Mouth noises are an annoyance for many voice-over artists, but the only thing more annoying than the amount of smacks! and pops! that ruin a good take is the fact that they often aren't detected until you go to edit. (It always happens that way, right?)
Most of you know by now to avoid dairy, extremely hot and cold beverages, caffeine, and even glutinous foods many hours before a recording voiceover work, but have you ever wondered if there is a studio set-up that could minimize some of these unwanted sounds that are tedious or impossible to edit out?
The inconvenient answer is, "Yes and no." Yes, there is a set-up that works best for you, but no, it's not necessarily the best set up for the next person -- or even for you if you work with different equipment. There are so many factors to take into consideration: the type of mic, the angle of the mic, the quality of your voice, and the distance of the mic from the sound source (i.e., your voice).
One universal rule to remember when arranging your sound booth is that the diaphragm of the mic must be on axis with the sound source. That means that the mic might actually be a little bit higher than your mouth. Resist the urge to speak up into the mic. If you find that you generally pick up a lot of breath noises in your recordings, check if your mic should be raised up a scootch.
A pop filter is perfect for preventing plosives from ruining a recording. If that's not enough for you, try a mic that has proximity effect controls, such as the RE20. Another trick is to tape a pencil to the diaphragm of the mic so that the air that is projected when you sound a plosive gets deflected, which is admittedly a difficult trick. Regardless of your set-up, a general rule of thumb is to leave a good 3-6 inches between your mouth and the mic.
The best strategy of all is to just try something else if you don't like the recording! The sounds that you don't want come from the same place as the sounds that you do want. If you can spend more time now capturing a clean recording, the less time you will spend editing a voice over job. And not everything can be fixed in the edit.
Final pearls of wisdom from Oliver Gebhardt, one of our best audio engineer guys: "It's not about righting a wrong, it's about getting it right before it's wrong ... The pencil tool in Pro Tools is your friend ... And if you know you're going to record, just lay off the cheese!"