Lack of inflection pretty much defines the reading voice. If you read a paragraph of text in a normal reading voice, you won’t hear much inflection. But if you listen to a real conversation, or especially if you listen to actors on TV, their voices move up and down the scale with a lot more inflection. It seems the more emotion you add to what you’re saying, the more inflection you end up including.
One of my biggest problems when narrating a screencast is that my throat gets all clogged up. I have to hit the pause and resume key every minute or so to clear my throat. Voiceover actors have learned to deal with this problem, since they often don’t have the benefits of a pause and resume key. You can reduce the amount of phlegm that accumulates in your throat by chiefly doing these two things.
The final tip in my list of techniques for developing a personal voice in audio is to breathe correctly. This is actually the hardest technique for me, so I have saved it for the end. Strangely, in normal conversation, most of us don’t have any trouble breathing. But when we start recording voiceovers, we start talking a little faster, with more energy and fewer pauses.
For several months I’ve been looking for a quiet room to record screencasts at my work. Our building has four floors for more than 600 IT professionals. I investigated more than 20 conference rooms, poked my head in empty offices, walked around unfamiliar floors, inquired here and there. When people see my looking, they don’t understand what I mean by a “quiet” room. What does quiet mean?
One of my first recommendations for achieving a natural, believable voice is to employ more free narration rather than always reading a script. I recommended this because all the video tutorials on Lynda.com are narrated at the same time as they are recorded, and the less you read, the more natural your voice sounds. However, I realize that unscripted narration, even just a few sentences, can be problematic.
I’ve postponed writing about microphones for several reasons. First, there are hundreds of different microphones suited for all kinds of situations, from vocal music to kickdrums to broadcasting and more. Also, microphones can get expensive, and not everyone has the same budget. So there is no right voiceover microphone for every person and situation. However, I’ll try to present a simplified view of microphones.
This week while watching TV I’ve been listening closely to the voices (separating them from the visuals on the screen). Actors aren’t soft-spoken, reserved people. Actors inflect all over the voice spectrum. They have a lot of energy and drama in their voices.
In listening to my voice in the screencasts, it’s clear that I still have a lot to learn. I’m not even close to the personal, conversational-sounding audio voice that I want to achieve. It sounds like I’m reading a script. It’s slow and dull. My teammates recommended that I read a little faster, that I add more inflection and maybe even switch to an outline rather than read a script. I agree, but it’s hard to do that. It’s hard to develop that personal voice.
The other week I visited Performance Audio in downtown Salt Lake to see what recommendations they had for microphones. The clerk asked me what audio interface I was using. I said I was just plugging my mixer directly into the computer. He looked shocked and said no matter how good of a microphone I bought, the real increase in performance would come with an audio interface.