How To Get Into Voice Acting Part Two-GETTING STARTED-EQUIPMENT

How To Get Into Voice Acting

How To Get Into Voice Acting? Well, you need a microphone, a desk stand or a spring loaded microphone arm that will attach to your desk, a pop shield, some recording software and your computer. None of it needs to be top of the line, just affordable, functional and enough to get you started.

First let’s take a look at mics.

 MICROPHONES As far as microphones, the overwhelming amount of advice you’ll find out in voiceover training land is to get a large diaphragm cardioid condenser mic.Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphones iare an ideal candidate for recording, broadcast, sound reinforcement including vocal. The condenser microphone consists of a thin conductive membrane stretched very close to a stationary plate. High voltage is applied between the membrane and the plate. As the membrane vibrates, electrons move. These moving electrons are sensed as voltage. This voltage can be strengthened (but not necessarily increased) by silicon.Cardioid condensers are very sensitive, relatively cheap and are multi-directional in picking up sound. They will always be mounted so that the front of the mic, not the top, faces your mouth. There are some mics, particularly USB condenser mics, that have a switch to change the pattern. Cardioid is the best pattern for VO purposes because it is directional and picks up sound best from the front. It tends to reject unwanted sounds coming from other directions. This is called a side address. Condensers come in two types. A USB type has the necessary circuitry to operate on USB power, and plugs directly into a PC or laptop. The other, a standard condenser mic like the Rode NT1A needs what’s called Phantom Power, which is 24 or 48 volts from a power supply. Usually you will have to use an audio interface that powers the mic and provides USB or firewire output to your computer. A good sounding, highly affordable USB mic is the CAD U37 at under $60.00. It plugs directly into your computer and needs no other equipment for basic use, although you will want a pop filter and a desk or floor stand.

Or if you can spring for a little more, get my favorite, the iconic Rode NT1A with the Focusrite Itrack Solo digital USB converter which works with USB or Lightning connection and provides phantom power magically. This by the way, while a relatively cheap microphone, doesn’t sound like one. In fact, it has the lowest internal noise of anything in it class.

Many voiceover talents vouch for the Rode NT1A, and this is what ACX recommends for narration. This microphone costs around $229, so it’s definitely budget-friendly for beginners. Quiet and neutral sounding, it creates high-quality recordings with a wide dynamic range. It comes packaged with a shock mount and an exclusive “studio secrets” DVD, offering recording tips and techniques. Another great value is Audio Technica AT2020USBi USB Large Diaphragm Microphone w/ Pop Filter with USB and Lightning inputs to use with your PC or Apple computer, available for about $199.00. If any of the equipment linked to here in is not available, just look for the same item from another vendor on the website. The AT2020 USBPlus, with less bells and whistles can be had for $120.00, but it’s sound doesn’t work for me on the high end. It’s very popular but I am not a fan at all. Had one, and to me the sound was a bit shrill. With my gravelly voice the accuracy is annoying, but it may be perfect for you. I haven’t tried the AT2020USBi but it seems that it would sound similar. You can also try one of a host of other kinds of mics, one of which might be perfect for you, but unless you have access to a studio with multiple mics to try out, stick to the cardioid condenser. Excessive high end (high frequency) in your voice can be taken out after recording.

 ***PLEASE NOTE*** A cheap microphone that plugs into the microphone jack of your computer is not good enough and I strongly recommend you don’t use it. If your recordings are being rejected for background noise it’s possible you are going to need to switch to a dynamic mic like the very inexpensive Shure SM7B, but you’re still going to need to convert to USB using the Focusrite Itrack Solo or similar device. It should be available at guitar and music stores, or order online

STANDS & BOOMS Obviously you need something to hold your mic. You can choose between either a stand or a boom. A stand is just that. It sits on top of your desk or table top and the mic or shockmount attaches to it. Most of the stands that are packed with the mic and are very light, making them easy to tip over, much more so if you try to attach a shockmount. There is also a floor stand with boom that might be over kill at this point. I would recommend you buy a desk stand with a heavy weighted base or use a clamp down table boom. Booms are fun and useful, making the mic position much more flexible and able to meet your own desire. For experimenting with working the mics closeness and direction you can’t beat it. For optimal voice quality, you must sit up straight and to sit up straight and desktop stands don’t always accommodate that.

SHOCK MOUNT You will also need a shock mount to reduce vibration and you will need to use one whether you use a tabletop stand or a boom. Largely it eliminates some of the vibration coming up the boom or stand from laptop hard drives and fans, and from passing trucks, children and subway trains or your own body. Ultimately, just use one. You don’t need the best and you can get one for $20 or less. The Rode NT1A comes with one, usually.

SHIELDS & SCREENS A pop shield is necessary to prevent the overt sound of certain sounds like “pppp” or “bbbb.” The pop shield attaches to the boom usually, and should be close to the mic so you speak through it to the front face of the mic.

 HEADPHONES You will use headphones or really good earbuds for editing, so plug them in now. Some people like to have them over or in their ears while recording, even though we aren’t monitoring. When you use your DAW software on a PC, like Audacity, there is a delay (latency} in the sound that you would hear from the headphones which is the end of any rational sounding voice over recording. Based on your experimentation, however, even with the earphones disconnected they may make your voice sound better by muting the sound of your own voice. Try recording with and without earphones on but unplugged. When you get experienced you’ll know your optimum voice and mic position. Anyway if it sounds wrong in headphones it’s too late, you can’t be making corrections as you go along. When you happen to be in a booth later on, you will want to wear them to communicate with the engineer and producer between takes, but just tell the engineer to turn the volume way down. Some new USB mics have a near zero latency jack on the mic, which is Okay, but you still can’t, be making voice corrections as you go along. Headphones come with the Rode NT1A kit mentioned above.

 EQUIPMENT SETUP Now that you have invested in your equipment, let’s set it up. First set up your stand or attach your microphone boom to your desk or table. Now attach your shock mount to the boom or stand. Next attach your XLR wire to your microphone noting the pin locations and the key unless it’s a USB connector. Make sure if your mic has switches or other delicate controls they are in the right position and are not exposed to the shock mount directly. Usually mics are designed so that switches are recessed and protected, but just check. Grasp the squeeze release tabs on the shock mount and insert the mic so it is tight, then release. Be very careful not to drop or bump the microphone because they are very sensitive to shock. If it is a USB mic, plug the cord into your in to your computer. If it is a standard condenser mic you will need an a Focusrite Scarlett Solo Compact USB Audio Interface or the Focusrite iTrack Solo USB Audio Interface to provide phantom power to the mic and give you a uB or Lightning connection to your computer. They can also connect a dynamic mic to your computer. Now you have spent between $60 and $400 or so and you are about ready to start practicing. The switches on the CAD U37 control a pad (electronic sound absorber) to reduce bass, and one to reduce gain overall. Both are sometimes needed when recording musical instruments or singing. You could however, try the bass pad if you have a severely low or muddy sounding voice. Otherwise make sure they are off when you mount your mic. However, if you have a very deep voice, exceptionally deep, it couldn’t hurt to experiment with the bass pad.

PROFESSIONAL SOUND QUALITY How to Achieve the Sound of Silence
Basic Beginning Voiceover Part One
AUDIO BOOTHS Think you need to build a professional recording booth in your home? Think you have to buy one of the portable ones that can run hundreds or thousands of dollars. Well think again. Just look at your closet, the one with all the clothes hanging in it. Well that’s good enough. I’m not suggesting you sit in the closet, (some of us do, if it’s big enough) but it gives you an idea. The fluffier and more fabric in your surroundings, the better. You are trying to eliminate outside sounds as much as possible and also the reflection of your voice, which causes an audible echo and is quite disturbing and impossible to remove post recording. Drape your desk with a blanket, your lap or your head, whatever it takes. Close the window, and when you are ready to record turn off fans and air conditioners. Drape the microphone if needed. You’ll live.

Before you go off to a sound studio to audition or create a demo, it’s urgent that you: Don’t touch the mics ever. Be humble, cooperative and take direction immediately without question. Read your material and question any pronunciation you’re not sure of. Be on time. It’s best if you can get in an orientation class for free or very cheap before going to a studio.

Many people will find learning much easier on a "beginner's" DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), like Audacity, which is free and has an astonishingly large number of plug ins available. Due to licensing requirements you need to download Lame in order to export your completed files as MP3’s. In fact, it may have all the features you need. Certainly you can go with Pro Tools or the Adobe product, but they will set you back hundreds of dollars. And that’s Okay - see it as an essential investment in your voice over business. But the investment also comes with a level of commitment. Once you spend that much money you'll be reluctant to change programs later. Are you ready to make that investment at this stage of the game? Are you sure you'll stick with voice over? Are you committed to building your own sound studio at home to benefit from this level of software? You’ll be able to make a better-informed decision once you have more experience. My suggestion is to download Audacity Audio editor. On the download page you will find LAME and a number of plugins you will download as well. Download Nyquist plugins here, especially Pseudo-Stereo.

You are ready to start using Audacity. Install Audacity and Lame. Go to control panel, then Sound, click on the speakers and disable all enhancements. Disable AGC on microphone. Unclick listen to this mic. Make sure your mic is plugged in. Start Audacity. Select the proper microphone from the upper left menu and then a dialogue will open “to monitor click here”- click there and you should see the level in db as you speak. Adjust the gain (slider with a little microphone) to about half-way for now. Click the red button to record, and as you record, you can click on the “pause “symbol to take a break. If you flubbed you can make a note of where it is to find it later. Now you will re-record the flubbed section and continue on.
Everybody flubs repeatedly. Thanks to Your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), Audacity in this case, you can go back and cut the flubbed part out. When you pause try not to change your mic position and try to remember what tone and volume of voice you were using. When you start out you are definitely learning audio editing as well as voice over acting, and some real skills will develop with practice.

 Audacity, in fact any DAW has a stiff learning curve, but it becomes repetitive and automatic.

TEMPO- You can add or remove up to a few seconds using the Change Tempo plugin. It does not affect pitch. There is also a Change Tempo and Pitch, if you think that will help, or you can also just change pitch. All should come built-in with Audacity.

How To Get Into Voice Acting Part 2


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