How to do voiceovers without hiring a pro

Videos are an amazing way to deliver information. But videos that rely on captions aren’t always a good fit in a business setting. Captions might work well for an external marketing video, but employees don’t want to feel like management is just another talking head.

Voiceovers, on the other hand, convey that extra bit of human touch that really makes a video engaging, communicative, and memorable.

Understanding how to do voiceovers (and do them well) is a bit resource-intensive. But it is well worth the investment, especially for anyone doing high-quality internal comms.

How to record a voiceover

Unfortunately, most out-of-the-box video editing software doesn’t double as audio recording and editing software.

For the DIY approach, you have to record your voiceover with separate audio recording software, then upload it into your video editing program and sync the audio to your video. Thanks to smartphones and affordable microphones, recording a voice over is a lot easier than it used to be. However, there are a few common mistakes that will make your finished recording unusable. Follow this process to ensure that you get a usable voice over.

Write a script

It might be tempting to write a loose outline and fill in the details on the fly. People tend to think the best way to make dialogue or a monologue sound natural is to come up with it in real time, just as you would during a real conversation.

However, this isn’t the case. When you’re speaking into a microphone instead of to another person, it’s not nearly as easy to think of the right thing to say on the spot.

Write out a word-for-word script that you can follow when you record your voice over. You can always make minor tweaks to it during recording. But you’ll end up with a much better voice over if you have a solid script before you get in front of the microphone.

Choose a microphone and noise reduction device

Most people haven’t seen a professional voice actor record a voice over. It takes more equipment than you might think to produce a clean, clear sound.

The microphone on a smartphone is pretty good. However, the noise reduction devices on a phone are limited because of their size. If you just use your smartphone as is, you’ll sound like you’re recording on speakerphone.

Fortunately, you can make a noise reduction filter with socks. The key is to have at least two layers of cloth protecting your microphone. It might feel strange to put a doubled-up sock on your phone, but you’re only recording voice. There’s no need to look cool.

Alternatively, AirPods and other earbud headphones produce impressively clear voice recordings, better than your phone’s built-in microphone. Or you can get an external microphone that produces clean recorded voice for around $30.

If your external mic picks up too much ambient noise or speech pop, you can throw a couple of socks over it as well.

Choose audio recording software

Most smartphones have a default voice recording app, but these apps are designed for recording quick voice memos. They usually lack the sound monitoring and audio editing capabilities needed for a voiceover.

Even the free version of a professional voice recorder gives you more control over your recording and better editing capabilities. Audacity,TechSmith Audiate,Podcastle are good, free voice recorders.

Record in a small room

You already know that you need an empty room without open doors or windows. However, it’s also best if you record in a small room. Larger rooms produce more echo. If you’ve ever been in an empty gym, you know what we’re talking about.

If you record in a room that’s too large, this echo can overpower your noise reduction equipment (especially if you’re using a DIY noise filter made of socks).

You don’t have to record in your closet (although that’s not a bad option.) But choose the smallest room available.

Monitor your audio levels

Also keep an eye on your audio levels while you record. Without getting into the weeds of how sound levels are measured, it’s best if your voiceover sound levels stay between -10 and -20 decibels, with an average near -6. Your sound levels should never go above 0 decibels.

If you find your average sound levels consistently peaking above -6 decibels, you may need to move your microphone further away from your mouth or record in a smaller room. If you can’t record in a smaller room, try reinforcing your noise reduction equipment so your mic doesn’t pick up as much ambient noise.

Watch your video while you record your voiceover

If possible, watch your video while you record your voiceover. That way you know exactly how fast to speak to keep your voice over synchronized with your video.

It’s okay if your voiceover doesn’t match up exactly with your video or if you have minor mistakes. You can edit the audio recording to make it fit. But you can only do so much during the editing process. And the more editing you do, the more time it takes to produce your voiceover video.

Alternatively, you can record a separate audio clip for each scene. This method complicates the logistics of saving and uploading your voiceover files (more on that below). But it does make it easier to get your audio lined up with the video in your video editor.

No matter how many audio files you use, watch your video while you record to cut down on editing time and ensure that you don’t have to go back and record again.

Speak naturally (or rewrite your script)

It’s not easy to sound natural when you’re sticking to a script. The key is to sound like you are speaking rather than reading.

Imagine you are speaking face-to-face with a person, and make the facial expressions that you would make in a real conversation. This helps you sound more natural as you read your script.

If you find that you just can’t speak naturally when you read your script, you may need to rewrite some or all of it. Another challenge of recording a voiceover is writing a script that sounds natural. People tend to write differently than they speak, so it might take a few tries to get it right.

Speech-to-text software can help you write a script that sounds natural when you read it. Just say what you need to say, then clean up the text a little bit to clarify things and remove anything unnecessary. It’s a quick way to get a script that’s written to be spoken, even if you’re not great at writing.

How to add a voice over to a video

Once you have a complete voice over recording, it’s time to add it to your video. Almost any video editor is capable of adding audio to a video. The process varies slightly from editor to editor, but the basic steps are the same.

Edit your voiceover and export the audio file

If you recorded your voiceover in an audio editor, you should be able to edit the audio in the same program.

At this stage, it’s best to leave any audio silence at the beginning and end of your voiceover. You can even leave some extended silence in the middle. That way you have some padding to trim your voiceover and get it matched up with your video later on. Right now, you’re mostly looking to edit out any mistakes in the audio.

Once your voiceover is cleaned up, export it as an audio file.

Import your voiceover audio into your video editing software

Importing your voiceover into your video editing software is the same as uploading a soundtrack. The buttons may be in different places depending on the software, but it is all essentially the same process.

Choose the soundtrack option, but instead of adding music, select your voiceover audio file. If you recorded a snippet for each scene, remember to upload all of your voiceover audio files

That’s it. Your voiceover shows as the soundtrack for your video.

Sync your voiceover with your video

Once the audio file is uploaded, you’ll finally be able to hear how it lines up with your video. Admittedly, this is one of the most frustrating parts of the DIY system.

It’s common for voiceover audio to be out of line with the scenes of a video on first pass. If your voiceover doesn’t line up, go back to your audio editing software and do a bit more trimming to get things right. Then, export the audio file and give it another go in your video editing program.

A word of caution: before you head back to your audio editing software, take note of the timestamps where your voiceover needs to be trimmed. Otherwise it’ll be nearly impossible to make the proper adjustments. Keep checking and editing until your voiceover is just right.

Check your video

The last step is to preview your video to make sure that everything lines up properly. If it looks good and sounds good, send your video into the world to do its magic.

Creating your own voiceovers may be a bit time-consuming, but the power of a voiceover is absolutely worth the effort.

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