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Whether one is producing music, podcasts, game sounds, or film sound effects, Digital Audio Principles provides the tips and techniques that will make the project a success. Author Dave Schroeder explains the basics of digital audio production techniques and covers the essential hardware and software. He also discusses sound theory, frequency response, the range of human hearing, and dynamic range.
Finally, let's assume that you've gone out and made your recording, or gotten your performance down, and it's in your dock. So, after you've accomplished recording the voice that you wanted to, and you've got it into your computer and you are ready to work with it, that's when the second half of the job really begins. Now, we could talk for a long time about the production process, and maybe it's a whole other title, to just go in and look at all the different things you can do. But I am not sure that we have time for that here. So in this movie, I just want to give you a quick kind of list of things to check off in the order that you would want to do them when you start your production process on the voice.
The first thing you like to do is try and get as much volume out of the tracks as you can. Now, if you have one track, you can just go ahead and normalize it and bring it all the way up and increase that volume, so you have a lot to work with. But if you have multiple takes and multiple tracks, then you want to use gain and figure out how to bring it up just enough so that you don't reach any peaks, but remember you want to bring all those files up the same amount. If you did a couple of different takes and you normalize one and then normalize the next take, because there might be different spikes, or someone clapped or drop something in one track and not another, the amount it turns that up when you normalize it might change.
So, if you're working with multiple files, remember to add volume, but to use gain. The next thing you want to do is think about your file, or files, and determine what kind of noise is in those files, and if there's a way to remove that noise to all the files before you actually start the editing process. So, if you have some background noise you don't like, you might want to find some noise-reducing sound tools and apply that next. Normalizing and cleaning up noise are both things you want to do first, and you want to do them uniformly across all your files, so that as you edit and start to move things around in different positions, you have similar sonic qualities going on there.
If you just go and clean up one file and not the next and then do some edits and you find yourself shifting things around, you might find out that noise pops in and out when you have different edits, based on the changes you've made to some of those files. So, these are kind of like global prep things to do. Make sure all the files kind of have the same characteristics. Once, we have some of these global things done, then we can start to going to into editing and really working with the nitty-gritty of trimming the heads and the tails and removing some of the follow-ups or mistakes or coughs or hiccups and things like that. You can also take out pauses and breaths if you desire, and insert silence or speed things up and change the pace of the voiceover or the vocal or whatever you're working on.
Finally, remember to make edits at the zero crossing or use cross-fades for the tougher files to adjoin pieces. Now, that seemed like a short segment, but that's going to take probably the bulk of the time of this whole process. After you have your edits completed and you are liking the way the sound flows and you have all the right words and all the right takes in the right place, then it's time to start working with the sonic quality and use a few plug-ins to improve the sound. Next, you want to use EQ to sweeten the voice, and by that I mean using it to add a little bit of warmth here and there or round it out if it's sounds thin and also to increase clarity, so that it's easy to understand.
Sometimes, you might be able to use EQ to make certain voices sound a little less nasally or throaty, or you might be able to the reduce things like lip smacking sounds or wet mouth sounds. Finally, you can use reverb to soften the voice, or to locate it in a specific place in the sonic landscape. You can put it in the back of the room, or you can bring it right up front, or you can make it big and heavenly, or you can make it kind of dry and scary, like I am, very dry and scary. I would say that generally when you're doing voiceover work for training and things like that, you won't be applying a lot of reverb.
In fact, you probably won't apply any. But sometimes it's good to play with it and see if there's a little bit of effect that helps. I'd say that if you're doing an industrial voiceover, or something for a commercial, or educational like this, you probably won't add a lot of reverb to the voice, and it's going to come into play more with music or special effect situations. If you put a little bit on there and you find that it helps your podcast, I say go for it. But don't put so much on there that it's kind of distracting, or you might want to use it for a special effect here and there, but you wouldn't want to put a lot of reverb on an entire podcast.
So, those are a few things we can do to try and improve the sonic quality: compression, EQ, and adding reverb. At this point, you're about 90% of the way home, and there are just a few steps left. Now, we want to bounce everything down into a single track, either a mono or stereo track, and we'll call this the premaster, and we are going to use that to master. So, we'll start a new session, or reimport that file into your session, and go to work on it. We'll normalize it and try and improve the overall sonic evenness of it, and this premaster is what we'll use to actually generate a master file.
By a master file, I mean a file that we've taken some time to improve the overall volume of, looked at the sonic maximization of that file so that we have a fairly good representation of all frequencies, and it's been trimmed and faded in at the heads or the tails so that when we start to listen to it, or when we listen to the end of it, it sounds nice and clean, and there's a nice silent start and a silent ending. Finally, the last step is to think about if we have to export this, if we have to change our bit depth, then if we do, we probably want to apply dither via a plug-in. Remember that when you're changing your bit depth and downsampling, going from a bit depth of 24 to 16, dithering helps in the resampling process, helps us avoid artifacts and the potential for distortion in the file.
Finally, export that file from the session, and then you're ready to go ahead and put that on a CD or compress it to an MP3 or put that podcast up online, wherever this is headed. So, hopefully thinking about all these processes and applying them in this order will help you whenever you're working with producing the voice. Again, this is kind of a quick and dirty bullet list of the production process, but hopefully seeing all these things, and seeing what order to do them in will be helpful when you are working with voice recording.
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