Not everyone is (or can be) a sound engineer. Sound engineering skills require very well-trained ears and are sensitive to the fine intricacies of audio. Developing an ‘ear for perfection’ takes time and practice. Sound engineers are also frequently musically inclined; they can usually play an instrument of some kind. They understand the concept of ‘balanced’ sound.
Anyone can develop a good ear for balance within the voiceover environment. Some voiceover artists and producers even consider their arsenal of equipment an extension of themselves.
We’re not suggesting you need to become an expert, but you do need to know the fundamentals. While great sound engineers can make the voiceover recording process look simple, or little more than just selecting clips and cutting-and-pasting, there’s actually a lot more to it than that.
For one thing, the tools sound engineers use to give voices clarity and punch so they sound big, well-rounded and in-your-face (like they do in the commercials you hear on radio and television), are sometimes quite complex to set up correctly. Interestingly, clients tend to prefer voices that haven’t undergone a whole lot of processing because they want to do the processing themselves once the recording package is complete. Getting a voiceover recorded is the first link in the commercial chain because the recorded voice dictates the length of the recording.
Getting to know tools like compressors, limiters and noise gates is important. If you happen to receive a revision note that asks that you reduce compression, for example, it’s critical that you know what to do. This audio fundamentals course and these webinars (1 & 2) will prove useful – as will typing ‘how to compress vocals for commercials’ into a search engine. Learning how to add music is just as important; more and more clients are expecting the talent to do the mixing and the balancing as well so a complete package can be delivered.
Research will stand you in good stead. So will practice. These will also, in all likelihood, set you apart from your peers, and that’s always an advantage in a very competitive field like voice-acting.
Please remember, though, that auditioning for jobs is not the time for you to practice. If you think about it, auditioning is just like a job interview and you need to put your best foot forward.
Get to know the tools of your trade!