Hands on: On the RØDE with Sound Studio 4

Keith White
15 April, 2014
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I recently recorded a couple of voiceovers for a series of short documentaries I’m working on. My setup is pretty simple. MacBook Pro, my trusty old RØDE Podcaster microphone mounted in a PSA 1 boom arm with a PSM 1 shock mount. I fix a screw pad base onto a flat surface (table), insert the boom arm with Podcaster and shock mount already attached, adjust the height, plug the USB cable into my MacBook and I’m ready to launch my DAW.

Sound Studio (Mac App Store) has been my choice for such recording for many years. It’s stable, has all the tools I need and then some, and most importantly, has a cleverly-designed interface which gives me all the information I need, especially during recording, without any clutter. The waveform display is quickly adjustable, and can fit the whole of a 30-minute recording in the window. Or expand right out to display individual syllables, which is really useful for editing out those short random noises and de-popping the inevitable explosive ‘P.’

From the wide range of filters I find the Normalize tool really useful. Because most of my voiceover people are non-professionals they tend to have a fairly wide volume range. To keep things under control I need to record them at a lower level than I would for the modulated tones of a professional voiceover artist. The Normalize tool then quickly brings these levels up to near where I want them. If I need a little more tweaking I can use Amplify/Volume to add or subtract a db or two. For EQ I can choose between a 3-band, a 10-band and a graphic equaliser. High and low pass filters are really useful for removing hiss and rumble.

One tool I find particularly useful is the Pitch and Tempo effect. When I’d finished editing a recent voiceover I was pretty happy with it all except that it just seemed to drag a little. No problem. I increased the tempo by 10 percent, making sure I’d left the link pitch and tempo box unchecked and I had the delivery speed I was after. And no Chipmunk effect! I also use the Insert Silence function to put little gaps in a long narration which I can then label with markers.

 

Working in projects with shoestring budgets I often have to create my own character voices. To do this I record myself speaking at a normal pitch and then use the Pitch tool for the desired effect. It’s quite amazing how a little deepening of the pitch (plus a bit of lower-end EQ) can produce a fair representation of that authoritative narration tone so common in documentaries. At the other end of the scale I recently recorded myself speaking in a (passable, as it turned out) American accent and then raised the pitch a few cents (the tuning is very fine) and voilà! I am woman!

Other filters include fade in/fade out, compression and expansion, reverb, delay/echo, flange and chorus. I also have access to all the Audio Units installed on my Mac.

Sound Studio, now at version 4.6, is a fully-featured DAW and outstanding value at $37.99 (Mac App Store). Although I have Logic on board I generally prefer the simplicity and familiarity I have developed with Sound Studio. I had a brief flirtation with the open-source app Audacity but found the interface too cluttered, the file system non-intuitive and on occasions it had crashed during editing large files.

Sound Studio is very stable and is regularly updated, adding new features and leveraging the latest Apple technologies.

If you do voiceover recording or podcast production Sound Studio is well worth a look.

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