The ideal voiceover (VO) or narration mic is a large diaphragm condensor- like the one your favorite singer uses in the recording studio. This mic sits happily on a floor or desk mic stand with a pop filter and connects to your XLR adapter/phantom power unit, then your camcorder, computer or audio recorder.
But you can also use a good lavalier, or even your camcorder mic if it’s high quality.
“Plosives” are puffs of air created by saying a word containing the consonant “P”, and to a lesser extent, some other percussive letters.
Instead of rewriting your scripts not to contain “P” sounds, I recommend a professional pop filter—a disc of acoustically transparent material that mounts on your stand with a flexible gooseneck, positioned in front of your mic to stop plosives cold.
If you hold a section of stretched women’s nylons between your mouth and hand, you’ll notice that the blast of air created by the “P” sound is completely absorbed by the nylons. But if you hold the nylons in front of your ear, you’ll hear that they are acoustically transparent- they do not absorb higher frequencies and thereby preserve the crispness and clarity of the sound. Also note that if you stretch them completely over your head, it makes your facial features look really funny, but this has nothing to do with the sound principles we’re discussing here. Come on now, let’s stay focused.
To make your own DYI pop filter, you can shape a wire clothes hanger into a loop and stretch women’s nylons over the loop. Then wrap the wire around a mic stand and position the disc between your mouth and the mic for an excellent, though not as professional looking, pop filter. If you’re a husky bearded fellow, and have ever gone into a 24 hour drug store in the middle of the night and asked to listen to a few pairs of nylons before purchase, you’ll know why I can’t shop in my neighborhood anymore.
- use a large diaphragm condensor, or quality dynamic mic
- record in a quiet place with absorbent materials (carpet, hang acoustic foam or a blanket in front of glass or lay foam, a blanket or rug down on hardwood floors
- turn off all noisemakers- computers, heater, air conditioner, water cooler, fridge
- wear headphones, anything you can hear in the headphones will be recorded!
- use a pop filter- either professional- or panty hose stretched over a clothes hanger
- if ‘P’s are still popping even with a pop filter, “pull your ‘P’s” (soften them, halfway between a ‘P’ and a ‘B’)
- have room temperature water handy
- pop a cough drop occasionally to keep your throat from drying out (spit it out before recording!)
- use a mic shock mount to prevent mic stand vibrations from being recorded
- read from a good teleprompter software program
Writing a VO script:
The biggest problem with VO scripts is usually that they are written the same way you’d write an article, book, or something meant to be read off a page. Good VO scripts are written to be read aloud.
- use contractions: “Don’t” instead of “do not”
- rewrite anything that sounds awkward to be more conversational
- put in commas where you want pauses, even if it’s, not grammatically correct
- make words bold, or ALL CAPS that you want punched
- start new lines when the script starts a new thought
Vary your tone and rate of speech:
- avoid droning or monotone
- be genuinely excited if you are talking about something exciting or cool
- vary your energy
- punch key words
- put in a pause now and again before a key concept to focus the listener’s attention
- be dynamic
- speak loudly and quickly
- Be friendly, confident and humble
Smile when you narrate!
Speak very s-l-o-w-l-y when elucidating a particularly challenging or important concept, point or tip
Speak quickly when recapping, reinforcing, or relating information that can be easily understood
- avoid too much of a “hypey”, “80’s DJ” tone
- avoid sounding stern, mean or condescending
- avoid sounding too casual or timid
- stay consistent- over a multihour VO session it’s easy to drift from high to low energy, from confident to mean, from smiling to forgetting to smile, etc. Play back some early narration often and match that sample
- open your mouth while talking
- speak clearly! Enunciate your words. You never know what kind of noisy environment your listeners will be in.
- concentrate on the meaning of your words while narrating
- visualize what visuals will be seen when hearing your VO, emphasize words and phrases accordingly
- focus on getting the message of the script across
- insert improvised words in the script- “wow!” “hmmmm…” “aha!” and other natural words and phrases you might use if you were just talking and not reading a script
- make noises if appropriate – a chuckle, a “whew” sound, “tsk tsk”, “psshhhhhh”, “heh”, “mmmmm”, and other sounds will imbue the read with meaning
- have fun!
- visualize the people who will be watching, and speak to them personally. Connect with your future audience. Listen to your read from their perspective.
- really mean what you are saying… don’t just read the words. Mean it!
Tips for Editing Narration:
- If you hear a flub or awkward sounding phrase, highlight it in the script for a pickup. Then do all pickups at once, in script order, so they’re easy to drop in.
- Try a compressor or limiter to even out levels and/or provide a little more “punch”.
- Try an EQ to add a little warmth if thin, or a little crispness if dull.
- Try a noise gate to eliminate noise between lines.
Then listen without each filter. If the filters sound obtrusive or overall worse than the original, don’t use them.