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Don’t Ruin Your Performance By Editing Out Your Breaths

Hey, there!

I’ve been giving a lot of moral support recently to victims of the Breath Removal Fairy Tale.

What’s that?

It’s one of dozens of fairy tales actors and VO talent tell themselves when they don’t know the actual answer.

Here’s the actual truth.

What I’m hearing usually goes something like this:

“I am just exhausted. I voice my stuff, then I spend twice as long editing out my breaths/mouth noise/whatever as I spent recording and editing the audio itself. Isn’t there some plug in or something that will just get rid of my breaths??”

No. There isn’t.

And you shouldn’t give it a second thought.

Here’s why.

First, I’m going to let you off the hook – this is a pretty common misconception. I started hearing about this back in the podcast days, when newbies to podcasting thought they had to sanitize their episodes and remove anything that wasn’t absolutely perfect about their conversation – and breaths were usually part of that mix.

So it’s not surprising that professional voice talent might think this as well.

But…and this is important…breathing is a natural part of any voicework, and is sometimes even used as a dramatic effect. Removing all your breaths completely sterilizes your work, ruining the timing, and making you sound inauthentic.

And it does something else: it makes the listener nervous, and start to breathe for you, making the experience of listening to your work difficult at best.

Your breaths and mouth noise and lip smacks and everything else you do with your performance are all the spicy, lovely ingredients to your vocal soup.

Don’t ruin that.

Leave your breaths in.

Really.

Leave your breaths in.

And remind yourself that you’re paid by the finished hour for most VO work.

I hope this helps.

David

8 Responses to Don’t Ruin Your Performance By Editing Out Your Breaths

  1. Bill Sarkisian December 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Nicely said, David! I used to and still can, have a loud breathe problem, particularly when I get nervous, the neck muscles tense up, and I breathe about as loud as I talk. My VO coach at the time, Marc Cashman gave me that “yawn exercise” to do that really helps me to relax, open up, breathe quietly.

  2. Chuck December 23, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    I respectfully disagree. I can see how this makes sense in the world of “voice acting”…but in commercial production, breaths are an unnecessary distraction and waste of time (that time can be shortened slightly without making the listener exhausted…and script writers nearly always try to jam in more content than can reasonably be articulated within the allotted time). And, unless the mouth noise in question has an obvious contribution, I will clean it up. For longer form work, I don’t look to eliminate breaths entirely, but I use a box to help tamp down on everything below a certain level…so it doesn’t compete with the voice. For many reasons, the human voice itself can benefit from an appropriate amount of compression…it brings out the color in the voice and allows it to be more easily listened to in noisier environments (which, with mobile devices, is now more common than ever)…but I would argue that breaths, when compressed, really blow up and become a major distraction from the character of the voice and the content that is the purpose of communication. Just my two cents’ worth.

    • David H. Lawrence XVII December 24, 2013 at 9:34 am #

      Thanks for your opinion, Chuck.

      As you’re new to the site, please note that this article was aimed at people wasting inordinate amounts of time completely eliminating all breaths and any noises other than words from their production. And commercial production doesn’t always mean fast-paced, sitcom-like or hard sell – each case is different depending upon the script, the pace and more.

      Most home users, especially those getting their feet wet in VO, don’t have studio mics and mic processors (the “box” you refer to – I use the Focusrite Green Box and the Symetrix 528E myself) that have compression, expansion/gating, de-essing, EQ and other controls. For those that do, you can completely transform your performance and control the noise floor, eliminate the need for The Levelator (which I recommend for the proper -18 to -20 RMS compression required for audiobook work), and more.

      Unfortunately, those boxes cost nearly $1000 for the good ones, and you need a room in your home that can take advantage of what those processors can accomplish – plus the mics themselves.

      David

  3. Benjamin Patten July 20, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    I trust any advice David gives. Just my advice, listen to him and try out what he says. It’s helped me out more times then you can imagine.

  4. Phil Mayes July 20, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

    This is very interesting. I record audiobooks, and have become progressively more tolerant of breaths, especially in spoken lines. I still spend an inordinate amount of time on clicks, lip noises and a raspy sound I don’t have a name for, but am starting to wonder how much these are characteristics of my particular voice, and the extent to which I should leave them in.

    • David H. Lawrence XVII July 20, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

      So glad I’ve got you at least thinking about all that!

    • Grace Bjarnson July 22, 2016 at 10:23 am #

      Audiobooks are a different beast altogether. Breathes in audiobooks make sense. Just dealing with plosives and other things takes up a lot of time.

  5. Grace Bjarnson July 22, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    I’m going to have to disagree a little bit. Many people who hire a voice artists are not able to get past exactly what is is they hear. They can’t imagine what it would be like without hearing the breaths. And If you have a sensitive mike that picks up everything, then the breaths are going to sound much louder than they do in real life. Of course if you erase a breath, make sure there is space in-between words where there naturally should be. On character recordings I do usually leave in the breathes, or at least those I think help with the natural/dramatized feel of the job. But even then I like to reduce the sound of the breathes a little to make it sound more like real life. I agree that it is a pain to deal with this. But really unless the person who ordered wants a dry/raw file because the are doing all production work on it, then I tend to take the breaths out.

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