Mouth clicks on a voice-over or film dialogue track should never interfere with the performance. Knowing why mouth clicks happen, how to avoid them, and how easily they can be fixed is an important part of the audio postproduction skill set, whether you’re an engineer, producer, or the talent.
Mouth clicks can be incredibly distracting to the listener and they occur during recording for a number of reasons. The tongue, teeth, and saliva along with moisture in the air contribute to the occasional pop or click in a recording. High-end microphones pick these sounds up better than our ears do in normal conversation. Compression and equalization also bring out clicks in the audio mixing process. Both the talent and the engineer can take steps to address mouth clicks.
How Voice Talent Avoid Mouth Clicks
On the talent side, it’s important to make sure you’re properly hydrated before a recording session. Being too close to the microphone can result in more apparent clicks, among other artifacts. While the engineer is responsible for overall recording quality, a voice-over artist certainly has a hand in it as well. Staying several inches away from the microphone helps, bearing in mind that the further away from the microphone the talent strays, the more room noise is picked up, which can result in less detail. It’s the responsibility of the artist to project well and allow for a reasonable microphone distance. Proper vocal projection also allows the dialogue volume to be recorded well above the level of the occasional and unavoidable mouth click. Being too “dry” can result in more frequent and louder clicks. Make sure the talent is properly hydrated.
How Audio Engineers Fix Mouth Clicks
Many of these mouth clicks can be drawn out of (erased from) waveforms with the pencil tool in Pro Tools (or equivalent in other digital audio workstations). That cumbersome process has been replaced by plugins that apply an amount of “de-click” across an entire recording. Isotope’s De-click is one of the best solutions out there. Sliders allow for easy adjustment of the sensitivity, the frequency of click detection, and the width of the clicks detected. An entire selection can be processed in seconds, with manual adjustment to specific problem sections if desired. Check out this video from Isotope about their plugin, Mouth De-click. Of course, if you’d rather not fuss with your own audio post, we can take care of that.