Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Overcoming your fears of the Mixing Desk...

Anyone who has ever had any association with the world of Audio will have at some point come across something similar to one of these:


No that's not the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, but our new Mixing Desk and a staple in Recording Studios around the world. We have just upgraded our studio desk (to the above) to allow us to more effectively and efficiently record our Voiceovers. I thought now would be a good time to speak about approaching new mixing desks for the first time and facing any anxiety that they may conjure up.

The most common phrase I hear when people are first confronted with a mixing desk is usually: 

"How do you remember what all of those Dials, Buttons, and Faders do!?"  

In actual fact there are only a few features on all desks that you need to remember, regardless of how big or small they are. Once you understand these you will be able to apply them to most of the desks you come across. 

Our desk, the Soundcraft Signature 22 has 22 Channels, as its name implies. This means that the desk has just 18 Channel Strips (given that four of the 22 are Stereo Channels). While you may be thinking that I am making this sound even more daunting, the number of Channel Strips is in fact completely uncorrelated to the complexity of understanding the Desk. 

In the above picture highlighted in yellow is a single Channel Strip and as you'll notice, all of the Channel Strips around it are identical (the different coloured Knobs & Faders are there simply for our own ease of use and all serve the same purpose). This is why understanding mixing desks is a great deal less daunting than it first appears; Once you understand one... You understand the rest! 

Starting from the bottom of the Channel Strip you have the Fader. These control level of the source (Playback or Recording depending on your routing). At the top of the Fader you will notice three buttons; these determine where the output of the Fader goes. For example we have ours setup to route to Headphones, Speakers & our DAW to record. The Mute button, Mutes the output of the Fader (which we use frequently in a more complex Minus Mix scenario that I will refrain from delving into) and above that we have a pan knob. 

The next block of Knobs are known as Aux Sends, and on our desk we have 5 per channel. These allow us to send audio from one channel to another. This is particularly useful in our setup as our sessions often involve a number of different sources of Voiceovers and Clients. For example, we have an Aux dedicated to our Booth, ISDN, ipDTL, Skype and the Telephone so that we are able to send the VO and Clients to and from each other at varying levels depending on their location, so that they can communicate as if they were in the same room. 

Above the Aux's are an EQ section which allow us to balance frequencies when necessary, and lastly there is a Gain trim, which means we are able to make fine adjustment to the recording level of our Voiceovers. 

And that's it... That's how we remember what all those Dials, Buttons and Faders do! 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

How can I record an authentic vintage voiceover?


Recently I saw a TV documentary on the early life of the Rolling Stone guitarist and professional death-dodger Keith Richards. It was an enjoyable watch, but at first I was quite confused. 

The reason for my befuddlement wasn’t the half bottle of red wine I’d already quaffed, but the fact that I appeared to be watching images of Keith Richards as a baby with a voiceover talking about young Keith. 

Why would a camera crew be filming the baby, as yet not famous, Keith? Was this some amazing co-incidence that the newly-born boy had been chosen as the subject of a film about society in wartime Britain and the makers of this documentary had somehow unearthed this?

No, of course they weren’t images of Keith at all, it was stock footage of an anonymous baby with newly-recorded and very convincing voiceovers. 

I was very impressed with the authenticity of the voiceover, both in the acting and the recording and I would love to know who did it and how.

Perhaps someday I’ll meet the people involved at some Soho Soiree and I can ask them, but in the meantime, if I were tasked with recording something similar here at BigFish Media, here’s how I might go about it...

AUDIO 

Of course, the simplest way of creating a vintage-sounding voice recording would be to use a plug in effect within Pro Tools (or whatever platform you use)

Years ago I created some video spoofs of the old British C.O.I. Public Information Films. For ‘Silly Billy’, I recorded my voice on a modern microphone and used the free plug in ‘Vinyl’ by IZOTOPE. 

This isn’t just good for affecting audio, to make it sound as though it were on old vinyl; in this case I think it made it sound as though it was a convincing old tape recording. 

There are plenty of other plug-ins you can use to create a vintage effect, an excellent example being Speakerphone by 'audio ease'.

Another approach, and the one I think would produce more authentic results and be more fun, would be to use the type of equipment that would have been used in the old days.

You could record on to tape using an old cassette recorder.




I used this approach for a project recently. The small dynamic built-in microphone and the ferrous oxide tape in the cassette, produced some good results.

Using a vintage microphone, perhaps a ribbon mic, recording to your D.A.W. of choice, would also be worth a try.

VOICE

Then of course you’d need to get a convincing voice. People, especially on the radio or TV, don’t speak or sound like they once did. 

I’ve heard a lot of old style voiceovers where they have over-done the ‘plumminess’ of the voice and have used words or phrases that would not have been in existence or used in that way at the time. 

I would research existing material from the time period I was trying to emulate, then cast a voice actor who could get close to that sound. 

The amount of voice actors who can recreate that kind of voice perfectly are few and far between, which made the voiceovers on the Keith Richards documentary all the more impressive.




Wednesday, 17 August 2016

How do I deal with ISDN latency and echo?


The end of ISDN has been predicted for years - especially with the rise and rise of ipDTL, Source Connect, Session Link Pro etc.

However ISDN is still very much alive.

But there are often two technical issues that need addressing before you do any voiceover session. 

They are:

1: Echo, Feedback, Slapback or Howlround
2: Latency or Delay  



 1. Feedback

If you have a feedback loop it is almost impossible for the voiceover talent to talk while listening to it. This is because they will hear themselves repeatedly echo-ing. 

This problem is caused because both ISDN studios need to monitor and send audio using the same line. So how do we stop this problem?

If you use an audio mixer, you need to create two separate and independent "mixes": one for yourself and one for the other ISDN studio. 

Set up your audio mixer to send a "Clean Feed" (or "Mix Minus".) In other words you need to send all your audio to the other ISDN codec but don't send the audio of the other ISDN studio back to themselves. This will eliminate the feedback loop.


2. Delay

The only time that ISDN delay would be an issue is if you have an audio or video file being played from the remote ISDN studio. 

The delay is normally in milliseconds and so would not be an issue for most voiceover sessions. 

If it does become an issue, then ask the producer at the other studio to send the audio or video file to the studio where the voiceover talent is located. 






Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Bye Bye Mrs Barnes - Voiceover Lady

We are very sad to say that our long-standing Marketing Manager Zoe Barnes has left our voiceover agency.

After 4 years of setting up our admin systems, the hard slog of data entry, managing our database and chatting to our clients,  Zoe leaves BigFish Media in great shape and growing nicely.

                               A new career blooms

In the last year Zoe was also engineering voiceover sessions as well as recording a few of her own voiceovers.

We wish you all the best for your future as a Counsellor - we know you will be great!


                           Amy (far left) is the new Zoe

In the meantime, Zoe had trained our latest recruit and Voiceover Artist Amy brilliantly.

And we know you'll be back soon to cover for Amy's holidays....

Thursday, 9 June 2016


While we were taking photos of our new office where we produce and record voiceover sessions, we decided to take some more up to date pictures of the BigFish Media team:

                                    Daniel: going grey...

                                 Ricky: older than he looks....

                                    Zoe: looking foxy...

....And new recruit Amy

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Photos of our new Office

It's been a few years since we last took photos of our office, so we thought it was time to change that. There have been many changes - not least the people who work here making the magic of voiceovers happen.

                                     Pretending to work....

                                 All pretence has gone..

                                     Strike a pose...

                                 At last some actual work...

                                     ...before cracking up

As you can see we had a lot of fun taking these photos, especially our Audio Engineer John who took these pictures.


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Should I book a Cheap Voiceover Artist?

When looking for a Voiceover Artist, you will need to decide on a budget - what can you afford? 

What is reasonable to pay for the voice talent themselves, a studio, editing and maybe agents fees too.

You can pay a few quid or you can pay thousands, especially if the audio is to be used online on a large corporation's website.


                             Amanda - a great voice


There are thousands of voices to choose from and the choice (like anything these days) can be mind-blowing and actually make a decision harder. 

But there is just one very important thing to bear in mind. 

This voice - your chosen voice - will be the voice of your product. 

They will be the voice of your telephone system. 

They will be the voice of your product on TV in front of millions of people.

So what does that voice say to you? What qualities does that Voiceover Artist have? And do you want those qualities associated with your product?   
     
                                       Craig - so easy to work with

Using the wrong voice could cost you customers and your reputation.

The most suitable voice for your project may seem a little more expensive at first, having great samples, sounding natural, and obviously appearing to have more experience.  

Even if hiring this Voiceover Artist may take you over budget to begin with, you may find they are worth it and all the extra business they will help to bring your way.