Learn Na'vi > Audio

How To Record Spoken Na'vi Dialog (and Other Useful Audio Stuff)

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This post is here to give people a link to useful tools and software to use to record their voice. It also includes a tutorial on how I go about recording my voice and tips and tricks I've learned.

Note, I am only an amateur voice actor and general computer hobbyist and am by no means an expert in vocal recordings, please let me know if there something I say that should be corrected.

Tools I Recommend:

First off, you need something record with. A headset or computer microphone will do but will not be optimal. I personally suggest that, by far, the best investment you can make would be a new microphone. Don't worry, you don't have to spend much, hardly anything really.

I personally use a Guitar Hero: World Tour USB mic (no joke). It's basically a generic USB microphone. It will record decent audio but will pick up a fair amount of background noise, wind noise, and is really bad with plosives (p's and b's). This is what I would get to start out with if you have one laying around since it's not hard to work around the flaws.

If you don't have one laying around here's probably the best deal for a USB microphone: http://chinagrabber.com/desktop-laptop-pc-computer-performance-microphone-mic-with-stand---mic-stand.aspx For $14+S/H with a desktop stand, that's darn good. Look around though, this was just the fruit of a half hour google search and I'm sure there are better deals or higher quality microphones out there.

If you have some money I would suggest purchasing the following upgrades (in this order):

* Microphone cover - $2 (foam cover for the microphone, but only get this if you're getting a lot of noise from wind/air movement)
* Pop filter - $15-30 (this is your biggest upgrade you can get for a low/medium quality mic, more on pop-filters below)
* Mic stand - $20 (pretty much required once you get a pop filter)
* Better microphone - $50 and up (I'm not the best authority on mics so I'd Google to find what best suits your needs/budget)
Okay, so you got your tools, now you need something to record onto. For this you need a computer, which I'll assume you have, and some software. For this, you may have a decent program already installed from various sound cards or whatever. Try those out and see what features they have but it will be hard to beat the free program Audacity: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Go there and download their program and the codec to do mp3's and you're in business.

Using Your Microphone:

First off, set your recording volume. You want it to be so that your mic is within a few inches of your face and it records about 50%-70% of the maximum volume of the recording when you're speaking at a normal speaking voice (like you are talking to someone 10 feet away).

Next, position your mic. If you have a floor stand set it up so that you can talk in a natural position. Standing is better for your voice but obviously sitting is more comfortable. If you use a desktop stand then you want to put it on something that won't vibrate and away from electronic and magnetic sources. Also, obviously, avoid putting it next to something that makes noise such as computer case fans, CD drives, etc. If you have a headset mic then make sure you don't bump or move the mic while recording (also, position it as discussed below). If you have no stand then hold the mic in your hand, don't place it on something, and be very careful not to move the mic while you're talking since this will create wind noise (a mic cover will help out a lot with this).

Next, position yourself. If you have a low/medium quality mic without a pop filter you'll want to position the mic so that it's pointed at your mouth but you never are actually talking directly at it, basically you should be able to breath out like you're blowing out a candle and the mic will pick up only the ambient noise (if your mic overloads or registers a loud sound, move the mic more out of the way). The reason we do this is because plosive sounds (b and p are the worst) involve a sudden burst of air which will be transmitted by most mics. Make sure you check it's position for breathing out of your nose as well as your mouth (for many mics you may find it's best to have the mic above your mouth/nose pointed downward).

About pop filters: A pop filter is essentially a finely woven screen on a flexible boom that goes in-front of the mic. It disrupts air currents and removes breath noise with very minor impact on sound quality. They allow you to talk directly into the mic giving better recording dynamics and much more natural sounding recorded voices. They're fairly cheap and really help audio quality, you'll need something to attach it to though so a mic stand is all but required. If you don't want to buy one you can make one using the tutorial here for about $10: http://www.jakeludington.com/project_studio/20050321_build_your_own_microphone_pop_screen.html

Other stuff: make sure you practice different techniques such as standing vs sitting, mic positions/distances, volumes, etc. Also, if you have the option, use headphones and set your computer to play your audio back to you as you're recording, this way you can actually hear what you sound like to the computer rather than yourself (just make sure your headphones aren't so loud that the mic picks it back up). Another reason to use headphones is they make it easier to pick up flaws when listening back to recordings.

Tips to Recording Your Voice:

Your voice sounds terrible...at least it does to you. Seriously, nobody likes the sound of their own voice when it's played back to them (or they might but I'm sure they can come up with things they wish were better). That said, keep in mind that what you hear is going to be different from what other people hear so just because you don't like it doesn't mean it isn't good. There are some things you can do to make your voice better though and they are fairly easy.

First off, be comfortable. Wither sitting or standing you don't want to feel weird doing it. You also DO NOT want to feel like you're talking into a mic. This is the biggest thing people do wrong. What? You say that's hard because the mic is 3 inches from your mouth and you're either staring at it or at the little green graph of your voice on the screen. BAD! WRONG! KEHE! You're obviously imagining that you're going to at some point learn the Na'vi language (just kidding, you're doing great!) so use that great imagination and pretend that you're not talking into a mic but rather to your best friend who's looking you in the eye and is standing 10 feet in front of you. Do not look at the computer screen, do not look at the mic, look straight ahead (or at a script if you must have one) and talk naturally. Again, many people talk one way to people and A COMPLETELY different way to a mic. My personal habits are to raise my voice pitch and talk quietly when I use a mic. Bad me! Fix this habit before it becomes a habit.

Second, same as the above, can't stress this enough.

Third, don't move your head, or move it as little as possible, this will create a uniform volume through-out the recording. This can be hard with the next one though.

Forth, be animated and dynamic (with some exceptions). You don't talk all monotone in a conversation so why should you do the same to a mic? Pretend you're having a conversation with the computer, move your arms, raise your voice, yell, whisper, smile, laugh, etc. Just do all this while not moving your head (as much as possible). Now, that said, this is a place for learning a language and, as such, if you're trying to teach pronunciation or whatnot you want to speak slowly and clearly. Not necessarily monotone but more just even and uniform. However, if you're doing a phrase or a song or whatever by all means be dynamic. For example, the line from the movie "mawey Na'viyä, mawey" (calm people, calm) is not said "mawey Na'viyä mawey" but rather "MAwey Na'viyä! MAwey!" if that makes any sense.

Finally, do many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many takes. Just don't do too many. Record enough takes that you have at least 3 or so lines that you felt were as good as you're gonna get it. Don't do so many that you get "bored" with the line otherwise you'll lose any dynamic voice and become a monotone robot saying the same line exactly the same way over and over. It helps to not even stop recording between each take, just say the same thing over and over. Once you're done, crop out any obviously bad ones and listen to whats left, find one you like and crop out the rest.

Software Tips and Tricks:

They all vary so I'm going to be very general here. First off, get to know the program, fiddle with each tool and know what most of them do BEFORE trying to record stuff. If it has an equalizer mess with it. If it has background noise reduction play with it (usually reduces audio quality though).

A good tip is to remember that silence is your friend. You can never record silence, no matter how hard you try you're going to get noise. However, the computer can make silence perfectly! So, make friends with the "insert silence" tool. Then, between sections of dialog delete the recorded "silence" with all it's annoying hisses and inset some real silence. But now you have a bunch of sharp cut-offs you say? No problem, that's what the fade in and fade out tools are for. Just select the last remaining bit of recorded "silence" and fade it in or out. This will make your recordings sound SO much crisper.

Also, get used to cutting sections out, re-recording them, and splicing them back in. It's hard but if done right it will make recording go faster since you can keep the best parts from multiple recordings.

Finally, keep in mind that mp3 is a lossy format, if you have the HD space record to wav files and edit those then export to an mp3 only when you're finally done. Keep both file types so that you can make future edits to the wav file and re-export. Don't send people wav files unless you have to since they take up a fair amount of space per file when compares to mp3s.

Putting your Stuff on the Net:

The most bothersome part. First off, how many people are going to view the file? Less than a few people per day? Try using box.net, excellent free file sharing site (but it limits number of downloads per time period). More than that? I'd suggest putting it in a video an uploading it to YouTube since most people probably already have a YouTube account, you can throw some interesting pictures or the written text in there then. Other sites are www.talknavi.com and www.archive.org (unlimited upload and download but a pain to use) and various podcast hosting sites. Last resort is the forums. Yes you can attach the file and this is okay if it's temporary, small, NOT-COPYRIGHTED, and/or will only be downloaded a few times but the above hosting sites are preferred.

Further Reading:


Yeah, I suppose I should invest a better mic set up.

'Awve Tìkameie:
Thank you for this post!
This is exactly what I needed for my project! Irayo! (+1 Karma)

Na'ríng Tsmuke:
wow, this is great

Eaite Randjam:
I agree with the other replies to your topic.  This was helpful for me, even though I already do recordings already.  I too fall victim to my own bad habits; I often speak much quieter and actually try to smooth out my voice instead of speaking naturally.  Doh!



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