On April 21, I presented a webinar about Audacity, the voice recording and editing program I've been using since my days in journalism school. This webinar session, "Audacity: Free Recording Software for Voice Over Projects," was offered through Proz.com. A video recording of the live presentation is now available for purchase here.
We covered the following topics during the live session:
- Introduction to voice recording skills
- Aspects of effective speaking
- Using proper hardware
- Translating for the voice over industry
- Audacity: a cross-platform free audio tool
Below you'll find questions that were asked during the webinar, as well as some other comments that were sent to me by email. If you purchase access to the video, have questions after watching the material, and don't see your concerns addressed here, feel free to contact me and contribute to this Q&A list
What microphone do you use?
The microphone I use is considered semi-professional, provides great quality, and is used by many professional podcasters. It's an Audio Technica AT2020 Conderser Studio Microphone. It's a USB mic that should be detected by your hardware as soon as it's connected to your computer. I also use a Wind Screen Pop Filter to filter out the mouth noises and help keep the sound clear. Here are some other models you may want to check out.
Is there a difference between line-in and USB microphones?
Not that much, since the sound quality may not be affected, no matter which option you use. However, at the hardware level, it's easier to work with USB devices because they are plug-n-play, that is, your computer will recognize it right away and you'll be able to select it and start using it for audio input. You may just need to play around with the settings a little more to make sure your hardware is using a line-in microphone instead.
What headphones would you recommend?
It's best to have some sort of noise-cancelling, so you can hear everything in the recorded audio track and check for echos, pops, and background noises. I have two models I use for recording or entertainment. One is a Sennheiser HD 201, and the other one is a Monoprice Hi-Fi Active Noise Canceling Headphone w/ Active Noise Reduction Technology, which is a little more advanced and has a noise-cancelling button to enhance audio features.
Do you work at a professional studio or at a home studio? How do you charge differently in each case?
I worked at a studio once, when a local company hired my services for a GPS voice recording project. Back then, they told me they paid about $100 USD for the studio fees, then they paid my fees separately. All my other projects have been completed in my home studio and clients have been happy with the final result, but if they demand that I go to a professional studio, I'll research options in the area and add their fee to my fee when invoicing the client.
Personally, do you only offer voice recording in your native language, or do you do it in your second language as well?
I've only done professional voice over work in my native language, which is Portuguese (I'm from Brazil). Maybe it's because most often I receive files for translation and voice recording, so I offer clients the complete package when it comes to projects of this nature. However, when it comes to my own projects, such as the YouTube channel that I've put together for my students, I not only record myself speaking in English in front of the camera, but I've also recorded just the audio in English for voice over as well.
What kind of projects have you worked on?
Because of my voice profile, I do a lot of educational and corporate recordings. For example, some of my US clients need a training video dubbed in Portuguese for employees in their Brazilian offices. Or they put together a corporate policy webinar to educate Brazilian employees on how the company operates. There have been some universities that welcome foreign students and needed their educational videos dubbed into Brazilian Portuguese. I've also done some online classes that needed translation and voice over and short literary projects―some paragraphs, not entire audiobooks (yet!)
Where do you find voice over clients?
You can find some of them at Proz, because sometimes you see companies that request voice talents in foreign languages. You can also contact your current and past clients and see if they have a need for this kind of service―the worst that can happen is that they'll say "No." As an alternative, you can look through freelancing websites, not only those that focus on translation and interpreting, but keep in mind you'll be competing with other voice over talents; hopefully your competitive edge is that you can offer audio recordings in languages different than English! The best thing is to brainstorm where your voice over services may be needed and start reaching out to potential client in this segment.
If you mess up or get frustrated and let out an expletive, as you said, will the final edited audio sound smooth?
Yes, if you select the sound waves correctly when editing your audio, it won't even sound like the expletive was there in the first place! Just make sure you leave enough room between sentences and breathe correctly, so you can edit those silences, breathing noises, messed up sentences, and expletives out :-D
Can you cut and paste between different audio files?
Yes, if clients change their mind after the audio was edited and need you to add a sentence from one file into another, you can definitely edit your master audio file instead of recording everything all over again. You can open a blank audio file―as you would open a blank Word document to create a new text file, for example―and you can copy content from the recordings you already have and paste them accordingly in this new, blank audio file, depending on the editing your client has requested.
I've tried recording audio once at home, but there's an echo. What can I do about that?
The best thing you can do is find a quiet place in your house, a room that has furniture, pictures on the wall, curtains, and a bed. The emptier the place, the more echo is going to be produced. If you need to, put some pillows around you to help "suck in" the noise and preventing it from bouncing off the walls―which is actually what produces echos.
Do I have to install audio foam/insulation in the area I designate for my voice over recording?
It would be great if you could install a booth in your house dedicated to voice over projects. However, since not everybody can afford it or have enough space for that, you can use this trick: pick up an empty box or a three-panel cardboard at an arts & crafts store―the kind that kids use for school projects―and use the foam sheets that come as part of the packaging when you buy electronics. You can place the box or panel in front of you, behind the microphone, so the sound won't bounce off the walls and be absorbed by the cardboard / foam. This is what it looks like:
You mentioned Audacity doesn't some with MP3 capabilities due to licensing. Could you explain how to record MP3 audio using Audacity then?
Yes, because MP3 is a proprietary format, the developers of Audacity would have to pay a licensing fee in order to use it in the coding of the program, which means that the software would no longer be free, since they'd need to charge users in order to pay for the MP3 licensing fees. A way to avoid it is to offer Audacity without MP3 capabilities and point users to where they can download what is called an MP3 codec, which will allow you to export your recorded audio as MP3 files if the client requires that specific format. All you have to do is visit this page and follow the instructions to install the codec and have MP3 capability within Audacity.
Will clients give me the audio specifications before hand, or should I ask them for the bit rate and megahertz?
Some clients may not be very knowledgeable about it―they just want the final result to be of good quality. In this case, you can use the standard 32 bit & 44100 hz. Other clients will give you very specific instructions, so you can set everything up before you start recording the material.
If I receive a video with the original audio and background music, is there a way to add my voice over in the target language and keep the background music?
That's something more technical that involves video editing, actually. If your client demands that you do it yourself, they'll have to send you the video and the background music, and you'll need to use a video editing tool to add your voice over track and edit everything together. What clients usually do is send you the video for reference, so you can record your audio and submit it to them, so they can do it internally or contact the studio responsible for creating the original video with the source-language audio.
Do you use GarageBand and, if so, would you recommend it?
I don't use it myself, because I've been using Audacity since my college days, when I was going to journalism school and working as an intern at a community radio station. They are similar programs used to record and edit audio files, so you can check them both out and compare them to see which one you like best.