BOSS Audio: Audio Processing

with Tim Tippets

Have you ever tried to unscramble an egg? It’s impossible! The same is true with audio. Raw audio can be processed by a trained engineer, but over-processed audio cannot be fixed. Anne welcomes back VO Tech Guru Tim Tippets to discuss how to process your audio like a #VOBOSS. We discuss when to process your audio, what you’re trying to remove (never add!), and how to ensure your audio processing gives the listener “nothing to notice.”



Takeaways

Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. Whether you run audio effects on your audio depends on your unique situation

  2. For basic voiceover, you generally only need to apply effects that don’t change the raw audio except for removing undesirable sounds, such as clicks and noise

  3. Only run filters if you truly know what you’re doing

  4. Do not over-process your audio

  5. Some talent may not need to run any filters to their audio – but only if you have no mouth noise, a silent booth, and an ideal recording environment

  6. If you can get rid of a distraction without “hurting the audio”, then you should process it

  7. Do not take a “music” approach to voiceover. Many youtube videos show how to process audio for music, not for a voice to be heard cleanly

  8. Many auditions are now requiring talent to have “broadcast-ready” students

  9. From a VO perspective, broadcast-ready means it is nice, clean audio

  10. Your goal is to make the voice sound like it does “in your head” 

  11. Voiceover is all about gaining repeat customers, and sending in quality audio is a good way to do this

  12. The closer you can get to audio where it is easy to plug into the final product, the easier you make the lives of those hiring you

  13. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can benefit from getting custom audio effects stacks set up by an audio engineer


Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++


Hire Tim to create a custom stack for you!
Check out Tim’s Audition Ready Classes to learn about audio processing
Recorded in ipDTL

Transcript

>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.

Anne: Hey everyone, welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with the audio VO Tech Guru extraordinaire, Tim Tippets. Hey Tim!

Tim: Hey, how are you?

Anne: I’m doing good. So Tim, I have another audio question for you. [laughs]

Tim: What, what?

Anne: I do, I do. So Tim, I have clients that require me to clean up my audio all the time, and by clean-up, I mean I have some e-learning clients that need like my breaths removed, they need my clicks gone. They need it like split files ready to go, because to be honest with you, they’re not the audio engineers. All they really do is place the audio into the module, and so there’s a lot of stuff that I have to do, and I have an effects stack from yours truly that really helps me do my job much more efficiently. And also I do have a lot of students that ask me, “well, what, how do I — do I take the breaths out, do I not take the breaths out?” And I know that this is just a question that is constantly on the forums, so I think we should talk about to effect or not to effect? [laughs]

Tim: Yes, yes, well-put. With your particular effects rack, we — and by the way, this is a “it depends” is the answer, which is a horrible thing to say.

Anne: [laughs]

Tim: I hate giving answers like that. But the reality is that most people are referring to, what it is that you’re talking about, as “broadcast quality.” And exactly what does that mean? And it could mean any number of things to any number of people, but in your particular case, like your e-learning clients for instance…

Anne: Right.

Tim: Most of your e-learning is not going to have music in the background.

Anne: Correct.

Tim: Right? And so it’s going to be just you and your voice. So if someone were to ask me, “well, should you effect that audio,” well, it depends. So let’s talk about what it might depend on. Let’s say that your mic has self-noise to it, like it has a light hiss or something like that, or you have some background noise, we know that — for those out there who may not, may or may not know what a high-pass filter is, it’s usually referred to by most of us as rolling off the low end, 80 Hertz and below, because this is an area in the spectrum, in the EQ spectrum, where there’s a lot of low-end what they might refer to as rumble or noise, and it’s just not stuff that’s in our voice anyway. So if we filter that out, and we’re getting our noise floor lower than it otherwise would be, then why wouldn’t you do that, right? So the answer there, if you know what you’re doing, would be yes, you should effect your audio. Right? Now that’s not really effecting your audio in the same manner which a lot of people might refer to effecting audio, which is, you know, a lot of compression, messing with the EQ, limiting and all those other types of things. But in your case, you use what? A de-clicker and de-noiser?

Anne: Yep.

Tim: And you use what we have in there, a downward expander to push the noise floor down.

Anne: Yep.

Tim: And when you run those, there is no noticeable difference between the raw and the effected aside from us removing the things we don’t want in the first place, isn’t that right?

Anne: Right. Exactly.

Tim: Ok. So in your case, if it’s not affecting the audio, clearly the answer is yes, you should effect your audio. Ok? Now if someone has a really, really clean signal, a really let’s say expensive or high-quality microphone, a high-quality pre-amp, the acoustics are great and all of that, and there are no other issues, like they have no mouth noise, or clicks, or hiss, or anything like that; then the answer could easily be no, you shouldn’t effect your audio.

Anne: Right, but that’s not, that’s rarely the case. I think most everybody I speak to have some form of mouth noise that they want to get rid of.

Tim: Right, exactly, so the “depends” depends on does the person know what they’re doing, or have they had someone come in and help them to set things up who does know what they’re doing? For all intents and purposes the audio is better than it was when it was raw.

Anne: Absolutely.

Tim: And it’s something — yeah, and it’s something that the audio engineer would want anyway.

Anne: By the way, for those BOSSes out there, if you have not thought about this — you know, I mean, I’m not an audio engineer, so I’m only too happy to have someone like Tim help me out with that particular effects stack that I might need for my clients.

Tim: Right, and that’s, that’s what I was saying, like if you have someone who knows what they’re doing, who is riding shotgun with you for all intents and purposes —

Anne: Yep, absolutely.

Tim: Yeah, who can get you there — when I’m looking at an audio signal that has not been effected compared to one that has been effected, and I can tell that the EQ curve for instance, the print of the EQ over time, has not changed, then clearly I’m going to be happy with it. Because if the person on the other end knows what they’re doing, and they’re removing — like we voice in boxes, for all intents and purposes. Right?

Anne: Right.

Tim: We’re in booths, we’re not in very large studio rooms, so those booths respond in a boxy manner. So if you have properly identified where that boxiness is, and you have removed it from the signal, would I be smart or stupid to say that I don’t want you touching the audio? If you know what you’re doing, if you’ve properly identified where the boxiness is, I’m going to want you to remove it, ok?

Anne: And I’ll be honest, like my, for me, that’s not what I do, right, on a daily basis, I don’t — I might be able to say, “ooh it sounds boxy,” but I would not know where to even begin to start to get rid of it. So that’s where you come in. [laughs]

Tim: Right, and just by removing the boxiness, you’re pushing the voice forward in the mix, which is something that we do want, right? We don’t want the voice being like kind of in the background and just weak. We want it forward in the mix.

Anne: Right.

Tim: So that we can — for all — it sounds like it’s in your head, which is where we want the voice, right? And that’s true across all genres, right? It doesn’t matter if it’s e-learning or whatever it is. What we definitely don’t want though is we don’t anything in there that distracts us. So if you are able to effect your voice with an effects stack or whatever plugin you might be using, that will get rid of that distraction without destroying the audio —

Anne: Right.

Tim: — or hurting the audio in some way, then the answer is yes, you should use an effects rack. From the engineer’s point of view — and Anne, you know that voiceover is all about repeat customers. Right? It’s not about getting new jobs all the time.

Anne: Absolutely.

Tim: You develop relationships. You’re executing at a very high level for these people. And they’re happy with you, so —

Anne: Absolutely, that’s survival.

Tim: Right, exactly, so why would —

Anne: That’s career survival right there.

Tim: Right, and we’re all about the lifetime value of our clients, right?

Anne: Absolutely.

Tim: For me personally, when I’ve had an engineer who has not worked with me or a producer who has not worked with me before, but heard my demo, and wants to work with me, and I’ve bid my job, and they’ve said, “ok, let’s move forward;” and they say something like “please make sure that you, you know send in your audio raw;” for me — knock on wood — I have never sent my audio in raw, not even once. Ok? And also not even once have I ever heard someone come back and say “we told you not to do anything to your audio,” ok? The comments that I usually get are along the lines of “hey, it sounds great,” or sometimes I’ll get, you know, “my God, man, what are you running over there?” Right? Which I don’t get into that conversation because that will take 30 minutes, right? But — because they geek out on that kind of stuff. They love it. So if we’re getting something along the lines of “audio that is not overly compressed,” or “not overly EQed,” or whatever the case may be — because a lot of people will go to YouTube to find out how to do this stuff. And we have a lot of musicians who are saying “hey, you should do this, that, and the other thing.” Well, taking a musical approach to voiceover is not at all the same thing, because one of the things that those engineers are counting on later on in the mix, when they have other instruments in play, where they’re blending