Hi, I'm currently working on a short film in which a character is often talking inside his own head. I just wondered if anyone had any tips on creating an effect on the dialogue in which it feels enclosed and gives the impression you're listening to a persons thoughts.



6 Answers 6


Completely dry with extra bass and a fair amount of compression, it should sound gentle and very close.

  • 1
    I agree. Watch "Being John Malkovich" for inspiration.
    – Colin Hart
    Sep 10, 2011 at 15:05
  • 1
    Enter The Void has some great POV stuff like that too. Worth checking out.
    – Andy Lewis
    Sep 10, 2011 at 15:14
  • Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind?
    – user6513
    Sep 10, 2011 at 15:38
  • I imagine ADR really helps sell this kind of thing, both in terms of performance and controlled proximity effect.
    – AdamAxbey
    Sep 10, 2011 at 15:45
  • Dexter, the TV show... Sep 10, 2011 at 19:36

I agree with @Ian that this works for a POV shot as it simulates the effects of bone conduction (otherwise known as "do I really sound like that?)".

But for any other shot, IMHO this treatment doesn't make sense without adding an obvious reverb that's very different from the normal dialogue 'verb. This effectively lets the audience know that we're "hearing" the thoughts in a different non-physical space - the mind. See any movie with a telepath for reference.


Don't forget that with the great suggestion from Iain about being soft and intimate and gentle/close, most of this is achieved with the performance of the actor. So, if it's recorded loud and shouting - good luck trying to get that proximity effect and silky-smooth high frequencies back with mixing. I'd re-record it to get that effect if it were me and if it was possible.


When I've done this before I normally, like Iain mentioned as well, used an extremely dry and in-your-face sound. I covered up the entire room in molton cloth, killing all high frequency reverberation. Then I used a big-membrane mic extremely close-up, about a centimeter from the mouth, with good pop-shielding, and had the actor speak in a very soft, though absolutely not whispering, voice. Any high-pass on the raw signal is a big no-no.

When in editing, I used an aggressive gate with some attack-time but very short release to kill off hard transients (as well as all remaining room-tails), and an SSL-compressor set to a high ratio to obliterate any dynamics. "Inside Voices" has no dynamics and no direction, mind you.

In order for an Inside Voice to really differentiate itself from an Outside Voice, other than being totally dry (which doesn't work all that well on every systems, depending on how good it is and environment) you must keep their respective spectrums apart. In most cases, Outside voices have their lows above 100-150Hz, with perhaps lower frequencies as support but very sparse, and clarity in the higher mid to keep a realistic tone. Inside voices works best with the lows between 80-100Hz I think, POSSIBLY supported by the LFE if you REALLY know what you're doing, and with the clarity more in the central to lower mid.

In order to get it more out-of-this-world, I hollowed it out a little in the higher mids. This one I actually found out due to a critical error I once had in my monitoring system! I &¤#¤%& loathed that studio, but learning little tricks like these makes it priceless :-)


Check out the soundworks collection's video on watchmen:

The Sound of "Watchmen" from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

In the video they describe how they dealt with Rorschach's internal monologue and dialogue. It's a great example.


Are you referring to a character's thoughts or his voice heard from his subjective POV? I assume the first.

Like @Ian suggested we often tend to go for the "voice over" approach. I guess because voice over sometimes also has such qualities. (In cases when one of the characters is also the narrator) So if you don't have any other narration, this approach should work fairly well.

Though I would say that the style of the voice has to fit the context. Which means the story, it's character, what is said, other kinds of vocal expressions,…) So if there is also narration or the character is anything but soft and gentle, this won't work.

Basically you have a lot of influence in all three stages of the sound process: recording, editing and mixing.

While recording, as always, performance rules! Like @Utopia said if it is not there, you won't get it done by mixing. But for such cases as internal voices I would always try recording different microphones in multiple positions. Thus you have more choices and you can also work with combinations or try to fake some sort of stereo in order to widen the voice and thus clarify the difference.

While editing don't just clean it up. (You will though need to work a lotto remove all lip sounds and the likes) Try to be creative. E.g. have lines overlapping if the mood is more agitated or something like this.

While mixing think also in terms of dimension. So (as mentioned above) you can use different mics to create a stereo image and thus get the voice off the center only. I would not go for too much reverb, if at all. I think this works for dream-like situations, but other than that, I'm not sure. But maybe that's taste.

This is just to give you some hints for directions to play with. In the end sound is relative and you need to find the right relation to all the other voices and sound elements as well as the story.

As it was mentioned by @Andy Lewis, on Enter the Void we had to find (at least) four different characteristics of dialogue. There's the normal on screen dialogue (which has it's own sound due to the director's wish). The subjective POV of the protagonist. His thoughts heard in between other lines. And some druggy inner voice. In the case of the thoughts our goal was to mix about three to four takes for one line. One is prominent and the other ones are a little less and edited in a special way that you's always hear at least two of the same lines at a time. In terms of mixing there is no reverb on it and they are mono on contrast to the wide POV voice. And they have less base and high end. Just to encourage some experiments…

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