There are several things you can do before, during, and after recording to make your voice overs for eLearning sound more professional in your courses. Here are some simple suggestions for before you start recording your next project.
1. Well Written, Properly Formatted Script
Nothing is worse than when you are on a roll recording a voice over and then you come across a misspelled word or incorrect placement of a comma. It brings added time to re-record the sentence and adds more time to the editing process. To help minimize reading errors from the voice talent, do all you can to have your script grammatically correct and printed out in a legible font. This seems like a no brainer but it’s surprising how much grief can be caused by simple script errors. If possible, have a stand that you can clip the script to so you can have two pages visible at the same time. You don’t want the sound of turning pages in the middle of a sentence on your recording.
This is probably the most important aspect to having a professional sounding voice over. Background noise and humming can cause voice overs to sound like they were recorded with a laptop microphone or worse. The highest quality microphone still won’t sound good if you’ve got a ton of background noise. Anything that your voice or other sounds can bounce off of will produce unwanted noise. Professional voice overs are recorded in professional studios in rooms that are designed to be sound proofed and have no other sound waves other than the voice that is being recorded. A professional studio is ideal for recording voice overs but if you don’t have the budget there are several tips to picking the right spot to record. Pick a room that you can have as much control of sound as possible. Once you have a room, do what you can to “sound proof” the room. If you can invest in noise cancellation foam, such as Auralex Studiofoam, then you can install that on the walls of your recording room. However, packing blankets or any type of thick blanket can be used to help sound proof also. A walk-in closet that is full of clothes can be a really good spot to record because the clothes actually provide a pretty good environment to cancel unwanted noise. Other possible solutions to help with noise cancellation are portable microphone isolation shields or booths.
3. Choosing a Microphone
There are countless options when it comes to choosing a microphone and even more opinions on the matter. Typically, condenser and dynamic microphones are ideal for voice over recording. The Heil Sound PR 40 (a dynamic mic) is popular for voice overs due to its versatility and affordability. Then there is the Neumann U 87 (a condenser mic) which is about as high quality as you can get. You can spend thousands of dollars on a good mic but what really matters is if you know how to use the mic you have. Mic placement is important for voice overs. Depending on what type of mic you have, placing the mic in front, slightly off center and slightly above or below the mouth of the voice talent is ideal. If you have a mic similar to a Shure SM-58, placing the mic to the side of the mouth of your voice talent (pointed at the mouth but not directly in front of it) can help with eliminating “plosives” (the louder speech sound often caused by the letters “P” and “B”). A more popular way to eliminate “plosives” is to use a pop filter (also called a pop shield).
4. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
In order to record with a legitimate microphone, you will need a device that you can plug your microphone into that can interface with your computer. There are some microphones out there that have a USB output but the majority of microphones have what is called an XLR output. There are many different types of DAWs on the market today. You’ll need an audio converter of some sort and then some software that allows you to record and edit the audio that you capture with your mic. If you are familiar with Adobe’s Creative Suite then Audition would be a good program to use to record and edit your voice overs. There are a lot of open source options out there as well, including Audacity, Reaper, and NCH Software. As far as audio converters go, the PreSonus Audiobox is a great option to go with because of its quality and affordability. It comes with its own recording software but it can also interface with other software if you so decide. One thing to look for when getting an audio converter is the quality at which it captures sound (the sample rate and bit depth capability). You can always convert to a lower sample rate and bit depth but you can’t “up-convert” from lower quality to higher quality. 96khz/24bit is as high as you’ll ever need and most likely higher than you need for the human voice. The lowest you would want to record at is 44.1khz/16bit (CD quality). So look at the specs of the audio converter you’re using to see what sample rate and bit depth it converts to.
This post should help you get started doing voice overs for eLearning. Stay tuned for more posts about tips for what to do during recording of voice overs (Part 2) as well as tips for editing clips after you’ve recorded (Part 3).