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  • Writer's pictureGiles Gough

Production Tips: How to record voiceover on a budget.


When used properly, a voiceover can be a brilliant part of a storyteller’s arsenal, when done poorly it looks like the person adapting it from the source material ran out of imagination way too early. Nonetheless, knowing how to record clean audio is an important part of post-production, and the great thing is, you don’t necessarily have to spend tonnes to get good quality sound. Here are 3 options you might to consider:


1) No Budget Whatsoever

You will need:

· One phone

· One tablet, ipad or even another phone.

· A pile of books

· One cushion

· One table

· One pair of headphones

· One duvet



I grant you, this reads like the ingredients for a cosy night in, but trust me, this is an effective way to get voiceover. You’re going to be using your mobile phone as your microphone, so remember that the closer you get to the mic, the quieter you’ll need to be to avoid distortion. When sitting at the table, make a pile of books so that they go up to the height of your chin. The books act as a make shift mic stand. Then place a small cushion on top of the pile of books (a folded sweater would also work). This acts as a shock absorber, if you accidentally tap the table, then this will minimise the sound the phone picks up. If you have already edited the sequence that you’re going to put the voiceover on, then have that ready to play on the tablet or ipad. Just don’t use a laptop as the fan may kick in to cool it down, meaning more noise in your sound recording. Or you might prefer to have the script on your tablet instead, so you don’t have to hear the rustling of paper. Have headphones in or just turn the sound right off so as not to get any noise in your recording. Once you’re ready, throw the duvet over yourself and the phone and you are good to go! Remember, you don’t need to record your voiceover all in one go, take as many attempts as you need. Break


it up into chunks if necessary. Whatever you’re most comfortable with.


2) Have some money to spare

You will need:

· One Olympus DM 650 voice recorder (range from £139 new to £40 used)

· One lapel mic (sometimes called a lavellier mic) Vary greatly in price, anywhere between £10 - £50, but you do get what you pay for on this one.

· One phone

· Headphones

· One duvet



For this one, you’re going to simply clip the lapel mic to your shirt (make sure it’s facing the right way), and plug it into the Olympus 650. Set the mic sensitivity to low as you should be pretty close to the mic. Then make sure your headphones are plugged in so you can listen back to the recordings. Hold on to that duvet, it is going to come in useful! You don’t need to worry too much about the positioning of the Olympus so long as the lapel mic is on. But if you can’t get hold of a lapel mic, just repeat the same steps in the previous instructions, but with the Olympus 650 instead of the phone.



3) I hope it’s someone else’s money

You will need:

· RØDE NT1-A Vocal Pack - 1" Cardioid Condenser Microphone with Shock Mount (Around £143.00)

· Samson MD5


Desktop microphone stand (£15.99)

· Zoom H4n Pro handy recorder (Around £200).

· Premium XLR cable 1m (£9.99)

· Headphones


This last option is one that I’ve only recently discovered and kinda fallen in love with. The XLR cable is an area you can save money on by getting the shortest one (I bought one from the No Bull music Gear and I love it). The Zoom H4n can take awhile to get used to, but it is gorgeous. I tend to keep the sensitivity quite low, (around 45) so that it doesn’t pick up background sounds, and you can either set it to mp3 or WAV depending on how much detail you need. As before, stick the duvet over yourself and voila! Quick and easy sound proofing! It’s still good to have headphones so you can listen back at the time to work out if it sounds right or not.


Obviously, the better kit you get, the more money it costs. But you can mix and match equipment as you go. I used a zoom h4n and a lapel mic for ages, or in some cases, just had the Olympus 650 and nothing else. See if your music department have anything that you can borrow to get nice clean audio. It can be time consuming, but good audio can make all the difference in a short film.


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