Jun 3, 2016

Adventures in Voice Over

How I Produced My First Eight Minute Audiobook



What follows is my experience recording a voice over track of my short story Nevera Tales, with virtually no cost. You can hear a two minute sample of the finished product here.


video

I wrote a short story over a year ago loosely based on a dream I had, which was told entirely from the perspective of one of the characters. When writing, a very important editing technique I use is to read what I have written aloud, to get a sense of the pacing, voice and mood of what I am writing. This helps it stay consistent, settle on a good amount of detail, and allows me to get a little outside of my own head.

After reading the story aloud several times during editing, I decided it would be a good learning experience to actually record myself in character, and make a simple audio-book of the story. I will include links to all of the websites and software I used.

The Preparation: I had a voice in my head of what I wanted the character to sound like, so I went to YouTube and searched out similar sounding characters, listening to them over and over, and attempted to recreate their voice as best I could.

I understand that some manipulation can be done using software to alter the voice after it has been recorded, but the more the voice is digitally altered then the lower quality the audio file becomes, so it is best to get as close as possible to the desired sound in the original recording.

I used the free Android App Smart Voice which was able to quickly record, playback and share my recordings to a variety of different software including GoogleDrive and Dropbox for easy uploading to a computer.



The Recording: Remember, the most important point is that you can use the voice consistently over a long period of time and say almost any word with it. Once I had settled on the voice I needed to produce, and made sure it was a voice I could use consistently for a good length of time (I used more diaphragm, made my voice more breathy, and made an effort to sound more eloquent), I set up my recording studio.

By this I mean that I stood inside my wardrobe / closet with the door shut. It being full of hanging clothes and very small, it made a reasonably good space to record my voice, as all the clothing material around my dampened any echoing and kept out the outside noise from the house and the street.

I also recommend putting the recording device in a stand or something to hold it in place, and to make sure you place yourself at a specific distance away from it. If you change how close or far you are from the device during recording or between recordings, then your voice will be recorded at different volumes, which is pretty difficult to fix afterwards.

For example, you do not want to record in a cave because of all the echo and ambient noise

Editing: For editing I uploaded my recording into Audacity, a free audio editing tool that is surprisingly powerful for the price (did I mention it was free?) It made the job of pasting together the twelve chunks of monologue very simple with a few clicks. There are many tutorials available to help anyone get started.

After that Audacity has tool that allows you to capture a piece of background noise from the track and then work to identify and remove that sound signature from the entire audio track, making sure that there is as little background noise as possible.

The last job was to play with the bass, treble and other elements of the track gently to alter my voice to get it closer to what I had in mind. This was mostly just experimenting and a whole lot of Ctrl+Z (undo).



Flair: Once I was done editing the voice track, I decided to add some juice to it. I took a look around Pond5, a royalty free media website with a vast number of resources and got a bunch of ideas. I settled on a haunting background ambiance track that was indicative of a mine or cave, which also did a great job of covering up little imperfections in my recording.

The final choice, which was not necessary but was definitely fun, was to hunt around Pond5 for sound effects to match up with evocative points of my story. I chose just a handful that I could spread evenly throughout my story so it didn't feel over-used, including the sound of a pickaxe against stone, leather straps being tightened, and the most entertaining which was the scream of a man falling from a great height.

Again, Audacity made it very simple to import these sound effects and place them where I wanted in the voice-over track, change their volume to be not too loud or too quiet, and even fade in and out for some that sounded better that way.



Post: After completion I made sure to listen to the finished track on a few different devices (my computer with and without headphones, my phone with and without headphones) to make sure my voice was understandable and that the balance between the voice and ambient background music was suitable. Then I stood proudly and reflected on the joy of learning new skills and completing a project.  


All together I would say that I could have done this in one full day, but chose to spread it out over a week to give my voice a rest, and to allow myself time to come up with new ideas or changes as I reflected on what I had done each day before and listened to the recordings with fresh ears after sleeping. I hope this has been useful or empowering for people thinking of trying out a small audio project themselves, as there are certainly the resources out there to get the wheels turning. 

4 comments:

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