When Your 'Pickups' Don't Match The Original Recording - Prepare For Sound Matching
May 31, 2016
By William Williams
Voice Actor & Coach
OK, you finished a long, involved business narration.
You’ve done the slicing and dicing and sent the client flawless edited files.
Maybe you underbid this job a little, but you stuck it out and you finally uploaded the files, invoiced the client and breathed a sigh of relief.
And then the dreaded email arrives. They love the delivery and the audio quality is spot-on ... but … you mispronounced several words - including the company name! (I’m not going to nag and tell you to check ALL pronunciations before you record.)
No problem! You’ll fix the mispronounced words with "pickups” of each sentence and replace the faulty sentences.
You record the first sentence and … oh, oh ... it sounds completely different than the original! OMG!
Now you have to re-record the entire job! Gasp!
SOUND MATCHING TO THE RESCUE
Never fear! You can fix this problem - and avoid it in the future - by sound matching.
Here are some hints on how to set up your recording gear to get repeatable results when you record. And by understanding these concepts, you can also adjust your gear to get a recording that matches an earlier recording.
Hint 1: Keep it Simple, Studioperson
Yeah, the old "KISS” rule strikes again. Don’t put a lot of strange equipment between your mic and the box that digitizes your signal.
I’ve seen signal chains with compressors, EQs de-essers, and noise gates strung between the mic and the interface box.
Each of those gadgets responds differently to both dynamics (loud and soft) and frequency. And they each affect the next guy in the chain.
If you throw all that gear into the signal path you will never get the same sound twice. The clients want your basic audio to begin with. Not some de-essed, compressed, EQ'd, gated version of your audio.
If you don’t write down ALL the parameters of these boxes you’ve used, you’ll never find your way back to the original sound.
Hint 2: Set it and Forget it
Use your creativity on your read, not your recording technique.
Once you’ve figured out how to record at a good level, set any knobs and never touch them again.
OK, I’ll allow you ONE knob. The gain control. If it’s a louder read, turn the gain down to get the right level. Quiet read? Turn the gain up.
Then make sure your pickup performance matches the energy of the original performance and adjust the gain so the recorded audio is at the same level.
Hint 3: Make Note of Your Mic Distance
Here’s a secret many beginning recordists don’t know.
Most voice over microphones have a "cardioid” pattern of sensitivity. That means they "hear” really well from the front but reject sounds from the back.
This is good because it eliminates sounds from around the room from your recording. But cardioid mics also have a "proximity effect.” The sound of your voice gets more "bassy” as you get closer to the mic. And a small change in distance can have considerable effect on the "tone” of your recording.
If all the other things haven’t changed and your new recording doesn’t sound like your original, this may be the culprit.
If it sounds too bassy, move back a bit and turn up the gain to match the original recording level. If it sounds to "treble,” move a touch closer to the mic and turn the gain down a bit.
STRIKE THE MATCH!
To summarize, when you record pickups, the sound of the new recording must match the original.
To make sure this happens start, with a simple signal path: USB mic into the computer or conventional mic into the interface box, then into the computer.
Experiment with the level that will give you a good recording level, and then stick with it for most jobs.
And pick a good mic distance - 6 to 12 inches for most condenser mics - and then stick with that distance.
If you need to vary from these settings, then make a quick note-to-self:
"I really had to scream so I turned the gain to X and my mic distance was Y."And then your pickups will match, you’ll swap those sentences in the original, anD the fix will take minutes - not hours.
William Williams has worked for the last quarter century as owner of Aliso Creek Productions. As a voice talent, he has voiced national, regional and local commercials for AT&T, Apple Computer, Radio Shack, Princess Cruises, Chicago Tribune and many more. He has directed Nancy Cartwright, Michael York, Yakov Smirnoff, Jack Mayberry and other top voice talent. And he teaches commercial and animation voice over, offers private coaching and demo production in his studio in Burbank, CA and online.
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