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Miscellany, Inc. => Tutorials => Topic started by: Ghreyfain on April 01, 2004, 03:52:07 AM

Title: Voicing NPCs - by Wynne
Post by: Ghreyfain on April 01, 2004, 03:52:07 AM
Voicing NPCs - by Wynne

Tutorial on Vocal Recording--How to Make the Most of a Low-Grade Setup

It's tough to work out all the little kinks in the equipment one has. Most people don't have a lot of money to spend on making a studio, and even if they did, why would you want to unless you were going to make money off of it? Mods don't generally bring in any cash, except maybe the price of the CD and packaging, which evens out to a profit margin of 0 cents. Not very lucrative.

There are ways to make the best of what little resources you've got. These are what I've learned from a few years as an amateur voice actress, a series of tips I wrote up for someone who asked me. Hopefully, they will help you if you need it.

Things everyone should know:

1--Use the right microphone. Microphones can be very important, in a very simple way. There are two basic types, omnidirectional and unidirectional. The uni mic pics up sound from one single direction and makes the voice sound very flat. The omnidirectional, therefore, is the one you want--it picks up sound from all around, drinking in all the fullness of your voice. I recommend the Compaq omnidirectional, which is a mere $5-$10, and well worth the money. In the years since this was written, we've found that most of us recommend the exact opposite of what Wynne had good experience with. Look for a unidirectional, dynamic "karaoke" microphone with a 1/8", sound-card compatible plug. This should be somewhere between $10 and $30. A step-down adapter for a 1/4" mic is fine as well. It's true that omnidirectional microphones can, in some situations, provide more desirable sound, but they also increase the difficulty of getting clean recordings. -- JC

2--DON'T record wavs in 8-bit sound. Windows Sound Recorder is generally a bad idea. Maybe there's a workaround, but all I've ever been able to get it to do is record in 8-bit. Right click on a file you've recorded in Explorer, hit properties, hit details, then check what it says about the file. If you're getting something like 'PCM, 22khz, 8-bit, MONO' everything is fine except the 8-bit. 22khz is as good as 44khz, little quality lost, nothing wrong with going Mono instead of Stereo, but 8-bit is fuzzy and horrid; you want 16-bit... (or ADPCM 4-bit, if you absolutely must have small size. This format is both smaller and better than 8-bit.) I recommend that you find a good shareware or freeware recorder online, or that you use whatever came with your sound card. Montego's WAVEplay works well; it's what I personally use.

Ways to improve comfort and performance:

3--Avoid the jarring annoyance of plosives. Regardless of whether or not your microphone has a screen, you need to construct something to cut out plosives (those loud noises that come from breaths and the letter 'p'). All you need is a few layers of pantyhose material; if you can, make a circular frame out of a wire hanger and affix it to the mic so that the hose is about an inch out from the mic. Now hold the mic two or three inches from your face when you record, and that should help a lot with those noises. Before I did this I always had to re-record because every time I said "put" or "but" it sounded like an explosion. My performance suffered because of that; I kept having to focus more on softening my 'p's and such than on acting well.

4--Make your own blanket studio. Sometimes, a voice sounds very flat from bouncing off the walls of a room. You can avoid this very simply: Drape a thick blanket over your head and microphone. Make sure it is secure and not going to fall on your face while you're recording, and avoid letting it fall over the fans of your computer; this could cause it to overheat eventually, which would be very bad. So be careful, but I highly recommend and extensively use this trick.

Things to try if you still get a buzz or a thump:

5--Anchor your mic. If you try to hold your mic, you may come up with 'flutter'. Whether you're nervous or not, chances are, there will be sound picked up from the movements of your hand. Tape your microphone, give it a stand, or wedge it under the power switching system; anywhere you can sit comfortably in front of it without touching it or having it wiggle around a lot. The calmer you are, the more your focus is on imagination rather than the recording process, the better you will sound in the end.

6--Keep the recording volume down.If it's really loud and you're really quiet when speaking, then chances are you'll pick up an unusual amount of sound. If you're using an omni microphone (which you should be) and there is noise coming from the fans, you will probably pick some of it up. This will be far less noticeable if you can project your voice and keep the recording volume at a moderate rather than high level.

7--Check your equipment jacks. Meaning, where the stuff is plugged in to your computer. Sometimes the way your mic is plugged in makes a difference; twist/jiggle it around a little and see if that helps.

8--Check your speakers and other mechanical devices. If you're hearing weird sounds under your voice and in the silence between words, chances are, you have electrical noise. Oh, boy, does this bite... you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what's happening. Still, try a few simple things... record with speakers off, with the air conditioner off, etc.

If, after all these tips have been tried, you still can't make things work... well, the only thing I know to say is, "How 'bout that personal studio after all?"
Title: Re: Voicing NPCs - by Wynne
Post by: jcompton on May 20, 2004, 11:39:19 AM
Looks like my addendums didn't make it through.

Wynne's methods work(ed) well for Wynne, but here's some more info:

- One of the major causes of electrical noise is having electrical devices on. Turn everything you possibly can in the room off.

- I find the blanket entirely too hot and claustrophobia-inducing to be worthwhile. Instead, to minimize echo I stand in the corner. I use a foldout stand to hold up my recording laptop, a tripod mic stand to get the microphone in my face, and for extra measure shove a pillow in the corner to minimize the bounceback.

- Audacity, from http://audacity.sourceforge.net is a good substitute for commercial audio manipulation programs. Remember, too, that in terms of "initial recording quality", the software matters precisely zilch. Any program can listen to a mic line at 16-bit, 44.1 Khz. So if your recordings are noisy or crunchy or whatever, it's a function of your recording environment, mixer settings, and the sound card hardware--NOT the software you're using (providing you really do have it set to 16-bit 44.1KHz.)
Title: Re: Voicing NPCs - by Wynne
Post by: jcompton on August 05, 2004, 10:17:57 PM
In case I didn't make it clear earlier, I really hate the "blanket studio." It's uncomfortable and stuffy and, if you intend to be able to read your lines, not terribly good for computer equipment, either.

At modestly higher expense I have put together a "corner of ther room" studio, illustrated below.

Key features include:

- Fold-out stand. The pedestal thing is an "Ultimate"-brand keyboard stand. I got a set of two used for something like $50 at a music shop.  These are very portable and lightweight and, I'm told, pretty indestructible.

- Boom-mic stand. I prefer the boom stand to a regular stand because it lets you get that much closer to the wall, which is good to minimize echo/bounce. Cost me about $35 all told, not counting the mic which I inherited from my wife but which is still nothing special.

- "Table." That's an old motherboard box perched on the stand. Anything will do, just so long as it holds up the laptop.

- Old pillow. Shoved behind the mic arm which helps hold in in place, this further dampens the sound to prevent bounceback. Cost: find an old pillow.

- Finally, that beige thing is my old-pantyhose pop shield.

Fax machine not included.