Voiceover artist Claudine Ohayon at the Avid Pro Tools rig in her home studio.
This article first appeared in the March, 2015 issue of Pro Sound News asVoice Control.
NEW YORK, NY— As an experienced voiceover artist, Claudine Ohayon, an East Coast-based film and television actress and an Emmy-winning producer, has developed a flexible vocal style ideally suited for anything, from national TV and radio campaigns to audio books. At the end of last year, Ohayon flew to Los Angeles to work as the live announcer on the very first telecast, on CBS, of the Hollywood Film Awards, which also featured pre-recorded pre-show and post-show tracks, in addition to roll-ins, sponsor tags and bumpers, which she produced at her home studio.
Like many voiceover artists who started out working in the recording studios of New York, Ohayon frequently used, and quickly developed a preference for, the Sennheiser MKH-416 microphone. She pairs the short shotgun with Universal Audio’s Apollo interface in her home studio, where she also has large diaphragm condenser microphones from Audio-Technica and CAD available. The facility, featuring a custom iso booth with Auralex acoustic treatment, is centered on an Avid Pro Tools 11 workstation.
“I love the way my voice sounds when I use it,” she says of the MKH-416, “but I had to find a way of deessing my natural sibilance which, depending on the text, it occasionally emphasizes during the recording process. It was tricky; the MKH-416 put my vocal quality and delivery right where I wanted them, but the sibilance was an off-putting byproduct.”
Ohayon previously worked with a producer who had introduced her to the Oxford SuprEsser plug-in from Sonnox. “I learned that it instantly eliminated the problem without compromising my performance. I’ve got a preset which generally gets me exactly where I want to be. Depending on the script, I can perform additional tweaking by honing in on extraneous sibilant frequencies to shave away superfluous esses. It’s now an indispensable tool in my studio,” she reports.
Over the years, Ohayon, who is represented by the William Morris Endeavor Agency, has voiced promos for networks from ESPN to VH1 while building a resume of commercial clients that includes Mastercard, Disney World, Pillsbury and many, many other brands. She voiced several roles in a variety of full-length and short animated features, and has appeared on-screen in live action features, including under the direction of Woody Allen. She also worked for many years as an independent producer-writer-director at WingTip Productions with A&E, CBS, the Biography Channel and other networks.
The audition process has evolved over the years, she says: “When I first started in the business, I’d make visits to Manhattan casting agencies where I would record and edit my auditions on site. There was a casting director present who would help me polish and focus my delivery. These days, I’ll receive an email from my agent with the specs for an audition, record and edit a demo myself in my studio, and send it to the agency as an MP3 file.”
Ohayon auditioned for the Hollywood Film Awards, a Dick Clark Production hosted at the Hollywood Palladium, by recording several different versions of the show’s introduction, she reports. “Using my entire Sonnox production chain, I delivered the audition and I got the job. I think the Sonnox plug-ins I used on those recordings really helped me deliver a great performance. My family DVR’d the show, and when I listened back, I was really happy with the results.”
The software allows Ohayon to really zero-in on problem frequencies. “Occasionally, I’ll use two SuprEssers—one for the esses up at around 7 kHz, and then another down much lower, around 200 Hz or so, to soften or eliminate some of the plosives,” she says.
The lower frequencies typically don’t require as much attention. But, she adds, “Occasionally I need to read closer to the mic to get more intimacy or warmth out of my voice. That recording style has a propensity to pop some particularly powerful plosives, and that’s where the lower Hz SuprEsser shines. I also use Sonnox’s Oxford EQ to remove any unnecessary low end. By switching on a filter, I can take out as much bottom as I need—I just push it up until it sounds good.”
But the Sonnox suite offers more than just the SuprEsser. “Sometimes I’ll use the Oxford Dynamics with a little compression, but my favorite tool is the Oxford Limiter. The voice-over world is extremely competitive; I’m often competing with literally hundreds of other artists for the same job. Producers and clients review all these MP3 demos on their computer speakers. They’re listening for a special voice to deliver their copy in the most effective way. Having the Oxford Limiter on my track really helps my performance register. It’s never distorted and it keeps it clean and bright. Every little bit helps to kick the presentation up that extra notch.”