What does proximity effect sound like? How can it change a voice over read? (scroll down to listen)
In the realm of voiceover, every single element of the sound that you're recording is essential, nuanced, and particular. With voice over recording, we try to invoke the right emotion or feeling to the person who will eventually be listening. Generally speaking, whenever you record a new track you want everything to have a full-bodied richness, but clean and real. Simply put; recording voiceover as professional as possible. There are a wide range of techniques that you can choose to completely change the way a listener perceives your recording. Depending on exactly what it is that you're trying to accomplish - Proximity Effect is one of those techniques that can be incredibly successful if used in the right way.
What is Proximity Effect?
Proximity Effect is a concept that refers to the way sound changes as the subject gets closer to or farther away from the microphone. If you're recording a voiceover track with an actor, for example, placing them closer to the microphone as they're speaking will normally result in that person sounding like they have a bass-heavy, deep voice. If you move that same person farther away from the microphone, those low tones might disappear and the natural treble in their voice might take center stage.
Even though you're recording the same lines with the same person, they can sound completely different based on how close to the microphone that person was standing. This is the essence of the Proximity Effect at work.
How Proximity Effect Can Be Used in Voice Over Recordings?
One of the best examples of how Proximity Effect is used in voice over recording is something that you can hear for yourself in a movie theater every Friday night. Think about the voiceover actors who narrates movie trailers and how deep and booming their voices normally are. Movie studios know that the right deep, powerful voice can really help to sell the images that you're seeing on screen and make a movie seem like a can't miss, action-packed spectacle.
Not every movie trailer narrator necessarily has this type of voice, however, even though they may be a competent voiceover artist in their own right. Making use of the Proximity Effect can be a great way to really boost the "booming" aspect of their voice and can allow trailer designers to arrive at exactly the right feeling that they're after.
How Proximity Effect Can Change Sound Recordings?
By understanding exactly how Proximity Effect can change a recording, you can also begin to see just what it is capable of accomplishing if utilized effectively. At its most basic concept, Proximity Effect changes how "deep" or how "full" a particular recording sounds. Some also call it "presence". In reality, however, it's all about changing the feeling behind a sound recording. Say you were recording a script and you needed an actor to sound absolutely enraged and filled to the brim with anger. You would want to make use of the Proximity Effect and put that actor much closer to the microphone than usual to capture that rich, heavy sound.
Do you need the same actor to suddenly sound a bit more subdued or calm? Move them back about a foot from the microphone to remove some of that low end and let the high end take over. It's the same actor in both instances, but you're getting two completely different feelings based on exactly what the moment calls for.
By acknowledging the Proximity Effect and embracing it when the situation calls for it, you're making it easier for your performers to do their jobs and are only increasing the overall experience of your content on behalf of the listener at the same time.
How Proximity Effect Can Hurt a Recording?
One of the major ways that Proximity Effect can actually hurt a recording has to do with a situation where your voiceover artist may move around during a take. If the performer starts a line twelve inches away from the microphone and ends it six inches closer, his or her voice is naturally going to change with that movement as the Proximity Effect takes hold.
Also, it takes solid microphone technique to not end up with hard plosives, or too much sibilance when a voice actor is right up on the mic. In some instances, a double pop screen is very effective, and almost a necessity!
Too much Proximity Effect can create a pretty tricky situation when you get into editing, as you'll have to focus heavily on equalization to make the change less jarring to the listener. This is something that singers often have to deal with, as these types of performers are often very animated - creating something of a tonal balance issue as a result.
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