Saturday, March 15, 2008

AudioGuy Mail Bag - Some Audition Questions...

This question comes in from Janet, who has a few technical questions about her auditions:

I love all your Some Audio Guy postings and you've been a big help.
I've done on-camera and voice over work for many years as a radio and TV
anchor/reporter but now am after strictly voice-over work.

Here are my questions -

In my home studio, I can't hear my voice in the headphones while I'm recording
with Audacity or Adobe Soundbooth CS3 - playback is no problem.
(it was set up by a broadcast engineer friend but I never
noticed that I couldn't hear in the headphones when he was
here, or maybe I've done something wrong since.)

Also - if my intention is to supply "dry reads" from my home studio, how much
cleaning up should I do on the auditions? if I take out breaths and normalize
the volume (as you show on your video) is that a false impression of what I
intend to deliver? Isn't that more an "I can deliver edited and finished voice tracks" as voice123 says or do I misunderstand the term "dry read?"

Whew, that's a lots of questions all wrapped into one. I appreciate any help you can give me.

Thanks - Janet

Hey Janet,
About hearing yourself while recording, that can be a little tricky, It's largely going to come down to what sound card you're using to record. Most modern external soundcards should be fast enough to let you monitor. Depending on what recording software you're using, there should be a recording setting to allow hardware monitoring. Now this is where latency comes into play. Your card has to sample the audio you create (vibrations in the air), translate it into a digital signal (1' and 0's), and pass it over a USB or FW cable to your computer, WHILE re-routing it to your headphones. If you dont have a reasonably quick soundcard/computer setup, then you'll hear yourself as an echo with a split second delay.

As for this notion of "dry reads", well I just try to go for simple. Some of the casting studios use dynamic mics plugged directly into a mixer into the mic port on a computer (no soundcard at all). They do this so their recordings aren't good enough to use for an actual spot, but are good enough to hear what the actors are doing. This doesn't seem to negatively affect their business (though I can't say I love the quality of the recordings).
I say, as long as you're being honest about your talents, then do what you're comfortable doing. If you get to the end of an audition, and you have to do a ton of editing to make it sound good, then maybe it's not for you.

I tend to leave breath noise in auditions, except for deep breaths before and after copy (like my big sigh in the video). One they are perfect points to edit around, and two there's an odd psychological trick to long copy. If an audience member hears continuous monologue, but no breathing, it can cause a little distress (like when you see an action movie, and the hero dives underwater for 10 minutes, the audience will try to hold their breath along with said hero).

I think normalizing is fine, as long as it's done subtly (you want your sound balanced nothing too spikey loud or too quiet), though I would avoid heavy compression (audio not MP3 compression). You really don't want a solid WALL of sound. You never know what kind of speakers you'll be played on, so you could sound really muddy or distorted. It's like music mixing, you want to sound the same on crappy car speakers as you do on a $15K home theater. It's not glamorous, but it's a better way to represent yourself.

Thanks for the question (I'll probably steal it for the blog ;-), and thanks for reading!
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