No matter how good the equipment we use to record audio, there’s always some room for improvement. Of course, we have to record it properly, eliminate background noise, echo, ground hum and pre-amp hiss, but there’s more to it than that. High-end voiceovers just have a feel about them that isn’t just a plain old voice recording. They have a warmth and richness to them.
Getting that feel isn’t so difficult. Your mileage will vary depending on the source material (your natural voice), but it’s just a few simple steps in Adobe Audition. In this video, Nathaniel Dodson from Tutvid walks us through the whole process.
Nathaniel uses the Rode Procaster microphone for recording his tutorials and voiceovers. It’s a fantastic microphone, essentially it’s an XLR version of the Rode Podcaster. As it’s XLR, it requires some kind of interface between it and your computer. So you’ll need a mixer or some other device that can supply the microphone with phantom power as well as relay that signal into your computer.
The Rode Podcaster, on the other hand, is a USB microphone. So it’s a lot easier to deal with, if recording to computer, but also offers excellent sound. So, assuming you’ve got a decent quality clean track to begin with, this is Nathaniel’s workflow.
Light Noise Reduction
This process isn’t always essential, but it can help to take care of that last bit of noise. Even the best recorders can still sometimes have a little hiss. Or, perhaps there’s a barely perceptible distant hum of the neighbour’s refrigerator. This will take care of it. The easiest way to deal with this is to account for it when you’re recording.
Leave a few seconds either at the beginning or end of your recording. Then, in Audition, select one of those blank areas, and choose Noise Reduction -> Capture Noise print from the Effects menu. Once captured, select the entire audio file, and from the Effects menu, select Noise Reduction -> Noise Reduction (process). A dialogue box will pop up showing various options.
The exact settings will vary depending on the source footage you’re dealing with, but Nathaniel talks about the various options and what he prefers to do.
From the Effects menu, choose Amplitude and Compression -> Normalize (process). Again, a box pops up. Check the box that sayts “Normalize To:” and enter -6.00dB. Then hit apply. This will then raise up the volume of the whole track until the loudest part hits exactly -6dB.
Noise Reduction #2
This is basically just repeating the first step. Sometimes, normalising can raise the overall volume of the recording so loud that you start to hear hiss and hum that you didn’t originally notice. So, this allows you to just go ahead and clean that up.
Compression & EQ
This is where we start to actually flesh out the tone a little. So, from the effects menu, choose Amplitude and Compression -> Single-band Compressor. This helps to just even things out just a little more to help lower some of the peaks to create a more consistent overall volume.
Then the EQ. This is where we enhance certain frequencies to give some richness and depth to the voice. So, again, from the Effects menu, choose Filter and EQ -> Parametric Equalizer. Nathaniel starts with the Loudness Maximizer preset.
He then tweaks some things around to get just the right sound that he’s after. It helps to have the audio playing in the background so that you can hear the changes in realtime as you make them. Exactly how you adjust the EQ is going to depend a lot on your voice, the quality of the recording and how you want it to ultimately sound.
With all of the changes made, it’s time for a final normalize to bring everything back to a standard level. This time, though, instead of normalising to -6dB, we go to -3dB. This will be the final loudness of the audio for the finished production.
Obviously, not every voice or every recording is going to be processed exactly the same way. There might be loudness issues, or you just find that the settings you used on your own voice last time don’t work for somebody else’s voice next time. So, Nathaniel also goes into some of the potential issues that can crop up, as well as how to get around them.
As a bonus tip, he also shows you how you can record the whole thing into a macro so that if you’re doing the same thing over and over again, you don’t need to remember all the steps. You can just hit a keyboard shortcut and boom, processed.