It’s perfectly possible to produce great sounding voiceover recordings on a budget in a home studio environment. However if you try and rush it the results will suffer and it won’t sound as good as you want it to be. With speech recordings you often don’t have music beds that can hide issues in the recording, everything is laid bare, which does make the job more challenging.
The key to achieving pro sounding voiceover recordings on a budget lies within a handful of common sense approaches that you need to turn your full attention to, well before you even hit record. For this article let’s assume the voiceover artist is fully prepared. How do you prepare as the audio engineer responsible for recording them?
Planning and preparation goes a long way in voice over production as it does is so many of the tasks we undertake. Get a great sound from the artist down the mic and you could potentially save hours of editing time in post, rush the process and you’ll be hard pressed to save the project.
In this article we share 4 top starter tips for recording great sounding voiceover and dialog tracks on a budget in home studios.
Please Be Seated
I prefer to have my voiceover artists seated during the recording of their readings because I can avoid a number of issues that often spoil the perfect take. I’ve found that artists who stand during performances unintentionally move in and around the microphone’s sweet-spot which is a bit frustrating from the perspective of the audio engineer. There’s nothing worse than trying to fix a voiceover take in the mix riddled with tonal inconsistencies caused by random head movement around the mic, that’s why I’d rather get the best take possible at source down the mic in the first place.
Get your voiceover artist to sit on a comfortable sturdy chair with legs. Avoid wheeler chairs at all costs as thy have a habit of moving around during a take, which can produce unwanted noise that a microphone can easily capture as background noise. Having an artist sit in one static place also helps to ensure their voice is projected forward directly into the sweet-spot of the mic. Sitting is also more comfortable for the artist if the session is a long one and reduces the risk of the artist getting too tired too soon.
Consider The Time Of Day - When Is It Quietest To Record?
Does the room you intend to record in typically suffer from sound leaking in through the walls or windows from the outside world such as traffic noise? If you do not have the opportunity to record in a quieter space then you’ll need to work out the best time of day, or night, when the noise is at its quietest. By scheduling a time to record when the outside world is at its quietest you will reduce the chance of background noise in your takes and the number of retakes too.
I used to do just this when recording poetry and audiobooks in a studio that was located next to a busy road. I found that early evenings were the best time to record as the heavy rush hour traffic outside the studio had calmed down and everything was much quieter.
Point The Microphone Away From Nuisance Noise
Home studios typically have the recording computer in the same room as both the audio engineer driving the session and the voiceover artist. There’s nothing wrong with this way of working but you have to be aware of noise caused by other items in the room, such as the computer’s fan and the audio engineer clicking buttons and rustling scripts. To limit those types of nuisance noises being recording down the mic you should experiment with pointing the artist’s microphone in the opposite direction from computers, mix positions… doors or windows… whatever or wherever noise is coming from.
Don’t Clock Watch - Time Is On Your Side!
If you are recording voiceovers at home, or at someone else’s residence, then take your time. There is no point rushing the process, or worse, rushing the artist. Always ensure your artist is comfortable throughout the session as they will be doing the majority of the work. Your job, as the audio engineer, is to listen for mistakes, listen for continuity, provide constructive feedback as well as the expected technical requirements you need to employ in order to record, mix down and deliver.
Below is a typical priority list I work through when ever I setup for a voice over recording project:
Pick the right microphone for the room.
Find the best spot within the room for the microphone to limit the chance of background noise being recorded.
Position the chair and microphone stand in such a way that doesn’t make the artist feel cramped.
Ensure scripts are laid out on a music stand which is in clear line of sight for the artist to read and amend with a pen. Avoid letting the artist hold paper scripts (such as the artist is doing in the image of this article) as rustling sounds easily occur this way. Music stands are your best option at avoiding paper noise.
Position a bottle of water within arms reach for the artist.
Lay cables safely around the area in which the artist is sitting to limit trip hazards
Ensure the artist has everything they need and that they feel confident and calm before recording.
We hope these starter tips help you to produce great sounding voice over recordings in your home studios. If you have some tips and tricks of your own that you feel will help the community record great sounding dialog tracks then please do contribute them in the comments below.