Audiosuite: Other: Normalize
Normalizing your recording is a great way to smooth out the levels to help make for a nicely balanced recording. Use normalization as an optional final step after your files are completely edited. If you follow the Normalization settings that I suggest, you’ll be able to raise up the volume levels so that the volume peaks in your script reads match each other well. Don’t be afraid to undo a normalization or skip this step if you’re not happy with how it makes your voice-over sound. I would recommend experimenting with different settings, but here are my suggestions for optimal normalizing. The picture below demonstrates the basic normalization settings.
Here are my suggested changes:
Click on “Entire Selection” and change it to “Region by Region”.
“Level on All Chan/Track” should be changed to “Level on Each Track”.
To the far right of LEVEL, there is a slide bar. You can click and drag this bar to change the levels. Click on the “Peak” button below; it will appear white when selected. Then, using the slide bar, set the level at -1dB or 89.9. Setting this level should get you optimal volume without distorting your track. When you have done that, click the process button on the lower right. Results may vary so don’t be afraid to undo your normalization work and try different settings.
Normalizing will automatically bring the loudest audio peak up to the highest possible level. The volumes of the regions shown below are higher and more similar to one another after normalization. Normalizing will not always give you good results; the natural patterns of human speech sometimes require that some phrases be louder than others. But utilizing this technique will often get you very close, quickly. Take a look at the pictures below to get a sense of what things look like before and after normalization.
After normalizing, you’ll notice that your tracks are louder. You may even notice some differences in the waveforms in the normalized tracks. If done right, normalizing will result in a smoother-sounding recording. If you’re ever not happy with the results, undo the normalization and stick with the gain plug-in for fixing volume differences.
Audiosuite: Dynamics: Compressor Limiter/Dyn 3
Adding a little bit of compression to your voice-over track will give the voice more presence and let it jump out in the mix a little bit more. Use compression sparingly. Oftentimes, your clients will be adding compression themselves. If you’re nervous about it, feel free not to use it. It will require some experimentation.
A 2:1 compression ratio should be just fine. Don’t venture above a 3:1 ratio. Play with the gain levels. This will affect how much sound is directed toward the compressor but it will also raise your overall volume level. Play with threshold as well. Threshold controls the volume level at which compression will take effect on the audio. Again, if you’re going to use compression, don’t use too much, and experiment to dial in a sound that works well.
Audiosuite: Reverb: D-Verb
Reverb adds room sound to your recording. Adding just a touch of it can really sweeten up your sound. But be careful because too much makes you sound very amateur. Also, unless you’re doing a fully-produced spot, most of your clients will prefer a dry recording (no reverb) so that they can add reverb to taste, if at all.
The mix percentage is the most important control on the D- Verb plug-in. By clicking and dragging the slide bar, reduce your mix percentage to between 5-10% for a tasteful reverb sound. If you leave it at 100% you probably won’t like what you hear. Definitely experiment with the different algorithms and sizes to find the reverb sound that you like best.
That’s it for plug-ins! However, there are others that you may find very useful as well. Experiment away! And remember to make lots of mistakes along the way – that’s how you will learn best!
What to do when Pro Tools doesn’t cooperate!?
Every once in a while, Pro Tools will freeze on you or shut off out of nowhere. This kind of thing usually happens because your computer just can’t keep up with it. When this happens, it’s often a good idea to restart your computer. Then, inside your Pro Tools session folder, you’ll find another folder called Session File Backups. Pro Tools auto- saves your session every five minutes. Therefore, find the highest number session file backup and open that rather than your original session file. You may find that the backup file has your most recent changes prior to Pro Tools crashing.
About Catherine Marshall
Catherine Marshall is PR & Social Media Marketing Director at Such A Voice, a highly respected and innovative voice-over training and demo production company.