Yes: the remote voice talent industry has taken off in leaps and bounds. So, just like Orange is the New Black, Home is the New Recording Studio. Nevertheless, turning a room into a studio environment where you can record professionally, is not that simple; there are numerous variables in the equation. Essentially what you need to do is dress your chosen recording space—whether it’s a walk-in closet or an actual room—with sound absorbent material. Walls and surfaces reflect sound waves and those reflections will get recorded by the microphone along with your voice.
Since chances are you’re going to be there a lot, make it comfortable and functional. A comfortable and ergonomic desk and chair to ensure you’re looking after your body and allowing your voice to be at it’s best by being comfortable. Plus you’re likely to be sitting in the same place for a long time so you need to make sure your mic isn’t picking up sounds of you moving about in discomfort.
Room-echo is by far the most common reason why clients reject recordings; it’s the undisputed undoing of the majority of voice talents who work from home.
You need to create a sound booth. We use the word ‘create’ specifically because you don’t need to ‘build’ a sound booth that can cost thousands of dollars. Heavy curtains will do; thick towels or blankets to cover the tops of desks and tables. Acoustic sponge stuck to walls if you can afford it. You get the idea.
There are many innovative products on the market today that cater for the home recording enthusiast. Voiceover forums can help you here, as can your favorite online search engine. Of course, treating a space for reflections is quite different to soundproofing it; when you’re recording at home, chances are good you’ll have to chat to the neighbour and be nice if he’s mowing his lawn while you’re trying to record a commercial and the deadline is coming at you like an oncoming train!
Also, remember other sources of noise as well: we already mentioned whining computer fans. Paper movement as you’re juggling your script can also be an issue if you’re not careful. In fact, you may have to do a series of test recordings before you can feel confident that the recordings you produce in your own recording space are of your voice and nothing else.
Try to look for professional guidance! Call somebody in the business or watch YouTube videos, but learn all you can BEFORE spending a penny! That way, you’ll have a studio that works for YOU, your voice, goals and budget; not somebody else’s.
Taking every practical precaution possible will reward you once you start auditioning and pitching for work. You’ll be glad you took the time to improve the quality of your recordings. It’ll instantly set you apart from the pack. Too many people eagerly jump online and submit recordings that get rejected by quality control agents or clients time after time because they either don’t know how to put things right or they just couldn’t care less—and that’s sad.
Steve Sundholm, Record Producer/Audio Engineer shares a few options and tips for getting a quality voice-over recording without mortgaging your home:
A great recording starts with a well-controlled environment. In fact, the better the microphone, the more it exposes what your recording space sounds like. That is why it’s important to get your room tuned up right away. The cheapest way is old packing blankets. Don’t forget the ceiling! If the room isn’t controlled enough, double and triple the thickness. A good rule of thumb for a VO booth would be at least 75% of the flat surfaces in your room should be treated. Oh, and take it from a pro…don’t use acoustic foam or carpet! Acoustic foam and carpet only absorb the high frequencies in the room – which will make your voice sound dull and muddy. Try to get materials that will absorb a wide range of frequencies. An old mattress and bookshelves with the books in backwards also work great. Note – the foam eyeball would work in an extreme emergency, but it drastically affects the sound of the mic. “eye” would only recommend the eyeball for a travel rig.
- A quality large diaphragm condenser mic is my personal favorite. The large mic capsule captures more detail than other mic types. The Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun mic is also a standard choice, mostly for it’s very narrow operational area, making it harder to hear the room in the recording, and allowing you to stand further back from the mic – which lets the talent turn pages and wave their arms about without the mic being in the way. The Sennheiser mic has a mid-range quality to it, but is still an acceptable sound quality. A good rule of thumb for picking a mic is: Pick the mic that sounds the opposite of the way your voice sounds. Example – The big voiced male VO Artists all love the Manley Reference Cardioid mic. It is unbelievable bright and sibilant, which balances their warm and powerful voices perfectly…it makes their voice jump out of the speakers. If you were to use the same mic on a female with a bright voice, it would be almost painful to listen to, and if you used a mic like a vintage Neumann U47 on these same men, you might have a hard time understanding anything they were saying! Many retailers will let you return a mic, so I would recommend trying a few before settling on one. To keep it cheap, try the AKG Perception Series or the Studio Projects B3. If you can spend a little over $1000 and need a warm mic, try the Cathedral Pipes St. Jean Baptiste.
An audio interface. This is a touchy subject for purists like me. Technically, it would be best to get a microphone preamp and a analog to digital converter in separate boxes, this is how the pros get “that sound’. But unfortunately, most VO talent are stuck starting out with the all-in-one choice of an affordable audio interface, which has a mic preamp and a digital converter built in. A lot of people like the Focusrite Scarlett for this use. Personally, I wouldn’t go any cheaper than the Universal Audio Apollo Twin. This piece of gear is as important to the sound you will get, and not all boxes are created equal. That would be like saying all digital cameras are the same, because they take a picture. If you are ever up for an upgrade, I highly recommend the modifications offered by Black Lion Audio out of Chicago. Best bang for the buck in the audio world! A little tip…the higher the preamp gain you set on the way into the recording software, the brighter and bigger your voice will sound. Just about to clip sounds so good! FYI, you can add an outboard mic preamp to an audio interface, but make sure you use the LINE INPUT on the interface if you do, otherwise you will be using 2 preamps and it will distort! A common problem, actually…
Always prepare well. Your clients will thank you for it and so will your bank balance.