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.”
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:
Whether you run audio effects on your audio depends on your unique situation
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
Only run filters if you truly know what you’re doing
Do not over-process your audio
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
If you can get rid of a distraction without “hurting the audio”, then you should process it
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
Many auditions are now requiring talent to have “broadcast-ready” students
From a VO perspective, broadcast-ready means it is nice, clean audio
Your goal is to make the voice sound like it does “in your head”
Voiceover is all about gaining repeat customers, and sending in quality audio is a good way to do this
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
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
>> 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.
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…
Tim: Most of your e-learning is not going to have music in the background.
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?
Tim: And you use what we have in there, a downward expander to push the noise floor down.
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.
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?
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.
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 —
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.
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?
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 the vocal with the other music is heavy compression to make sure that the vocal is nice and loud, EQing it, doing all sorts of things to it where we can’t hear the bad parts, right? We can’t hear what might be happening in the background or whatever. We don’t have that opportunity in voiceover. It’s just us and the microphone. That’s it. Ok? So anything that happens is going to distract, and so our job is to give them nothing to notice. Ok?
Anne: So can I go back and just ask you that question? Because you said something that made me think, when people have asked me for raw audio — first of all, I’m fortunate that I have a great studio, right? And so all I pretty much will do is clean up where I might have, you know, flubbed up in my voice, right, and just take out a mistake. But I actually have never run any of the effects stacks. But what you are saying is you are able to run the effects stacks for you because you’re not doing anything that’s affecting your voice. And nobody has come back and said “hey, we told you not to do that.” That just was like a lightbulb for me. I was like, “can I apply my effects stack and send that audio as raw audio when people are requesting it, and people will say — well, they won’t know the difference?”
Tim: Well, you are essentially sending them raw audio as far as they know, because —
Anne: Right, right.
Tim: — you are removing, you are removing things or enhancing things to the degree that you’re making it sound as though you might have a more expensive pre-amp —
Anne: Right. Right, right, right.
Tim: — or more expensive microphone —
Tim: — et cetera.
Anne: Very interesting.
Tim: Yeah, I have a sample on votechguru.com, and then you go to Services. There’s a pre and post of a person there who was off-mic. They weren’t quite in the right position. They definitely were not EQed. There was no compression involved or anything like that, and this person wasn’t getting work. And so they were on a $110 MXL microphone, ok? And the pre and post is pretty astounding. What this person wanted was kind of, more of a what they call a sweetened sound, ok? So it’s more for like mom and pop shops, you know, who really don’t know much about this stuff and just need to be able to put it on there and have it be ready. And that’s the kind of sound that I produced for this individual. But the thing is, is that when you’re off-mic, and you have some acoustic issues, and you have some other things that could be improved, like let’s say sibilance for instance.
Anne: Sure. Right, right, right.
Tim: That sibilance is responsibly pulled out, then all you’re really getting on the other end from the audio engineer’s perspective —
Anne: Is your voice.
Tim: — is the voice, right, because they don’t have the advantage of hearing the pre and the post.
Tim: So if it’s done correctly —
Anne: That makes sense.
Tim: Yeah, there’s no way they’re going to know.
Anne: And responsibly I think is a key word there, Tim, because like here’s the deal. I only mention that because I feel so comfortable with the sound of my booth raw anyways, but I also feel super comfortable with my effects stack, which was created by you. But if I have it — and I have the confidence in knowing that you’re not doing anything to my voice. You’re simply taking out those distracting, you know, noises and clicks, and so yeah, this has brought like a whole new, a whole new epiphany to me, where I’m like, yeah, that makes sense. And I would be sending — yes, it’s raw audio. It’s just the audio without my mouth clicking or maybe my headphones — because we were talking about this before, maybe my headphones clicking. [laughs]
Tim: Right, right.
Anne: So, yeah, that makes sense. Ok, and as long as it’s done responsibly — I want to say that, make sure that we get that out there.
Tim: I’m glad that you’re pushing so hard on that, because —
Tim: — responsibly really is the key to it.
Anne: Yes, I agree.
Tim: I’ve had a lot of people who have said, you know, “I don’t understand why I’m not getting work. My audio sounds fine to me.” And then I get the sample, and it’s clearly being over-processed. Right? It’s being too heavily hit. But that’s ok. You don’t know what you don’t know.
Anne: Well, exactly. I don’t have the ears. You know?
Anne: That’s why, that’s why I’m a firm believing in outsourcing that to people who do. You know, this is what you do. Your ears are your living. My voice is my living. [laughs]
Tim: Exactly, exactly, and that should be the primary concern, is you should be focusing on performance —
Tim: — and not on, you know, “do I sound good or not?” So that’s why it’s so important to get that out of the way. But again —
Tim: — the people that we’re sending the audio to, they don’t have that contrast.
Tim: They don’t have the before and the after, so it’s just like any raw resource that you might be bringing to them. You know, the same can be said for, I don’t know, food supply or whatever. Who knows what that looked like when it was at the farm before it got washed, before it got sorted, you know —
Anne: Sure, sure.
Tim: Would a restaurant want them to clean and sort it?
Anne: Good analogy. Yeah.
Tim: And bring it to the restaurant? Or do they literally just want them to pick it up out of the dirt and send it to their restaurant?
Anne: Well —
Tim: I doubt it. I wouldn’t want that.
Anne: Also and again, yeah, if I just — I keep pressing this, responsibly. And if done responsibly, it’s less work for the engineers on the other side. So if they’re thinking about hiring again, right, they’re gonna be like, “wow, we barely had to touch that audio. It was great,” you know. And so I really feel like they just had to take out maybe the mistakes that the vocal, you know, the vocal part, like maybe I said the wrong word. They’re like “raw file.” Ok, then I — oops, I flubbed up here. Boom. Here’s my retake. That’s all they have to do. That would make their jobs so much easier, and they would want to — I think they would want to — they would probably be thinking, “well, let’s hire this person again.”
Tim: Well, it goes further than that, because I can tell you absolutely, because I’m in that position myself, when I do need to — because I do cast from time to time. A lot of pro talent do, right? But as an audio person, I cast I think a little bit more than most, and I can tell you for sure that these people, these audio engineers have 10 to 12 things going on at the same time.
Anne: Right. Right.
Tim: So the easier you make their life, you know —
Tim: — they more they’re going to appreciate you. So the conversation, it sounds something like this. You know, the producer comes to the audio engineer, and Anne, you as a pro, we don’t have any concerns about the delivery part of it, right?
Tim: But what we are concerned about is how does it sound and how much does the audio engineer —
Tim: — have to work with your audio?
Anne: Well, yeah.
Tim: The producer comes back and says, “hey, we’re thinking about hiring Anne again.” And then the audio engineer says, “Anne Ganguzza?” And the producer says, “yeah, we’re thinking about it. What do you think?” That audio engineer, because of their experience with you and how easy you’ve always made their life —
Tim: — they are going to, in a heartbeat, they are going to say, “uh yes, please.”
Tim: “Definitely hire her again,” ok?
Anne: And that’s so interesting that we made that parallel, because I was always, you know as a voice talent I was always, you know, I was always told, and I always teach this too, the closer you can get to the sound that they can just, you know, pick it up and drop it in, the more likely you’re gonna get hired for that. So if you can produce that performance — same thing now. If you can produce the sound that’s like a drag and drop, oh my gosh, you’ve just made their lives a billion times easier. Yeah, we’re going to —
Tim: Absolutely. That’s what “broadcast ready” means, ok? Is when you say it’s broadcast ready, that’s really up to the engineer what the end result is going to be, right?
Tim: Ok, so from their perspective, broadcast ready may mean it’s got a lot of compression on it because it’s this promo, and it needs to, you know, ride strongly along the music bed, or whatever it is that they’re going to be doing with it. But from our perspective, broadcast ready means that it’s nice, clean audio.
Anne: Yes. That makes sense.
Tim: Does it have a little bit of responsible compression on it? Probably. Why? Because that mimics better mic technique. It mimics better control, because you’re controlling the peaks. Right?
Tim: So you end up —
Tim: — with a more even voiceover overall. And so the audio engineer is not going in there and increasing or lowering any particular part of the voiceover.
Tim: So that’s what broadcast ready means from our perspective, is we’re giving them, you know, nothing to notice. And here’s the problem. So many people go online and find out “how to effect their audio,” in quotes, right? And they send it in, and the waveform ends up looking like railroad tracks, right? Like it’s just been limited and just compressed beyond belief.
Tim: And they send that in. Well, that is why a lot of people are saying, “look, send in your audio raw.” Because here’s the problem. From the engineer’s perspective, you cannot unscramble eggs.
Anne: Yeah, yup.
Tim: You can always do something with raw audio that’s been cleaned up and again effected responsibly, but you can’t go the other way. You can’t unscramble those eggs.
Tim: So that’s what it is that they’re trying to get at, when they’re talking about sending in your audio raw, because so many of the talent out there believe they’re doing the right thing —
Tim: — when in fact, they’re not. They’re overdoing it, and they would rather go through the trouble of having to fix things up, even if it’s got noise and clicks and all sorts of stuff in it, they would rather go through that trouble than have you send in —
Tim: — something that they absolutely cannot use.
Anne: And here’s the, here’s the thing too. More often that not, if the person — and I don’t know. I’m thinking that the person that might go ahead and do and actually apply those effects that would limit and compress and all that, something tells me that because they’re not necessarily experienced in knowing what they need to do to get that audio, you know, responsibly over to their client or their engineer; they probably are not aware that they’re doing, you know, more harm than good by applying these effects.
Tim: Right, well, how would you know, though? Because —
Anne: Yeah, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Tim: I don’t know if we’ve had this conversation on one of the podcasts, but I’ll, but I’ll just, you know, get it out there real quick. We talked about chocolate. I ask you, if you know what chocolate tastes like, and you say “sure, I’ve had a Hershey’s bar.” But then I take you to Paris —
Tim: — and we go to some fancy cafe or whatever, right? Again, once you have that chocolate, you go “oh, that’s what chocolate tastes like.” Well, you can’t have a Hershey’s bar again, right?
Tim: But without having the advantage of knowing and that contrast, for instance being in a booth that doesn’t have very good acoustics, and then suddenly like being in the booth that you’re in now, Anne — it’s like clearly, when you walked in there and you spoke, I remember you saying “whoa.” Right?
Tim: Even when Jerry walked into the room, the listening area, the studio part of it —
Anne: Oh yeah.
Tim: It was so much, it was so much more dead than it was before.
Anne: Right. Absolutely.
Tim: It kind of flipped him out. So without having that contrast, how would you know? And by the way, for anyone listening, that’s ok. Don’t, don’t feel bad about it. Again you don’t know what you don’t know.
Anne: Well absolutely, and developing an ear in anything, even in performance, and I’m always talking to my students about developing an ear for conversational performance, and that is something that doesn’t happen overnight. I mean, that takes, that takes some time to develop the ear, and again, you know, in terms of engineering my audio, I’m gonna entrust that to people who, that’s what they do, you know, in and out, day in and day out. And not that I don’t have an ear for decent audio, because I need to have that. I need to have someone provide me with that benchmark, and then I can start to develop the ear for it.
Tim: Absolutely. Yup.
Anne: And then again, do I — I’m not that person — I don’t want to spend like hours editing. I don’t really know many people that do. So anything that I can get that can help me to get to the quality audio sooner, that is my friend. [laughs]
Tim: No, it absolutely is, and efficiency is so important, as you’ve heard —
Anne: Yup. Oh gosh, yes.
Tim: — me say this before, you know. When I’m in the booth, I’m making coins fall from my mouth. Right?
Tim: When I’m not in the booth, those coins aren’t falling because I’m sitting here editing trying to fix something that I could have gotten —
Anne: Exactly, oh my goodness.
Tim: — ahead of —
Tim: — by knowing what it is that I was doing. Right?
Anne: I’m always saying, get it right in the booth first because you won’t be spending all that time in post. It’s just —
Tim: There you go. I love that.
Anne: Yup. Better in the booth, better in the booth.
Tim: Perfect. Beautiful, beautiful.
Anne: So, and that’s performance and your audio quality, so —
Anne: — good stuff.
Tim: Hand in hand.
Anne: Wow, well, that was super informative. Thank you, Tim, as always for being a wealth of information.
Tim: My pleasure.
Anne: And I’m super excited to talk for our next podcast.
Tim: Yes. Me too, me too.
Anne: Alright, well, I’m gonna give a big shout-out to our sponsor, ipDTL. You too can connect and communicate like a BOSS and find out more at ipdtl.com. You guys have a great week, and we’ll see you next week. Bye!
>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voboss.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to Coast connectivity via ipDTL.