Archive for the ‘Voice’ Category

5 Questions For Professional VOs

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

5Q:VOThe remarkably talented (and very energetic) Peter O’Connell has been doing a very cool thing lately with his blog. He’s been sending a set of five questions to professional voice actors and posting their responses on his blog. He’s posted entries from a bunch of REALLY talented people and they’re all worth reading.

I was incredibly pleased and humbled to get an email from Peter not long ago, asking for ME to respond to the blog series. I had been following it with great interest and had not anticipated being asked to participate. Needless to say, I was “chuffed to bits” as my friend Peter Bishop would say.

So, go ahead and check out my responses to the Five Questions for Professional Voice Actors!

I’d also like to extend my personal thanks to Peter O’Connell for asking me to participate. It was a lot of fun, and I’ve been enjoying everyone else’s responses- I look forward to more!


The Business Of Voice Acting

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

In which I discuss how the voice acting business is, in fact, exactly that.


So, You Want To Be A Voice Actor?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Kicking off a new video series, I have some commentary on what it takes to be a voice actor.


Character Studies

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Had a good idea this morning, and plan to put it into action shortly. Character studies!

See, I’ve had a challenge with my audiobook demos and work. I can do male voices passingly well, and can narrate like nobody’s business. However, my female characters really need some work, and I also want to be able to have a “stable” of character voices I can implement on demand.

With that in mind, I’m going to spend part of this afternoon behind the mic recording the same piece of copy in various character voices, working on getting each one consistent, different and (the hard bit, I think) believable.

I’ll see about putting up some excerpts, and I’m looking forward to the exercise.

Setting Up a Phone Patch, Part Deux

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

If you read my previous post about setting up Skype as a phone patch, you may have had some questions.

Spock detects win

Well, make it so!

Well, so did a few others! I’ve been helping Amy Snively (the driving force behind FaffCon!) get her studio set up with a Skype patch. After a few hours on Skype walking her through plugging all the cables in and doing tests of one sort and another, we had win. 

Based on what we learned, there turned out to be a couple of issues with the setup I proposed before. Nothing truly major, but I thought it would be worthwhile to make another post detailing what an on-the-ground setup actually entails and how it worked.

Issues We Ran Into

Here’s some of the things we hit:

Recording and Editing on Separate Systems. Amy uses a different system for recording on than she does for editing. Also, Skype doesn’t run on the recording system, it runs on the edit box.

Playback of Recorded Audio During a Session is Required. My original setup doesn’t support the ability to play back anything you’ve recorded without disabling your ability to hear the other end. Somewhat less than optimal!

The Setup

Here’s what we set up with Amy’s studio, using a MicPort Pro and an Allen and Heath ZED-10 mixer.

Skype Patch Setup

The Whole Enchilada. Click the picture for a larger version.

The microphone runs to a MicPort Pro, which in turn is the interface used on the recording system. The MicPort has a headphone connector, a 3.5mm (1/8″) standard stereo jack. For this setup, we ran a 3.5mm stereo to 1/4″ mono cable from the headphone jack on the MicPort Pro to the line in on Channel M1 of the mixer.

Next, we connected the mixer to the mic input for the system that Skype runs on. This system in Amy’s case is also her editing system, using an outboard M-Audio MobilePre USB interface. We don’t use that for Skype, but rather the onboard soundcard (the cheap generic pretty much every motherboard sold has built-in). A dual RCA to 3.5mm stereo cable runs from the Monitor Out connections on the mixer to the Mic In connection on the Skype system.

We needed to get sound from the Skype pc back to the mixer, so we took a 3.5mm stereo to dual 1/4″ mono cable and ran it from the Headphone Out on the Skype PC to the Left/Right inputs of the ST1 Channel on the mixer.

To hear what’s going on during recording and to hear the remote party on Skype, the headphones are plugged into the Phones jack of the mixer. The overall volume in the cans is adjusted with the headphone level knob.

The signal coming in to Channel M1 of the mixer is the combination of the monitor and any playback from the recording PC. Channel M1 should have both the Record and Listen buttons punched on- on many other mixers this would be like having the Mute/Alt 3-4 button punched off (thereby sending the signal to the main bus). The level of the signal from the recording system can be adjusted with the fader knob.

The signal coming in to Channel ST1 of the mixer is what’s coming from the other person(s) in your Skype call. The level of this can be adjusted with the fader knob on that channel. It’s critical that the Record button be OFF, while the Listen button be on, or the remote party will hear a loopback of their own audio and you’ll have feedback. For other mixers, this would be the equivalent of setting the Mute/Alt 3-4 button punched to on, thereby sending the signal to the secondary bus.

The overall signal sent to the Skype system can be managed with the Monitor Level knob. The Monitor Source switch must be set to Mix, or there will be a feedback loop for the Skype user on the other end.

For this setup, once the live recording is done, people on Skype hang up and the files are transferred to the editing system. To prevent problems with feedback, the Record button on the M1 channel should be punched to off, or the mixer should be turned off or the Monitor Level knob turned all the way down. Otherwise the signal from the microphone can be routed to the editing system and back to the mixer through the monitor speakers, resulting in nasty feedback.

Scenarios and Settings

I want to mute the other people on Skype. Punch the “Listen” button off on Channel ST1 or turn down the fader on it.

I want to keep the people on Skype from hearing me while I talk to someone else. Punch the Record button to off on Channel M1 or turn the Monitor Level knob all the way down.

I use a different interface for recording, not a MicPort Pro. If your interface has a 1/4″ headphone output you can get a 1/4″ stereo to 1/4″ mono cable, or you can run from the line outputs of your interface to the line of the mixer. If you have specific equipment questions, post them in the comments and I’ll offer what suggestions I can.

Criticism and You

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

I spoke today with the lovely and talented Amy Snively, as I am helping her set up a phone patch similar to the one I blogged about recently.

During our conversation I mentioned that I was preparing to cut a demo reel with a copywriter and producer and she offered me a ton of great advice and feedback, which I have communicated the relevant bits to the copywriter who’s working on my demo reel scripts. It’s wonderful to get good feedback from people who know what they’re talking about- and by “good” I mean “honest”. I can hear what I want to hear from anyone, but it’s important to hear what I need to hear.


Feedback- The Breakfast of Champions.

Feedback- The Good Kind

As actors, it’s crucial that we get feedback on our performance and skills. This is one of the ways in which we improve, and one of the best places to get feedback is from your peers. In fact, allow me to go one step further and say that it’s not one of the best places, it’s the best place to get it.

However, something I’ve noticed in my journey through this strange world of voice acting is that there are a lot of people who can’t take feedback or constructive criticism well- or at all! No, I haven’t been snarked at by someone for criticizing them, this is something I’ve observed with other novice VOs who ask for a critique of something, and then argue with the criticism, or think people are being rude, or what have you.

Protip: don’t ask for feedback if you’re just going to ignore it or worse, reject it.


What are you prepared to learn?

Part of improving any craft, and especially one as subjective as acting- and make no mistake, voice actors are actors first, voices second- is being able to accept and incorporate feedback gracefully and willingly. Not all feedback is correct, and not all feedback is actionable. Your job as an actor is to determine what you should take up and what you should discard.

No matter what, though- always accept it with grace and aplomb. Thank the person, ask them to clarify if necessary but don’t reject it out of hand.  You don’t have to agree with someone’s feedback, but you should always be open to it. Never argue that someone’s critique of your work is wrong; subjective opinion is never wrong, it’s just a subjective opinion. If someone takes the time to provide honest feedback, thank them for their time- even if they were negative (especially if they were negative).

Corey’s Rules of Requesting Feedback


The Rules!

1. Ask Nicely.You would be amazed at how far people will go to help you out if you’re nice to them. Do what your parents taught you- say “please” and “thank you”. Recognize that when you’re asking for criticism you’re essentially asking professionals to take time they could be using to get paid to help you out. You’re not entitled to feedback, unless you’re paying someone for it like a voice coach, and even then you should be polite.

2. Make it Easy (or: Don’t Make it Hard). If you want people to listen to your demo, give them a link to it or in some way make it as simple as possible to hear it. Don’t link them to another page they have to click through. Make it as dirt-simple as it can be. Save people time and effort and they’ll be happier with you, and they’ll be more likely to help you out.

3. Be Specific. If you want someone to listen to a couple of recordings to compare the quality of two mics, tell them that so they don’t listen to it and give you feedback about how you read the copy. Tell people what you’re soliciting feedback for so they can help you out (see rule #2!).

4. Be Patient. Nobody’s going to just drop everything they’re doing and rush to listen to your recording within 5 minutes of you posting it or if you handed them a CD/flash drive they’re not going to rush back to their system so they can play it right then and there. Give folks a chance to find some time to sit down and check out what you’re asking them to look at.

Corey’s Rules for Receiving Feedback

When you get feedback from someone, keep these in mind.

1. Be Open. If you don’t want to hear the answer, don’t ask the question. Be prepared to hear things you don’t want to, and be prepared to take action on them.

2. Be Objective. Don’t be emotional. You’re trying to improve your craft here, and feedback should be taken in that context. If someone critiques your work in a negative manner, remember that they’re critiquing the work, not you. You can make improvements to the work, which is why you wanted the critiques.

3. Listen, listen, listen. Read it twice. Hear what you’re being told, and really parse it. If someone mixes both positive and negative in a critique, listen to both.

Corey’s Questions for Receiving Feedback

When you ask for someone to give you their opinion, it would behoove you to listen to that opinion. What you do then is up to you, but ask yourself these questions when someone offers you a critique.

1. Is it Constructive?. Constructive criticism is meant to help you, even if it’s not positive. If someone says “That sucks!” and nothing more, it’s not terribly constructive. If you hear “That sucks- you need to change X, Y and Z”, then hey- it’s not positive, but it’s constructive. You can take up the criticism and do something with it, which leads us to…

2. Is it Actionable? Criticism is great, but only if you can actually do something with it. If someone criticizes your work in a way that you can’t take concrete action to address, ask them to clarify. As above, if someone said “That sucked, you need to change X”, but doesn’t say how, then you’ve got constructive but not actionable, criticism. Ask the person to clarify it into something actionable. What can you do to address the issue?

3. Is it Correct? This is a tough one. Just because someone offers you a piece of criticism that’s constructive and actionable doesn’t mean you should take it up. Neither should you ignore it. This is where the Be Objective rule comes into play. Is the person’s criticism accurate? Should you take it up? Only you can answer this question, but I strongly urge you to take relative experience and any other factors into account, but leave your emotional investment out of it as much as you can.

Walking the Talk

I did some demos once. I self-produced them, believing I had the skill to do it correctly. I was wrong, and I was told so by some very kind people including the aforementioned Amy and Scott Pollak, who told me in no uncertain terms that the quality of my work on them was subpar.

Was I happy to hear that? Of course not. Did I let it ruin my day? Again, of course not. I’m not some übermensch with no emotional investment in what I do and it took me a bloody week to put those things together.  It wasn’t pleasant to hear that they were, essentially, crap. But it was the truth. Facts don’t give a damn about our feelings.

Armed with what I knew and had learned, I pulled my demos and went back to the books, so to speak. I’ve since been training, learning, reading and talking with voice actors of every stripe. The experience was valuable because it’s important to be able to make mistakes, learn from them and move on. I didn’t take it personally, because that would do me no good.

Requirement #1: Thick Skin

If you want to be a successful voice artist, the first thing you have to do is toughen up that hide. Rejection, criticism and lots of competition make it a brutal business if you’re not able to rise above the fact that quite often for whatever reason you simply won’t be chosen.

Asking for and receiving feedback is critical to anyone’s success as a voice actor. Being able to process and take that feedback in and do something with it is even more critical.

A Red Letter Day

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Today, even though I have a fever and feel like 5 miles of bad road, is a great day. I’m moving ahead with getting a professional demo reel cut and as part of that elected to get a professional copywriter to write me some custom scripts for my reel.

As many VOs will tell you, your demo reel is your business card, it’s your hook for your potential clients. A bad one, or even just an average one, will hurt you- which is why I pulled the self-produced demos I did a while back from this very site.

There’s 3 major components to your demo reel: Your voice, the production, and the script. I have the voice, I’ve hired a producer to put it together, and then I was faced with trying to figure out the script. I considered pulling some from real radio or magazine ads, then rewriting them- that was marginally useful but when I was honest with myself I realized I simply am not that good a copywriter.

My demo reel producer recently put me in touch with a professional copywriter to get custom scripts for my reel written. After reviewing his samples and some of his other work, I was quickly sold- the quality for the price was far better than I could do myself and I have no trouble knowing when to buy something I can’t do easily on my own.

The reason today is a great day is because I’ll be speaking with the copywriter and drafting the script list and after seeing the samples he sent I’m looking forward to the copy he comes up with for my reel.

The next big step will be to actually get the reel produced. I’m very excited that things are moving forward!

Setting Up a Phone Patch

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
How do you get this to work with a phone? (Credit: Michael Rhys)

In this post I’m going to describe how you can set up a simple remote phone patch which allows a remote client to work with you in realtime as you record. This type of setup is invaluable for any voiceover artist working out of a home studio.  

Once you’ve set up your studio with this configuration a remote engineer/producer can call you on the phone, you will hear them in your headphones and they will hear your voice from your VO microphone. You record your audio to your local system as normal while they can provide direction and feedback. The remote audio isn’t recorded, just as though the engineer was in the next room and talking to you in your cans.  

Cool, huh? Let’s get started. A quick note: The instructions in this post are excruciatingly detailed. I broke down everything into basic details and provided a lot of background information, so it may seem longer than it should be. I also assumed you have little or no technical background, so some of this may already be stuff you know.  

Disclaimer: I’m not responsible if you can’t get this to work or if you break your equipment trying to do so. Nothing described here should be risky to any decent audio equipment but anything you do based on this post is at your own risk. 🙂  

I’m here, he’s there!

In the modern voiceover world, the voiceover talent is often not in the same location as the customer. You may find yourself in Seattle doing a recording for someone in Los Angeles, for example. In such a situation, how do you work closely with the producer and engineer as you might do in a studio?  

Normally, when you’re in a recording studio, the engineer and producer park it at the mixing board and can listen to what you’re saying. You’ve got headphones on so they can talk to you to provide direction and feedback. Not exactly practical when you’re 1500 miles apart!  

Many technologies exist to address this scenario- some more expensive than others. The setup I describe here is quite easy to do with most home audio recording setups using the kind of gear you’d find in a home VO studio.  

The Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to use this type of setup. Depending on what gear you currently have you may have other options- feel free to hit me up in comments for suggestions on your setup.   

The Computer

You will need a computer with onboard sound- doesn’t matter if it’s a Mac or a PC, as long as it has its own audio inputs and outputs. This may or may not be the PC you do your recording on, you can just as easily do this with two PCs. It does have to have an unused set of audio connections- a mic input and a sound output. This is the system you’ll be running Skype on. If you have a second system for your recording, don’t make any changes to that.  

My Computer With Audio Connections Highlighted

Most PCs have more than one set of inputs.

 Here’s a picture of my system, which you can see has two sets of audio jacks (well, you’ll have to take my word on the ones in the back). I use the set on the front for my normal headphone/mic combo, which is what I use for gaming and just normal use- I don’t use that headset for any voice recordings (but it’s great for playing Team Fortress 2!). The rear jacks are hooked up to my mixer, allowing me to listen to Skype calls while recording separately.   

The Mixer

Behringer Xenyx X1204 USB

Behringer Xenyx X1204 USB

The next thing you’ll need is an external mixer with: aux send(s), a stereo input channel, a second bus (sometimes referred to as an alt bus) and a USB/FireWire output to your system. Some examples of mixers you might use are the Behringer Xenyx X1204, the Allen and Heath ZED-10, and the Mackie Onyx 820i Firewire mixer. This is by no means an exhaustive list and many other options exist.  

I personally use the Behringer X1204 Xenyx USB, pictured to the left. Any of the ones I’ve mentioned, or any mixer with a digital interface, aux sends and an input channel supporting stereo input will work.  


You’ll need cables to connect your mixer and soundcard. For most configurations you will need these two cables:  

3.5mm Stereo Male to Dual 1/4" Mono Male Cable

3.5mm Stereo Male to Dual 1/4" Mono Male Cable

  A 3.5mm Male Stereo to Dual Mono 1/4″ Male Cable. It looks like the picture on the right. It might or might not say TIP and RING on the dual ends, but it can be helpful for making sure you get the left and right stereo channels correct. Ring/Red is right, Tip/Grey is left.  

This cable will be used to connect your Skype audio output to a secondary channel on your mixer. Because of this it’s important that your mixer have a stereo Line In channel. On most mixers there will be one or two channels like that. It’ll usually have a name like LINE IN 5/6 or LINE IN 7/8. Note that your main mic/instrument channels are mono and you can’t simply plug a stereo signal into them.  

3.5mm Stereo to 1/4" Mono Patch Cable

3.5mm Stereo to 1/4" Mono Patch Cable

A Male Mono 1/4″ to Male Stereo 3.5mm Cable. It looks like the picture on the left. Make sure it’s mono on the 1/4 end and stereo at the 3.5mm end. This cable is what we run from the Aux Send on your mixer to the mic input on your PC. 

Both of these cables are available in any audio store or your local music shop, and come in varying lengths and prices. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on these- they’re going to be carrying a telephone-quality signal, so don’t go buy some uber-expensive supercables or something.

Make sure the cables are long enough, though! Nothing’s more frustrating than not having enough cable to run from your PC to the mixer. So measure your distance or at least eyeball it before you buy the cables.

You can find both of these cables online as well- the 3.5mm(1/8″) stereo to 1/4 mono is here, and the 3.5mm(1/8″) stereo to dual 1/4 mono is here. (these are just sample links, I’m not endorsing the website in question, and you can find these all over if you dig around)


Skype Logo


 You’ll need a Skype account (optionally with a phone number) and the Skype software, plus whatever software you normally use for recording. You could theoretically use any VOIP software that can accept phone calls to your system- I only provide instructions here for Skype but feel free to try other VOIP solutions if you prefer!  You have various options for your Skype account, depending on whether you want to have a phone number that people can call or only wish to be able to dial outbound to phone numbers.  

Of course, if your remote engineer/producer is on Skype, it’s moot- you can just do a direct Skype call. Win!  

Running the Cables

Make sure your mixer is turned off for now.  

 Take the 3.5mm stereo to 1/4″ mono cable (the one with one plug at both ends) and locate the port on your mixer marked Aux Send or Aux Sends. You might have two of them, or one might be labeled FX Send. If you have an Aux and FX Send, use the Aux one.

Here’s the Aux Sends on a Behringher Xenyx series mixer. This is on the upper right portion of the mixer. Plug your cable into the top one.  

Aux Sends highlighted on a Behringer Xenyx X1204 mixer

The Aux Sends on a Behringer Xenyx X1204

Here’s the Aux Sends on a Mackie Onyx 820i.  

Aux Sends on an Onyx 820i

Aux Sends on an Onyx 820i

Here’s the Aux Send (there’s only one) on an Allen and Heath ZED10.  

Aux Send on the ZED 10

Aux Send on the ZED 10

 As you can see, varying mixers tend to have the same or very similar names for the inputs and outputs. If you’re using a different mixer and it’s not immediately obvious where the Aux Send is, check your documentation.  

Once you’ve located the Aux Send on your mixer, plug in the 1/4″ (mono) end of the 1/4″ mono to 3.5 mm stereo cable into it. Next, run the cable’s 3.5mm end to your PC and plug it in to the microphone jack you’re planning on using. This might be on the back of the computer if you want to use the secondary connections on your system (I use the primary ones on the front for other stuff, personally).  

Now take the other cable- the 3.5 mm stereo male to dual 1/4″ mono one and locate your mixer’s Line In 5/6 channel or its equivalent. It might have a name like Stereo Input Channel or ST 1 or other names depending on your mixer. Most mixers have several instrument/mic inputs and one or two “line” inputs which instead of a mono signal like you get from a mic or guitar, have a left and right channel. That’s what you’re looking for. 

Here’s the Line In 5/6 channel on the Behringer Xenyx X1204.  

The Line In 5/6 Channel on a Behringer Xenyx X1204

The Line In 5/6 Channel on a Behringer Xenyx X1204.

Here’s the Line In on the Onyx 820i.  

The Line In 5/6 Channel on an Onyx 820i

The Line In 5/6 Channel on an Onyx 820i.

Here’s the Stereo 1 channel on the ZED10.  

Stereo Channel 1 on a Zed 10

Stereo Channel 1 on a Zed 10.

 You should consult your mixer’s documentation if you can’t easily determine which channel to use.  

Plug your two mono connectors- they may be labeled TIP and RING and they may be colored red and grey/black/white. The one labeled TIP and/or colored red goes in the right channel, the one labeled RING and/or colored grey/black/white goes into the left channel.  

Run the 3.5mm end of this cable to your PC and connect it to the headphone jack you plan to use. This might be on the back or the front depending on your system and your needs. I suggest you use the partner of the one you’re using for the microphone- that is, if you’re using the rear mic jack, use the rear headphone jack.  

Adjusting the Mixer Settings

This part is pretty important, so read it carefully. If you get these settings incorrect you either won’t hear anything or you’ll hear a lot more than you wanted to- or worse, you’ll blow out the eardrums of your partners on the phone with you. Feedback sucks.  

We need to set your mixer to do a few things: Send a part of your normal recording input to the Aux Sends. This will pipe a portion of the signal from your expensive condenser mic or whatever you use for your voice recording to the mic input on your PC. We’ll also need to make sure the return signal is at a proper level and that it’s routed so that you can hear it on your headphones but it doesn’t go to the mix output.  

Easy enough- read on!  

Setting the Aux Send Levels

Aux Send Knobs

Aux Send Knobs (Onyx 820i)

 On the channel you pipe your mic or preamp into, locate the knob labeled Aux Send, Aux, or similar. Turn this to about 25%- that’s just a starting point, we’ll adjust it below when we play with Skype. If your mixer provides an FX Send and you don’t use any external effects processor (and if you do, you’re probably not needing to read this tutorial!), turn it down.  

On the Line In 5/6 or Stereo channel- the one you ran the two 1/4″ mono jacks to in the previous step- locate a knob labeled Aux, Aux Send or similar. TURN IT ALL THE WAY DOWN. If there is an FX Send knob on this channel, turn it all the way down also. If you have the Aux Send turned up at all on this channel, you’ll be sending the returned audio from Skype right back to it! That leads to feedback, distortion and pain.  

Setting the Return Levels and monitor

On the channel you sent the output from your PC to- that’s the Line input where you ran the dual-ended cable- we’ll need to make some settings. If your mixer has a level button for the channel (the Behringer Xenyx, for example) set it to the lower option- in my case I use the “up” position which is -10. For other mixers you may have a gain knob. Set it to 0 gain for the time being.  

Next, set the channel to the alt/mute bus. On some mixers you’ll have a button labeled MUTE ALT 3-4 while on others there may be two buttons like Record and Headphones. Make sure the mute button is selected, or if you have two buttons, that the Record one is off while the Headphones/Monitor one is on. This makes it possible for this channel to be heard in your headphones while not being sent to the output!  

Lastly, your mixer probably has a few buttons next to the monitor gain knob. They should have names like MAIN MIXALT 3-4 and possibly USB/Firewire. These buttons determine which “buses” are sent to your headphones. You’ll want to hear both the main mix and the alt bus. If you’re uncertain check your documentation or post a comment below and I’ll see if I can offer any assistance.  

Note: If your mixer has a global gain knob for the Aux Sends (the Behringer does, for example), set it to 0 (zero)- that’s NOT all the way down, that’s in the center for most mixers. 

A Quick Note about Windows and Audio Devices

You may need to tweak your Windows settings for your soundcard to enable extra inputs on your PC- sometimes they’ll be disabled or not useable until you’ve made the proper settings. Unfortunately there are so many possible combinations of these that I can’t tell you exactly how to check yours- in general you can right-click on the speaker icon in the task bar and explore the settings.

If you find yourself stuck and think your Windows settings might be the culprit, drop me a note and I’ll try to provide what assistance I can.

Configuring Skype

Next we’ll set up Skype. We’ll connect Skype’s audio input and output to the mixer’s aux sends and stereo inputs, respectively.  To do this you’ll need to set up your system as though you were going to record. So now you should power up your preamp, your mixer and all your goodies. Get the mic positioned so you can use it while sitting at the system you use Skype on while we do these tests. 

Open the Skype software and click Tools, Options…   

Skype Tools Menu

Select Tools, Options

 On the Options dialog, locate the Audio Settings button on the left.   

Skype Audio Settings Dialog

Select the "Audio Settings" button on the left

 Setting the Skype Mic Level

Next we need to select the proper audio input by picking a “microphone” for Skype to listen to.  

Skype Mic Selection Dialog

Choose your audio input

 You can select from a list of whatever audio inputs your system supports here. Your list will vary from what mine shows here, and you may find that it’s not easy to figure out the right one. Some systems will be much more descriptive- as you can see, mine says very clearly where the mic input is and even describes the color of the connector on the computer’s case.  

You should select the mic input that corresponds to the input you plugged the Aux Send from your mixer into. Once you do this, the bar underneath should show activity when you speak into the mic. I suggest turning off the “automatically adjust” option and just setting the blue dot so the level is about 3/4 up the slider when you’re speaking in a normal tone.  

Not seeing anything happen? No problem! First, check that your mic is on and and all that- confirm that your mixer is sending audio by doing a quick test recording. Next, double-check the mic input you selected.If you’re seeing the bar move when you speak but it’s too low, you can turn up the gain by adusting the Aux Send knob on your mixer’s mic input channel- remember how you set it to about 25% before? Turn it up until you see your voice peaking at about 75-80% on the meter. You can also use the blue button on the gain bar to adjust the volume once it gets to Skype. 

If you’re still not seeing anything, check your PC (the one you use Skype on) and make absolutely certain you’ve got your cables connected to the proper connections. Many PCs have a plethora of audio jacks, making it easy to get your mic/speaker cables swapped or simply connected to the wrong jack. Consult your PC’s documentation if necessary to verify the position of your mic and speaker jacks.

If you’re seeing the bar “pegged” with solid green or it’s constantly active, like it’s picking up every little noise, you can turn the gain down on the Aux Send to compensate or lower the gain in Skype by moving the little knob to the left.

Skype Speaker Dialog

Skype Speaker Dialog.

 Below the microphone settings is a drop-down to select the speaker Skype should route output to. Select the output you connected the Line In channel on your mixer to. This will cause Skype to send its audio output to your mixer, where you can hear it.  

Once you’ve selected the appropriate connection, make sure you’ve got your headphones on and hit the green test button- if you’re configured correctly you’ll hear the Skype ringtone play in your headphones. If it’s too quiet, adjust the volume in Skype or turn up the gain for the Line In channel on your mixer. If it’s too loud, do the reverse.  

If you don’t hear anything, no problem! Check that you chose the right connection in the output. Also make sure you’re monitoring that channel on your mixer, and make sure that the monitor/headphones options on your mixer are set to send the alt bus to your headphones.  

Once you’re happy with the settings, select the Save button on the lower right of the options dialog to return to Skype.   

Putting It All Together

Here’s where Skype really comes into its own. You can adjust your settings and levels without having to get someone to call you by using the Skype Call Testing Service.  

In your Skype contacts you should have the Echo/Sound Test Service listed. Set yourself up as though you were going to record- pretend that the call test service is your engineer or producer and phone it up.  

You’ll hear a woman with a British accent welcome you to the call testing service. Adjust the gain on your Line In channel to your taste- this is how loud your remote partner will sound to you in a real call.  

After a moment you’ll hear a beep- you’ve got about 5-8 seconds to record a few words for posterity. Just speak as though you were recording some copy. When the beep happens again, you’ll hear the audio you recorded played back- this is where you can hear what it will sound like to your remote partner, which allows you to tweak it for greatest quality and optimal sound levels BEFORE you call someone and they complain you’re blasting their eardrums out of their head.  

You can make as many calls to the Skype call test service as you like, and I suggest doing it until you’re happy with the results. I also suggest recording locally as though you were cutting a real track for someone while you’re on the line with the Call Test Service- make sure that on the final recording only your voice comes through, while Skype is only routed to your cans.  


With this setup you can call someone or have them call you via Skype- and even use a real phone number if you pay Skype for it (I do), and your engineer can hear you as you record, provide you direction and feedback and when you’re done you just take the audio you recorded locally and send it on over. Cool, no?  

I hope this little tutorial was helpful! Please let me know if you have any suggestions, questions or criticisms in the comments below- if I missed something or you think something could use clarification, etc, I’d love to hear about it. Also, I’m happy to answer what questions I can about your setup.


Here’s a list of all the product links in the article.


The Neumann U87 photo at the top of this post is copyright © by Michael Rhys and used under a Creative Commons license. See his other photos here:

Faux-Ditions are Being Judged!

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

According to Peter O’Connell’s blog, the entries for the faux-ditions are closed and the judges are putting the top five finalists together.

I think I did a good job on mine– but is it good enough to make it into the finalists? We’ll see! 😀

*crosses fingers*

Update: I wasn’t in the finalists, sadly. But you should head over and vote for who you think is the best of the ones that did make it!

Voiceover Artist’s Circle: Great Success!

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

It's about 60 miles.

Yesterday was the inaugural edition of the Puget Sound Voiceover Artist’s Circle (PSVAC for short, I think). We met in Sea-Tac, which is fairly central to the region. I’m pretty sure that I had to make the longest trek as I live in Olympia so it was about an hour’s drive. 

There were seven people in attendance besides myself, running the gamut from the brand-new at the biz to folks who are working VO professionals. I was the de facto leader having been the guy who organized the thing, but I tried to make it clear that no matter who books the room and sends out the emails, that this is a group of peers.


After the introductions, J. Christopher Dunn started us off by taking us through an abbreviated version of his daily warmup routine, ranging from light stretching exercises to breathing and facial movements, along with vocal limbering-up. Very good stuff, and while I’ve always warmed up the pipes, I never really gave a lot of consideration to warming up the rest of the bod. Carrie Standish and Jen Gosnell added some warmup tips from their opera background.


We learned some great vocal warmups


From there we moved on to some improv exercises. We did a quick game of “Assassin“, which is less about improv and more about having some fun and warming up. I pulled a bunch of improv games from The Encyclopedia of Improv Games, including this one.

Nuclear bomb explosion

That's some seriously fried chicken

Once we got done running around the room a bit like idiots and losing some of the self-consciousness one naturally feels in a new group of people we did another one that I thought would be interesting: Nuclear Bomb Chicken. The idea is that you are a chicken in a chicken coop/house and that a nuclear bomb will land on the place in 30 seconds. If you react as though you know what’s happening, you “lose” (as much as you can lose an improv game).

The purpose was to demonstrate the difference between character and actor, which is something a lot of novice actors have a problem with. In this case, everyone behaved like a perfectly normal chicken.

Next we did some more “serious” improv- that is to say, actual improv games. Specifically we did a game called “Commercial” where we had to invent a commercial product. We agreed to each come back next time with a 15-second spot for the product and do a read of it to the group.


We had to imagine the stage, the camera and well, pretty much everything

Lastly we did one I thought was fun- “Backwards Interview“. In this game you do an interview backwards, allowing people to throw in some fun bits, like “I had no idea you could make a cow do that” and forcing the other to come up with something to justify that response. We paired off and did this for a bit.

Finally we did some cold group reads of a scene from a Sherlock Holmes novel. There were three characters and a narrator in the scene so we did it twice, with two groups of people. The consensus was that it was interesting but we would probably prefer to try a radio script, so it’s easier to parse. Mr. Dunn offered to bring some scripts for the next one, and I look forward to those.

Next Steps and Goals

We also decided that it would be effective to give each meeting a “focus”. The next one will be audiobooks, so each of us will take a book and select a scene from it, get ready and prepare it, then read it to the group at the next meeting, and have a round of feedback. That is something I’m really looking forward to.

The last portion of the time was spent talking about our goals- we went around the room and each of us picked a goal for the next meeting; something we’ll have accomplished by then. Mine is to have a completed commercial and audiobook demo self-produced by then. I know you’re supposed to use pros to do your demos but I can’t afford it right now and I also want to use that fact to do something else- improve my engineering chops. So in the end I’ll get a pro to cut me a demo but there’s no reason I can’t be doing something and getting better while I save my pennies, so to speak.

The other goals ranged from submitting the first audition to launching a blog. We also had an opportunity to discuss what our indivdual goals were as voiceover artists- my Holy Grail is to be a video game VO, while my more reasonable aspiration in the short term is corporate narrations and audiobooks.

In the end, I consider this group to be an astounding success right from the start. The biggest weakness was that this was something I had never tackled before so in coming up with an agenda I wasn’t totally certain what would work and what wouldn’t. However as a group we were able to decide on what we did and didn’t like as well as other activities we can add to the mix.

I’m truly chuffed, as my British friends would say, about this little group. There are other VO’s interested in attending who were unable to make this one, so I’m also looking forward to the group growing some!