Voice Over Editing… Watch Your Ps and Qs


Watch out for “unvoiced” consonants when you are editing breaths.

Well actually, watch your Fs and Ss and Ts as well.  What do I mean? First, let’s talk about consonants. When you were in school they taught you about vowels: A E I O and U (and sometimes Y and W).

The other letters were consonants.  B  C D F G etc.  This was certainly correct, but what you weren’t told is that many of these letters have two sounds.

We have what are called “voiced” consonants and “unvoiced” consonants.  

When you say a voiced consonant you use your vocal cords while you are saying it.  M and N are good examples.  You can’t say “mmmmm” without vibrating your vocal cords.  But now try the T sound.  With T, you don’t start vibrating your vocal cords until after you say the T!

Most of our consonants come in voiced and unvoiced pairs.  Sometimes we use a different letter to represent each sound.  For example D is voiced and T is not voiced, but they are both fundamentally a T sound.  Try saying Dug and then Tug.  On Dug, your vocal cords start vibrating before the D… and on Tug you say T and then start vibrating your vocal cords.

Here are some of these pairs:

  • Z and S
  • D and T
  • G and K
  • B and P
  • V and F
  • J and CH

And we have some sounds that are spelled the same but may be voiced or unvoiced: compare THese with THin.  Also S  can be both.  Compare the S at the beginning and end of SoundS.  First it is an S sound, then a Z sound.

Uh… and what does this have to do with voice over editing?

Screenshot 2013-06-29 at 1.28.46 AM

Look carefully at the start of this phrase… that little rise after the breath is the letter F. If you get too close, you cut this off.

I often remove breaths from between phrases.  This is done by highlighting the space between two phrases and then erasing that highlighted section.  This is easy if the following phrase starts with a big fat VOICED consonant.  But beware of UNVOICED consonants.  Since there is no vocal sound behind them they may not show up on the waveform!  

So you merrily highlight a beginning S  and hit erase and then listen back.  Oops!  It doesn’t say “sit here”… it sounds more like “..it here”. So how do you avoid this?

Screenshot 2013-06-29 at 2.40.48 AM

Notice the F sound ISN’T highlighted. Listen to this highlighted section. You should hear the end of the breath but NOT the beginning of the F sound.

After you highlight a section you want to erase, PLAY what you’ve just  highlighted!  On Audacity free recording software you can press the play button and it will ONLY play the highlighted section.  Then LISTEN!  Listen for a tiny snippet of the consonant at the end of the audio you’ve highlighted.  If you hear a hint of S or F or whatever, nudge the selection end back to the left a bit. The secret is finding that quiet instant after the breath but before the S.

Try this trick and your edits will be much more natural sounding.

What about the END of the phrase? We’ll look at that later.

Do you have any editing hints or tricks?  Leave a comment below and share your knowledge with us all!

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