There are many mic skills and techniques you need to learn as a voice over artist, one of the first is to learn how not to “pop” the mic. Learning how to reduce your plosives will not only cut editing time but make your engineer and client your best friend.
Plosives are in every script you’ll get. They’re powerful letters like “B”, “P”, “G”, “T”, “D” & “K’s” that can explode into the mic if you release to much air when speaking.
Ok, imagine for a moment that your at your local school summer fete. The sun is shining you’ve had a beer or two, maybe helped out on the BBQ and the main fancy dress event is about to start. The head teacher steps up behind the mic to welcome you all and reveal the winner then POW! Their delivery is ruined by loud popping and banging noises over the PA system. You understood every 3rd word, The moment is lost and you have no idea who won. So, you clap and make your way back to the beer tent. Sound familiar?
We don’t hear these pops in every day life when we’re speaking to each other but the mic hears them all and if these noises spoil a live school fete performance, they’ll definitely cause grief for your engineer in a pro studio situation unless you understand how to control them.
So what causes Popping and what can we do to avoid it?
If you put you hand in front of your mouth while speaking you’ll feel the air hitting your hand because of the expelled air. Simply try saying “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers”. See what I mean?
It’s not a problem in every day conversation, but when 6 to 8 inches away from the mic these air blasts hit it’s diaphragm causing saturation and distortion spoiling that perfect take. The mic’s we use in voice over studios are prone to popping because their diaphragms are big and really, really sensitive, so some form of pop shield is essential to help stop them getting to the mic. It’s also worth mentioning, that even with a pop shield you may still get pops if you’re particularly prone to releasing to much air when speaking. But there are also some other tricks you can use, that when performed correctly will make you “Master of the Mic” and the engineer’s best friend.
Tip *1 – The Cross
Simply talk across the Microphone. Remember plosives are caused by blasts of expelled air hitting the mic’s diaphragm and they’re most audible when your facing forward and talking directly into the Mic. If a script looks like it has lots of plosives, then change your delivery direction. Instead of being right in front of the mic, turn a few inches to the left of right of it. You don’t have to talk out of the side of your mouth, just talk normally. The potential plosives will miss the mic’s diaphragm which will still pick up your voice and the low end richness from your chest.
Tip *2 – The Flick
Whenever a plosive appears in a script flick it to the side. Turning your mouth to the side of the mic then returning to the centre for the rest of your read will help reduce the air blasts. This takes time to perfect and be careful not to go too far off mic as it will change the tone of your delivery.
Tip *3 -The Half Closed Mouth
A simple and effective way to also reduce plosives is to half close your mouth on problem sounds in a script. To practise this technique, put your hand in front of your mouth, and see how much breath is exhaled when you say the problem words.
Tip *4 – The Smile
Smile when you speak, not only will it improve your overall delivery from sounding placed and thoughtful, but it also reduces the pops. A simple smile is a powerful tool.
Tip *5 – The Mic Move
On really tough plosive scripts and especially on an audio book session, move your mic slightly higher so that the air flow misses the mic’s diaphragm so no plosives ever get recorded. The downside is that your vocal sound becomes thinner but this can be corrected by increasing you bottom end (bass) when mixing.