As you prepare to evolve to the next stage in your career, you’ve already got a lot of your first bases covered. You’ve identified your signature voice, and you’ve developed a strategic, practical voice over business plan. Alas, one major barrier that may still stand between you and attaining professional status in the voice over industry is the quality of your home recording studio.
Over the years, the number of clients who prefer to hold live auditions and in-studio sessions has shrunk to a nearly unrecognizable size. Online marketplaces such as Voices.com have become the desired avenue for both clients and talent to connect with one another. Voice talent record their auditions from home, edit the recordings on their own software, and submit them online. The entire transaction, including artistic direction, script edits, and file uploads, often occurs without the client or talent ever meeting each other face to face.
The relative distance maintained between client and talent, which has become a voice industry norm, leaves a lot riding not just on the quality of an actor’s vocal performance, but on the quality of their recording as a whole. When a client listens to your demo, if their ear catches anything that indicates poor audio quality, then they’ll directly proceed to the next audition.
So, if you’re focusing the majority of your efforts on your vocal performance and that alone, then there may be a reason why you’re having trouble landing the voice over jobs you want: it’s because you haven’t put the work into upgrading your home recording studio.
The money and time you invest into your home recording studio will be reflected in your earnings as you continue to establish your name, but more importantly, your voice, in the wonderful world of voice acting.
Let’s start with a little exercise. Step into your home recording studio, shut the door, and clap your hands. Do you hear an echo? If so, you need to figure out a way to reduce—or, ideally, eliminate—that sound immediately.
Play back one of your audition demos. Can you hear your Bs and Ps popping? Are your eSSeS over pronounced? If this is the case, then we urge you to get a pop filter. Pop filters, also known as pop shields or pop screens, reduce the popping sounds that are picked up by fast-moving air against the microphone.
While voice acting is a creative field that certainly invites artistic perspectives and approaches, not unlike any other sector of the entertainment business, the quality of your delivery will, inescapably, be impacted by the physical specs of the room in which you’re recording (note: Here’s how to assess your recording space). The tonal quality of your home recording studio should be as refined as you can get it
As voice talent looking to catapult your career to a professional dimension, you may harbor the misconception that you’ll need to invest a fortune into constructing a state-of-the-art home recording studio bursting with extravagant gear and walls that are expertly soundproofed. But this is not the case. What you should set out to do, however, is treat or soundproof your room in order to better constrain the echoes, slaps, and booms that may resonate throughout your room and detract from your recording.
Even though you may stand in your home recording studio and feel engulfed in silence, your mic will pick up plenty of white noise that the human ear isn’t able to detect. White noise decreases the quality of the recording’s audio, and is often impossible to edit out at the post-production stage. Particularly with the high-quality microphone you will be using, everything from the hum of your ceiling fan to the sound of traffic five floors down could show up uninvited on the recording that you play back afterward.
The good news is that you can optimize and improvise by working within your means. Innumerable professional voice actors have built fully operational home recording studios by refurbishing a room in their house and populating it with recycled items that elevate its audio standards.
Select the right room
Take a careful look through every room in your house. The ideal room will have a heavy door to completely close it off from the rest of the house, but no windows. Doors and windows are the most crucial parts of a home recording studio to treat. The drawback windows pose is the main reason many voice actors choose to build their studios in a spacious closet instead of a room. If you end up building your recording studio in a closet, remove its door and replace it with heavy fabric secured with Velcro to absorb the doorway’s sound.
You’ll want to install insulation on both the walls and ceiling of your home recording studio to optimize sound absorption. Cork, rubber, or foam insulations are our recommended options, and should be readily available at your local home improvement shop. You can also absorb more sound by stringing up large pieces of PVC piping around the edges of the room.
Hang heavy fabric
In lieu of the traditional insulation methods outlined above, you can use the sort of heavy fabric you might find in storage—think thick moving blankets, or several layers of heavy, old curtains. If the room happens to be cubic, it’s a good idea to hang fabric in the corners of the room to produce a triangular shape to the ceiling that will reduce echo and boom. You can also hang a duvet or quilt behind your mic in order to absorb sound and soften your eSSeS.
Do a clap test to check your sound absorption
When proofing your home recording studio for optimal sound absorption, it may be worth considering using what you have at your disposal and pushing mattresses or couches against the walls. The more density, the more sound absorption. Every time after you’ve added new items to increase the density of your room, you should employ the clap test to check if you’ve effectively treated the space. Stand in the room, shut the door, and clap your hands together. If you still hear an echo, you need to take additional lengths to ensure sound absorption.
Carpet the entire room
Another effort you can take to increase sound absorption is to place a thick carpet across the entire floor. In fact, carpeting the entire room—including the floor, walls, ceiling, and door—is a worthwhile alternative to installing cork, rubber, or foam insulation. Try hitting up your local carpet store for deals.
Leave linens/clothes in your home recording studio
If you’ve decided to build your studio space in a closet, instead of removing all the clothes or linens, try leaving them be! These items are actually incredible at absorbing sound, and this means you won’t have to scour your house for a backup spot to store them. However, make sure to situate the clothes or linens far enough from your body that you won’t risk accidentally brushing against them and disturbing your recording.
A note on portable isolation booths:
There are a number of advantages to having your own prefabricated isolation booth For one, they’re portable and simple to keep by your side whenever you’re on the go.
When professional voice talent like yourself are on the road to attend special events, it’s not uncommon to receive an urgent call from a client who is desperate for you to record a quick turnaround project. Here, portable isolation booths are an excellent solution. Voice actors can wow their clients by delivering a script read even when they’re miles away from the home recording studio where they do the majority of their work.
Portable isolation booths are typically large enough to accommodate both your mic and its stand, leaving enough space for you to prop up your script behind the mic so that you’re able to read while facing straight into the booth. They’re small enough to carry with ease, and when purchased, usually come with their own carrying case.
Still, make sure to conduct thorough research to see which product would best suit your needs. The prices can vary radically, dropping to as low as $100, and peaking at nearly $1000. It’s a good rule of thumb to seek out product reviews, in particular from voice over professionals, because your needs likely differ slightly from other vocalists working in different capacities.
Now that you’re well on your way to becoming a professional voice actor, and you have a solid understanding of how to build your home recording studio, it’s time to break down the necessary recording equipment that will help you elevate your home studio from beginner to professional status.
Listen as sound engineer, Bob Breen, explains how to assemble your home studio tech:
- A computer
- DAW (a ‘Digital Audio Workstation. Some popular professional options include Audacity, Pro Tools, and Adobe Audition. Click here to read a rundown of some of the most popular software.)
- An audio interface
- Studio monitors
- Pop filters
After you have acquired or are familiar with all of the basic tools, you may want to upgrade your home recording with the following:
- Studio chairs
- Bass traps
- Acoustic panels
- Reflection filters
- Monitor isolation pads
- Studio monitor stands
Your voice over microphone is ultimately the most important piece of equipment that you will place in your home recording studio. One popular mic choice for voice actors are cardioid microphones, which reject sound from the rear.
All microphones, however, differ from one another in some capacity, and you should undoubtedly test out several by going through the actual process of recording your voice and listening back to how your it is captured before settling on the mic that you want to purchase.
As you gain experience in the industry and converse with more and more professionals in the field, you’re bound to find that one individual will rave about the quality of their go-to microphone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will compliment your voice well. It’s for this reason that it’s important to try out a wide assortment of microphones before deciding for yourself.
That being said, here are some reasonably priced microphones used by voice actors and narrators around the world:
- Audio Technica AT3035
- Neumann TLM 102 or Neumann TLM 103
- Rode NT1-A or Rode NT-USB
- Sennheiser MKH-416