Voice-over Standards

During the design and development of online courses, we are often going to need voice-over work. As psychologist Richard Mayer points out in his book, Multimedia Learning, combining narration with visuals will help to increase learning and long-term retention of content.

Here are some key principles related to creating multimedia content that Mayer shares:

  • Redundancy Principle – People learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration, and on-screen text.
  • Modality Principle – People learn better from graphics and narrations than from animation and on-screen text.
  • Multimedia Principle – People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.
  • Personalization Principle – People learn better from multimedia lessons when words are in a conversational style rather than formal style.
  • Voice Principle – People learn better when the narration in multimedia lessons is in a friendly human voice, rather than a machine voice.


  • Find a good room, isolation away from people and noise is best.
  • Test the room you have chosen. Watch for noise source life a/c vents, windows and fans.
  • Set up your equipment. (See setup notes at the end of this document)
  • Open up your DAW (digital audio workstation) or recording software, and set your recording levels. (-18dB to -20dB)
  • Find the right microphone position. Point microphone away from noise sources.
  • Prepare for the session by reviewed the diction guideline document.
  • Mentally prepare for the performance. Relax with breathing exercises.
  • Press record and Action!
  • Listen back and take notes
  • Editing and cutting out mistakes
  • Adjust the tone of your voice with EQ (see Audacity Instructions)
  • Use a noise gate to eliminate background noise between phrases (see notes about noise floor)
  • Use a compressor to make your voice levels more consistent (see Levelator Instructions)
  • Export the recording as an audio file, if applicable.
  • Syncing your video voice-over, if not already synced in the application.**


It is important to remember that for voice-over recording, it is not the price of the microphone or recording equipment that matters most. Using a dynamic Neumann U67 ($8,800CAD) will be a disaster if used in a noisy environment as it will pick all the surrounding noise and will be very difficult to correct in post. That microphone, however when used in a studio will do very well. This is what one would use to record opera singers and as such is unnecessary for voice-over work.

You can get satisfying results with moderately price equipment. What matters most is how your microphone is set up for the room and talent you are using.

Here are a few tips:

If you are not able to record in a room that received proper sound treatment, like a studio, I suggest using shotgun microphones to record a voice-over. I have been using the Rode NTG-1 for years in a varied environment with great results. This <$400 super cardioid condenser shotgun mic is sturdy and will do a great job at picking up crisp sound while blocking most noise off-axis.

  • Keep the talent 2-2.5 ft. away from the mic to limit the “P=Pop and other Plosives” when recording.
  • Use a boom or goose-neck stand to set the mic above head level and pointing down toward the mouth of the talent. By pointing down, you are keeping any ceiling noises out of axis, and this unwanted noise will be attenuated in the recording.
  • Keep your recording levels between -18dB and -20 Db, while keeping any background noise as low as possible.
  • In signal theory, the noise floor is the measure of the signal created from the sum of all the noise sources and unwanted signals within a measurement system, where noise is defined as any signal other than the one being monitored.
  • The larger the distance between background noise and the talent’s voice in the recording, the easier it is to ‘clean out’ that unwanted noise.
  • If the background noise and the talent’s voice are close in level, then it will be very hard to remove. And will be a distraction to the listener.

It is a fact that people will tolerate video of average quality but not audio. Listening to someone with lots of background noise, uneven levels too weak is like nails scraping on a blackboard. People will complain about bad audio more often than about bad video.

Audio issues are relatively easy to fix -BEFORE pressing the recording button. It is a lot harder to fix audio in post-production.

I hope you found this article helpful,