A bad voice over can ruin your entire video project. You could film your story with Hollywood cameras or animate with the most high-end software, but your audience will hardly sit through a video with a distorted, unbearable voice over. On the other hand, narrate your story with an engaging, easy-to-follow voice over, and people are more likely to pay attention and enjoy it.
With today’s technology, recording a high-quality voice over is no longer a privilege for famous directors and animation studios. Nowadays, anyone can record high-quality voice overs regardless of their team’s budget.
Create a script to guide your recording session
Creating a great script with voice over directions is your first step. In addition to telling voice artists what to say, a voice over script usually includes notes to change the tone of voice and emphasize words or emotion during specific sentences. These notes help the voice over artist narrate videos closer to your vision.
If you have a lower budget, you’ll likely have to create your script yourself. As you write, document words the voice over artist should pay close attention to, such as those where exaggerating a word or extending a pause that would make the story more engaging.
If you have the budget, hire a scriptwriter to create one for you. They have the experience to create a cohesive and compelling script, increasing your project’s overall quality.
Choose the person to record voice overs for you
This step is pretty obvious—you need a find a person to speak your voice over. Your budget determines who that person is.
No budget: use yourself or a member of your team
The cheapest person to hire is yourself or a member of your team. You may not be a professional, but you can record voice overs with a bit of preparation and practice. For example, you can practice your lines beforehand, so you get used to enunciating each word carefully.
For a warm-up, television and voice actor Rio Rocket suggests reading ten pages of words aloud every morning. Then, when you’re done, record yourself saying, “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,” to hear how well your diction holds up.
At Vyond, the majority of our videos are recorded by our in-house team. For larger campaigns and especially important projects, we hire a professional.
Small or big budget: hire a professional to record voice overs
If you have the budget, hire a professional. Professional voice over artists will take less time to produce higher quality audio than you or your colleague would. They’ve been training for years, and their final product will be better than what a novice can create on their own.
“Having a pro voice talent with a depth of experience,” says Susan, manager of the award-winning voice over team known as the Glow Girls, “will help your project run more smoothly.” And, she says, because of the rise of remote work across the industry, most artists have professional home setups to deliver high-quality audio.
Voice over artists range in price and specialty, which can make the hiring process challenging. We wrote an in-depth guide describing the process here.
Select your equipment based on your budget
The next step to recording audio is to select your recording equipment.
No budget: use smartphones
If you have no budget, the most accessible piece of equipment is the smartphone. While most smartphones come with an audio recording app, that app doesn’t give you control over critical recording settings like bit depth, sample rate, and audio file format.
If possible, lean toward paid or freemium recording apps like Awesome Voice Recorder and ASR Voice Recorder. As your budget grows, you can invest in the Rode smartLav+, a lavalier mic that plugs directly into your smartphone and increases your voice over’s quality.
Small budget: use an audio recorder or entry-level microphone
If you have a small budget, spring for a dedicated audio recorder or entry-level microphone. Audio recorders have a higher-quality microphone than smartphones, which allows you to capture more low, mid, and high frequencies. Just like high-end audio recording apps, recorders give you full control over how you want to record and export your file.
Generally, recorders cost between $40 to $400, giving you access to affordable options like the Sony PX370 or higher-end ones like the Zoom H5 4-Track Recorder. The Blue Yeti USB microphone is also a great option.
For recording on your computer, we recommend recording through Audacity. On a Mac, you also have free access to Quicktime and Garage Band.
Big budget: use a microphone in studio or studio-like settings
For those with larger budgets, invest in “proper” audio recording equipment like a high-quality microphone. Microphones capture the most sound and deliver the highest voice over quality under sound-treated rooms.
Microphones fall into two categories, USB and XLR. USB microphones are the easiest to use: You plug them into your computer and start recording, unlike XLR microphones. XLR microphones use an XLR cable, which can’t connect to any computer. To use them, you need to first plug them into an audio interface that connects to your computer. While there is extra equipment involved with XLR microphones, they are more durable and provide higher sound quality than USB microphones.
The Shure SM7B is a fantastic XLR microphone you can use to record voice overs. It comes with a built-in windscreen and pop filter to protect your voice over from the wind and plosives and is compatible with popular audio interfaces like the Scarlett 4i4 or the iD4.
Pick a room that isn’t too large or too small
Regardless of budget, pay attention to your recording room. If you have a big budget and are paying for a studio, the studio or the person you hired likely assembled the space perfectly.
If you have a small or no budget, you’ll need to make some decisions. First, pick a room that isn’t too large, like an empty team office, or too small, like an empty closet. It doesn’t matter how excellent you are at audio recording or editing; you can’t clean up the echo and distortions that small and big rooms cause.
The echo from empty, big, or small rooms happens because no objects or furniture absorb your voice. As a result, sound bounces across the walls. To avoid echo and ensure good audio recording conditions, you need furniture and objects in the room that absorb your voice: wall decorations, carpets, or, even better, sound-absorbing panels.
Some workarounds will let you record high-quality audio even if you don’t have access to the best space. For example, record under a blanket so it absorbs your voice. Of course, not everyone likes being under blankets: it can be hot or make you feel claustrophobic. Put the blanket above chairs or a desk and sit under it if you prefer.
A second solution is to record in your car. Companies do acoustic treatments to cars to minimize outside noise and control reverberation. The windshield reflects your voice, so sit in the backseat or, if there’s no backseat, face the floor or the chair to absorb the noise.
Finally, record your audio in a closet surrounded by clothing and, hopefully, a carpeted floor. Sit about a foot away from the clothes and face them, so they absorb any echo.
Adjust your audio recording settings
Your audio quality is also important regardless of budget. For those with big budgets, your studio or hired audio engineer will know what makes for a good recording. For those with limited budgets, here are the basics of recording and exporting your audio file.
Record in .wav file format
.Wav is an audio format with higher quality and less compression than other formats like MP3. .Wav files carry more audio data, too, giving you more freedom to modify your audio volume, sensitivity, and frequencies without losing a lot of quality during the editing process.
Once you edit your audio, feel free to transform it into a lower-sized audio file format. Since you edited in .Wav, your audio quality will be the highest even if you change the audio format.
You don’t need a large budget to record in .wav, as affordable voice recorders let you produce voice overs in this file format. If you don’t have a budget, free smartphone apps like Awesome Voice Recorder and ASR Voice Recorder and computer audio software like Audacity let you record in .wav at no cost.
Record in 48kHz sample rate
The sounds humans hear daily are called analog audio. Computers, however, can’t understand these sounds. So they turn analog audio signals into digital signals called samples. The sample rate refers to the number of samples your recording software processes per second. The higher the sample rate, the higher the quality sound.
Free recording software like Audacity and affordable voice recorders like the TASCAM DR-05 let you choose your sample rate. Whenever you have the option, pick a sample rate of 48kHz (48,000HZ), the standard sample rate of the audio tracks used on TV shows, movies, and DVDs. If you record your voice over in a lower sample rate, say 44.1kHz, you’ll have to convert your audio’s sample rate into 48kHz, causing distortion and desynchronization between your audio and your video.
Use a 16-bit or 24-bit depth
Bit depth is the resolution on which your recording software or gadget is capturing the sound. The higher the bit depth, the more you can edit your audio without fear of distorting or reducing the quality of your audio file.
For example, with 24-bit audio, you can increase the volume of a low-sounding recording without adding noise to your audio. Because modern smartphones, audio recorders, and laptops support a 24-bit depth, it’s easy to avoid bit depths below 16-bit.
Record your voice over
No matter your budget, recording is not as simple as pressing record and saying your lines. There are directives that any voice actor —hired and from your team—must follow to ensure a high-quality final result.
Ensure proper microphone placement
When recording audio, place your recording device close to your body in between your chin and sternum. This position helps your voice sound its best and avoid distortion, regardless of your device’s cost.
When you hold your device’s microphone too close to your mouth, the mic will pick up your voice and any sounds from your mouth, leading to exaggerated consonants like Ps and Ss. On the flip side, when you hold your microphone too far, say one foot away from your mouth, you’ll lose a lot of your voice’s base and mid-tones, resulting in lower voice quality. Be sure to hold your microphone between your chin and your sternum.
Record voice overs synchronously if your team is remote
If you need to record multiple speakers simultaneously but aren’t all in the same place, you can use an online meeting software, like Zoom, to guide speakers as each record voice overs into their recording device. For example, voice artists from teams with a small budget can sit in a clothing-full closet to record as they listen to their peers’ feedback.
Teams with big budgets, where each voice artist can access a home studio, can benefit from recording synchronously, too. Dan Mirvish, an award-winning feature film director, says Zoom is a valuable tool even when working with A-list actors. “These kinds of actors expect— and still need—solid direction,” says Mirvish. He goes on to say, “to get different takes, try improvisations, and bounce ideas off each other and the director.” An additional benefit, he says, is that when actors listen to a colleague’s section of a voice over project, so they have an easier time reacting to a scene’s emotion than if they heard a pre-recorded audio and then sent their lines.
Watch out for clips in your audio
Don’t clip your audio—exceeding the maximum volume you can record. Otherwise, you’ll distort your voice over.
For clip-less audio, the volume needs to peak between -12 and -6 decibels. Nowadays, most voice recording apps and software, regardless of their price point, will let you see when your voice clips or let you set a maximum volume to your microphone to avoid this issue.
Create a video that supports your voice over
Now that your voice over is ready, it’s time to create a video that supports your story with visuals. To do this, use the same script from the voice over to create a storyboard, a visual representation of how your story unfolds, telling your animation or video production team the scenes they should create.
Whether you want to create an animated storyboard to guide your real-life story or a compelling animated video to support your voice over audio, Vyond can help. In a few clicks, you control your story, even if you’re not a professional animator.
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