In a world of ever-expanding video content, a lush and high-quality voice over can really set your content apart.
The trouble is, most of us aren’t blessed with Morgan Freeman’s dulcet tones or a professional-grade sound booth. Not all of us have access to talented professional voice over artists like the ones we use for our Video Design services.
In this post, we’ll take you through the ins-and-outs of recording a voice over, some tips on what voice over equipment to use, and an overview of voice over editing to give you the ultimate guide on how to record a voice over.
Preparing For A Voice Over
Before you start recording a voice over, you need to lay the groundwork with proper preparation.
Write A Script
It could be tempting to do your best Fat Joe impression (we actually mean the rapper this time!) and freestyle the voice over, maybe with a rough outline scribbled down.
Unfortunately while this can make things feel more naturalistic, it can also bring in pauses, stutters, umms and errs. You can also possibly forget to mention key details and you’ll likely sound less confident and authoritative as uncertainty creeps into your voice.
Instead you should take the time to carefully prepare a thorough script that you can work through word-for-word. Preparing and learning the script will allow you to become more confident with the material and this will really help the strength of your voice to reflect this.
Bear in mind that voice over script writing is an art in itself.
You need to consider the audience and tone of the voice over you’ll be producing. You also need to nail the timings, especially if you’re working to a pre-prepared video.
You’ll be amazed how quickly even a short amount of writing will use up the allotted time; it’s very easy to overestimate how much you can fit into a short voice over segment.
It’ll take some time and practice to get used to your own speaking cadence and how many words per minute you need to produce for your scripts.
Prepare Your Voice
Before you dive in and start recording, you need to warm up your voice.
There are some great vocal exercises you can do to help get that morning frog out of your throat.
They can really help you enunciate your words clearly so that viewers and listeners can follow along with every word you say.
Many think you need to be blessed with a good voice, and while to some extent that is true it’s definitely something you can work on. The human voice is remarkably versatile and with dedicated work on your pitch, tone, and cadence you can ensure your voice is a delight to listen to.
There are loads of different voice over techniques you can build into your work and even specialized voice over coaching that you can look into if you need further help.
Choose Your Tone Of Voice
Don’t worry, you don’t need to do impressions here!
Instead, you need to choose the tone you’re looking to convey with your voice over here. You need to find your voice.
You can align your voice with the tone of both your brand and of the specific content/video you’re producing the voice over for.
Try out a few different tones and styles to see what best fits your brand and your own voice.
Recording the Voice Over
The key to a good voice over, beyond a smooth voice, is the proper voice over recording equipment.
Sure, you can get started using your mobile phone as a microphone, but you’ll soon find your needs outstrip the basic quality offered by it.
The best voice over microphones will set you back anywhere between $100 – $2500 depending on how good you want to sound.
You’ll also want to invest in a noise-reduction filter to pair with the microphone. We’ll cover some studio modifications and editing techniques to help with this, but the best approach is to try to cut off any issues at the source.
There’s no point investing hundreds or thousands of dollars into an excellent microphone and then drowning yourself out with background noise after all!
Finally, you can add a pop filter to cut down on those plosive Ps and Bs! Your listeners and audience will thank you for cutting down on any icky-sounding pops.
Setting Up The Studio
In order to produce a professional-quality voice over you have to create a dedicated recording space.
The ideal recording space will be a small room to minimize ambient echoes.
You’ll then want to kit it out with some soundproofing. This typically comes in the form of noise-reducing foam pads that you can stick to the walls, but there’s more to it than just that!
Keep in mind any sources of ambient sounds, such as the AC or noise from your colleagues. They might seem minor to you, but with a good-quality microphone, they’ll all make it through to the recording.
You can mitigate some of these issues by perhaps coming in at times when your coworkers aren’t in or finding an external space outside the office to record.
If you’re unable to find a suitable space or can’t dedicate a space to recording, you might want to look into hiring a room at a professional studio.
These can set you back a fair chunk of change, but the results will be worth it compared to a noisy or distorted recording with the office Xerox whirring away in the background.
A final quick note is to consider where the microphone is placed and what surface it is on. If you have a particularly sensitive microphone, it might pick up vibrations from a desk, especially if you’re tapping away as you record.
With all of this in place, it’s time to actually record the voice over.
Setting Up The Microphone
You’ll want to do a few test recordings to find the optimal spot for your microphone.
Too close and you’ll pick up a lot of additional mouth noise and may potentially sound distorted. Too far away, and you’ll sound distant and thin.
6-8 inches away tends to be the sweet spot for most microphones, but it’s worth playing around with test recordings to get it just right for your setup.
Setting The Volume Levels
This is vitally important to make sure you don’t just record some garbled nonsense.
There is some real scientific technicality behind the art of recording levels – we won’t be getting into that, but you can read more on setting proper levels for a voice over here.
You’ll typically want to aim for the recording to be between -10db and -20db. Occasional peaks shouldn’t go above -6db. Stay away from 0db, any spikes that high need to be fixed.
Invest in a recording program that gives you a visualizer for volume levels to be able to account for this on the fly and optimize your set-up pre-recording.
Delivering The Voice Over
Now for the moment of truth where you actually perform the voice over.
Make sure to have warmed up your voice per our earlier tips.
You should already have an idea of what sort of persona you want to deliver the voice over with. Try to stick to this throughout, and don’t rush!
It’s easy to get nervous and blast straight through the script with minutes to spare.
You can mitigate this by practicing running through the script a few times beforehand. Add some timing notes to the script and focus on maintaining your vocal persona.
Smiling while recording can come through as a happier tone which the listener can pick up on, just don’t be over-enthusiastic. Yes, you probably really do love the product or service you’re pushing, but going too far can actually put your viewers/listeners off and may make you seem disingenuous.
Again, don’t rush. Take your time and go for as many takes as you need. You can always edit together a few takes using editing software later on, so if you flub a line, just keep trucking!
Editing the Voice Over
That brings us on to the next, perhaps most formidable, stage – editing!
There’s a whole world of different editing software choices available out there.
We won’t go into them all here, but you’ll want to choose one that you can comfortably work with. Ideally, it’d be a beginner-friendly one, though this might limit some of the more advanced options you could otherwise use.
Before you leap into editing the audio, you’ll want to listen back to your recordings.
Take notes and assign them to each recording. You can make a note of whether you were perhaps rushing or dragging, or if you were maybe mumbling a little for certain sections.
Editing The Raw Recording
Now it’s time to start editing the recordings.
Ideally, you’ll have a single recording you’re able to work with.
It doesn’t need to be perfect, but as long as there aren’t any serious issues with flubs or pace, you should be able to rectify most issues within the editing software.
Unfortunately, this might not be possible, in which case you’ll need to splice together a few takes to form one seamless edit.
This can be rather difficult to have everything line up, but with some hard work, you’ll be able to line up several sections to create one seamless, high-quality edit.
Hopefully, your setup will have minimized any particularly bad spikes, but your editing software will also allow you to correct for these.
You can balance the recording for any jarring variance in sound levels.
A visual wave representation across the file(s) can really help with this, as you’ll be able to easily spot any glaring spikes or egregious spaces of dead space without any audio.
Pairing The Audio With Your Video
As this is a voice over and not just a radio ad, you’ll now need to export the audio to layer it over your video footage.
Your timing work should ensure this is a relatively smooth process, but you’ll need to listen back to make sure you’ve hit all the key timing points throughout the video.
Even a slight delay between the video and the audio paired with it can cause real dissonance for the viewer, so you really need to make sure you’ve got this ironed out.
If there are issues, you’ll need to go back to your audio editing software to make changes before adding it back to the video again.
Be prepared for this to be a painstaking process as you go back and forth.
Handing Over The Voice Over
Once you’ve got the audio perfectly synced with the video, it’s time to export the lot! You need to:
- Export the video
- Prepare captions and a full transcript
- Check timestamping
Along with your video file, you’ll want to remember to prepare both the captions and a full transcript for your client.
You will need to make sure these are properly timestamped. Unfortunately even if your script had timing notes those likely aren’t accurate enough.
Your video or audio editing software may be able to automatically generate captions and a transcript for you. AI tools can also help with this, providing auto-generated captions based on your audio.
If these aren’t viable for you, it’ll be a manual process, sadly!
They are worth it, however, as captions and transcripts can really help with accessibility.
They’re also vital these days, with a lot of video content being shared via social media. This often auto-plays in people’s feeds without the audio playing (I know, it’s such a shame for people to miss out on your crisp, quality, audio!)
That’s A Wrap!
So there you have it, our ultimate guide to recording the perfect professional grade voice over.
Adding a voice over to your video is a great way to help it stand out amongst the crowd, especially if you can get a distinctive voice with professional quality and clarity.
If that all sounds a bit daunting, why not try out our done-for-you voice over service?