Saturday, February 28, 2009

Voice Talent Advice #9 - Editing Breaths

As voice talent with our own home studios we engineer our own sessions; however, many of us do not consider ourselves to be true audio engineers. We have learned enough and purchased the right equipment to produce a high quality sounding recording, and some of us can even mix in a little music, but personally, I would not really call myself an engineer. I know my audio engineer friends would heartily agree with me.

There are, of course, voice talent out there who have as many years engineering as they do voicing. By that, I mean they have many years of both! What I'm about to share is not for them, but for those of us who have many more years voicing than engineering for ourselves. This seems so simple, but I hadn't really thought of it before. One thing that often bothers us in playback is that a breath may seem too loud or there is some other extraneous noise between words. Although some audio software (Pro Tools, I believe), does allow you to "soften" all the breaths in one fell swoop, others of us using different software have to manually deal with each offending instance.

There are a number of ways we try to do this. The breath can simply be cut, the area can be "silenced", the breath can be normalized to a much lower level, or you can record ambient sound and cut and paste it in place of the breath, noise, or gap between the words. Cutting works if there is enough space to allow for a normal pause between words, but if there is not enough space, the result will be a choppy, disjointed reading that will affect your normal timing. To highlight the offending area and replace it with silence can work, especially if music will be mixed with the voice eventually. However, if music is not going to be added, there might be a noticeable difference between the noise floor of your read and the space between the words. This will sound too abrupt - like a drop out - and draw attention to the fact that editing has been done. It could also possibly highlight the general noise floor of your recording - which, hopefully, isn't the case since you've learned to keep that noise floor low.

Lately, I've found what works best for me in the situation where I don't want to leave the breath at all or there is some other noise is to highlight that area and simply hit record. The space is automatically filled with the ambient noise floor of the entire recording. I'm sure some of you are having a "well duh" reaction, but I can honestly say this just occurred to me recently. It's so much simpler than cutting and pasting ambient sound into that space.

As I said, I'm sure many of you are way beyond this information, but I thought there might be a few other "non-engineers" out there who could benefit from my little "discovery". It's made a world of difference to me.