor allows you to record directly to its timeline. Before spending additional money, explore what you have now, and if possible, use what you're already familiar with.
For that extra touch use a Compressor filter to amplify quieter sounds, while reducing louder sounds, for a smoother, more even result. An EQ filter can be used to eliminate sibilance or other unwanted sounds that may have found their way onto your recording.
Well, there you have it. Follow these tips when recording and editing your next voice-over and you'll have a solid narrative that is sure to engage your audience to the fullest