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Audio Recording Best Practices

Sourcing Actors

Have people read a single line a few times, and see how it sounds. Some people “have it”, and some don’t. Listen to the recording, rather than the performance. A “good” performance will sound like a conversation, but with a bit more variance in pitch and voice, where a “flat” performance will sound like they are reading from a script.

A good performance will have natural sounding pauses, and will be articulate. It is particularly important with voice acting that words be enunciated, as you have less visual cues to pick up on when watching an animated performance. The natural pauses are also important, for creating believable facial animation.

Setting up the Microphone

Where possible, a pop filter should be setup in front of the microphone.

In absence of a real pop filter, you can make one with paper and a tissue

Google all the settings on whatever microphone you’re using. On the snowball mic (which is the one we usually use if we don’t have access to a studio) There are 3 settings on the back which change the recording dampening.

Settings

All microphones have different settings, so google yours to see if there's different modes. The Snobwall, for example, has a switch in the back with 3 different modes.

Software Settings

All of the above (peaking, puffing and popping) are effects we want to avoid. Adding a pop filter will help with puffing, as will making sure actors are the right distance from the microphone.

If you’re running into issues where you’re peaking, this is one way you can set the software to mitigate that problem.

Right click on the volume icon, and select “sounds.” Go into the Recording tab, and find your studio microphone. Right click and select properties.

From here you can change the levels, which will increase or decrease your volume of your recording.

Spacing Actors

The distance the actors stand from the microphone will be determined by how the mic is picking up the voices. You want to avoid any peaking, puffing, or popping. Once you find the optimal distance, have all actors stand equal distance away from the mic, and encourage them to speak at the same volume level.

Setting up the Room

What sounds echoey to the human ear doesn’t always sound echoey on a mic, and visa versa, so always trust your senses. Ideally record in a recording studio, but in lack of talk walk around from room to room and record a line in all of them to get a sense of what the ‘echo’ effect is in each. In lack of a good recording studio, make a couch fort by draping a blanket over yourself and recording under that.

Setting up Audacity

Make sure the correct mic is selected and 2 (stereo) recording is selected next to it. Run a sample recording and listen to it to make sure there isn’t any echo.

Coaching Actors

Go through your script and select a word, in bold, which you would like to emphasise. Put commas in where you want a slight pause, and periods in where you want a longer pause. Separate out the lines

Like this, for a new line.

It is helpful to write down what you want them to say, and then what the character is thinking… so that the actor can get in the character’s mood. For example:

What they're sayingWhat they mean
Please, come over hereI have a present for you
----------------
Please come over hereYou're in big trouble

Would be read differently.

Don’t make them go through the script rigidly unless it really calls for it, let them riff. I find it's helpful to have the actors all in the same place if possible. Not only does it give the same ambient room quality, it also helps them riff better, as if they are in conversation.

We’re not professionals here. If someone isn’t a good actor, don’t tell them (unless it's necessary). Just thank them and then re record with someone else. Bottom line we need good performances, audio is a big component to creating a feeling of empathy, and lacking that the experience suffers.

QA

Always listen to the recording at the end before sending people home. Sometimes you need to re-record a line, but it's hard to hear it while they’re talking, and easier if you’re critically analyzing the recording. The more you do it, the easier it will be to spot while recording, but this is a very soft skill, and not really a science.

Sometimes you just need to scrap a voice actor and bring in someone else. If the studio is still setup with the same room and computer settings, this is the ideal time to thank and dismiss all guests, and then run outside and invite someone else in.

It is no fault of anyone’s if someone needs to be re-recorded. I’ve gone through 5-6 actors before finding someone who was good at certain points, you just can’t tell how someone will do until you get them in front of a mic. Most people are willing to help out as long as it's just a few minutes of their time.

  
Posted 7 months ago
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