Voiceover - Recording, Editing/Sync. & Mixing,
Project/Team Mgmt., Casting, Translations, CC
Premium Voice Over Production
We know it can be hard to get prospective clients to understand & appreciate the differences in the professional broadcast-quality voice-over audio content and added-value services we provide @ GOLD STREET vs. cheap but low-quality voiceover performances & production found on various online sites. And how working with experienced professionals can save them time & hassles, and make them (more) money in the long run. Here's a brief overview of how we work and a Case Study highlighting our work for one of our long-time clients (10-yrs) - Health Nuts Media.
Project Management & Pre-Production
Every project begins with the client emailing the Project Brief along with the Script and a Video link if we’re recording to picture for review. I must have a Script and Video* in some form to provide an Estimate & Proposal. A breakdown of the Character's Voices is also helpful, along with the intended Usage (i.e web, social, corporate, commercial, radio-broadcast, etc.,). Finally I need to get an approx. Start date, the Projects Deliverables & Deadlines for time-blocking & scheduling.
From there I review the script and the video and provide an estimate/proposal based on the nature and scope of the work. Most of the time we're doing the Talent Casting and Booking talent which is a separate Line Item from the Project Management / Setup Fee. If we’re doing a Spanish Dub there are Translation Costs for the Timed Translation & any On-Screen Text. There is a Recording Session fee billed at my Day Rate and then the Post Production Editing, Syncing for ADR/Dub, Audio Clean-up, and Final Mixing, as well as any revisions and back-up.
Once the client signs off on the proposal and sends the Deposit check we can begin the process of Casting, Booking & Scheduling Talent, getting the Timed Translations/Adaptations done & approved (if needed) and setting up the Pro Tools Sessions w/Cue Markers & Picture. If our Client is not planning on attending the session(s) in-person we can set-up Zoom-Skype-FaceTime meetings/calls for remote creative direction. We have a Standard Terms Agreement for New Clients and most projects require a 1/3 deposit up-front to begin, a 1/3 mid-payment due 48hrs before Recording, with the remaining 1/3 due on Approval & Delivery of the Final Mixes. This allows us to pay our VO Talent at the end of their session vs. waiting weeks for a check in the mail to come, which makes them (& us) happy. If we're doing a simple English VO or ADR Session where the Client is supplying the Actors we require 50% on Booking & the balance (50%) on completion. We like to provide Light Refreshments & Lunch for longer sessions and always keep things light & fun!
Voice-over Production Workflow
Before the Recording day, Pro Tools sessions have been created for each program with the reference videos, and each section to be recorded is cut with cue markers for each line to be dubbed. Tracks are set up for each voice/character and everything is tested to ensure smooth recording & playback without latency (delay).
For the Recording Session itself; We have multiple Scripts printed (Producer/Eng., Script-Super/Translator, Client, VO Talent), and our Talent will oftentimes bring their marked-up scripts with notes. We Loop Record each line paying close attention to timing & lip-sync where needed; Basically, we playback each looped section to be recorded for the voiceover actor to practice (with lead-lines), and when they're ready we hit RECORD and we capture 2-3 good takes. We then listen to them back to make sure we're all happy and mark the best take for the video we're dubbing or edit a "comp" from the best parts of 2 takes, or record a few more takes (if needed) and repeat the process.
The VO Talent & Producer/Eng. wear headphones and voice-talent references audio from the original actor for dubbing in 1 ear (at a low level) so they can match the timing & cadence, as well as video playback on a TV Monitor. Once we've successfully recorded a few lines we get into a flow and we're usually able to get what we need within the scheduled session time or thereabouts, notwithstanding script changes. We take short breaks as often as the talent or others need and offer a nutritious lunch for full-day sessions for everyone. For straight VO to Picture the process is much easier & faster, with the Actors just needing to record each line within the allotted time window, as there's no lip-sync. we usually record just 2 good takes. Below is a short 1min. BTS Video from one of our previous dubbing sessions to give you an idea of what to expect:
Voiceover Post-Production Process
LIP-SYNC & DIALOG EDITING
We begin the Editing process by promoting &/or comping best takes within our Pro Tools session playlists. We then duplicate, save & hide a back-up of each voice track and begin editing Lip-Sync. Playback for each line is looped as we A/B the orig. dialog/VO with our dubbed dialog/VO in our left/right speakers, and carefully nudge each take into the best overall position. We then cut up phrases within each recorded line and move them to match the reference audio & on-screen lip sync. Sometimes a line or phrase needs to be sped up or slowed down, so we'll go through the Time-Compression-Expansion (TCE) process using tools that preserve the original sound without artifacts or pitch changes (usually +/- 5%). It can be a laborious process of trial-&-error but the end goal is to get the start/finish as tight as possible and match each word/phrase within the line to the mouth movement on screen as close as possible. Sometimes with Foreign Language Dubbing it's not going to match perfectly due to the way the words are re-ordered in that language, but we can usually get it pretty close with a good timed-translation/adaptation and great performances from the high-caliber experienced VO talent we work with here in Los Angeles.
Once we've locked lip-sync as tight as possible we begin Pre-Mix Audio Clean-up which might involve; de-clicking mouth noise, de-noising AC or other noise reduction (hums etc.), adding silence & smooth fade in/out transitions between lines, and double-checking edited audio clips (comped words/phrases) are not cut-off with headphones. If we're doing an ADR session we may have to match the ambient noise on the production sound, as well as EQ & dynamic level matching.
Then the fun part of crafting the Voiceover/Dialog Mix and in many cases the overall Mix with music & effects (M&E) begins. For this part we like to turn off the picture and use our ears to mix like it's for radio. Speaker Levels are adjusted to between 75-80dB and we start with balance adjustments to the dialog levels for each voice/character. Once that's in the ballpark we'll monitor levels using a Loudness Meter and make minor Clip Gain adjustments of audio regions before adding any Channel Strip Compression to smooth out overall levels.
While each track is processed differently, the basic FX-chain used on each channel includes Compression, EQ & Limiting, with Noise Reduction (pre-Comp/EQ), De-essing & Saturation (coloring) added as needed. Some mixes require (Aux) FX like Reverb/Delay to be added or Filters for other sound FX (radio, robot, vocoder, etc.) Some of our favorite 3rd-party plugins FX incl. Waves SSL Channel & EQ, Ren Comp, EQ, Vox, De-Esser & Reverb.
Then the final "glue" is added to the Stereo Mix Buss which includes overall Mix Compression, EQ (bass-mid's-treble) and Level Limiting to hit target deliverable (LUFS) specs for each project's end-use. The final mix is checked on a variety of playback devices including laptop & TV speakers, phone & tablets, headphones & earbuds, and adjusted if needed to provide a consistent & balanced end-user audio experience.
The Final Mixes are sent to our Clients through Google Drive or Dropbox project folders for review & approval. Deliverables vary for each project but may include the following; Voiceover mix, VO + M&E stems, a combined (VO+M&E) Stereo Mix, Alt. VO Takes, QuickTime Videos, mp3, etc. Final Mix deliverables are usually 24bit/48k or 16bit/48k Wav/Aiff audio files. In some rare cases for ADR Sessions where we're only doing Recording, we'll deliver the full Pro Tools session project and raw audio files. Any Client requested tweaks/changes are addressed and once final approval is conformed the project session files are backed-up & archived on local external hard drives and cloud storage, along with any presets & session notes we may need for future projects for the same client or with the same VO talent.
Added-Value BTS (Behind-the-Scenes) Photos, Video & screenshots for our Web Portfolio and Social Media platform promotion may be produced containing samples or links of the finished work. Finally, an internal Project Review is conducted to see what worked well and what we could alter-change-improve to serve our clients even better in the future!
Here’s what people are saying about working with us
Health Nuts Media CEO
"We've worked with Eric and Gloria at Gold Street many times, and I'm always impressed with their energy and professionalism. Whenever we have to translate and dub any of our videos into Spanish, there is no other team I enjoy working with more. From translation to casting to recording and editing, every project flows smoothly and I trust that all of the work is of the highest quality. I cannot recommend them more highly."
"Eric and I worked together on several Spanish dubbing projects for Committee for Children. Eric found some great talent for the project and then did some excellent audio production (recording, editing-syncing & mixing). Overall the videos were really well-received and everyone was happy! I'd work with Eric again in a heartbeat. He makes sure the job gets done well and he goes the extra mile to make sure it's done right. It doesn't get much better than that!"
VO Production & Post Studio Tools
In terms of Production + Post; We Record in a quiet comfortable A/C sound-dampened room (176sqft) with soundproof windows using a Neumann U87 as my preferred microphone of choice. Our regular recording chain is a mic. going into an Avalon 737 Mic Preamp into an Apogee Rosetta A/D/A Converter and then digitally into an Audient iD44 or Focusrite audio interface. We record into a 15" MacBook Pro or Mac Pro running ProTools, Logic & Adobe Audition DAWs, with Waves & Izotope RX plugins used for mixing. We offer several other industry-standard mic choices including a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic., Shure SM7b podcast-radio mic., EV RE-27 radio broadcast mic., and Sennheiser wireless and wired ME2 Lavs amongst others. We have 3 Apple Cinema Displays and a Sony 40-inch HD monitor for Video playback, a 16 Fader Mackie Universal Controller for DAW Control. We Mix on calibrated THX certified JBL LSR 4328 monitors with a 6332 250w Sub connected via Spdf/AES, and also have a full 5.1 JBL set up for Surround Sound Mixing. We have a super-soft leather sofa, Herman Miller chairs, natural light, and all the amenities of home to ensure an enjoyable experience for both clients and the amazing acting talent we work with.