Back when I was developing my photography hobby (did you see what I did there?), I used Ken Rockwell’s site as an Oracle. Well, maybe just as an oracle – I didn’t buy everything he said, but he did say a lot of worthwhile stuff. Two things I still keep in mind from his style of wisdom:
- Bad cameras can still take good pictures
- Get good glass
Good results from bad
You have certainly heard or seen something in your life, even recently, that impressed you or at least made an impact on you, where the quality of the product seemed to be incongruously juxtaposed with the quality of the object that produced it. Back when, it might have been a striking Polaroid picture. Maybe a beautiful song from a ragged out guitar (think Willie Nelson), or an insightful document from Word. Something where, effectively, the whole was more than the sum of the parts.
This is what Rockwell was getting at – it is possible to make something great from something not so great. You don’t have to have the smoothest voice, the Neumann microphone, the $800 microphone boom arm, and eXtreme ProTools+ Deluxe v 24 for Enterprise. You can generate good vocal performances with a reasonable budget – maybe even with what you already own!
Spend it where you need it
Secondly, all things considered, when you spend dollars on your hobby (or vocation), prioritize it where it makes the most sense. In photography, a flaky lens will deliver flaky results on any camera body. You can’t fix the image that goes through bad glass. Not even in post. Not to match good glass.
When you spend dollars on your Voice over Work, put it in the right spot. A bad microphone can not be fixed in the mix or when mastering or by other plug-ins and processes. You might be able to mitigate the problems, but the more you have to process, the more degradation you open yourself up to.
Face it, though. The microphone might not be the weak spot for you. Maybe a vocal coach is more important for your situation. Or a DAW with enough power to process your recordings.
The difficult part here? Finding the weak point in your process. Being honest and objective in order to say, “I love that mic, but it’s holding me back.” Or, “That software looks so much cooler than this free one.” And don’t forget, “Why do I make so much mouth noise?”
Try not to spend your cash on the fad described in a current podcast or blog post. If you can’t spot your weak point, ask a friend or fellow Voice over Worker, and they may very well give you a 12 point checklist! Identify the things with the greatest ROI and start there. You might not even have to lay out any cash at all…
(To be concluded)