Five or six years ago, almost to the day, you would have found me running—hunched over, mic in hand—next to an electric bicycle to get a rich, mixed sound of the spokes and the hum of the motor for a radio piece I was producing.
I’ve invaded peoples’ personal space beyond measure, I’ve climbed trees, laid on the ground and more.
Most recently, as I’ve been producing more pieces with minimal equipment, my partner has found me me hiding in our closet, in a self-made comforter fort, and with my head burrowed down into the closed end of a sleeping bag. All in the name of a good voice over.
So, to help you hack your way to a good voice over, I’ve listed out the 10 commandments of voice over excellence.
1) Use a microphone.
There is really never a time when you shouldn’t be using a mic if you can. There are so many inexpensive options—you can even use your in-line mic on your headphones—that there’s no reason not to.
For more, check out this mic test:
2) Find a soft, quiet place.
This may sound weird, but it’s one of the easiest things you can do to improve the audio quality of your voice over. Think closets, sleeping bags and comforter forts. Anyone who’s heard an echo should know why soft spaces are important. Your audio will bounce off of hard surfaces and sound hollow on your recording, even if you’re in a space where you can’t hear an echo with the naked ear.
3) Listen for hums.
There are sounds that we naturally tend to tune out, like the hum of fluorescent lights or a refrigerator. When you’re recording audio, you have to pay extra attention to these sounds.
Although I say “hums,” I’m really talking about any sounds that we tend to tune out, including soft music—a frequent problem in retail spaces and impossible to edit with! Once, I was recording an interview in a hallway near a bathroom. If I had not been wearing headphones, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the faint (but obvious) toilet flushes in the distance.
4) Pay attention to your audio levels.
If you’re using one of the apps I’ve recommended, you already have an audio meter function available to you. The loudest parts of your voice over should just be getting into the yellow—and never into the red!
5) Write a good script.
There’s more to come on writing an excellent script, but some key points you should take away now are to keep it simple and conversational (Think: How would I tell my mom this story?) and read your script out loud as you write to make sure things flow as you think they will. Oh, and don’t use pronouns (he, she, it) and long words where short ones will do.
6) Place your mic right.
Most mic you’ll use will need to be about 6 inches away from your mouth, and placed at a slight angle to avoid popping Ps and Ts.
Once you’re recording, your mic should be in one place—and that includes the cord and the recording device. Stay as still as you can to avoid any handling noise.
7) Talk with confidence and a smile.
You can tell when the receptionist or customer service representative on the other end of the line is smiling or not. So, you need to be cheerful when doing your voice over. Even if it feels bizarre to be in a comforter fort, in the dark, smiling. We’ve all been there. Or at least I have.
Similarly, if you want to give your customers confidence that your business knows what it’s doing, you need to speak with confidence, even if you hate the sound of your own voice, or feel silly hanging out in your fort.
8) Turn on airplane mode.
This is true anytime you’re recording anything, your device should be in airplane mode. Is knowing that your best friend from high school tagged you in a #TBT post really worth ending your recording and missing out on good audio?
9) Record one minute of ambient sound.
Even if you follow all the rules above, chances are wherever you’re recording your audio still has its own unique sound, even in silence. So, collect one minute of ambient sound that you can use to slowly fade out your voice over sound bites.
10) Check your audio.
Before you crawl out of your sleeping bag, closet, or other random soft space, be sure to listen to your audio and make sure it sounds up to par. Otherwise, you might be building that comforter fort again, my friend.
If you follow these 10 commandments, you will see a significant improvement to your voice over audio quality.