Why I hate my own voice and you will hate yours too.

That's just the way it is, you have to be Craig David (who was reportedly pulled over by police and was listening to his own music) not to shudder at the sound of your own voice. So, when deciding to go about recording your script as a voiceover, on a tight budget that doesn't stretch to expensive studio and professional VO artist time, I can really see why people get stuck here.

For the MySpareBrain explainer, of course, I wanted to persevere with the process on my own - warts and all, you might say. So, as a first step at least, I was planning to record my own voice speaking the script I mentioned in my last post.

Once you get into the audio part of the project, you realise that's a whole other world of jargon, tools, technologies, processes, effects and skills. I did some reading and collected some useful resources, which I've added to the Explainer Video Research chart on MySpareBrain.

Ultimately, this was an exercise in getting stuck in and seeing what I could cobble together, what worked, what didn't and frankly, just trying to make the best of it.

I started by recording the voiceover just using my iPhone voice recorder app. It was a method used by Authntk and talked about on their blog. They seemed to a really good job with it, so I thought, why not?

Here's a sample:

Actually, the result was surprisingly OK, considering. The main issue was actually getting the files into a format that I could use easily. By default, the iphone records the audio files into an .m4a format (read more about m4a and MPEG-4 here). I found that to get the files onto my computer without an active iTunes account setup and synced (I'd just got a new PC), the only way is to use the direct sharing options - email or SMS, which is a bit of a pain.

Then, for some reason, I couldn't seem to get Adobe After Effects to import the raw .m4a  files into the Project Panel. I didn't look into it too closely and maybe completely wrong, actually, come to think of it, it may not have even been an After Effects issue, but anyway, the point I want to make is that felt I should convert the files to a different format, so I chose .mp3 - Audio guys please do let me know what I should / could have done via the comments below.

So, I used this very nifty little audio converter app to do that.

When I put this audio into After Effects with a rough cut and placement to the animation, it really wasn't working. If I'm going to cringe at my own voice, I at least want a better quality recording to cringe at.

Since I was going to need to do a fair bit more voice recording, and eventually get over the fear of hearing my own voice, I decided it would be a good idea to invest a little bit in a half decent microphone setup. When I say half decent, that is raising my standards from the £4.99 Argos special that I also had in my armoury (and preferred the iPhone recording results).

After doing some more research, I called the guys at Sound Exposure, who I found had some great reviews. The sales guy there was really helpful and enjoyed chatting about what I was up to. I settled on a Sennheiser E835, a Tascam US-122 MkII Audio Interface, and a Konig and Mayer 23200 desk stand.

It took a little while to get it setup, mainly because the audio interface drivers were a little outdated in their support of operating systems past windows XP. The experience was all a little clunky, but eventually got it working and figured out what th knobs and dials were for on the unit.

So I set about this time, recording in the free open source audio software Audacity.

Now Audacity is actually really easy to use and it's very flexible and quite intuitive. It's not the sexiest looking piece of software, but it's free and it works. The only problem was, I still wasn't happy with the end result. Now, it's most likely that the problem is totally down to me, operator error, but I didn't have time to dig in more thoroughly and figure it out.

Instead, I dug into the Creative Suite a bit further and took a look at Adobe Soundbooth. To get acquainted, again, I did a bit of research for the usual blogs on the why's and wherefore's. I also did this Soundbooth CS4 course on Lynda.com which I thought was very well constructed, sufficiently in depth but not too technical or boring.

Initially, I imported the audio from the Audacity project into Soundbooth and it was OK, I found working with Soundbooth (as a result of the Lynda.com course and my recent surge of interest in other CS applications) really easy - possibly more so than Audacity, since I was already used to many Adobe conventions and UI elements.

The first thing I tried to fix was the persistent hum in the background of the Audacity audio, when played back in Soundbooth and other software, which was the predominant cause for my dissatisfaction with the result. Soundbooth has a toolkit for this, in the Tasks panel, under the "Clean Up Audio" heading. Using the Noise reduction filters, I found that I could reduce it, but I still wasn't happy with the result as the amount I needed to apply started to audibly distort the voice audio.

So I tried a do a direct record, again, using the Sennheiser mic setup, direct into Soundbooth. This cleared up the humming noise completely and I was much more happy with the result (bearing in mind personal prejudices). 

In the course, I learned about compression, reverb, EQ and other effects (of which there are many) and the temptation was to go crazy, but for now, I've decided not to apply anything and keep it as is. The danger is I'll go crazy and completely lose the point of using my voice, which is to be a raw, natural, passionate explanation of what we're upto at MySpareBrain, from the voice of the CEO.