How to Enhance Voice Commentary on a Gaming Video
Take a quick look at this clip of a gamer playing a well-known football video game, while providing commentary at the same time.
Listen to the isolated audio of the player’s voice below to hear the problems in the recording that we’re going to fix. How many issues with the audio can you pick up?
The clip that we’re dealing with today is an excerpt from a Let’s Play video. A Let’s Play is a video screen recording of a user playing a game while providing voice-over commentary. Let’s Plays are common because they are simple to produce and easily consumable, but also have room for higher levels of production value and engagement.
In this instance, we have audio from two sources: the game, and the player. You can hear from the player’s button-pressing that the commentary has been recorded live, with a microphone set up to capture the player’s voice. Thankfully, the game audio hasn’t leaked into the mic, meaning we can work on the voice in isolation.
Breaking down the overall task into individual components is always a good idea when doing audio optimization, so let’s pinpoint a few things in the voice recording that aren’t up to scratch.
Firstly, there’s a lot of background noise, which is a combination of air ambiance and hum coming from the recording equipment. This type of background noise sounds unprofessional and can be distracting for the listener.
The next thing to consider is the voice itself. The frequency response of the mic that was used in the recording wasn’t great, so the commentary is lacking a bit of body. There's also a fair amount of sibilance, which we’ll have to tame.
Finally, the volume levels of the recording are very uneven. The first half of the audio starts off with some relaxed chat about the video game, but as soon as there’s a chance to score a goal in the game, the commentary gets very excited. There’s too much difference in the volume between these two sections, to the point where it might shock someone listening on headphones.
The best way to start off the repair process is to load up ERA Audio Clean-Up Assistant on the audio track in your DAW. Rather than switching back and forth between multiple plugins, you can house each of your tools in the same workspace by pulling them into one of the Clean-Up Assistant’s five slots.
- Removing the background noise
The first thing to tackle is the annoying sound in the background of the recording, as once that’s gone it’ll be much easier to focus on the voice. Load up Noise Remover as the first plugin in the chain, and listen to how it immediately knocks off most of the offending background noise. This plugin should be your go-to when it comes to targeting hisses, hums, or pretty much any unwanted artifact that’s muddying up your recording.
We’ll keep the Focus filter set to the default All Frequencies, as the noise isn’t confined to just high or low-frequency bands. Pushing the dial too high starts to make the voice sound distorted and overprocessed, so we’ll settle on 70%.
- Enhancing the voice
The main task in this job is to improve the quality of the voice. We want the voice to be full, clear, and cut through the game audio, so we’ll load up Voice AutoEQ in the chain. Voice AutoEQ automatically analyses the sound that it’s been placed on and then works out a subtle EQ curve to apply to it. The Tone Blending Triangle lets you blend between Body, Clarity, and Air, to further shape the characteristics of the sound, so let’s help it stay above the game audio by pushing the circle slightly towards Air. We don’t want to overemphasize this effect, so we’ll take the intensity slider down to 4.1. It’s always a good idea to make use of the bypass and A/B features when you’re EQing vocals like this so that you can stay on top of what adjustments sound good, and what adjustments don’t.
The second thing we’re going to do to optimize the voice recording is to apply Voice Deepener to it. Voice Deepener is designed to make your voice sound like how you perceive it when you speak, and it’s an effect that’ll give the commentary a bit more presence, without being overly drastic. His voice isn’t too thin to begin with, so we’ll set the dial to 34%. Again, by bypassing the effect a couple of times you can get a feel for a natural-sounding application of the plugin.
Reducing the sibilance
More often than not you’re going to need to use a de-esser to clean up sibilance on voice recordings, due to the way most microphones pick up the human voice. Our clip has a fair bit of sibilance, and the esses are going to be distracting and a bit nauseating for anyone listening. We’ll load up De-Esser into the next slot on the Clean-Up Assistant, and push the dial up to 73%. Now we’re getting much less hiss from the vocal, so we can move on to the final part of the process.
Balancing the volume
The last plugin in the chain is Voice Leveler. Seeing as there’s a large discrepancy between the volume levels in the first part of the video and the second, we need to create consistency in the clip. Voice Leveler ensures that words are spoken at similar levels, so it’s perfect in this case. We’ll set the dial to 22% to curb everything into a less extreme decibel range.
Looking at the plugin interface you can see that the original, input audio level is shown in black, and the processed, output audio level is shown in yellow, so you can see the changes the plugin is making. A good tip is to use Voice Leveler after Noise Remover in the signal chain and get rid of the background noise before the processing starts, meaning there’ll be fewer audible jumps in the noise floor.
Take a listen to the processed audio below to hear how the ERA plugins have worked their magic:
Watching the clip back, this time with the processed audio included, and you can hear the improvement in the gamer’s commentary. His voice now stands out over the crowd sounds and other audio from the game he’s playing, and crucially, stays at a pretty consistent level throughout. We’ve managed to clean up the noise in the room around him and create cleaner, more professional audio for the video.
So, next time you’re editing a gaming video, or if you’re just looking to optimize your content in general, make sure to use the ERA Bundle. With Standard and Pro options, both including a host of powerful plugins like the ones mentioned in this example, you’re sure to find everything you need for your audio cleanup projects. To help you get started using the Audio Clean-Up Assistant and ERA plugin chains, we’ve included the preset we used for this example below.