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Old December 29th, 2007, 08:57 AM   #46
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one thing that all of you boys don't realize is that mics that sound good with men's voices don't necessarily sound so great on the girls...a lot of our clients have someone on their staff who they want to use for some of their VO work, so our NT1A is our boys' mic and the Senny MD46 is our girls' mic. the latter brings amazing clarity to female voices. i bought it for field interviews, originally, but it has become the VO mic of choice when we bring a female voice into the studio. there's not enough bass in most female voices to make the NT1A shine. girls sound like mud on the NT1A.

i bought it on the strength of its reviews and couldn't figure out why it sounded worse than our shotguns until i figured out that all the reviews of it were written by men about men. i used it on two women and was disappointed with the results. i used it on a man and voila, sounds good.

it took me awhile to figure this out, but as others have pointed out, there's really no way to know what mic works best with an individual voice without flat-out testing. if you are going to be doing a lot of your own VO, testing in a retail store that will let you play with a range of mics is the best option. Guitar Center seems to be set up to let you muck around with mics.
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Old December 29th, 2007, 09:14 AM   #47
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Which they seldom are....

It's not just a guy/girl thing once you start using professional narrators.

Good women narrators are altos with more chest tone than some (regular) men.

The mics of choice in "the real studios" for years have been Neumann U 87 and AKG 414 through really good preamps...for either men or women.

Experienced VO recorders use EQ on the record to buff out voice problems and compression or limiting to pack the sound a bit tighter. That's another reason the voices pop when you hear them.

I did it or 17 years as a production director and on-air guy in major market radio and have been doing it for 21 years since.

You can use almost any good mic ....if you know what you're doing.


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Old December 29th, 2007, 10:11 AM   #48
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but i think that's missing the point a bit.

we do a lot of work with untrained voice people, and the mic matters...if i'm going to include a pro in the budget, then i expect that they will be supplying the audio equipment and the voice as well, and i can leave those issues in good hands. but that is not always expedient or desirable for clients who are trying to put their face to their product. "hire a pro" does not address many situations, especially if we are talking about documentary work and certain commercial enterprises (investor videos and infomercials come immediately to mind).

experienced professionals can always make the technology look good, rather than the other way around, regardless of the field...that's a given. a great shooter can make great images on a single-chip camera, and a trained voice can make my daughter's Bratz microphone sound great.

but that fact does nothing to help me make a female client doing her own VO, to put her face and voice to her product, look good...i was just trying to throw an unaddressed factoid about the NT1A into the mix, something that other users may encounter, since it was getting a lot of props as a good, inexpensive choice...
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Old December 29th, 2007, 11:34 AM   #49
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You expect the voice person to supply the mic and gear? Only a small minority of good VO talent have their own studio gear. You'll be missing out of a lot of very good talent by thinking that way. VO and good audio skills are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they frequently are.

Put ANYONE in front of a c414 or U 87 in the right room and with a good preamp and you'll be fine.

BUT, Bill was talking about an SM7 and a 528. That will also work. I mentioned the others because that's what the brick and mortar studios use.

If you have a female (or male) client with a problematic voice, you have to know how to solve the problem. The SM7 and 528 will also work on them if you know how to get the most out of the gear.


Ty Ford
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Old December 29th, 2007, 12:01 PM   #50
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Originally Posted by Ty Ford View Post
You expect the voice person to supply the mic and gear?
no, to clarify, the 2 pros that we periodically use on our projects come equipped with gear, i am not trying to make assumptions about anyone else's situation or trying to set anyone else's expectations...just sharing a few personal and professional observations, i have no Grand Unified Theory on the subject.
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Old December 29th, 2007, 12:11 PM   #51
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You bring up a good point. For people shopping on a budget, audition the mic if you can with your own headphones and your typical talent. Ty is right that with a good setup, EQ and compression can make a world of difference. Having a mic that sounds good out of the box and doesn't have *too much* character really helps though.

Here's a good VO trick. Copy your recording to two tracks. Leave one uncompressed. Compress the snot out of the other (for instance 20:1 @-20dB.) Now mix to taste.

The uncompressed track keeps the peaks, so the result still sounds lively and crisp. The compressed track pumps up soft vowels and makes the voice sound full.

Bus the two tracks through a common EQ. The fundamentals are in the 200-400 Hz range. Adjust this for the bass balance of the voice. If there are intelligibility problems, boost the frequencies around 1.2 kHz. That should help bring out the consonants. Vocal character is often around 2.4 kHz. If the voice is too nasaly or harsh, cut it a bit. If the voice is hollow or it's hard to distinguish between multiple speakers, try a boost. Finally, the 5k-15kHz range is where you find the sparkle or "air." Boost this to make a dull voice shine.

These are only rough guidelines. It really depends on the voice and the recording. But it's a good place to start.

Also, you can make sharp frequency cuts, but (pretty much) never make sharp boosts. Boosts should be wide and smooth and cover a range of frequencies.

I used the above approach on an amateur with a reasonably deep voice recently. When he heard the raw recording, he wasn't feeling too good about himself. After the processing, he was all smiles. :)
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Old December 29th, 2007, 12:12 PM   #52
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Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post

At that budget and with that specific need - you want a really "out there" suggestion? Look up the Coles "lip" mic.

Anyone have direct experience with that?
The Lip mic will make you look like a sports commentator, OK in the pit lane or a football stadium. Great mic for that gig.
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Old December 29th, 2007, 01:06 PM   #53
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Here's the Cole Lip Mic and some information. It's "A voice-Over booth in your pocket!":

More Info:

At B&H for $859.95:
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Old December 29th, 2007, 01:08 PM   #54
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Originally Posted by Paul Cascio View Post
Bill, nice post. Audio seems to be the most confusing part of video. :-)

Question: Where does the Symetrix 528 fit in if I record directly to computer and already have a USB or FW mixer? In my case I have an M-Audio 410.

Also, if I record direct to camera, could/would I still use the Symetrix 528?

Finally, is there a software equivalent of the 528, and what are the pros/cons of such an approach?


The whole point of a hardware instead of a software approach isn't which is better or cheaper or whatever-er. It's that people who regularly do VOs have learned that they MUST have constant and ongoing access to a reasonable recording chain that is dependable and omnipresent. That ENCOURAGES you to practice.

The simplest way to do this is to creating a physical mechanism for recording that, once setup, remains essentially constant day after day, week after week, year after year. A traditional hardware recording chain doesn't crash. It doesn't require "updates." It sits there and WORKS. As you learn its idiosyncrasies, YOU adapt. Subconsciously. Until you know how to use it really, really well.

If you're spending 95% of your time doing word processing and only 5% of your time booting your fancy VO software and actually doing VOs - sorry, but you'll NEVER really excel at it.

The work will go to the men and woman who ARE sitting in front of systems - whether hardware or software based is meaningless - and doing VOs EVERY day.

If I were to rate the top twenty most important things that make voiceovers successful and worth paying for, the "gear you're recording on" would come in at about number 35.

If you actually want to do professional level VO work - at some point you'll be standing behind double glass with MONEY on the line.

And you will face some time - probably 30 or 60 seconds but possibly longer - when a mic is keyed and you're IT.

With everyone watching and listening and judging everything you do... you're IT.

When that brief slice of time passes and the mic circuit gets closed on that particular take (or another in a reasonable and efficient sequence)...DOES A RECORDING EXIST THAT WILL SATISFY A KNOWLEDGABLE CLIENT?

Cause if it does - you are a voice talent.

And if it doesn't - you aren't.

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Old December 29th, 2007, 09:46 PM   #55
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That Bill Davis sure knows the mean streets of VO work. :)

And he's right, btw.

When I did the voice for Lt. Lo'Tal on the Legacy Star trek game, it was all work and no play. I was spitting out words and phrases like a Pez machine for an hour and a half straight, burning through a Exel spreadsheet formatted script. I think we did 4 second takes.


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