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Have you ever recorded your voice for a YouTube video and just felt disappointed with the result? Did it sound like someone shouting down a kid’s cup-and-wire phone? Maybe it’s time to make video voiceovers that rock.
Everyone seems to be making content for social media these days. Whether it’s YouTube or Facebook, the pictures and videos are just getting better and better.
The editing and other visuals are pretty impressive for amateur efforts, but nothing ruins an otherwise good video more than a grating voiceover.
Clearing the Air
First of all, I’m not going to pretend that I’m some sort of audio expert. Just like you, I’m someone who makes video voiceovers for fun projects from time to time.
I don’t have a studio filled with specialist gear ready to record the next Lion King, is what I’m saying
No, that’s not our goal here. I’m a firm believer in recordings that are “good enough” and think that the pursuit of recording perfection has diminishing returns.
What you want is a recording that sounds good to the ear of your audience, not one that appeals to audiophiles and conforms to broadcast standards.
If people don’t notice the quality of the recording one way or another, then you can call that a success. As long as they aren’t distracted from the content itself, you’ve achieved victory.
I’m also not touching on the art of the voiceover itself, just how to squeeze out a better recording, regardless of your talent.
First Principles to Make Video Voiceovers
The main goal you should have it to record the best raw voiceover you can. Remember the rule garbage in – garbage out
The better the quality of the sound going into the microphone, the less you have to struggle with it after you make video voiceovers.
The most obvious way to increase the recording quality when you make a video voice-over is by having a good microphone.
If you’re using a headset mic or one built into your phone or laptop, expect the results to be less than stellar.
Good microphones don’t have to cost a fortune and there are some great podcasting USB mics for $60 and up.
Mics like the Samson CO1-U and Blue Yeti are two examples of popular models used by YouTubers all over the world.
Personally, I like mics with a hyper-cardioid polar pattern. Basically, they are very directional and cut out a lot of ambient noise not coming from directly in front of them.
It can also be useful to have a mic with a volume control and monitoring headphone jack built into it.
While it’s not essential, getting some extra tools can make your life easier. Most USB mics will come with a desktop mic stand, but I would also recommend getting a shock-mount that can save your recording from picking up bumps to a table or vibration through the floor.
It also makes sense to have a good pair of headphones for live monitoring of your voice. If it doesn’t sound good to you, it’s not going to sound good on tape.
A pop-filter can also make a difference to pops from explosive vocal sounds.Fixing them in post-production is time-consuming and tedious, so try not to commit them to tape in the first place.
Preparing your recording space is a key step in making sure things sound good when you make video voiceovers. Most people have at least one spot in their homes where a good recording can be made.
Mainly we want to get away from something called room reflection when we make video voiceovers.
All this means is that when the sounds leave your mouth they don’t just go into the mic, but bounce off hard surfaces and go back into the mic again.
A medium-sized room with soft furniture, carpeting, and thick drapes will often have a good level of reflection.
A trick that a lot of people use is to make their recording inside a closet. All the clothes dry out the sound.
To find a good spot, walk from room to room and give a single hard clap with your hands. Listen for any sound that continues after the initial clap reaches your ears.
Sometimes the level of reflection also depends on where you are in the room. Take your time to find a sweet spot.
This awesome video from Acoustic Geometry is very helpful:
Going the Distance
Experiment with the distance you put your mouth from the microphone. Everyone had a voice with different qualities, so you also have to find a place where your relationship to the microphone.
I’ve read in a couple of places that a good place to start is basically the distance between the tips of your outstretched pinky and thumb. From there you either move forward or back until you get the desired sound on your monitor.
If you’re going to shout or whisper, you should also hang back or move in as needed. I found a great overall explanation here.
It’s Science Dude
The most important thing is to experiment, experiment and then experiment some more. Take a short piece of prepared text and record it in different spots, different setting and different distances.
A popular poem is this one:
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers;
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Thanks to all the Ps in that poem this also helps suss out vocal pops as well. By doing this you can discover what works best for you where you are when you make video voiceovers.
That’s Just Like Your Opinion Man
There is so much lore and hard technical details to deal with in the world of sound recording, but I’ve made some pretty satisfying recordings by just making sure I was recording good audio to begin with.
You can (and should) dive into all the software tricks you can use to polish a recording, but if you stack the deck in your favor it shouldn’t be the thing you spend the most time on. When you make video voiceovers, what tips do you use to get good results? Share them in the comments.
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