Building a Home Studio – How to Assess Your Space
As a voice actor, creating a suitable space to record your voice overs can be a daunting task. From what size and shape of room is best, to the hidden factors that can impact your sound (like duct work!), it can feel like there are a lot of considerations to weigh and measure. Luckily, you’re not alone – Voices.com is right there with you. At the Voices.com office, an ordinary storage room (with significant acoustic challenges), was transformed into a suitable recording studio, thanks to the help of Bob Breen from Armor Pro Audio Visual and the hard work that went into building a home studio.
The learnings gleaned from the Voices.com studio build can help you on your journey to create the best space for recording great sounding voice over – starting with how to assess your space for suitability as a recording studio.
This four-part series with Bob Breen from Armor Pro Audio Visual Inc., will get you started with ideas and help you work towards creating the ideal recording space without breaking the bank.
Building a Home Studio – How Can You Setup a Suitable Studio Space for Voice Recording?
Whether you’re new to the voice over world and need a few tips to get started or you’re a seasoned pro, you need a suitable studio booth at home
Whether you already have a room in mind that you want to turn into your voice over recording studio, or you’re still trying to locate the perfect space, don’t let ‘analysis paralysis’ hold you back.
One of Bob Breen’s first tips for starting out is that any space can be made to be suitable for recording voice overs with just a little work. So, go ahead and pick the space that you feel most comfortable in. After all, you’ll be spending many hours in your home recording studio working on various projects – you want it to be a space you enjoy being in.
Once you’ve settled on a room or space that you want to use, the next step is a simple one — listen to your space!
How to Assess the Acoustics of Your Room – The Example of the Voices.com Recording Studio
Don’t be discouraged if your space appears to be unsuitable from the start. Even Voices.com’s would-be-studio had flaws at first, and yet it was able to be turned into a suitable recording space. Discover what some of the issues were that Bob Breen encountered initially (and eventually overcame) with the space.
Bob described the sound in the Voices.com room as ‘atrocious’ before any changes were made to the structure of the room, but what exactly does that mean? It means there was a lot of external noise entering the room, such as the ‘ding’ of the elevator and the chatter of nearby employees. This less than ideal sound quality was something that needed to be corrected.
So How Can You Tell if the Sound You Are Hearing is ‘Bad’ Sound?
Beyond what you may hear initially from simply speaking and listening in the moment, you can also take a recording of your voice in the space you intend to use, play it back, and let your ears be the guide.
This means listening to the sound of your own voice in the recording and noting any boominess, high-ringing sounds or any echos. All of these flaws in the playback voice over recording are indicators that you may need more ways to absorb external noise in the room (more on that in part two of this series).
You can also try plugging headphones into your microphone and listening to anything it may be picking up. Do you hear noise that doesn’t belong – such as construction down the street, or the din of voices talking in the next room?
What Types of Rooms are Best Suited for Your Home Studio?
As Bob Breen noted, the shape of the room can impact the sound of your voice.
So what shape is the best shape of the room to prevent your voice from sounding less-than-ideal or accurate? If you have a small room, you can still work the room into becoming the perfect voice over recording space.
A rectangular or square room is said to be the best shaped room for producing great quality sound, as the way the sound moves within rooms that are shaped this way, is much more predictable.
You should also take into account any windows or doors in the room, as they are hot spots through which external sounds may enter, and sound in the room will be able to escape.
However, since the shape of the room is often not something that can be easily changed without massive renovations, before you start tearing down walls, note that you can easily correct the sound flow by adding insulation or foam paneling to your walls.
Despite being rectangular, the shape of the Voices.com studio was definitely not ideal. Sound bounced back in an unpleasant way, and the open ceiling created more challenges – however, you can still output great voice over work no matter the shape of the space you are working with.
Photos of the Voices.com studio
Other Home Studio Build Examples
Voice actor Curt Palmer completed his professional-grade home studio in 2009 after he decided to make voice acting his full-time job. In just 3 months, an extra room in his basement went from storing household items to an amazing home studio:
Other Tips for Your Home Recording Studio
Another thing to think about is whether you want to be standing or sitting while recording. Some spaces may be too small to sit and not every voice over artist sits in a chair while performing.
While most voice over talent prefer to stand to record commercials and shorter projects, what do you do when you have to sit and record an audiobook, a 75,000 word iPhone app or a training manual for a large corporation?
Standing does give you a number of benefits, however, sometimes standing for too long can be impractical and could possibly even affect your read. You may find that investing in a solid office chair is a great idea.
Finding a suitable space for recording voice overs plays a role in the success you will have as a voice actor. You want to provide high quality recordings to your clients and one of the best ways to do that is to ensure that your space is properly set up for recording.
Remember to let your ears be the guide. Take many recordings, and listen back as many times as you need to, in order to ensure your voice overs sound great.