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Check 1, 2: Microphone Technique, a basic how to!
August 26, 2011
One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to the Voice Over World is, unfortunately, more common than you might think....Microphone Technique...or Mic Technique if you're nasty... But seriously, the improper use of this ever so important tool is the fastest way to get labeled a newbie, a rookie, or even...dare I say it...an amateure! So, here is a basic over view of Mic Technique to help you get the most out of your voice over.
First some Technical stuff so that you can better understand why what you might be doing isn't what you should be doing...other than the fact that it just doesn't sound right. So, get ready for some science! And it's the Einstein kind, not the Kelly LeBrock kind....
Sound is waves of energy at various lengths that travel through a particular medium, for this purpose we are talking about air. These energy waves then interact with an outside force that translates those waves into another form of energy. In the case of the microphone the waves are translated into electricity that is then processed through various different pieces of equipment to either be amplified or recorded, depending on your purpose. And since the Law of Conservation of Energy states: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, there is a direct correlation between volume and energy. If you are loud more energy travels through the mic, if you are quiet then there is less. OK, that is enough of that...
Now, the translation process from throat to "tape" is an imperfect process because of all of the various links in the audio chain. This is why some people who are way smarter than me, work so hard to invent better and better microphones. And also why there are so many different kinds.
There is a huge selection of microphones available in the market place and the costs are all over the place, from a $10 USB mic all the way up to a Condenser for tens of thousands of dollars. Now, I am not going to get in the specifics of why some microphones are better than others, at least not right now, but I will break down the basic different types. Because the type of microphone you are using will actually determine your technique.
Every microphone has what is known as directionality or “pick up pattern”. This is the microphone's sensitivity to sound from various directions. Some microphones pick up sound equally from all directions, while others can only pick up sound from one direction or in some cases a combination of specific directions. There are three main categories:
Omni-directional (Omni meaning “all”) Picks up sound evenly from all directions
Uni-directional Picks up sound primarily from one direction. This is the most common type and are typically cardioid and hyper-cardioid microphones.
And Bi-directional Picks up sound from two opposite directions.
Keeping these pick up pattens in mind when approaching the Microphone will help you better understand what you need to do when it's time to flap your gums. O.k. Back to science for a moment...
Sound, for the most part, travels in a straight line and gradually spreads out the further it gets from the point of origin ( I know there are intricacies to this detail but I ask the geeks to give me some leniency on the point). Being that sound waves are at their most compact at the point of origin they are also at their loudest. This is important to remember if you ever have to yell into a microphone for a voice over...which some times happens...
Now, just one more point to remember before I get into the “How Too” portion. Microphones do not discriminate. They pick up all sound equally. That means if you are in a noisy room...the mic pics it up regardless of processing and don't let anyone tell you differently. There are ways to minimize ambient noise but if it is there, the microphone will pick it up.
And now for the technique tips (in no specific order):
Identify the type of microphone and its pick up pattern and orient your voice so that it travels directly into that pattern. Many “Radio Pros” are taught to position the mic at 45 degrees from their mouth for optimum sound. This works as long as the apex of the angle between your voice and the pick up pattern add up to 90 degrees. In other words, you are still talking directly into the pick up pattern. Voicing across the pattern will result in a weak sound.
Think about the volume you will be projecting and adjust your proximity accordingly.
The microphone picks up everything, this includes room noise, papers shuffling, jewelry jingling, change in your pocket jingling, spurs jingling....basically anything that jingles...
Don't touch the microphone when actually voicing something, and especially don't touch the microphone if you are at someone else's studio and there is an engineer present... that is their job and they usually place it where they want it. It is your job to project into the pick up pattern.
And finally don't ever... blow into the microphone, tap the microphone or drop the microphone. These are sensitive pieces of equipment that can cost a lot of money and doing any of these, regardless of what you might have seen or heard on TV or in the Movies, can damage the instrument.
So, there you go. Some basics on Microphones and Mic Technique to help you out when doing a voice over, or voice acting, or even singing Karaoke. Am I missing anything? Feel free to leave a comment, it's always appreciated. Thanks for reading.