The road to voiceover success is an interesting one!
I was at a studio recently where an intern asked about becoming a professional voice over artist and how it works. He saw the ‘voices’ coming in, recording and going. He basically thought “that looks easy, I want some of that”.
We went and grabbed a coffee and I filled him in on becoming a voiceover artist, trying my best not to put him off – after all, being a voiceover is LOTS of fun and one of the best jobs in the world. My other favourite job was working at TGI Fridays when I was a student, I had such a good time! Anyways, back to the road to voiceover success.
People, naturally, have different views on it. If you speak to a non-voiceover artist, they’ll tell you that being a voiceover is easy – just get a microphone and start recording. Some don’t even think you need a professional microphone and that recording it straight into your iPhone on an app is fine!
I’d love to see the look on my clients’ faces if I sent them that one day. “Here’s your audio. Sorry about the noise in the background, the dog wouldn’t shut up. Hope it’s okay. Oh and here’s my invoice. Worth every penny!!” Somehow I don’t think I’d be getting repeat work from them!
It’s not about just buying a decent microphone either. There are lots of other factors that come into play to make you a successful voiceover artist, from the type of pre-amp you use, to the sound-proofing in your studio, whether you have an agent or not, what your showreel is like, how good your marketing is…the list goes on and on. I’ll start with one of the most important considerations – equipment.
The road to voiceover success: equipment
- The type of pre-amp you use for the microphone can have a big impact on how the microphone sounds and, as a result, how your voiceover sounds. Forgive me if I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs but, in case you don’t know, microphones need power and, in a nutshell, that’s what the pre-amp does. A small unit like the AudioKontrol 1 will plug into your computer’s USB. From there it will provide 48V of power to the microphone. It’ll work, but the quality really won’t be right for a professional voiceover. It’s best used for recording instruments. In my studio, I use a focusrite pre-amp, which has been designed for voiceovers.
- The editing software is also very important. There are lots of different audio editing software options available, from free stuff to really expensive stuff. At a basic level, they pretty much all do the same thing – edit audio. What you’re paying for is the bells and whistles; the extras that they can do, from adding effects, to processing, multitrack etc etc. If all you want to do is edit your audio, and you don’t need anything flashy, then Audacity is going to be for you. It’s free and does the job. I use a mixture of Pro Tools and Audition. Why two? Well, I grew up using Cool Edit (now called Audition). I know it like the back of my hand and can whizz around it with my eyes closed. As my voiceover career grew, I needed more, and moved to the industry standard, Pro Tools. I love what Pro Tools does, but I know Audition so much better. Don’t get something just because others says it’s amazing – you’ve got to be able to use it too, and get the full use out of it.
- The computer you use is also going to play a part in how successful you are as a voiceover artist. If you’re going to be recording and editing large audio files on an old computer, is going to REALLY slow you down as the computer tries to keep up with what you’re doing. That will eat into your voicing time and, as we all know, time is money. You need something that’s got the power to handle what you need to do. Most half decent computers will hack it (there maybe a little lag) but, if you’re starting out, you should go with the best you can afford. It’ll pay off in the long run. Personally, I use a Mac and a MacBook Air when I’m on the go. The Mac sits in the office and can handle anything I throw at it. The MacBook Air is also really good. Touch wood it hasn’t failed me yet and I’ve successfully taken it on the road with me when voicing and editing.
- And, finally, the microphone. Using a ‘cheap as chips’ microphone from Maplin will NOT make you a voiceover success. Using a USB microphone that says it’s “perfect for voiceovers and podcasts” will NOT make you a voiceover success. Spending thousands of pounds on a microphone that the sales guy told you was “the best on the market”will probably be a really good microphone, but is a waste of money for you what you’ll be using it for. The microphone is a personal thing. I went to a microphone shop (yes they exist), and spent ages trying out the different microphones and hearing how they sound.
I eventually went with the Neumann TLM103 for my studio, mainly because I love the sound it produces. It picks up everything it needs to, has a low self-noise level, reproduces my voice in a beautiful way and, basically, just sounds brilliant! I’m not going write about all the different microphones out there, as many people have done that before. One guide that will help you is this one from the guys at Edge Studio. It’ll tell you everything you need to know.
There’s quite a lot there to be starting with, and I’ve got work to do, so I’ll carry this on in a part 2 of ‘the road to voiceover success’.
If you’ve got any questions, or are after advice, drop me a line. I’m always happy to help. Contact me here.