Today’s quick voiceover tip: What is Compression?
Welcome to Compression Week here at the Radio Lounge. Each day this week, we will quickly dive into the mystery of this all-important voice over tool.
As a voice actor, you have many variables to deal with. A human voice isn’t just one volume, it travels from soft – as in a whisper, to loud – as in a harder sell. This range is sometimes heard as you finish a sentence. You start out at one volume and end up pushing less air and as a result, less volume. So, controlling this range is an essential. Have you ever listened to a podcast, or some other audio recording where some sentences seem very loud and almost irritating, and other sentences then come out very soft and hard to hear.
How much you control it is the magic spot. To understand compression, you must understand dynamic range. Simply put, that is the range from soft to LOUD.
Go ahead and record a short piece of audio. Then, go back and look at the waveform on the screen. You’ll see lots of peaks and valleys. That is the inconsistency of the natural human voice. Compression will even out these variables, and make the audio easier to listen to . But the key here is when and how much.
Going into your DAW, a VERY SLIGHT compression is what you want to have. *NOTE: SOME PRODUCTION HOUSES OR CLIENTS WILL ASK YOU TO PROVIDE AUDIO WITH NO COMPRESSION – This is so that they can use their trained ears top apply the correct amount. Remember, anything that colors your voice cannot be fixed in the mix. Overdo it and the audio sounds squashed and too processed. A producer can not undo this, so less is more.
Adding compression when you export is the best way to give your client a more natural sounding delivery. Although some clients will specifically request that nothing be done to the audio. It’s important to know this going into the session. When in doubt, ask.
Understand the term transients. Those are the loudest parts of your sound. Add to that “dynamics”, the space between transients and when they decay. So, compression flattens out the overall audio to make it less distracting and easier overall to listen to.
Compressors can be hardware and software based. Some great hardware units are the UniversalAudio 1176 and this Warm Audio 1176 clone. There are some mic pre-amp units that have built in compression, such as these from Avalon, Focusrite, Presonus, and ManleyLabs. Software options include plugins that are built in to most DAW programs, as well as great plugins from Waves, Sonnox, and others.
We hope you’re enjoying “Compression Week” here at Radio Lounge. Next time, we’ll explore how compression works, by looking at “threshold”
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Quick voiceover tip: What is compression?