Debreathing: how to keep your voice sounding minty fresh

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minty fresh

THAT acquaintance. You know the one. Lover of garlic. Consistently caffeinated. Social smoker. And super-close talker. You avoid them in confined spaces. You tilt your head to the side in conversation. You strategically time your own breathing.

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For the love of god … please have a mint (or 20).

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You can listen to this post as a blogcast (or read on below)

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But this isn’t the only bad breath that has me wincing.

The aurally-offensive breath can strike in a number of ways. Whether it’s poorly edited, poorly timed or just downright loud and ugly—don’t let it ruin your audio.

Mouthwash, gum or tic tac? There’s a bunch of ways to remove or mask your audio morning breath. And your mint of choice really comes down to the voice over application and read style; as well as the breathing style of the voice actor.

Traditional, announcer-style 30 second commercials are all about cramming as much excited info as possible into the ad. No room for breathing … No sir-ee! I have edited commercial reads to within an inch of their lives just to meet that magic 30 seconds (and not a millisecond more) on the timeline.

But the rise and rise of the conversational read is giving words room to breathe (so to speak) and leaving in a nice sounding breath or two isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it can really enhance that authentic, real-person feel everyone seems to losing their minds over when filling out the ‘direction’ section of scripts.

More recent voice over applications have also made breathing more socially acceptable. eLearning and explainers are generally not at the mercy of time codes. Listening to a product like an eLearning module for a long period of time can actually be distracting and uncomfortable if the voice doesn’t appear to be taking a breath throughout. OMG is this person a human or robot??!

Then there are big, long projects like long-form narration and audiobooks where the amount of time to debreath would not be cost effective or even feasible in some cases.

So what are your breath options? There are a few ways to carve it up and it is highly likely that a combination of breath editing styles will work for your next encounter with the DAW.

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1. Leave the breath in. Use where: it would sound unnatural without a breath or not feasible to remove every breath (provided you have a non-offensive breath to begin with). Generally: conversational voice overs, eLearning, audiobooks, narration, interviews and podcasts.

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2. Drop in a natural breath. Use where: there is a big ugly breath but you still want to have a breath in there. Generally: conversational voice overs, eLearning, audiobooks and narration.

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3. Delete the breath and leave a gap where the breath was. Use where: debreathing has been requested or the breath is distracting and if you have minimal room noise. Generally: slower-paced, commercial and corporate voice overs.

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4. Delete the breath and paste room ambience where the breath was. Use where: debreathing has been requested or the breath is distracting and you have a less than ideal recording environment. Generally: slower-paced, commercial and corporate voice overs and interviews.

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5. Delete the breath and the time it took to take it entirely. Use where: fast-paced commercial reads to time. Generally: high-energy, announcer-style.

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6. Use a debreathing tool or plug in. Use where: large voice over projects that need to be debreathed. Word of warning: some tools can remove more than just the breath and cut words—make sure you are the time to set it up properly and test it out.

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If in doubt, it can’t hurt to ask your client whether they are breath-inclined or more of a sans-breath kind of person. Or as a client, don’t be afraid to include your breath preference on the script or quote request.

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