Advice for New Voice Actors: A Guide from Codot
I’ve been getting quite a few messages asking for advice in the Voice Acting field, so I’ve written a bit of a guide! I hope it’s helpful.
First off, I would have never considered myself to be an expert on something like this, but then I realised I’ve been doing it for about twenty years now, so I guess I have SOME advice I can pass along.
PLOSIVES ARE YOUR ENEMY (AND SIBILANCE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND)!
Nothing pulls a listener out of the world you’re trying to create like those pesky pops in your recordings (Tuhs, Kuhs, and Puhs), or those sharp “Ssssss” noises that slice through the mic. Luckily, they’re fairly easy to prevent. BUT HOW?!? I’M TELLING YOU HOW! SIT DOWN! The best advice? Get yourself a pop filter. They’re relatively cheap and very effective (however, if you are BROKE AF like I was when I started recording, get an embroidery hoop and some dollar-store panty hose and you are SET. No joke – that was my first pop filter. I held it between me and the mic and it WORKED). Now sometimes a filter isn’t enough – if you’re really yelling it out, a filter will not save you. In these cases, you wanna make sure you know where your plosives are, and tilt your head accordingly. You only have to move a few degrees to avoid it – just put your hand in front of your mouth when you rehearse and you can feel where your air is coming from. Just don’t do the whole performance pointed away from the mic – it will hollow your sound out.
FRIENDS, ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN! LEND ME YOUR GEAR!
You do NOT need top of the line gear to sound good; your performance is what makes or breaks you. That said, you can’t use a headset microphone and expect studio quality. For the best quality (without breaking the bank), I recommend microphones from the Blue line – Snowballs and Yetis specifically. They’re both designed for podcasting, plug DIRECTLY into your computer, and sound incredible! I still use my Yeti every once in a while – it’s a great piece of tech!
WARNING: These microphones, although amazing, rest on your table. That means you will have to pay attention to a few things – not touching the table while recording, not moving around in your chair while recording, and (most importantly) watching your computer placement! If you’re using a laptop, it will undoubtedly be sitting beside your mic and your mic will HATE IT. You may not hear the fan on your computer, but your microphone will. Vibrations will ruin your recordings, BUT there’s a solution! Well, two actually: You can fold a towel up, place it on the table, stack a few books on top of the towel and sit your mic on top of that, OR you can move your computer to another surface. It really depends on your space set up. Just make sure you have a USB long enough to reach the mic to the computer and you’re set.
Now, there’s the issue of reverb in your chosen room of recording. Almost every room will have an echo in it, and you will pick it up. You can prevent this a few different ways - you can spend hundreds on soundproof foam (took me a while to save up for that, totes worth it), you can record inside a closet (brilliant idea, enclosed, clothes absorb echo), or you can drape a blanket over you and your mic (gets warm fast, but it works!). Whichever way you choose, you will notice a boost in quality - the less ambient noise you have going on behind you, the better. All ambient noise in my recordings is put in AFTER I’ve finished editing my clips. It’s the same for any production - if you rely on your actual background noise for ambience, you will not be able to edit yourself properly as the cuts become too noticeable, ESPECIALLY if you’re recording a dialogue.
A quick note about SOFTWARE: I always use Adobe Audition – I enjoy the look and feel of it, and have never really used anything different. However, it’s not free! If you want a great, FREE program for audio recording, I wholly recommend Audacity! It’s a brilliant, powerful, and free program that will give you great results!
TIME FOR THE MAIN EVENT!
There has always been one thing I love about Voice Acting over Acting – No one has to LOOK AT ME. I’m not insulting myself here, I’m just saying sometimes you have to make some STUPID faces to get a voice you want. Voice Acting is incredibly freeing in this regard – you can be ANYONE or ANYTHING, and that is very exciting!
I can’t make this point enough times – in most cases, you’re doing this solo, so DON’T BE MODEST. It will hold up your performance – if you hold back in any way when voicing, you’re only hurting yourself. Sure you may feel silly doing certain things, but no one listening will think that. Some voices give me fifty chins, some cross my eyes, but if I didn’t do it, every character would sound the same.
Now let’s talk about PACING! My Friend and Mentor (may she fight well in Valhalla) gave me the best advice in this regard; she said, “If it feels like you’re going too slow, go slower.” Too often we feel we’re keeping a proper pace when recording, but the truth is we are rushing it. In an actual conversation, you haven’t rehearsed – you rarely know EXACTLY what you’re going to say to someone else, so your dialogue should be no different. Your character needs time to think, to react. If you ever want a moment of high tension, you CANNOT rush it. You need the pauses and the breaths, or else it just becomes unrealistic.
TAKE. YOUR. TIME.
CLEAN THAT FILTHY, FILTHY AUDIO!
Having clean audio has become a relatively new addition to my work – I used to simply use the Noise Reduction effect on my recording and call it a day, but it doesn’t get rid of the new bane of my existence: MOUTH NOISE.
We do it. Everyone does it. I did it five minutes ago and I’m gonna do it again. We smack our lips, we flick our tongue, we click our teeth, we make stupid noises when we’re not talking, and the MIC WILL HEAR IT. My best advice is, after reducing the noise in your audio (all programs have a basic preset to kill the dead air noises in your recordings – google it to find how to your respective noise reduction), highlight the sections between your audio and reduce the volume to ZERO. Just kill the noise between your speech (the whole sentence, not silencing between every word, that would be crazy) – you can leave the sound of your inhales in if you want, but even they can be taken away for a cleaner sound. Just make sure you don’t chop your words off – especially the ends of your words.
Make sure you clean your audio BEFORE you add ANY form of reverb or echo! Otherwise cleaning is impossible.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM A MADMAN!
Voice Acting isn’t easy. Nothing infuriates me more than actors talking about how they like Voice Acting because it’s “EASY”. If it’s easy, you’re not trying hard enough. You have to convey thoughts, feelings, and ideas ALL WITH JUST YOUR VOICE. Anyone who says it’s easy is a fool.
Always try your best to create something you feel proud of. You take as many takes as you need, but never compromise your quality for the sake of just getting it done.
If you can’t get a voice down right today? Do it tomorrow.
Above all else: HAVE FUN WITH IT
I hope this has been helpful to you – if you have any questions about specific things/things I may have missed, shoot me a message!