A Quick Tutorial on Producing Solid Voiceovers (in Post-Production)
I've had to produce quite a few VO's in my time as a freelancer - they can be an excellent way to drive the narrative in a visually interesting project for many small organizations. In this vlog, I'm sharing the basics on the necessary plugins to use for the most effective audio quality to help a VO stand out in your video mix.
I always start with some solid compression - usually the Waves C1. Don't be afraid to push it a bit here. The more even and compressed the signal becomes (up unto a certain point), the better your VO will stand out against music and other ambient audio. Play with a soft knee and around a 5 to 1 ratio compressed at a threshold 5-10 db below your max peaks. Big improvements. (Also look into using a multi-band compressor to help with both amplitude consistency and an improvement in your EQ.)
Spend a lot of your time dialing in a solid equalizer plugin to bring up frequencies that are soft, or lower others that are problematic in your VO mix. Many times (depending on your microphone) recorded vocals can sound a bit "muddy" right out of the box. A quick way to take care of that is to bring down the lower-mid frequencies using an EQ plugin. The goal of EQ is to truly "equalize" your audio across the spectrum.
If you're using compression, chances are you're going to need a de-esser. De-essers are exactly what the name implies, they lower the "S" sound in speech. This is known as sibilance. Just like anything in recording, many sounds we are so used to phasing out in real life can become problematic when recorded. Compressing your signal can cause the sibilance to stand out in a problematic way. The de-esser plugin works like a compressor, but it only targets specific high-frequencies where the "s" lives. Start around 5k hertz and work from there and you'll see a lot of improvement.
Limiting is crucial to a solid VO. Limiters are yet another dynamics processor, but they act like an overall amplitude boost that prevents digital clipping, or distortion. Use a limiter to bring up your overall volume without destroying the audio. (Also look into normalizing to a certain max peak, or even normalizing to standard loudness measurements if you're working on a broadcast project.)
A gate will be absolutely crucial to creating a professional sounding voiceover. The gate (yet another dynamics processor) will eliminate ALL audio below a certain threshold. Set this threshold based on the level at which the signal comes in, and you'll remove all the unwanted audio between words. This helps clean up the signal and allow it to stand out and sound great in the mix.
This vlog details my basic process for producing a VO in post production. Let me know how you do if differently, or what I forgot! The final VO that I was using with this video can be seen (or heard) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0EjNXUq5c8