- Sitting and talking to yourself in a small enclosed space all day – Check.
- Choosing yourself a coach and starting to work with them – Check
- Fashioned, built or bought a suitable booth for recording – Check.
Great and congratulations!
Capturing your voice
Before you can do much work in voice over, unless you plan to rent time at a local established studio (in which case you’ve wasted your time and money putting together your booth!), then you’ll need a way to capture your voice in a recording. To do that digitally (it IS the 21st century after all!) you will need to buy, or borrow, or steal (Really, this is not a great idea. Jails are not great recording environments) some equipment. The basic setup is: A computer running a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), an audio interface, a microphone and enough cables to make it all work. Oh, and hopefully your booth is in a place close to a power source (I suppose that should have been mentioned earlier – sorry). You can get a LOT more elaborate, but this is the basic setup.
I’ll talk a bit about each of these below, but in general, you want to make sure you get the highest quality equipment you can afford, without getting more than you need. All of the equipment you need to record your voice is the same equipment (more or less) a studio would use to capture sound from a band, but you’re only recording a single voice on a single channel. A voice over actor will not need a 16-channel sound board for example, because only one channel will (typically) be used. You won’t need stand-alone effects equipment, as everything you’ll need as a voice over artist is available in software plug ins for your DAW. So cool your jets when browsing sites like Sweetwater, even though they have some REALLY cool stuff!
Odds are, you already have a computer in your home, otherwise, how are you possibly reading this? The question really is: Is it powerful enough to be able to run my DAW smoothly, and is there sufficient storage for my sound files?
Recording, editing and mastering audio recordings for voice over is processing intensive. GENERALLY speaking, in order to do this smoothly without issue requires a bit more processing power than a typical home computer used for browsing and email. Maybe if you have a high-end gaming computer, but then maybe not. Let’s look at MINIMUM requirements for running a DAW on your computer,
We are going to FINALLY give the definitive answer to the age-old question that has plagued mankind since the very beginning of home computing: Mac or Windows? Here is THE DEFINITIVE answer: (Are you ready?) Who cares.
That’s right. It JUST doesn’t matter. It’s really just a preference, so you do you.
Minimum Computing Requirement
Keep in mind that these are the MINIMUM requirements, and at minimum, performance could suffer. You’ll need at least dual core processors running at least 2GB with at least 1GB of RAM above what your DAW requires. RAM required for your DAW to operate is going to be dependent on which one you choose, so shop for both simultaneously. Some DAWs temporarily hold your file in RAM until it is saved, so more RAM will not hurt, but it also MAY not help depending on processor speed. All these things work together.
Most importantly, you are going to need a lot of storage. While 500GB of storage should be fine for a while, I recommend at least a 1TB internal drive, and an external Solid-state drive with at least 1TB of storage for backups and storing audio files. You can also use an online cloud storage service like DropBox or Google Drive…really, google online cloud storage, there are plenty…but I personally don’t recommend it because system outages can leave you without the files you need and you’ll want access to them locally just in case.
Whether you decide on a laptop or desktop, make sure you have the OOOMPH you need and keep in mind that placing your computer IN the booth with you will raise your noise floor, so consider an external monitor so you can leave your machine outside the booth to improve your sound and reduce processing.
I’m running an iMac Pro (2017), 3.2G 8 Core Xeon processors with 32GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB internal and 1TB external drives. I haven’t had an issue, but I have come close to using all my RAM a few times and am considering upgrading.
There are a LOT of DAW’s to choose from! They all do pretty much the same thing as far as capturing your audio, but control of the audio after you capture it and the fidelity of sound are what sets some apart. Keep in mind that many workstations are designed for the music industry and come with WAY more functionality than you’ll need as a Voice Actor. The things you will need the most are the ability to use compression, limiters, EQ and Punch & Roll. You may also want to be able to mix several tracks to include a music bed under your voice for demos and some customers.
Punch & Roll is a technique that allows you to “Punch In” the middle of an audio file to correct mistakes, or make changes if the script changes rather than re-record the entire script. You’ll definitely want to learn this technique, but with some software it’s more intuitive than others.
You can compare some of the best for 2020 here. Like the question of whether or not to use a Mac or Windows computer, which DAW you choose is going to be dependent on primarily four things:
- Functionality – particularly the ability to use Punch & Roll for recording and editing.
- Cost/Licensing – Within your budget and ability to install on more than one machine.
- Ease of Use – you are going to have to learn how to effectively use this software.
- Personal Preference – You have to feel comfortable using it.
Most popular DAWS
A few of the most often talked about DAWS I see are:
Presonus Studio One: This is the DAW I use (Artist Version is all you need for Voice Over). It is relatively inexpensive, easy to learn and there is a huge FaceBook Group available for support, to answer questions and help you get up and running quickly.
Audacity: This is free open source software you can download. I am not really familiar with it, but many in the narrator FaceBook groups swear by it.
ProTools: This is a DAW you are likely to find in a professional Studio, it’s very powerful and probably more than you need unless you are also planning to mix and edit music. There is a free version, but as I understand it the free version does not contain al the tools you’ll need (like P&R) to make your life easier.
These are just three of the bigger DAWs I see talked about a lot. It is really going to depend on you to decide which one is right for you, there is no one size fits all here. Do some research online and find the one that fits your needs and your budget.
Editing and Mastering
One last software plug. If you are going to be editing and mastering your own files (in other words you will not be hiring a professional engineer to do it for you), I’d recommend getting some mastering software to go along with your DAW. iZotope RX is one you’ll want to consider. This software s very powerful and can remove embedded noises in your audio with little or no distortion. This ABSOLUTELY will make your life easier. There are different levels, but standard is all you’ll need for editing/mastering your own audio files. You might need Pro one day if you decide to start editing and mastering files for other people.
I am running Studio One Artist version 5 which works great for me, along with iZotope RX8 Standard. If you decide to go with this Studio One and/or RX, shoot me a note and I can point you at some resources to help you get up and running quickly.
More in the next installment
Who knew there was SO MUCH to say on the subject of equipment? We are quickly approaching #TLDR territory, so let’s break for now while you research DAWs and computers, and return next week to discuss microphones and audio interfaces. Till next week!