Have you heard the one about the three voice-overs bragging in a bar?
Hearing voice-overs talk is like listening to a Monty Python skit. It can be slightly surreal and silly. One thing’s for sure: many VO’s have opinions. Strong opinions, especially when it comes to gear. Whenever people take themselves too seriously, I’d like to tickle them a little. If you ever plan on messing with the mind of a VO-pro, go to an online voice-over group and type in the following words:
“My condenser has phantom power”, says the guy with the spooky voice.
“My shotgun produces killer demos”, retorts the man in black.
“My ribbon has a suspended diaphragm” , snaps the girl in the Hogan baseball cap.
Waitress: “Anyone ordered a Blue Bottle?”
Unidentified customer: “No, I just got a Snowball.”
“Can I get some MixCubes on the side, please?”
Waitress: “Active or Passive?”
“Hello. I am new to this business and I would appreciate your advice. What’s the best voice-over mic?”
Unknowingly, you just released the beast. If you honestly believe that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is a big deal, wait until you get voice-overs started on their choice of mics…. You’ll soon discover that some VO-Pros suffer from a condition the psychological community calls “Microphone Envy”. So far, there is no sound treatment for this auditory affliction. Here are some of the comments these hired voices might make about their precious sound catchers (in order to protect their identity, I decided to name all of them ‘Mike’).
Gear Geek-Mike: “My mic has a 32 mm gold sputtered thin Mylar capsule.”
If you happen to be in the market for a microphone, these message boards might not be the best place to solicit advice. In fact, I highly recommend not asking anyone for any recommendations. Period. Not online. Not in the shop. Trust me, you’ll sleep much better. Do your own homework instead. Researching mics can be good fun. Why not fire up your laptop on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and listen to a few microphone tests. The fellows on this page always manage to crack me up… They’ll say something like this:
Show-off Mike: “Mine has a retail value of $7,775. I got it for 7 grand on Ebay.”
Frugal Mike: “My cheap Chinese mic sounds almost like your pricey German one.”
Model Mike: “But I cut a deal with the Germans to endorse this microphone”
Macho-Mike: “Mine is bigger and better.”
Nethervoice Mic Test.mp3
(test: courtesy of Nethervoice Test Laboratory)
If this type of shootout still leaves you in the dark, try taking the blindfold test. The authors even provide a pfd form so you can make notes as you listen. I’m not sure how to do that while being blindfolded, so let me know how it goes.
OK, time to take the eyecover off and visit www.howaudio.com. Sound engineer Jeff Dykhouse (no doubt of Dutch descent), posted “Getting good Sound for Voiceover”, a 20-minute microphone throwdown, featuring the Neumann U87, Sennheiser ME66 Shotgun, Sennheiser 421, Rode Podcaster and the MXL UBS .009. It’s actually quite informative, and you can brush up on your Bible studies at the same time!
To end this audio tour, I invite you to visit the online microphone museum, the brain child of retired Professor S.O. Coutant. I’m especially fond of the gallery of “celebrities with various microphones”.
And finally, many of you have asked me what microphone I use to bring home the bacon, which is not an easy thing for a vegetarian…. Well, here’s my pride and joy: the Avantone CK-6 Large Capsule Cardioid FET Condenser Microphone. As you can see, it comes with a custom retro shock mount, an elegantly padded genuine wooden mic box and a padded aluminum storage/travel case.
If you experience a sudden attack of "Microphone Envy", remember this: writing about microphones is like ice skating about food. It doesn't really make sense. Just as you can't get wet from the word water, you don't know if a certain microphone is the one that will flatter your voice the most by merely reading about it or by staring at a picture. You've got to give it a spin and use your ears.
So, have you heard the one about the two voice-overs in a bar?
With tears in his eyes, the first one exclaims: "Why did Don LaFontaine have to go before his time? It is so unfair." The other one thought about it for a moment, took a deep but silent voice-over breath, and replied: "I guess God wanted his voice back!"
If you enjoyed this article, I invite you to visit my Double Dutch blog. It's packed with tips, anecdotes and insights.Whether you're a voiceover newbie or one of my more experienced colleagues, I'm sure you'll find it entertaining, amusing and thought-provoking!