Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

3 Recording Engineers Spill The Beans on Top Pet Peeves

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

November 19, 2009

Comments (21)

Blond haired woman with microphoneNot being able to take direction. Touching the microphone! Not having "microphone awareness."

These are just some of the many things that can irk producers and recording engineers... and make them question your professionalism as a voice over artist.

But wait, there's hope!

You can put your best foot forward and make a good impression when visiting a recording studio, all you need to do is learn more about what is expected of you and heed these words on today's VOX Daily!

What Shouldn't You Do in the Booth?

I had a discussion with some audio engineers via Facebook who agreed to share their wisdom and insight with you. Just as a casting director wants to get the absolute best performance out of a talent when auditioning, the recording engineer wants to see you succeed and be comfortable in the booth.

Here's What 3 Friends in Audio Production Had to Say!

"That's easy...: not being able to take direction!"

-- Jacob Ekstrøm
ProVOA.com


"Mic awareness is knowing the spot on the mic where your voice is the cleanest, clearest, and has the most natural treble content. It's called being on axis. When the voice is in that spot, it's the best it's gonna be for that particular talent. A lot of this magic is with-in the talents own voice and nothing is really going to change that no matter what they do. I just finished recording a variety of Non-Pro's for the musical I did for a local church here, and I was amazed at the different ways the mic captured the different people as they spoke. Also to know how to work the mic - OR NOT - can frustrate the heck out of the engineer, because you may get a great take that sounds terrible OR a terrible take that sound great audio wise. For me, it can be the most fun as an engineer to record a performance or the worst time too, depending on who you're recording. And also, like Jacob said, once you realized that the talent is not going to follow your direction, or worse, can't follow it, it's gonna be a long session indeed. Hope this helps!!"

-- Bob Marini
Summer Productions


"I agree with Bob. That's what I was talking about the other day. HUGE pet peeve of mine. Knowing your mic technique for a V/O Artist is like a musician knowing their own instrument. If you intend to make money as a V/O and support yourself, then you are as a professional musician, not a garage band. You rise to a certain level of technical proficiency with your instrument and it can be like watching someone who just picked up the guitar trying to play an E chord and not properly doing so. That's why for me the whole 'moving and touching the mic' issue is a reflection of the individuals technical skill. Now, if they ask you to move the mic because they are short or taller than where it was placed, and need to find the sweet spot, that's different, but if you as an engineer have placed it properly for them, they shouldn't have to touch it."

-- Adam Fox
Defiant Digital Productions

Takeaways

๏ Be open to taking direction and ask questions if you need clarification
๏ Know how to use a microphone and where the "sweet spot" is for your voice
๏ Leave microphones and other technologies in the capable hands of the engineer

Do You Have Anything to Add?

Looking forward to your suggestions and ideas!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/berekin

Related Topics: Adam Fox, Bob Marini, booth, engineers, how to, Jacob Ekstroem, microphones, Microphones, recording, studio


Comments


    add to that showing up late or not being prepared. It amazes me when a talent walks into the booth having had the script in plenty of time, but still hasn't read it through. Also hate it when voice talent eat right as they're walking into the session...

    Posted by:

      Thanks for the info, but could somebody please elaborate on the "Sweet Spot?" Does it have to do mic location, distance from the mic? Any input on this would be very helpful. Thanks and Happy Holidays.

      Posted by:

        This is great, useful information! However, I don't know where to learn mic technique, including finding the sweet spot. Taking direction seems to be a bit of voodoo as well. Every VO workshop I have attended focuses on copy interpretation, vocal exercises, and the marketing/business side of VO. I have not personally found a coach to teach the "mechanics" of mic placement and technique.

        Where does a novice (or more seasoned) voice talent learn these very important techniques, other than by trial and error?

        Posted by:
        • Keith Jedlicka
        • November 20, 2009 9:14 AM

          This is great information from the other side of the glass. I receive it graciously with the intent to use this info to get better. Being on time, prepared and malleable makes the people you work with comfortable--and willing to call you back!

          Posted by:

            The most that happens is the Voice actor touching the mic.
            Its almost instinctive for the newbie, they almost always want to touch the mic maybe due to nervousness. This angers my engineer to bits (lol).

            Posted by:

              Hi Chris, Michael, Keith, Herb and Sanjo:

              Thank you very much for joining the conversation and also for your questions!

              I am writing a follow up article on how to find the elusive microphone sweet spot to be published later today. I appreciate the time you took to chime in. This is a popular topic!

              In the meantime, check out this podcast on Voice Over Experts with Melody Jones on Microphone Technique:

              http://podcasts.voices.com/voiceoverexperts/2009/03/voice_over_experts_episode_84.html

              Best wishes,

              Stephanie

              Posted by:

                Thank you Stephanie, I look forward to reading your article.

                Posted by:

                  The "sweet spot" differs for every microphone type. This is why you should always wear a headset during the level check and perhaps a quick read through. You can discard the headset once you know how the mic reacts to your position on it.

                  For instance, the U87 (condenser mic) has big ears. In an acoustically superior studio it is often placed 8-12 (sometimes 18) inches in-front and above your mouth/nose and you just talk; in a lesser studio, it is placed a thumb-your-nose distance in front of you and you speak across the large diaphram, while moving in on the U87 creates a really cool sound in your headset, the proximity effect can be a disaster (usually muddy) in a take . . . or maybe not if you're good and experienced with the mic.

                  On the other hand, the 416 (condenser mic) is so directional the mic works best slightly above and about 12 inches in front of your mouth and nose. If the mic is properly placed, there is no technique involved other than speaking slightly across the much smaller diaphram. Attempting to exploit the proximity effect with this microphone usually results in overloading the diaphram.

                  On an RE20, 421 Sennheiser or SM7 (dynamic micrphones), you can move right up onto the mic and exploit the proximity effect. Like most microphones, working across the diaphram is usually advisable. If you back off the mic much more than 6 inches, the sound quickly thins out; this varies based on the acoustics of the studio, but is generally true.

                  I've not worked with any of the modern ribbon microphones, however, my instinct would be to initially treat it as a U87 and adapt as necessary.

                  It takes years to master microphone technique. Recording engineers realize that most talent never mastered mic technique so they properly position the mic for the talent; it is always best to take advantage of their understanding of their microphone and studio charteristics.

                  Posted by:
                  • steve hammill
                  • November 21, 2009 1:44 AM

                    My pet peeve as an audio engineer is:
                    1. VO performers whose volume levels vary widely during a session which makes much more work for me as an editor.
                    2. VO performers doing narration who do the narrator lines softer than the character lines.
                    3. VO Performers who chop up sentences breathing every few words. I then have to take out those awkward gaps and restore the "melody of narration" to the speech. It's very time consuming. Plan your breathing ahead by looking at the text and deciding where it is logical to breathe without breaking up text illogically.

                    Posted by:

                      This is really helpful.
                      It's always better if both sides of the glass feel comfortable. This article will stay with me.

                      Posted by:
                      • PJ Delia
                      • August 3, 2010 10:08 AM

                        The above are valuable and insightful tips.

                        However, there are some things that many engineers and producers should be a little more keen on attending to. 1. Make sure that the copy (type and font) is on clean paper, and large enough to actually read, including sufficient spacing between lines. 2. Check spelling, punctuation, and grammar more thoroughly. 3. Light the booth so that the talent can actually see the copy. 4. Place the mic in a position favorable to the talent eye line so they can read the copy without having to tilt their head or talk out of the side of their mouth.

                        My remarks are empirically based. Not predicated on personal prejudice. I've heard these - and other complaints - from numerous colleagues over many years.

                        In general, most of my experiences have been happy ones. The best have been with producers who realize that we are doing voiceover, not heart transplants.

                        Posted by:
                        • Charles Kahlenberg
                        • June 6, 2011 11:31 AM

                          Having worked both sides of the glass, it's good to see all this aired.
                          Taking up Charles's line, my request as a home-based performer would be to receive more info on the proposed FX/music so we can choose mike and voice pitch to match. When that happens - occasionally - it is a joy.

                          Posted by:

                            Frank Sinatra, responding to someone who observed that Frank's instrument was his voice, said "No my instrument is the microphone."

                            I mused that most people reading that same biography would not have understood or appreciated the comment as much as us.

                            Posted by:
                            • Paul Bourque
                            • June 6, 2011 9:10 PM

                              Thank you for this information. I'm getting the impression that the more cognizant, of etiquette and professionalism, the VoiceOver artist is, the more simple the recording process will be.

                              Chris Hiler
                              hiler8@gmail.com

                              Posted by:
                              • Chris Hiler
                              • June 7, 2011 5:36 PM

                                If anyone with some vo experience could point me in the right direction on how to get involved in this great field were does one start. Thank you for your time.

                                Posted by:
                                • Tony
                                • June 9, 2011 2:42 AM

                                  Hi Anthony,

                                  Thank you very much for commenting! I hope my reply finds you well. Here's a link to where you can find some advice on getting started in voiceovers:

                                  http://www.voices.com/help

                                  I've also asked that someone from Voices.com follow up with you to see if they can answer any questions you might have.

                                  Best wishes,

                                  Stephanie

                                  Posted by:

                                    COME PREPARED! Stay humble and take direction. I am celebrating 50 years in show business this year, including 41 years in the studio and about to go to broadway. Hang your ego in the green room.....

                                    Posted by:

                                      I have to say that I really try to follow my producers suggestions and instructions..they are the experts and I am happy to improve with their feedback..I had one bad experience though, where the client had to have me record, then we had to send it to him, he had to evaluate it and have a committee make suggestions..then get back to me over the phone, have me rerecord etc. This was time consuming and he even felt the committee things was just adding to our confusion. So, I will try to not be in that situation again. My teaching involved a lot of respect and consideration for the producer, client and learning from each experience.

                                      Posted by:
                                      • Debra L Anderson
                                      • August 10, 2011 4:17 PM

                                        These are topics that needs more exposure and I'm happy to see that engineers are getting together and comparing notes...I'm a firm believer of matching the microphone to the voice, and I also don't believe in EQ...I come from the school where if it doesn't sound right, move the microphone...One incident I recall 2 years ago was a V/O session that turned out to be a disaster...I'm the easiest engineer to work with and I have a great sense of humor; however, the V/O artist pushed the envelope that morning by blowing hard into one of my vintage U47's...When this happened, I turned insane where I grabbed the artist and pushed him out the back door of the studio! The garbage dumpster looked tempting, but I was in a good mood that day (LOL)...I notified the ad agency and insisted that they NEVER send this guy ever again...he displayed and extreme lack of professionalism and showed his lack of experience...Any artist with any experience would have at least a half a clue that a vintage Telefunken/Neumann U47 costs' an average down payment on a house...I'm very lucky that the capsule wasn't damaged...There are now times where I use cheap tube condenser mics for artists that I'm uncertain of...I've used a $200 MXL tube mic with some artists that actually sounded amazing...Once I get to know the talent and I'm comfortable with their experience, I break out the Neumanns...I have a rather large collection of vintage tube mics that I truly respect, and I can't have them damaged due to an amateur... Singers are another issue where they are constantly going 'off-mic' or doing a Ray Charles in front of it which a compressor won't even help...I honestly and truly appreciate the artist with good studio mic technique...It makes my job so much easier without the stress of knowing that they're going to do something stupid...

                                        Posted by:
                                        • Frank F -- Audio Craft recording Studios
                                        • August 10, 2011 7:20 PM

                                          Clients who arrive late and then have lunch. Clients who bring half their staff on school excursion, and everyone has an opinion. Scripts that are re-written many times over during the recording. Scripts that are presented in Size 8 font, all in uppercase, single-spaced, in a one inch wide column... in red! Voiceover booths with no headphones and/or lights. Voiceover booths the size of an outhouse. Sound engineers who care little for my auditory health and through the course of fixing their settings send me temporarily deaf with feedback and similarly ear bleeding sounds. I could go on...

                                          Posted by:

                                            Recording Engineers and "Producers" tend to give direction by negative criticism. I'm a voice teacher, and have found that the best way to help people do their best is not by pointing out all of the things they are doing wrong, but by informing them of all of the things they are doing RIGHT, and what could make it better.
                                            Do not assume that your client knows ANYTHING about microphones, sweet spots, or recording technology. This person was hired for their voice. YOU are the one with the knowledge of these things, and it is YOUR responsibility as a producer to share this knowledge during the recording process. If a tuba player comes in to record, does he expect YOU to know his fingerings and the notes that tend to be a little out of tune?...I don't think so. But if he tells you that every Bb will need to be tuned up a little if you want it to be perfect, I'm sure you will appreciate it when you're sitting there in front of melodyne trying to figure out what sounds like garbage.
                                            I personally liked Charles Kahlenberg's comment on this same post. The list of things that engineers and "producers" do that irritate their clients would be much longer than this measly article from the other side of the fence.

                                            Posted by:

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