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-   -   Voice Over recording medium (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/all-things-audio/86753-voice-over-recording-medium.html)

Bill Zens February 17th, 2007 10:22 AM

Voice Over recording medium
I'm recording V/O for a presentation. What is your preferred method...In camera onto tape, directly into the computer, or on an external recording device?

Your comments would be appreciated.


Steven Gotz February 17th, 2007 11:24 AM

I record on to the PC as a WAV file. I run a mic into a preamp and them into my Audigy audio card.

I use a foam lined box similar to the one Spot showed us how to make a long time ago.

Even though my room is reasonably quiet, the fans of the PC are still a bit of an issue, so I eliminate the background noise in Adobe Audition. The good way to do this if you can arrange it is to take the Mic into a reasonably full clothes closet to deaden the sound and reduce background noise.

Brian Brown February 17th, 2007 11:55 AM

I'm with Steven for the PC recording. I just bought a ART Tube Preamp with USB to go into my PC digitally. If I pull a 25' XLR cable into the preamp, then a 15' active (repeater) USB cable into the PC, I can get the mic into my master closet for the best "treated" V/O space in the house. The "engineer" can sit at the preamp or the P/C to monitor and ride levels. This preamp has a limiter, which is pretty critical for doing vocal work, IMHO.

BTW, I bought a Rode NT3 hyper to do double duty for interior location shoots AND "studio" work. If I did more V/O and vocals, I would get an NT1-A or other larger-diaphram model.

Brian Brown
BrownCow Productions

Bill Mecca February 17th, 2007 07:56 PM

Directly onto the PC, using an acoustically treated room and better than decent gear, or you could hire a voice over talent who would supply you with the finished product. ;-)

Richard Andrewski February 17th, 2007 08:20 PM

Directly onto PC through a Neumann U87 (modified with vacuum tube from Cameron Labs in Tennessee) to a behringer AD/DA preamp/limiter unit through lightpipe to an RME Hammerfall DSP sound card recording with Video Toaster, Sawstudio or Vegas.

My 3 PCs are in another room and I have 75 foot cables and a KVM / KVM extender combo to allow it to work that way. KVM allows you to control more than one computer from one monitor (or dual monitors if you prefer), keyboard and mouse. I control quality of sound with diffusion panels and sound foam in my control room. Any serious setup will have PCs isolated so you can't hear the sound--if you do nothing else that may be one of the most important.

Bill Davis February 17th, 2007 10:01 PM

OK, since you asked.

My PREFERRED method is this. Someone hands me a script. They point me towards the VO booth. Somebody say "we're rolling" and I do the VO.

I've done that close to a thousand times over the past 30 years.

Here's how many times the differences in equipment or recording chain have mattered.


Really. I've done VO's in a TV station tape closets with a $85 EV-635 plugged directly into a 1984 vintage Betacam - NOT quite a world class recording chain! And the damn thing ran for SIX 13 week broadcast cycles.

In 30 years of doing this I've stood in front of probably 150 different microphones. Those fed beaucoup different pre-amps, ran through dozens of different boards, and computers, and cable types, in spaces ranging from state of the art acoustic treated zillion dollar studios, to that smelly "TV tape room". They all aired. They all sounded good enough to do the job and get me my next gig.

The reality is, the best way to get a REALLY good VO in a less than optimal recording situation is to start out with a REALLY good talent.

Said another way, the PERFECT mic feeding the PERFECT pre-amp, in the PERFECT booth, can get you a PERFECT recording of a mediocre read.

Gear doesn't make a VO great. Only a PERSON can make a great VO.

For decades I went out to studios to do my VOs. Today, I do them in an iso booth in my home video studio in a converted barn behind my property. I use a Neuman TLM-103. It's about the middle of the pack for PRO mics, with PLENTY of models available at TWICE what it cost me. When I re-did the studio a few years back, I thought about buying an Avalon, or Manley or other "Cadillac" level mic pre. But I didn't. It probably would make me sound a few % better. Maybe even 5% better. But running this very decent mic through the Mackie 1642 I use for the rest of my audio mixing gets me 95% of the way to what I need it to sound like, and I couldn't figure out why I needed to spend FOUR THOUSAND BUCKS to get that last 5 percent.

The reality is that nobody cares what my equipment looks like, or what brands I use. They care about how the files I send them SOUND. And that's always going to be 95% performance and 5% gear and recording chain.

Personally, I record to DVCAM tape at 48Khz. Because that's what my video editing system has already hanging on it and I can't figure out why I should change anything to do VOs.

I get scripts via email. I cut and edit the VO via Final Cut Pro (again, because it's sitting there and I use it every day) and typically post the AIFF or WAV file on my dot Mac account so the client can pull it down whenever they want.

Some clients used to do phone patches and listen and direct while I cut stuff, but hardly anyone does that anymore. The script gets emailed in - maybe with performance notes, maybe not - If not, I read it the way I think it should be read. Call them if the copy's too long, or unclear, or if there are pronunciation issues. Record, edit, master and ZOOM! - the VO goes out electronically along with a PDF of the invoice.

That's my preferred method.

Your mileage will most certainly vary.

Adam Reuter February 17th, 2007 11:24 PM

Bill, I definitely agree with you about talent being the major factor in how a recording sounds. I'm just a hobbyist drummer with a very poorly-made student drum set. But put Travis Barker (Blink 182) or any other famous drummer behind it and they will sound great.

I had a 25+ year veteran DJ come do a voice over on the microphone I use for my podcasts. A bottom of the barrel Marshal MXL 2001p. He sounded GREAT on it.

Equipment does matter though. You can't get pro results on a tinny $50.00 microphone. But you can, thanks to reductions in cost and labor, find a very good full-bodied microphone for under $400.00 these days. And the best part about audio equipment is that, unlike video equipment, it isn't outdated in a year or so. It retains it's value and is an investment that pays off well.

Bill Davis February 18th, 2007 03:33 AM


For my money, you're thinking very clearly about this. Good for you.

I'd just add one more note.

You're right that $400 buys you a LOT more microphone than it did years ago. There's a LOT of competition in that space nowadays.

But I suspect that if you took ten different mics, all priced around the $400 level - and used them to record the same qualified VO talent - and listened to them in an A/B situation, you'd ABSOLUTELY hear "differences" - BUT - and here's the bottom line for me - turn those 10 different recordings into radio spots produced competently and put them on the air in 10 different markets and I'll bet you anything that the RESULTS you get for the media money you spend will be EXACTLY the same.

Sure all the mics will sound subjectively "different" - but ALL OF THEM WILL DELIVER A GOOD RECORDING PROVIDED THE TALENT IS GOOD.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the subtle differences in microphones as much as the next guy. I know that some mic types are good for one thing, and others are better suited for other things. But there isn't ONE good "violin" mic - there are dozens. There isn't ONE good "horn mic" there are dozens. And there certainly isn't ONE good VO mic, there are HUNDREDS.

Wasting time trying to find the "perfect" VO mic is - well - a waste of time.

The talent who uses what they have on hand and WORKS at the craft, will, in a short while, SMOKE the person who spins their wheels trying to find the MIC that makes them sound "professional" - it's JUST NOT out there. You either sound professional or you don't. And the better your mic is, the MORE it's likely to reveal poor vocal technique. Think about that. A simple not so efficient dynamic mic can kinda hide a LOT of flaws. A $5k studio condensor misses NOTHING. Which is pretty scarry if your technique or delivery isn't up to snuff.

Really, most of the mics in your price range, used competently, will do JUST FINE.

That's what I was trying to point out.

Case in point: Last week, I got an emergency call from a client that needed an opener for a live satellite video feed in a HUGE rush. (Host got sick, they needed to switch out the name in the opening for a broadcast in less than an hour.) I was doing a live on-camera video recording in my studio at the time the call came in, - so, to help make the deadline, I didn't even go into my VO booth. I just recorded their copy using the Sony ECM-77b lav I already had on.

A Sony ECM-77b is NOBODY's idea of a world class VO mic. But you know what? In the studio space, with a reflective hardwood desk in front of me, and a big velvet drape stage left - the recording sounded GREAT. The client even commented on it.

Go figure.

David W. Jones February 18th, 2007 09:56 AM

I, like Bill, have been doing national voice work for 30 years.
And concur... it's not the audio chain, it's the talent.
I've used everything from U47/Hardy combos in world class studios, to a 635a hanging from a coat hanger in a live truck.
And just like giving uncle Charlie a varicam to shoot a weekend wedding will probably not result in a better video, A $10k tube mic will not make a bad VO sound any better.
If the voice talent is a pro, it doesn't matter whether you use the hottest boutique Mic Pre, or plug directly into a M-Box.
That being said, there are two areas you might have a look at.

#1: Your VO area.
Record in a noisy area with a slap back echo, and you record a noisy VO with a slap back echo.
Start with an area that is as quiet as you can get within your budget.

#2: The Microphone.
Select a mic that works well with your voice.
For example... an EV RE27 is a nice mic, but my voice has sibilance issues with that mic.
You don't need to spend a fortune on a microphone to get a good sound,
you just need to purchase a mic that complements your voice.

Now that I have given you all that dribble....
Here is how I VO in my personal use studio.
Suspended Blue Dragonfly mic in the booth, thru Mogami Gold Mic cable, into an Avalon Vt737sp mic pre, into either a Digidesign or MOTU interface, depending on whether I am recording into ProTools or Digital Performer.

Good Luck with your project!

Bill Zens February 18th, 2007 12:06 PM

Thanks so far. Being the "typical" video guy, I am not as knowledgeable on setting up for V/O applications. Heck, I was just going to run the rough audio into my computer and let the Talent speak away in while watching the vid.

My current project is with the Talent doing live narration in some scenes, with v/o in other. The live narration was recorded with a sennheiser wireless setup.

My thought was to use the same mic on the v/o (I know, it's not ideal, but my thought was to keep the same tone and ambience from that mic), then perhaps record it from there into the computer or camera.

I do need to purchase an additional mic, and am budgeting about $250-$400 for a decent, location/gp mic. I was looking at some of the directional mics like the AT 897, or Rode NTG2. I could, perhaps purchase something like the Rode to Recording system, (http://www.dvcreators.net/rode-to-recording-system/) as it includes "stuff" I probably should get anyways, like fairly decent monitors, mic, pre-amp, etc. I do very little v/o in my presentations, and for the really important and critical jobs hire it out, so I'm not sure for $750.00 if this is really needed.

Dearl Golden February 24th, 2007 08:34 PM

The Rode To Recording system is $529.00 with free shipping from B&H

Peter Rhalter February 24th, 2007 08:53 PM

I record voice overs and interviews from mic to preamp (Sound Devices) to DAT. Transfer via S/PDIF to my computer for editing. Works very well - in a dozen years or so I've had 0 glitches and the DAT recorder sounds good for this and runs silently.

Best wishes,

Ty Ford February 25th, 2007 08:46 AM


Originally Posted by Steven Gotz
I record on to the PC as a WAV file. I run a mic into a preamp and them into my Audigy audio card.

I use a foam lined box similar to the one Spot showed us how to make a long time ago.

Even though my room is reasonably quiet, the fans of the PC are still a bit of an issue, so I eliminate the background noise in Adobe Audition. The good way to do this if you can arrange it is to take the Mic into a reasonably full clothes closet to deaden the sound and reduce background noise.

Thanks for that Steven. When I heard about the box I chuckled. Mics "hear" a lot more from the front than they do from the sides. So you put a mic in a box and point it out one side, effctively (more or less) blocking sound from entering the rear and sides. The mic is still receiving a LOT of everything coming in the front, even if it's set back in the box.

I wish sound and audio were that easy. For everyone, try thinking about it this way.

Envision a pool table. Toss a ball on the table and it continues to roll, bouncing off the bumpers until it runs out of energy. Now imagine a three dimensional pool table on which the ball can bounce off the ceiling, walls and floor (and anything else in the room). That's what sound does.

If you're out in the middle of a pasture and you scream you don't hear any reflections (ok fine a few that bounce off the ground, and that distant Ricolah echo) because the sound travels away from you and runs out of energy. Without hitting anything to bounce back, it never comes back.

Even though your computer (or other noise source) is behind the mic box (or even across the room), the noise from it is bouncing in 3D all around your room and some of it will get into the box.

You have no choice but to remove the noise. I have a friend who built a voice booth in a room in his house. He'd put the computer system into record and then step into the booth, close the door and talk into the mic. He was "trained" or preprogrammed to do that because as an announcer, he usually went into a booth. That sort of worked and blocked some of the neighborhood sounds from getting being recorded. The downside was that he got the sound of his voice recorded in a very small room. Even though it was acoustically treated, it was a small room sound.

Eventually he wised up and put the computer in the "voice booth" (apparently neighborhood were not so much a problem for him). They may be for you, dunno.

I put my computer in a closet. My room is 25' by 35' and is accostically treated with a combination of acoustic foam (absorption) and systems to break up the reflected sound into smaller wavelets so I don't lose the high frequencies absorption tends to suck out (diffusion). The room is big enough so that, after hitting the absorptive and diffusive surfaces that are a good distance from the mic, the remaining energy of my reflected voice is greatly reduced. So much so that there really isn't much left by the time it gets back across the room (remember the pool table) and anywhere near the mic.

That's acoutical treatment. It has nothing to do with keeping outside sounds from getting into your recordings. That's called noise abatement.

Once that's all good, I use a Neuamnn U 89, TLM 103, Sennheiser 416 or Schoeps CMC641 mic with GML, Millennia Media or Aphex preamps into a RME A/D converter and go optically into a Digidesign 002 run by my Mac (humming quietly in the closet).

The foam lined box I might use to keep drinks cold. :)

Hope this helps.



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