Background Noise: Did you hear something?

Posted on May 29, 2008 by


As a Quality Assurance Manager for Voice123, and a voice over talent, I would like to take the opportunity to share with you some of my experience from hearing demos uploaded onto Voice123 for profiles, and most importantly, auditions!

I have listened to over 100,000 demos to date working for Voice123, to date. I have heard just about everyone and everything, and there is no doubt in my mind that if your recording lacks quality, it hurts your chances of being hired. One of the easiest things to fix about your recording is something so small, yet a talent’s ear may not always pick it up… Background Noise! It can just kill a job opportunity! As talent-voice producers, our only way to show what we do best is to send out quality recordings of our auditions to voice seekers.

Voice seekers have written me about how wonderful many demos are, but do stop to tell me occasionally about the demos that had strange noises in the background (excluding watermarks). There is no doubt that the voice seeker will judge our ability to perform the final job based on what they hear in the audition. I hope the info below can give you insight to make the very best of every opportunity!

Common types of background noise:

  • Car keys in pocket or car horn outside.
  • Talent holding paper in hand, and moving with it.
  • Printers shutting off and on during recording.
  • Humming caused by cables touching metal, or the computer.
  • A child calling out or a dog barking.
  • Air conditioner or computer fan running in the background.
  • Clicking in the mouth, if the person has a dry mouth.
  • Popping in the microphone for every plosive used.
  • Music, in the attempt to sound as if it is part of the spot, or failed attempts at watermarking in which the watermark becomes the star of the script.

Whenever reading copy, you have to create the image with your voice as to what you are selling, so the background cannot be there because that noise becomes part of the image. For example, I heard someone doing a very nice read for a medical supply company, and right after she started, I heard a printer adjust its paper tray. The voice over talent kept on going, as if it never happened, and all I could think is, ‘Does she know her printer needs more paper?’ The thought process took me away from what I was supposed to be learning about buying.

There are ways to stop background noise, some obvious, some not so obvious. Obviously, you need a quiet area, but to block sound, you can also try some of the following things (in order of what is most expensive to least):

  • Professionally built studio with sound-proofing.
  • Hanging moving blankets in a closed space, even if in a closet.
  • Recording while sitting in a car. You would be surprised how well it works. (Just make sure your local neighborhood watch is aware of what you are doing. ha! )
  • Making sure the microphone pattern is not directed towards any sound.
  • Making sure the microphone cable runs to the source of recording without touching metal or any other sources of interference.

Other recommendations:

  • Listen to your demo, not for what you say or how you sound, but for the noise around it.
  • Listen as many times as possible, and then one more time. What else do you hear, other than yourself reading copy?
  • If you edit through programs like Pro Tools or Audacity, edit out the dead air, since most noise is heard when we are not talking. Use websites and forums to play your demos for other people, and see what they hear.
  • A second or third opinion is always best. If they say they hear things you did not, do not take it personally. Just learn from it.
  • Remember that you are putting your voice out there as a product, and therefore it should be represented at its very best!

Recording something is simple, but the question to be considered… is it ‘industry standard’? Would your favorite singer record an album, and sell it, if it was recorded poorly? Most likely not. There is always information on the Internet to assist you in soundproofing your recordings. Do the research before recording. Your voice is the product, and it is worth the very best.

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Quality Assurance Manager

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