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Tips For Podcast And Voiceover Recording

During my work on editing podcasts and voiceover narrations for video I'm often asked by the client for tips on recording audio for the best quality on future projects, so I decided it would be a good topic for the first Interflow Creations blog post.

To start with you should choose which recording software you are most comfortable with and make sure you have it setup up correctly for recording. The most popular free options are Quicktime for a very simple way of recording and Audacity for software with more advanced features but still fairly straight forward to use for beginners. If you want more music making features as well as vocal recording, then you could look at GarageBand which is a paid app but is great for beginners who are interested in learning more. Once you have decided which software to use you should make sure you are familiar with the level meter so that you can get your input levels correct for recording, to avoid any distortion ensure that the level is as high as possible without it clipping. You will know when the level is too high and audio distortion is occurring as the level meter will light up red, this is the same for all recording software. So you want to set it with enough headroom to allow for any sudden changes in volume such as laughing, clapping or raised voices above your normal speaking level.

You should also set up your environment for optimal recording by minimising background noise as much as possible, make sure you will not be disturbed by noise leaking from outside or the room next to you. The hardest background noise to edit out usually comes from knocks against the microphone or shuffling feet or hands as its picked up the loudest, which means editing it out completely would often result in dialogue getting destroyed. Try to be mindful of keeping your limbs a safe distance from the mic / mic stand and to move about as little as possible during recording.

With regard to choosing your microphone there are many options to choose from so it really depends on your budget and how professional you want it to sound. Some clients have asked about using the internal mic on laptops which could be used but would provide the lowest quality and lack the precision and warmth of a external mic. A USB mic such as the Rode Podcaster is a good option for convenience but has some limitation such as not being able to plug it into a mixer, if you plan on only using one mic and having your guests record remotely via Skype then this shouldn't be a problem. If you want to record your guests locally in the same recording space however, then you would want to get a analog XLR microphones such as the Shure SM58 and have them go through a mixer or external soundcard such as a M-Audio M-Track that's connected to your computer. Another piece of equipment worth investing in is a pop shield to reduce unwanted mouth noises and a reflection filter to help reduce room ambience and background noise. If you are recording guest interviews remotely then of course it helps for them to also incorporate these tips into their setup.

Some of my clients have re-recorded certain pieces of dialogue and asked me to insert them in at various stages of the final mix to replace mistakes or improve parts. This is usually fine for me to work with but to keep the flow sounding natural you should try and retain the same tone and volume of voice so that it doesn't sound like its been obviously edited. There's a lot a audio editor can do to fix, improve and enhance a recording but some unwanted noises are just too loud or destructive to the dialogue to be able to remove them completely, so having a optimal setup and recording environment will go a long way to producing a professional sounding podcast or voiceover.

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