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DAW! You can’t VO without it.


What is a DAW? What does it do? Why do I need one for voice over? So many questions… 

Well, stick around and read this article and you’ll learn the answers! 

“DAW” is an acronym that stands for Digital Audio Workstation. Simply put, it is the software application you use to record audio on your computer. You’ll need a computer or smart device to use it; it’s software, like Microsoft Word, or an app, like twitter. 

But it does a lot more than just capture your awesome voice.

DAWs are an essential part of your home recording studio. Your studio may consist of a closet, the corner of a room, or a full-blown VO booth. No matter your recording environment, you have to have some way of recording, editing, post producing, and exporting your voice over performance. 

That’s where the DAW comes in. 

There are many products on the market ranging from free and easy to use, to very expensive and you’ll need a degree to run it. The good news is no matter which one you chose, they all produce high quality recordings. All DAWs have mostly the same features like recording, editing out unwanted audio, the ability to move audio clips around in time, as well as post production features like EQ, Compression, Noise Reduction, Normalization, and the ability to export in many file formats to meet your customer’s needs. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular products.

Audacity

Oh, the Audacity!


Oh the Audacity! How dare you be such a capable audio recording software program and still cost nothing! You’re free! There must be a catch...

Nope.

There are dozens of DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software programs out there on the market today. All of them are worth every penny. Audacity has the same value and functionality of most of the programs out there, and it’s absolutely free.  When it’s time to choose an audio program for recording voice over it’s a no brainer. I recommend this program to every one of my students because it’s free, it’s easy to use, and it works for everything they will need to record and send out auditions.  Audacity has the same core functions as all the others like record, edit, EQ, compress, export as mp3 etc., plus a lot more that you may or may not use in your regular VO recordings.

So, what does all this mean?

As voice actors our lives consist of interpreting the scripts we receive, recording the performance and sending out the edited recording with all intentions of winning that audition. Yes, I simplified this but for a reason: The key component to the above statement is RECORD, EDIT, & EXPORT. Our focus should be on our performance, not worrying about being an engineer while doing it. It’s important that we quickly master the skills of recording, editing out unwanted audio, skillfully add/adjust the equalization if needed (low cut filter, High pass filter etc.), and send off a quality recorded performance. Audacity allows us to do this with ease. Look at it this way… using Audacity for recording your VO is like me using MS Word to write this article; simple intuitive functions like cut, copy, paste, delete, save.

What is your computer backup system? And will it work?


For some time now, we’ve been meaning to offer a few words about computer backup, but somehow never quite got around to it. We kept putting it off a little, in favor of something else. And a little more. And ... does this sound familiar?

Recent news about worldwide ransomware attacks (“Wanna Cry” last spring, and "Petya" just last week) have brought this issue back to sharp focus. Those attacks may not have been aimed at the typical home-office business, but experts say that their perpetrators care little about collateral damage, and any future attack might be even more pervasive. Besides, most threats don't get such publicity. Every day, data is tragically lost to mundane causes such as a failed hard drive or power supply. When it happens to you, only you and a few others will know.

So here goes. What is your computer backup system? And how do you know it will work?

Every computer user should have a reliable backup system – and should use it. Whether your computer succumbs to a malware attack, a hardware failure, or your own human error, having a backup will make the situation much less nerve-wracking, and probably far less expensive. It will also minimize your downtime, which can also be costly.

We're talking about more than the cost of replacing your equipment, or a bit of downtime. Losing your stuff can cost you clients. Consider, would you continue using an accountant if they had lost your documents? And if your data goes south, could you even do your billing?

Voice Over - The Lost Art of Listening


While out on a hiking trip this past weekend, I took the time to simply listen to nature. For several minutes, not a single device of modern technology could be heard. It was truly music to the ears. Listening, truly listening, seems to be a lost art. When was the last time you sat down and listened to an album? I don’t mean casually, with the music playing in the background as you perform other tasks. I mean sitting down in front of some speakers, or putting on headphones, and simply listening.

I’ve been around many younger people lately, high school and college age, and they just don’t listen. I’m not talking about, “Hey, pick those clothes up off the floor and put them away”... and they don’t do it, kind of listening (although that is certainly an issue as well). I’m talking about truly using their ears and hearing the world around them.

This isn’t limited to young people. When teaching home studio classes (mostly to adults), I’m often asked, “How do you know which (whatever piece of gear) sounds better?” The answer is, “In order to know, you have to listen and compare.”

This isn’t entirely the fault of today’s typical listener. Tiny and inefficient speakers have become common place, whether they be in earbuds, computers or television. These are all truly terrible devices for critical listening and are barely good enough for simple enjoyment of listening. Then of course, there is the MP3 format. Listening to an MP3 of a song and then listening to that same song on a record or CD (on decent speakers and in a decent environment) is a truly ear-opening experience. Again, if you haven’t listened and compared them, you can’t know.

It’s like the old aphorism: You have two ears and one mouth to remind you to use your ears twice as much.

Three Easy Things You Need to Know About Editing in Your Home Studio by Scott Harlan


Knowing when and how to make basic audio touch-ups can make using your home studio a lot less intimidating, even fun. It also pleases clients. But first, it’s important to understand exactly what your client expects to receive from you (or what they don’t want you to do). They may want you to do nothing, just send them the original recording. Or they might assume that you have deleted all but the good takes, edited out distracting breaths, downtime, coughs, etc. Or they might want you do more. Whatever basic tasks are expected, they’re pretty easy to do, but you must do them in a professional manner.

So let’s discuss 3 topics that are important in self-recording:

  • What "raw" audio means
  • The importance of crossfades
  • How to manage breath noise

1. RAW AUDIO

Technically, “raw” audio means that the sound characteristics of the original recording have not been changed (that is, the audio has not been “processed”). But some people extend its definition to include “unedited.”

(What are examples of processing? One common tool is equalization (a.k.a. EQ). Equalization allows you to add or remove different frequencies to or from a sound, like the bass and treble controls on your home audio system. Another frequently used tool is compression . It evens out the volume levels of a sound by turning down the loudest parts, which usually results in being able to then make the whole thing louder. There are other processing tools too, but the point is that NOT applying an EQ, compressor, or other processor will mean that your file is unprocessed ... or raw.)

Before Building a Voice Over Booth


Determine how large your voice over booth must be, and if possible, make it at least 50% larger. (One day you‘ll thank yourself.) Additionally consider how many people will record simultaneously in the booth (Will you record dialogues? Will you record foley sfx (which takes up a lot of room)? Will you need a video/computer monitor to view while recording? Will you want a table for voice over voice over scripts, water, etc.?). Be sure to account for the microphone and music stands. Will you stand or sit? (Sitting down is common for long recordings, such as audiobook recordings, but takes up more floor space.) Do you have claustrophobia? If so, go with a larger booth. Will you rent out your booth to musicians (who need larger spaces for guitars, keyboards, etc.)? Think about these things before you build.

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