Recording the Narration

Hey there, Enda here!

For the narration, I arranged to record a family friend, Alan Condell. Alan, along with his wife Marie, have been neighbours with my parents in Monkstown for over twenty years now. My mum recommended Alan to me, as he has a very articulate voice, full of dulcet tones. Alan generously donated his time and voice for this project.

I offered to go to Alan to record in his home. With me I brought a variety of sound recording equipment, along with my laptop. The two most vital pieces were the microphone and preamp.

The microphone I used is the Shure SM7B. This is a condenser mic first made in 1974 – it’s been in popular in the recording industry and radio use ever since. The mic has a reputation has an excellent vocal mic, especially for men, though its applications are flexible. The mic is frequently used by radio presenters as it gives them a warm and full-bodied sounding voice. I thought this mic would be ideal, being one of the best in my collection, in addition to its pleasant tone.

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The Shure SM7B

The preamp I used is the Golden Age Project Pre-73 (hereby referred to as the GAP73). A preamp provides gain to the microphone, in order to bring its amplitude up to a recording level. Not all preamps are the same however, and preamps may be prized for their transparency, or how they colour a sound. The GAP 73 is a modern take on the vintage Neve 1173 preamp. The sound is fairly coloured, creating an extra warm tone, while still keeping excellent definition. I find its characterful sound really complements the SM7B.

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The front plate of the GAP73

Hailee had prepared the script from Jill’s research, which I had also proofread. There were around 60 points in all, each lasting between 20 seconds to a minute or more, though most erred on the shorter side. Thankfully recording with Alan went perfectly, as he is an excellent speaker, and the process took less than 2 hours, from setup to completion (though much time was spent having a good chat with Alan!)

I recorded, edited and mixed the audio in Avid Pro Tools 12, my preferred DAW of choice. Editing involved topping and tailing each audio clip, as well as cutting out breaths or mouth noise. For mixing, I used a variety of plugins to enhance the audio and give it a professional quality:

RBass: this plugin is especially useful on spoken word vocals, especially when they have to stand on their own. The plugin generates low frequency harmonics from the source, giving it a deeper and more solid sound.

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Fabfilter Pro-Q: the Pro-Q is my go to EQ plugin, as its very versatile, yet easy to use. Using this I cut any super-low or subharmonic frequencies (less than 40Hz) and also dipped the low mids around 250Hz. This ensured that the low-end was under control but and made the low-mids a bit clearer.

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Slate Digital VMR: the Virtual Mix Rack by Slate contains a variety of plugin modules on one plugin slot. In this case, I used the Virtual Console Collection mix buss plugin, which emulates the sound the summing amplifier of a mix buss of a vintage console (the model I chose is a Neve). This imparts a subtle sonic change that is very pleasing, lightly adding some harmonics and giving the low and high ends a nice finish. I then used Revival, which further added some crispness and clarity to the top and some fullness to the low-mids.

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Fabfilter Pro-C: again from Fabfilter, my go-to compression plugin, especially when a smooth and transparent compression is required. This plugin levelled off Alan’s voice, giving a more consistent amplitude – lowering phrases or syllables that are too loud, which simultaneously raising ones that are too quiet.

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Fabfilter Pro-L: this limiter plugin was used to provide a standard loudness across all the audio clips. Like the Pro-C is has excellent transparency. In this case, I brought the clips up to a peaking value of -6dBFS, which still leaves headroom for any other audio sources to occur simultaneously.

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It’s all well and good to write about audio, but it can only truly be understood with our ears! Unfortunately, this blog cannot host audio, so you’ll just have to listen to Alan’s lovely voice on the app itself!

 

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