Talkback Blog

File Management for Voice Over

We're all used to revising mixes and songs, but for voiceover, the revisions can be constant. There can be several select takes of several different lines, scattered throughout your sessions like a pile of needles in a pile of haystacks.

As long as there are clients out there, there will be clients who change their minds. So it's imperative that we keep our sessions and files in good working order. It's not uncommon to go back to a project YEARS after the fact, and revise one line. As budgets shrink, this practice becomes more and more common. Paying a talent a revision fee is much easier than writing new copy.

First off, having a date in the session title, and final exported file can save you plenty of headaches. If nothing else, the email your client sent you will be on or around that date…making things way easier to find in the future. Also, have a standard date writing convention.

Everyone knows engineers who have their own way of doing things, like saving sessions to the desktop, spilling apple juice on the keyboard, calling in drunk….but imposing at least a standard date labeling convention is good practice, and one that almost anyone can handle.

Within the session, adding markers is an absolute lifesaver. In Pro Tools this is just the ENTER numeric keypad. I label everything. Take #, revised line, notes to myself later such as "Do Not Use This Talent Again," "Why Not Have A Cheesesteak For Lunch?" And so on.

Ode to the Avalon - Why We Love Ours!

When looking for a pre-amp to record, there are several questions you need to ask yourself. What functionality do I need? What kind of sound am I after? How much change do I have to pilfer to get this thing? Pre-amps are the magical and mysterious link in the chain often overlooked by those first exploring recording, and often over obsessed by studio veterans. Lets talk about one of the ones we have at Edge Studio: The Avalon 737sp.

As far as tone, here at the studio, we're aiming for squeaky clean. The Avalon is an unlikely choice, because it is tube based, and tubes are often associated with sweet sweet distortion. But in this case, its more of an "old school hi fi" tube approach, than a Marshall stack. Its very clean. It minimally alters the sound, leaving the signal as uncolored as possible (with the option to color it if necessary with added functionality as we'll get into now).

Functionality. Often, a pre amp is more than a pre amp. Sometimes its called a “channel strip” meaning it can do a few things in one, like a printer that also faxes, or a horse that is also a microwave. This here thingy accomplishes 3 tasks. First and foremost It is a pre amp - powering and amplifying the signal from a microphone. Second, it has a compressor. This reduces dynamic range - basically lowering the louds and making the quiets louder - to even out the signal. It’s main function while recording is to prevent peaks going to the hard drive. Finally, it is also an EQ. EQ boosts and cuts frequency levels, to make things sound “equal” or can also be used for effects. We tend to lean towards the former. This is rarely used while tracking, except if someone has a very boomy voice (we cut some lows) or is incredibly sibilant (we cut some highs).

Love Machine: The Epic Art of the Backing Track

As resident studio staffer who has some instruments, I jumped at the task. I did time in some bands that had horn players, how hard could it be? It’s no Blink 182 let me tell you that! In the afternoon we were sent the clip of the track they needed re-created. I rushed home to my Chinatown abode, and on the way stopped at the newly opened Cafe Grumpy, my lower east side espresso haven, to mentally prepare. The track was on loop on the iPod and I was in fight mode. Lets go through it together, shall we?

Now listen to that. There appears to be approximately 41 people, pretty much just groovin. The tempo shifts a bit, the vocals are amazing, the bass is jumping all over the place doing some counter melodic harmonic junction extracting expressive science™ all while the guitar is doing some jazzy chord voicing, and the horns are accenting it like it’s Spanish punctuation up in here! Just breathe for a second.....Whew! Ok we’re back!

Not that I thought it would be simple, but half of me expected to be like The Other Edge (Guitar Player in U2, not us the studio) and hack out maybe 1 note and just plug in some delay pedals to let machines do all the work! But no, we were going to get crazy here, like only a recording engineer who works frequently in voice over can do. We were going Analog, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me.

Out of necessity, I chose a different route than usual. I attempted to use an Elektron Machinedrum, a beautiful piece of hardware, but the changes were proving too complex for its step-programming based system. So I went into Logic, one of the most illogical programs out there...and used the built in drum machine. I created about 7 patterns on some vintage style kit... because those Motown drums are Air Tight! This was not the real challenge though. The challenge was the bass!

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