Do I Need Pro Tools to have a Professional Actor’s Home Studio? (Part 2)

garageband  [See Part 1 of this article for a general overview of what software needs to provide for the home VO studio.]

For Mac OS
If price is your number one discerning factor for choosing software (it shouldn’t be), then look no further than Garageband. It’s included with every Mac computer, so that helps offset the perceived “Apple tax” of paying a bit more for an Apple product than for a basic Windows PC. Like Pro Tools, Garageband was developed (as the name implies) with music production in mind. As such it doesn’t make for a very efficient audio editor. With practice you can coax it into submission, but it becomes blatantly obvious that they didn’t intend for a voice actor to record and edit files quickly and painlessly.audacity2

Audacity is another well-known free option, and it’s highly capable, but forget receiving any support from the manufacturer, since it’s of the “open source” variety and has no hotline to get you out of a bind.

If you can budget $80, get TwistedWave. It’s simply the fastest, easiest to learn, and most reliable audio editing software for the Mac on the planet. TwistedWave’s combination of a simple user interface, fast startup time, lack of “buzz-wow” twisted-wavemultitrack mixing ability, and powerful audio effect “stack” feature make it a total pleasure to use. It almost feels like it was created specifically with voice actor’s needs in mind! Maybe that’s because, in a round-about way, it was. Revered VO talent Beau Weaver connected with TwistedWave’s developer Thomas Thiriez early in its development and gave him much needed feedback and feature suggestions. Thomas smartly listened, responded, embraced Beau’s input, and the rest of the voiceover community reaps the benefits.

If TwistedWave feels too “stripped down” for your taste, then consider Adobe Audition CS5.5, recently released for the Mac. It’s clever dual function interface combines the best of both audio editing and multitrack recording. While closer in learning curve and function to Pro Tools, its the go-to software for those who produce a lot of “ready for air” material, which requires the use of heavy processing and music mixing. It has a dizzying array of features and audio effects to satisfy the geekiest voice actors, or the ex-radio DJ who still likes the production aspect of the business.

For Window OS
Audacity is by far the number one free recording software for Windows, since the recording program that’s included with Windows is embarrassingly useless. As long as your recording interface is working well under Windows, you should have no problem recording into Audacity. It’s pretty easy to edit with, and comes with a pretty good assortment of effects. It does lack in good effects presets, or a proper “noise gate” processor. It’s also unnecessarily frustrating to add MP3 functionality to Audacity. Once again it’s “open source” software, meaning the user community develops and supports the software.

My preference for audio software on the Windows platform is Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio, sony_sound-forgenot to be confused with its much pricier cousin, Sound Forge Pro. While some of the power user features of the $300 pro version have been removed, all the required basics are there, and for under $60. It’s the closest in ease of use to TwistedWave, and its years of history has created a large user-base. It’s always been very stable in my experience, and I’ve found that many voiceover talent agencies use it (yeah, that’s how easy it is to use)! It is not capable of multitrack recording and mixing, but again the vast majority of VO work does not require that ability.

audobe_auditionIf you do need to be able to create mixes with music beds and special effects, Adobe Audition is a great way to go. Its early ancestor, Cool Edit Pro, was my favorite back in my days of Windows (pre 2006).

Should you decide to take my advice on software and would like the additional guidance in the form of video tutorials, I’ve got you covered. (Time for the shameless plug!) On my website I have available tutorials for TwistedWave, Garageband, and Audacity, with tutorials for Sound Forge and Adobe Audition in the production queue. Just use the simple URL votuts.com, pronounced “Vee-Oh-Toots”, and check out free previews of all the available content. Bottom line: keep it simple when choosing your audio recording software, and don’t get misled by audio geeks out to intimidate you!

George Whittam

About George Whittam

George Whittam, owner of ElDorado Recording Services, frequently tackles a new tech topic or FAQ relevant to voiceover recording for the VoiceOver Insider. He also co-hosts the East-West Audio Body Shop with cohort Dan Lenard each Sunday evening. You can reach George through ElDorado Recording Services, or email him at his address below.

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