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Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?

Posted by jwilliam 
Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 19, 2007 09:09PM
Just got a Mac Pro tower... I was on the verge of buying the iMac, then did a final on-paper comparison, and at the last minute, picked up a 2.66 quad core Mac Pro.

Needless to say, I love it. But a two part question for the experts, as my google-fu has failed to unearth an answer.

1) What's the easiest way to record scratch VO in FCP? Do I need a powered mic in running into the input? Or are any of those USB converter things worth using?

I found the M-Audio fast track USB instrument recorder to VO box, but on Creative Cow, someone seems to have had some mad technical issues with it. What can anyone suggest as a quick & cheap method to get some scratch track VO in?

2) This is a silly question, but if/when I get a small Mackie mixing board, how do I connect it to the Mac Pro? Do I just use a converter and connect it to the 1/8th inch jack in the back of the tower? Or is there some sound card I should be looking to add in?

Thanks!

Jeff
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 19, 2007 09:21PM
There are quite a few powered USB mics that you can plug right in to a USB slot and use with the voice-over tool.

-edit-
actually, I don't think they need to be powered. I think the USB ins handle mic level, yes? We have a guy who uses one with no problems. I do it a different way but that involves spending more money and using the stereo line-in.
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 19, 2007 09:25PM
the "easiest" way in my experience is to (IF you have a camera) just speak into the camera mic and capture that.

yes - if you have a mixer (mackie or whatever), just connect with an adapter (1/4" l/r to 1/8" stereo and go into the built in audio jack.

all youre (noticeably) gonna gain from any of the cheaper ($300-$400) external audio interfaces (m-audio, protools, etc) is debateably better mic pre's than the mackie board, possibly midi interface and in the case of digidesign products, a copy of protools LE. which unless you have aspirations of becoming an "audio guy" isnt going to change your world
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 06:50AM
I don't think it's that easy...I would use a proper mic going into an XLR jack on a camera and digitize that.
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 08:44AM
I've been using a Zoom H4 portable recorder for temp foleying and voice-over. It's got a pretty good built-in microphone, records directly to MP3 or WAV at 44.1 or 48kHz (you can copy the files directly to your drives via USB), can accept better microphones via 1/4-inch jacks if desired, and best of all, you can move anywhere in your building where it's quietest with the least reverb because it's only a little bigger than an iPod. Not a replacement for a good voice-over booth, but great for maverick-style recording, like when I had to record food sizzling on my stove.


www.derekmok.com
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 11:03AM
"Easiest way" is probably not going to be the best way. I have never used any of the USB mics or direct-to-computer mics so I can't comment on them.

In my opinion, camera mics are REALLY bad for VO. They're not even recommended for standard audio pickup (lots o' room tone / hum / ambience attached - YUCK). I would use a proper mic (XLR connection) & pick up a mixer ASAP. In simpler times, I used a Mackie 1202 connected to my G5 through a DAC-10 converter box (firewire conversion to the G5). I now run a studio mic right into a Kona LHe KL box input.

Audio is important...shouldn't be thought of as an afterthought (grafix too smiling smiley).

Joey

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 11:23AM
<<<the "easiest" way in my experience is to (IF you have a camera) just speak into the camera mic and capture that. >>>

<<<In my opinion, camera mics are REALLY bad for VO.>>>

I used to dismiss camera mics out of hand until one of the editors hit The Golden Process.

We have no quiet rooms in the building. I had to record some voice tracks and it was the most exercise I'd had in months. Furniture Pads, C-Stands, Homasote panels, moving the mic around, etc. etc.

He just took the camera with him into his car and pressed record. Most cars are highly noise suppressed and sealed, the more expensive, the better. Cars (the metal ones) form a Faraday Shield (which is why they're a nice place to be in a lightning storm) and there's no hum and buzz since everybody's on batteries.

It works remarkably well.

Koz
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 11:27AM
lets remember fellas, the title of the thread is "SCRATCH" VO. not "PRODUCTION" VO
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 11:41AM
> He just took the camera with him into his car and pressed record. Most cars are highly noise
> suppressed and sealed, the more expensive, the better. Cars (the metal ones) form a Faraday
> Shield (which is why they're a nice place to be in a lightning storm) and there's no hum and
> buzz since everybody's on batteries.

Interesting point, Koz...though I had an experience about two weeks back contrary to this. A company shot one guy in a car while having him deliver dialogue that's probably meant to be voice-over. This was a low-ball project that ended up being cut in half a day, so pristine quality wasn't the point...but what they got was still well-nigh unusable because there was a distinctive reverb in there that put the audio, well, squarely in a car. They probably didn't mike close enough, but I found it to be even worse than the results we got recording in a normal room with a G5 humming.


www.derekmok.com
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 12:23PM
I would also think...unless you are in a higher end car like a Mercedes / Lexus / etc where their sound dampening is a highly touted feature, you will likely hear (like koz says) that you are in a car. Now if you were in a Mercedes with a moving blanket draped over you...then you have something winking smiley

This is all moot anyway because if it's just a scratch track, you can record it using anything basically (didn't notice the word "scratch" in the title - sorry).

Joey

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 12:37PM
Okay.... You want the "Best" and "Easiest" way to record scratch VO...

Here it is - Call the talent and the studio you're going to use in the finished production, and book a session to record the track. Here's why:

(1) Easiest - You will be provided a CD with an aiff file you can simply load into your project. It will sound similar to your completed audio - It will not have strange background noises or hums and buzzes to filter out. It will sound like a good microphone was used. You will not need to spend hours setting up and testing your acoustic environment or installing an audio interface. If your studio is experienced in recording narration everything will work right the first time. Volume levels/EQ/Compression will be set by a professional who knows what he's doing.

(2) Best - Though it's often thought to be "Standard Industry Practice" to record scratch tracks, voiced usually by the director or editor or the receptionist up front (who always wanted to "get into voiceovers"winking smiley, it has been my experience that this is usually not the best, or even the least expensive way to proceed.

First, if you're using a professional voice talent, that person probably knows how to "pace the message" - A great deal of the VO "message" you're trying to deliver is affected by the timing of the read - segments will be slower to make the message clear and understandable, or faster to add an element of excitement or fun, etc. On the other hand, the person reading the scratch track will probably simply read much faster than a person normally speaking.

If you need to show a preview of the project for a client - the client will have a better "feel" for what will be the finished production.

I'm often called in to read for projects where the scratch track has already been done by a non-pro. The studio sets me up with headphones, where I can hear the scratch track - the "scratch" narrator is almost always going a million-miles-an-hour - it's enough of a problem just to cram all the copy into the alloted time, but I'm also unable to add "meaning" to the words - there simply isn't enough time. -- Plus I'm distracted by the mechanics of trying to get my words to match.

Besides the timing issues, if you record the scratch with your intended talent, you have the ability to match the picture to the "styling" that your particular talent brings to the production. And, if for some reason the talent is wrong for the production, you'll find out soon enough to make that adjustment.

If the cost factors are a problem you need to deal with, you can probably work out a deal with the talent, or talent's agent, to include the scratch tracks into the cost of the final job. If you need to make changes to the VO tracks while editing, you should consider that many voice talent these days have their own studios which are more than adequate for doing scratches. Changes can be easily sent to you via the web. You could also negotiate minor fixes to the track into the price for the final project.

Travis (Full time voice-over-guy and part time entertainment technology hobbyist.)

Travis
VoiceOver Guy and Entertainment Technology Enthusiast
[www.VOTalent.com]
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 04:27PM
Travis,

Spoken like a true voice talent winking smiley

All great great ideas...but I have never seen the actual (final) talent record a scratch track at my facility in the almost 5 years I have been here or at the Ad Agency studio I worked at previously (3 1/2 years). It has always been whomever is available (mostly my Producer / an intern / someone in the office / me / etc).

You are absolutely right on all your points & I agree, but not a lot of people think that far ahead. I usually ask my Producer "how long until I get VO / Music?" when I'm building a spot - THEN they go & do the scratch track. Sometimes I never get a scratch track...I get lucky & get the final to build the spot with (which is gold). Sometimes I'll get an AIFF that has 3 or 4 takes on it & all I have to do is cut in the good one.

Joey (Full time grafix / edit guy and part time always-wanted-to-get-into-voice-acting hobbyist)

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 05:04PM
ISight camera mike!

VO Tool recognizes it immediately and the mike-- at least on my standalone model-- is terrific. I hang it on its magnetic stand from an IKEA desklamp. Very flexible. I've used it for scratch and for emergency ADR with actors. Works great.

There's an image of the setup over here at Ecamm:

[www.ecamm.com]

- Loren
Today's FCP keytip:
Set Video In & Out separate from Audio with Control I & O !

Final Cut Studio 2 KeyGuide? Power Pack.
Now available at KeyGuide Central.
www.neotrondesign.com
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 05:11PM
Really cool no budget USB mic for scratch work is the Snowball.

Got a review of it here at lafcpug

[www.lafcpug.org]

Michael Horton
-------------------
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 06:22PM
That looks awesome, Mike. Perfect for scratching. Take it on the road as well & record scratch tracks on a MBP...sweet thumbs down May just pick one of these up for myself.

Hey Loren...where's the mic? Is it incorporated in the camera (I don't know squat about iChat)? Is that you in the yellow T-shirt?

Joey

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 10:38PM
Joey-

Yeah, it's a clean and sensitive mike right in the camera, nice. Very impressive. Of course it costs 150 bucks... no need for it if you have a modern laptop or iMac. Very handy for recording and conferencing if you run a tower.

Best, as always,
Loren S. Miller
www.neotrondesign.com
Home of KeyGuide Central
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 20, 2007 11:49PM
The Right way
The easy way
Way!
Get a Mic PreAmp ($200) hook it up to your Mac mic input and use the Voice Over tool.

Thats another way.

Dave
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 21, 2007 07:31AM
I tried USB mic systems like iVoice, which was crap. I couldn't afford a mke-and-preamp. The standalone iSight was a real surprise in its capabilities.

The only issue is how it hogs the FireWire bus-- unplug it when not needed.

- Loren
Today's FCP keytip:
Set Video In & Out separate from Audio with Control I & O !

Final Cut Studio 2 KeyGuide? Power Pack.
Now available at KeyGuide Central.
www.neotrondesign.com
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 21, 2007 09:37AM
So from the mic pre do you go 1/4" output to the G5 mic input via an 1/8" adaptor?
That will work for FCP voiceovers?
I second the I-SIGHT camera/mic. Plug it in and go to the VoiceOver tool. Works perfectly! Lets you hear your other audio in your timeline while you are recording and does not sound all that bad for a scratch track.

One note: Mine seems to sound best about 18' from mouth, not as close as your traditional studio mic.

Royce
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 22, 2007 04:34AM
The Snowball is not exactly no budget and is overkill for a scratch track, you could record quite a nice VO with that.

Joe, if you have a MBP you can use the built-in mic for recording scratch tracks so no need for extra equipment at all.

Jeff. all you need is a rough and ready mic for recording a quick guide track. Your camera mic is fine for that, or just pick up a dirt cheap usb mic (maybe 10-20 bucks) and you're good to go.
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 22, 2007 11:30AM
<<<1/4" output to the G5 mic input via an 1/8" adaptor? >>>

That's how I do it. It's the G5 "Line" input, by the way.

<<<G5 mic input >>>

That's kind of the point of the problem. G5s don't have mic inputs. If they did, a lot of these problems would go away.

Plug microphone into G5. Talk.

They and most of the other modern Macs only have line inputs. The average microphone delivers sound roughly 1000 times quieter than the G5 is expecting. Hence the need for a MicPre or Microphone Preamplifier to use its formal name.

Koz
Re: Recording scratch VO? Best/easiest way without a mixing board?
August 22, 2007 11:35AM
Koz,
Last time this came up you asked what brand of pre-amp I used. It's a Glen Sound GS-MCA001. Works like a charm.
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