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This question may need some editing ... potentially off-topic, yet IMHO, this is probably the best stack on the network to ask the question

Background:
I'm trying to get a toe in the door through to the arena of voice-acting. The equipment at home (at present, are strictly entry-level).

  • Yeti Microphone
  • Waveshop
  • ffmpeg
  • Audacity

The process I follow to narrate any sample script is as follows

  • Record as WAV
  • Strip noise using Audacity
  • Convert to mp3@320k

The mp3 then accompanies the bid as a demo to the client who has asked for a high-quality recording. The system has an upper limit of a few MB for the bid-process.

Question
What constitutes 'high-quality' audio? Codec? Bit-rate? Noise-floor?

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    Just a thought: At this point there MUST be VO actors who have blogs in which they discuss the craft, or sites for the purpose. Probably worth looking for. – keshlam Sep 7 '14 at 20:17
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    When compression to mp3 you should use variable bit rate (VBR). A 320kbps mp3 will use 320kbits of space for each second of silence as well, and there will probably be quite a bit of that (relatively) in your recording, so you'll be wasting a lot space just storing silence if you use a constant bit rate. – AVee Sep 8 '14 at 0:20
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I think your client wants the original wav-file, instead of the mp3 you sent, for the final product. I only sent mp3's when sharing demo's. If the client is happy, I sent the wav files, because you don't want the final product to have another conversion to mp3.

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    I would use .flac rather than .wav though, if the files are sent over the internet. If they're sent by hard drive, .wav is fine. (In general, I advice to take "lossless" with a grain of salt, but if the audio is going to be processed further you should indeed always use lossless codecs to avoid generation loss.) – leftaroundabout Sep 7 '14 at 13:33
  • I've never had issues with sending Wav's. What is your experience? – Arnoud Traa Sep 7 '14 at 13:34
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    It's just a matter of efficiency: for a >10 GB project, the up & download time become a bit tedious, in particular for a suboptimal internet connection. Transcoding is faster. – leftaroundabout Sep 7 '14 at 13:39
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    .WAV or .AIFF is really the standard if your working in a professional environment. Before sending any other format you should confirm first that your format is ok. – coaxmw Sep 7 '14 at 15:15
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    For the file sizes we're talking about with some VO takes I really dont see the advantage to providing flac files vs sending .wav files. Its not about providing the fastest download, its about quality through the process and providing standard files throughout the production process. We can all decode flac but I dont agree that its long standardised in professional environments. For preview/ review I agree that mp3 is fine. – coaxmw Sep 7 '14 at 20:11
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Two things that can easily ruin quality, which you should avoid.

First is room acoustics. Even the best microphone won't get you a good sound if it's placed in a room with strong echo resonances. If you can't record in a professionally treated studio, you should do it in a room with as neutral sound as possible – avoid exposed parallel walls. Record the voice close to the mic, to reduce room influence; a pop-killer avoids low-frequency artifacts when speaker plosives close to the mic.
(There are various tools that claim to remove reverb, but most work very badly, and the better ones are difficult to use well.)

Then there's the "strip noise" part. Badly calibrated noise gates leave very nasty artifacts. Like with reverb, it's always better to avoid noise in the first place rather than removing it in post-processing. The key factors here are microphone and preamp quality. If your microphone is a USB model you have little influence over this, but what you should at any rate do is set the levels properly: again, record close to the mic, and set the gain so the loudest peaks just barely don't(!) clip.

(In a well-sounding room with good mics & preamps I often choose to leave rather more space between speaker and mics, and leave plenty of headroom so even unexpected freak transients can't clip digitally, but under substandard conditions you shouldn't do that.)

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    Good info, but orthogonal to the question...? – keshlam Sep 7 '14 at 19:21
  • @keshlam: is it? High-quality audio is audio with as few flaws as possible. I wrote about two of the flaws I've often encountered, that are relatively easy to fix, given poor resources – i.e. gave advice on how the OP can make their records higher-quality. – leftaroundabout Sep 7 '14 at 19:40
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    My interpretation was that the question was about sending the audio, not producing it. If we include production, there's all the stuff that can be done in Audacity from filtering to compression to ambiance... My interpretation was that what they want is just a clean enough recording to properly judge whether this individual has the voice-acting skills they need, not whether he can do studio production in his living room. (Which is certainly possible, but that isn't the skillset he's trying to develop and sell.) – keshlam Sep 7 '14 at 19:46
  • @keshlam: right, that's why I gave tips on how to get it clean, not on how to spice it up in any way. – leftaroundabout Sep 7 '14 at 19:52
  • @keshlam Since the OP provided info on the equipment being used, I think he was also looking for answers that include maximizing the final quality using that equipment. Environment is a key part of that. It's possible that small adjustments to the the environment and positioning of equipment make considerable improvements to the end-result. – mwotton Sep 8 '14 at 0:27
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I think if the client requests a high quality recording he is trying to judge how much work he will have with the material you deliver. Essentially if your voice talent is good enough your customer will want to save as much as possible on recording and "post production". If you want to please this customer you should make this as easy as possible for him. I have no personal experience with the microphone you use but it seems to be better than a lot of cheap mics out there. I would usually quote a good mic under the minimum requirements for a good recording since there is nothing that can bring back the nuances in sound that were not picked up by your microphone. Assuming you will not want to spend anything big, I would offer the following advice to create the best "quality recording" you can with the equipment available.

  • Record at a reasonable bitrate and resolution: I would suggest at least 48kHz and 24 bit
  • Only record at a bitrate/resolution combination that is natively supported by your hardware, resampling will not improve quality
  • deliver a clean uncompressed/lossless-compressed mono track with your voice
  • Noise that does not make it on the recording does not need to be purged! Even if you do not have a professional speaker booth, everyone can improvise one with heavy curtains, thick blankets and pillows. The key is to eliminate as much outside noise and reflection as possible. Get close to the Mic, but not too close 8inches / 20cm should be fine, if you a can use a pop screen or improvise one (99c tights will do just fine), without a pop screen a bit more would be better. If you are dealing with a lot of outside noise try to do your recordings at night or in a basement with all windows and doors shut.
  • Do not underestimate noise generated by your PC if you use it for recording. Electric noise can enter through the Power connection as well as through any other connected cables! Sometimes it helps to use a laptop for recording running on battery with wifi off. Laptops sometimes allow you to run in a energy conservation mode which will also prevent the fans from turning on, if this offers enough performance to record, this might be the way to go.
  • Your Mic uses a USB connection from what I have seen which sound fine for me, these are usually better than a lot of the onboard sound chips.
  • If your customer uses a professional for sound editing you should not try to mingle with the raw recordings, since this might make it more difficult for a second editor to get it right. Always deliver raw recordings as well, if you try help them by improving the sound yourself, give them the option to choose, to use your edit or the raw files!

Good luck for your project!

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"Getting your toe in the door" for voice acting doesn't require equipment, it requires talent & tenacity. [It also isn't on-genre for this forum]

If you want to become a voice-over or voice character actor, the biggest hurdle initially is not the quality of your recordings, it is the inherent quality of your voice; purely as suited to the ear of the casting director [& now I have gone way outside the tenets of this forum myself]

If you want better quality recordings, ask a better-honed question here.

If you want better quality acting, you need another forum - there are many.

  • I'd also add that you should get in the habit of asking the customer to define any terms which aren't absolutely clear. – keshlam Sep 7 '14 at 20:04
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    Absolutely - but it depends whether it's an audition or a job. Auditions need little in the way of equipment or technical quality; jobs need both. – Tetsujin Sep 7 '14 at 20:05
  • Apologies once again for my cross-talk on this - but I am actually both sound engineer & voice actor, so though it worth my spanning the genres, even if off-topic. – Tetsujin Sep 7 '14 at 20:16
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To answer your question simply: high quality means recording losslessly (make sure all of your tracks are wav or aiff, that should be the default anyway) and only over export to a lossy format (mp3 etc.) as the final step before sending them a copy.

A good rule is to never export from a lossy format to another lossy format.

Aside from that, you have to use your ears to make sure your general recording process isn't hurting your sound (or have someone whose ears you trust give it a listen). One tip there is to make sure you don't have too much noise vs signal.

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