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Old June 11th, 2005, 01:39 PM   #1
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Equipment Essentials for Narration/Voiceovers?

Hey Guys -

I'm just starting to learn the audio end of things. I had initially focused on learning my NLE (vegas), but now is time to get more into audio, so I need some help:

I need to record narration/voiceover into a documentary I am doing. I have a standard Windows PC (2.5 1Gb RAM) with a standard crappy souncard. Because of budget constraints, I am trying to get away with using a short-shotgun (AT 897) to do this, but I am not adverse to buying a budget condenser if y'all think it's crucial and have a recommendation. Other than that I have a few other questions:

Should I replace the soundcard with another internal, or get something like the M-Audio firewire solo? I have no need to record music, just vocals.

Also, If I do get M-Audio Firewire solo, must I also get a mic preamp? Any recommendations there would be helpful as well. I do already have a Beacktek, but that will not help me here as far as a pre-amp, correct?

So, to sum up - I have a windows based PC, an OEM crappy soundcard and a Beachtek. What do you recommend as far as a decent set-up to record good audio into the computer? Also, if you have any opinions on using a stand-alone audio recorder for this purpose, I would welcome those as well.. :)

Thanks in advance to all of you on these great forums. Any limited knowledge I do have in this interesting field is a tribute to all of you here.


Marc
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Old June 11th, 2005, 02:10 PM   #2
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With a stand-alone recorder you need one that can be linked to your PC via USB so you can transfer your recording - otherwise the whole excercise is pretty pointles.

I use a MiniDisc Player/Recorder (MZ-NH1 from SONY) which I like mostly because I can use it as a music player most of the time and record whatever I need should I ever need to.

On the subject of recording into your computer: I'm a little skeptical of how great the quality is when you record through your built-in sound card - though I admit that if you're not looking for pro-quality sound you can get away with a decent copy of some sound software (even trial version) to clean up your recordings (to a degree).

I can't really speak to the M-Audio cards or any other sounds cards for that matter since I don't really use them.

By the way: what's your budget like for this? It makes a bit of a difference in terms of which route you should go.
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Old June 11th, 2005, 04:33 PM   #3
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Hey Marc,
First of all, the M-Audio firewire solo should work just fine for your application. It has phantom power, preamp and gain controls all built in. And it does the D to A conversion outside your PC and that's a good thing too. Your budget sound card will be fine to monitor the sound, but I believe the firewire box has a headphone jack too. You'll want to compare what gets recorded using your pc audio versus what is coming out of the firewire box, via the headphone jack on the box to be sure they sound the same, I am sure they will. As far as using the AT897 it will probably work ok, I don't have experience with it but I think it's resonably good. The issue is how full you want your voiceover to sound. (here is where I talk about stuff I barely have any experiece with so "grain of salt time") My understanding is for voiceover work you want a large diaphram condenser. I am pretty sure in addition to being a small diaphram you mic is not designed for close up work. However, I would try it first and see how you like it and try a few different configurations, using a windsock and pop filter, talking directly on axis and slightly off, etc.. If you can't get the sound you want, try another mic. We have a rode NT1a and have done a little voiceover work with it and like it alot, it's only around $170 from B&H and includes a shockmount. Good luck! Mark

PS Either USB or firewire may be used to transfer the digitized audio to your computer and with the box you've chosen your internal sound card isn't involved, except for monitoring. M-Audio is fine, there are better and there are worse, I have an M-Audio 0404, which I like a lot better than the Audigy 2 I was using....

PSS make sure your NLE will accept the firewire digitized audio for direct recording onto your movie audio track, I am pretty sure it will, but be sure to check before you start spending money...
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Old June 11th, 2005, 05:49 PM   #4
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If you have a camera with good audio inputs, you may not necessarily need a sound card. If your camera needs a Beachtek, it's audio probably is ok. It's free to try it out anyways. If the noise in it is too high for you, step up to a sound card/interface.

Microphone:
I would try your mic first. Generally with VO mics, you are looking for:
A- Accuracy. Measurement microphones are the best for this, as well as small diaphragm condensers. This is generally not that important as B.
B- Tone/quality of the sound. The microphone interacts with the talent's voice to produce a unique sound. Some people's voices will sound better on one mic than another. Perhaps why large diaphragm condensors are popular is that they add a little color to the sound which works well on many voices.
Some engineers like the MKH416 (shotgun) because it sits well in mixes. Some voice talent hate what that microphone does to their voice.
Basically this comes down to a subjective judgement. If the AT897 works for your voice, then great!
For particular sounds, a particular mic may be good. i.e. radio sound... EV RE-20, Sennheiser MD421
movie trailer guy sound... the Rode tube mic?
C- Technical quality- low self-noise which lends well to compression/dynamics. As well, a shotgun may be highly desireable if you must record with high b/g noise.

Microphone stand:
Get this. Position the mic semi-upside down and off to the side. Wind/air from plosives should go under the mic and not cause pops.
You could throw in a pop filter (you can make it yourself) if you want extra protection just in case.

Copy stand:
This is also good. A music stand with low surface area might be good (I'm not very good at describing this). The ones with larger surface area will reflect sound back... you can add foam to stop that.

Room + acoustic treatment:
Ideally:
Reverb: Very low, but not so low it's totally anechoic (anechoic = no echo at all). If the wall the talent faces reflects sound, that would be good so the talent doesn't go crazy (if the room were totally anechoice) and there is low reverb because the echo is hitting the microphone where it isn't very sensitive.
You can also acoustic treatment to deal with reverb. Jay Rose's book Audio Postproduction for Digital Video has instructions on DIY panels.
No budget solution would be to use a closet with clothes in it.
Some rooms may reflect a lot of bass... that wouldn't be good.

Background noise:
The lower the better. You may be able to turn sound-producing devices off, or lessen their noise.
It is expensive to make an existing room sound-proof.

Last edited by Glenn Chan; June 12th, 2005 at 01:40 AM.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 01:30 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Lipschultz
Because of budget constraints, I am trying to get away with using a short-shotgun (AT 897) to do this, but I am not adverse to buying a budget condenser if y'all think it's crucial and have a recommendation.
I presume you're recording indoors. The only way your voice will sound even reasonably OK on an AT 897 indoors is if you dampen the room down like there's no tomorrow. I love the 897, but it becomes a hyper-sensitive omni when you use it indoors (and produces very hollow voices).
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Old June 12th, 2005, 11:41 AM   #6
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What about using lavs for voiceover recording?
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Old June 12th, 2005, 12:59 PM   #7
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Microphones with larger diaphragms than a lav would have lower self-noise?
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Old June 13th, 2005, 12:06 PM   #8
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In reading the other posts, I would have to agree, not matter what, sound dampening and insulation are going to be really important. I can hear cars drive by in my neighborhood that the people I am video taping never hear and the deader the sound recorded the more flexibility you'll have in post adding reverb and effects to get the feel you want. Mark

Glen, the rode NT1a is not a tube mic.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 06:20 PM   #9
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I'm talking about the tube mic Rode makes. I'm not sure what the model number is. One of the forum members here put up a nice clip from it.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 05:15 AM   #10
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Its the NTK

Been watching this forum for some time - and thought that I might be able to add something given that I do a lot of home narration - and I am now very happy with my product.

Before I go any further the microphone that Glenn is referring to is the Rode NTK - and it is really a great VO mic. I think that many people prefer the rich sound of a Valve mic (I am one of them) - but I could only afford the next step down the Rode NT1000 - still a very nice mic, but about half the price. When run through a small valve pre-amp like the DBX minipre it sounds great. I run this through a hardware compressor with a noise gate to eliminate any spurious backgound into an Edirol FA101 interface, into my computer and finally add some spice in Wavelab. Now I know that some of the pro's on the forum may not like what I am doing (and I certainly respect their opinion) but I am sensationally happy with the result which does sound as good on my DVD's as any other pro voice over I have heard. I used to try to work with shot guns and dynamic mics, but they were nowhere near as nice at producing VO as the Rode set up. I will stress that I am only talking about VO here, and that I certainly use my shotguns for most other applications.

I know of the M-audio firewire interface and it is also excellent. I preferred the Edirol - but the difference is very small - and indeed many may be the other way around.

I really do believe that a large diaphragm condensor cannot be beaten for VO work, and when teamed with a compressor to give you uniform dynamics you have a great head start for any VO.

Hope this helps.


Graeme
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Old June 15th, 2005, 05:32 AM   #11
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Graeme,
Just wanted to say I had an NT1000 for a short
while, recorded direct to tape, and was not as impressed
as I had expected to be. Don't know what a
valve pre-amp is but do you think that helps it
out a lot?
How do you find the 1000 without using any
compression/computer software, etc.?
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Old June 15th, 2005, 05:46 AM   #12
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Dave,

A decent preamp is critical to good sound with any large diaphragm condensor. The Rode matches very nicely with a good valve pre-amp - it is not an NTK, but it gets close IMHO. THe DBX is a "relative cheapie", but it still manages great sound for the price. I have delved a lot in music as well as video, so I have spent more time on the narration side than most home videographers - as I was once a professional muso. Spent a lot more time with voice mics - on the stage always used dynamics - in the studio - nothing but a large diaphragm condensor. I have never fed my condensor mic directly to tape - the pre amp in most decks would not be up to the challenge - hence the reason for using a seperate preamp. Also the preamp supplies the phantom power (48V). How did you power the Rode from a tape deck? Or do you mean video tape? Either way I don't think that the pre-amp is up to the quality of the mic.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 07:44 AM   #13
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I used Sony PD video tape, with 48V phantom.

I'm sure your whole system (software, etc.) makes it
sound good, but I had expected more ... even
from my minimal equipment. The sound was indeed
detailed, yes, but it had a slight touch of raspiness
that I wasn't expecting.
I had heard the Rode NT1A on a site that many of
us know and decided not to go with the NT1A
based upon that bit of raspiness I had heard.
I thought that the 1000 would totally get
rid of that but perhaps I had expected too much
for the money.
I compared the NT1000 to an AT4073 for VO.
Yes, the 1000 was more detailed, but overall
the 4073 was more pleasant, being just a tad fuller
and a bit smoother, IMHO. Comparing "a bit more detailed
but a bit raspy" vs. "less detailed but more
complimentary to the voice", overall, I liked
the 4073 better for VO.
So all you NT1000 fans I'm sure will pile on saying
what an idiot I am.

Have you ever tried a 4073 for VO, Graeme?
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Old June 15th, 2005, 04:29 PM   #14
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One other question on the Firewire solo - if I am using it with Phantom power, then should my AT897 not have the battery in it, or does that not matter? I'm not getting my Firewire Solo delivered til Friday, so thought I would ask in advance
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Old June 15th, 2005, 04:44 PM   #15
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i don't know specifically with the 897, but often those mics that can do batt/phantom need the battery in place to use phanton. it has to do with how the voltage gets where it needs to go. the battery can even be dead.
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