Voice Acting 101: Getting Started

voiceovers

Welcome to StudioSound's Voice Acting 101, a nice little source for learning how to be a great voice actor in many things; more importantly to this site, video games. This section is here in the purpose of bringing games to life through the audio side, for the beginner. This guide is compiled from an archive from Game StudioSound and can be linked to if you have a need for a guide on other web sites. You'd be surprised how many people use and enjoy this simple bit of information.

What Do I Need?


Section one: What Do I Need?

Introduction
When I first started out in the voice work game, I was somewhat frightened by how much better everyone I heard was than me. It took me a long time to learn and continue the mastery of this fine art. I thought all that I needed was wacky voices, but I needed the edge separating the mediocre from the great, varied voice and sound technical skills. The thing is, you don't necessarily need either of those in the beginning of voice work. It's time for me to set you up.

A professional has extremely expensive equipment, including a soundproofed room, a few high-quality microphones, digital and analog input for high fidelity sound, and great mixing sound boards.

An amateur like you can either spend thousands of dollars for this hobby, or you can use what you have. And you already have a lot.

For commercial grade sound you need a fairly good setup because of the high production value if it, although most paying producers provide a sound studio for their talent. For lower quality sound in games like Half-Life, all you really need for great vocals are a few simple things: a microphone, a computer (with a sound card!), and a sound free environment. «


Microphones And You
The first big step in doing game voices is getting a good microphone. These can range from 10 to around 5000 dollars but once again, for a good quality mike you don't need to spend outrageously just to be in the big games. The better mikes are usually a bit more than $10, but not too much more. StudioSound recommends spending at least 20 dollars to get the best range out of your voice, although if you want to do this as more than a hobby, at least a hundred dollars (as a beginner you don't want to throw all of your money at this hobby until you are sure you want to really get into it). The reason for this is a needed thing in getting high tones and beefy sound range. To check the range on microphones, just look on the back of its box at the store.

Frequency Range

I went to a big name store and found these specs of a microphone for about 12 dollars. You may think that these numbers aren't that bad, and that is true for such things like goofing around with your friends on Roger Wilco or giving yourself some vocal notes, but you will find a somewhat tinny sound with this narrow of a field. An ideal frequency response is as 20-70Hz on the low end and as high as possible(18-20,000Hz minimum if available). Funnily enough, this store didn't have any microphones with our recommended specs. Most huge electronic superstores don't really care about quality, just functionality. One of the best places to go if you want to find great input for the price is Radio Shack, found in most mini and full-fledged malls across America. They seemed to have a great selection in range of quality, from a few big time mike$ to the lower end versions that you will be searching for. Still, remember to look on the back of the boxes the microphones are sold in, and never be afraid to ask the merchants to order from their behind-the-register catalogs. The lowest low and the highest high numbers on the back of the box make it worthwhile to comparison shop.

Another issue is power in microphones. Every one of my small mics are electrically powered. You may not feel a need for this, but just about nothing beats an amplified input source, some great setups get power from the device it's plugged into, so no batteries are required in those cases. It really does make your voice more realistic and even gives it a truer bass when you need it. Look around. «


Computer Input/Editor
So now that you have a microphone of some kind, you want to start trying to see how your voice finally sounds. That should not be a problem for most people. All you need for the most basic of recording is your sound recorder that comes with your operating system disk. If you don't have that, you need to spend some time trying to find a good input program, a place I have found, SOFTSEEK.COM has many freeware programs to compensate. Check them out.
Now comes the recording time. More detailed recording sessions will be told later, so I will just get to the most basic information to get you audible on your PC.
It's fairly simple, click on the record button, make some noise, and then press stop (you can see it's stopped when the record button goes grey). Now press play. Do you hear a sound? If you did, go further down. If not, let's fix a few things to make that work.
Let's go through a checklist to see if everything is plugged in it's proper place. Behind your computer, there are (usually) plugins for a speaker, a line in, and a microphone, either they will say what they are, or there will be a little logo showing you what they look like. Make sure your microphone has a small enough plug to fit into the mike port, the end should look like this:

A microphone plug (not to scale)

And just plug it into the microphone port in your computer. If you are using anything else (like XLR, ect.), things get much more complicated, so I suggest you go to a local TV or radio station willing to show you how to get hooked up, usually this requires more equipment.
Click on your volume control either in your task bar, it looks like a yellow speaker, or while in the sound recorder, click on the edit tab then click in the volume button, it might look like a speaker for you. You should see the volume controller. Click on options, and then properties. Now there are two buttons:

Buttons for recording volume

It should be on record to edit the control slider. With the volume slider showing make sure the one that says MICROPHONE is checked, or there will be no sound for the computer to recognize.
Now try recording again. If still you have problems, try the help file on your computer because I'll try to keep it simple here. If you need real help (and don't mind a slight wait), try contacting me, I'll give it my best shot.
Now you have heard your wacky voice, and you want to go further into changing your voice. You could continue use of your sound recorder, but for me it just doesn't cut it due to it having no subtle sound skewing or distortion, and it won't have to work for you either.


If you wish to be a super setup freak like me, you will want to go to the Voyetra site. Their high-end audio editing packages are what I use, and I have been very happy with them. You don't want to spent at least 300 dollars? Why not? Well, alright. To get some really good free and shareware programs goto SOFTSEEK, because once again, they have a huge database of everything you need to start off. Just type in Audio Editing to take off there.

Most programs you find will need to do at least a few things: alter the speed in some way and provide effects of some kind, like reverse, echo and static. One of the best kind of programs are those that allow for Direct-X audio plugins. One place for D-X plugins is AnalogX. With these freebies, you can even use programs in tandem to get more effects and functions. That is exactly what I did starting off. It works! «


More Audio Guides

There are some really wonderful guides out there. One of them is for Game Makers wanting to produce mods with sounds in them, nestled in Mike and Pete's section of this very site. You can fiind the site at: www.planethalflife.com/gss/mphls,and you can find the tutorial here...

For even more information, here's a few little links.:

VoxFeminae has been around for a while in the Quake Community, and has been updated with all kinds of voice acting and sound creation tutorials, with pros bringing in tutorials all the time, even a few members found here at GSS contribute. It is far more informative than my starter guide, so visit the site now!

Wavelength has some nice sound-related tutorials for you to get started on. Some relate to the game creation side, others delve into the recording areas. Good luck!

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