What Makes Editing VO Different From Editing Dialog?

A good dialog edit is a work of art.  You balance room tones (or world tones); you time every edit seamlessly around breaths and natural speech patterns; you do everything within your power to make the listener believe that it was all spoken at one time, by one person, in one place.  There are no holes in your edit – each one filled perfectly with the correct room tone, whether gathered from the takes themselves or deliberately recorded on set in the exact environment that you are matching.

Voice-over is a different thing.  Breaths between sentences and paragraphs are cut.  Even breaths between phrases may be cut.  Mouth noise is reduced or eliminated.  In most cases, the VO will sit over top of music and/or NAT sound, so you want it to be as clean and clear as possible.  When you cut out a breath or noise, decide whether you need to close the gap where that breath used to live, or if you need to leave it alone or extend it.   For example, if a 5 frame breath is taken in the middle of a sentence, it’s possible that at least three of those frames can be cut.  It’s also possible that the same 5 frame breath at the beginning of a sentence should become 15 frames of silence.  The rhythm of the performance is now yours to decide.

1_dialog2_VOWhile you may be tempted to leave your VO seemless like dialog, you may find that it actually sounds better to trim every region to only what is needed.  Not only does this aid in the elimination of mouth noise and breaths, but it causes you to focus your attention to every detail of the voice-over performance and you’re more likely to slide phrases around and put the pauses where they can better help tell the story.

It’s possible that you know more about how this should be performed than the person who voiced it (unless your VO talent IS the producer, writer, etc. – then you may defer to them).  Opening up between sections, paragraphs or sentences and tightening up (or loosening) list items or detail points are all ways that you can greatly improve the power of the voice-over in the story-telling process.

If you’re recording the VO, give a little “pre-production” thought to the rhythm that you need for the piece.  This could influence the casting of the VO talent or just coaching them during the recording.  Of course, remember proper etiquette if you’re working with a director or producer and don’t step on any toes.

Some of this thought process can be applied to dialog as well, but just remember when editing dialog to fill the holes!

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