Cutting and Trimming


Do you take the breaths out, or not?

This is the source of common debate worldwide in recording studios that specialize in spoken word production. The problem is that often the sound of the announcer sucking in air for the next sentence become loud enough to be distracting. It is aggravated by compressors, limiting amplifiers, and various other signal processing gizmos typically used to make the voice cut through any background noise…. like in a car’s dashboard during rush hour, for example.

While giving the voice more power and elevating even the subtlest tones to higher volume and prominence, this signal processing also tends to boost the gasping effect of the announcer’s normal breathing, causing distractions. The common cure is to simply edit out the breaths… Cut ’em out, leaving only clean voice sounds. This works just fine as long as there is music or sound effects or some other sound to fill in the empty space.

But if there is no background… no music… no other sound but the announcer’s voice, the listener may start to turn blue after a minute or two! We have a natural tendency to want to breathe sympathetically, and will often mirror the respiration pattern of whomever we’re listening to. When there are no discernible breaths, listeners become uncomfortable. They may even catch themselves holding their breath, waiting for the sound of breathing. An uncomfortable listener is not a good thing in advertising and promotion.

Since we won’t always know if there will be background noise when the narration is played, there is a safer alternative that is not much more difficult than removing the breaths. And that is to isolate each breath as a separate file in your digital editor, and knock the volume down about -12 db. The breaths are still there, but they are very faint. However, it is enough for the human brain to discern and accept as normal breathing. It’s low enough in volume that compression and other signal processing effects will not make them jump up to the level of the voice itself. No distraction… Natural sound. What could be better? It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the background… you’re going to sound great!

Of course, if you don’t have a digital editor, you’re going to have to teach the announcer to talk without breathing. Good luck!