WRITTEN BY ELLIOT HERMAN
DIALOGUE EDITOR, BOOM BOX POST
Dialogue is king. To perfectly record dialogue, especially for film, has been the common goal amongst dialogue recordists and recording engineers since the birth of audio recording in the early 1900s. In working as a dialogue editor, it is a constant journey to adapt to the ever-changing market of audio recording gear. When considering building your own voice-over chain, there are many available options. Here, I’ve narrowed it down to just a few.
The Right Microphone
Starting at the top of the chain, mic choice is key. I find that when recording for voice-overs, the mic you pick can make or break a recording.
These mics are all around great dynamic mics. I’ve recorded a lot of voice-overs with these mics. Due to the well-balanced EQ curve, especially for the PR30, they pick up the human voice without adding too much color to it. Not only do these mics work really well as vocal mics, they are also very affordable at $250-$300. Heil has created a mic that rivals any ribbon mic out there. The PR30 captures voice artist of all vocal qualities, whereas the PR40 shines in recording lower/bassier voiced artists.
The Mogami I just recently used on recording vocals for a rap song. It added a silky tight sound to vocal quality, while making the vocals cut through more. For Voiceover the Mogami really works best in a sound booth or acoustically silent room. Being a condenser it down pick up everything in the room that it is placed in. Modeled after the Neumann u67 mics, the Mogami provides a more affordable approach of achieving that classic Neumann sound we are so used to hearing for voiceover.
Touted as the mic of Hollywood, the Sennheiser 416 MKH is an essential for any field recordist. It also is a great mic to have for voice-over. The way it captures the human voice gives dimension and clarity to your recordings. If you can spring for one in your budget, you won’t regret owning it.
The Right Preamp & Compressor
After picking the right mic, we move on to selecting the preamp and compressors we need. Now, this tends to fluctuate slightly depending on the type of vocal quality your talent has or the medium for which you are recording. But for the purposes of this blog, say for animation and voice over, here are a few key pieces of gear that will definitely give you hi fidelity recordings.
It all begins with a preamp. With the VT-2, DW Fearn has created a truly exceptional 2 channel preamp that brings back the glory of vacuum tubes. Its two channels of analog tube warmth are what set this preamp above a lot of others out there. When vocals are put through this workhorse, clarity and warmth come out the other end. Vocals develop a three dimensional depth to them beefs up any voice over. If you’re looking for that classic 50’s or 60’s vocal sound, the VT-2 does just that. I’ve used this on vocal recordings for both voice-over and music, and have come to realize that this was what I had been missing in my vocal chain for many years.
Waves CLA 2A compressor/limiter is a must-have in your vocal chain. This a great plugin to have in your chain, especially if you are on a budget. I usually have this residing on my vocal bus in Pro Tools. It just tightens the signal coming in and smooths out the rough edges.
The Right Interface
These two interfaces, though USB connected, have all the benefits of a hi fidelity Pro Tools HD rig. If you’re looking for an affordable interface that is easy setup, plug n’ play usability, and the most bang for your buck, the 2i2 and Fast Track are at the top of the list.
The preamps used on both 2i2 and Fast Track Duo allow for very clean recordings with very little noise floor. This also another option as your vocal preamp if the VT-2 is too far out of reach.
The Right Editorial Plugin
When in our dialogue editing stage, we as editors need a program that not only seamlessly interfaces with our DAW, but can also handle every dialogue editorial need. Izotope’s RX 5 has totally changed how we edit dialogue. It’s ability to now remove room noise and pinpoint unwanted frequencies, clicks, pops, hisses, has made RX 5 one my main editorial tools. On the shows I have worked on, RX 5 has allowed us to zero in on those problematic noises, making it easier to deliver cleaner vocal tracks.
There are tons of other options out there as far as gear choices. With so many options, it can be hard to pick the correct combination. However, this list is a basic run down of gear that can truly change the quality of your recordings. Not only will you find that your vocal recordings can sound more professional, but they can also be tailored to the project you are working on.
QUESTION: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF GEAR FOR VOICE-OVER RECORDING? SHARE IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW!
*Main image credited to vanleuven0.