Your studio is where you are

When my VO instructor Ron Allan first showed me the components of a home voiceover studio and how one could install a dedicated space to work out of one’s own home, I was doubtful I could pull it off.  Fortunately, my desire to go into VO full-time outweighed my lack of confidence.  Once I determined how I was going to make the commitment to create a home studio, it was just a matter of figuring out where my space would be, and coming up with some homemade plans for constructing it.

Surprisingly, even though my mechanical skills are limited and tools don’t get along with me, after two months, I had completed the room’s basic form with a solid-core door that shut snugly.  It wasn’t pretty, and the angles weren’t always true, but it was certainly functional, and met my needs.  All that was left was to install acoustic foam and some bass traps, wait for my equipment to arrive (computer on the outside of the studio because of noise), and voila! – I had a functional studio with a “professional” industrial look and an acceptable noise floor.

Now, I had read some books on voiceover and perused a plethora of Youtube videos and websites on VO equipment and setups.  I knew some folks used laptops or iPads instead of PC’s.  I knew some people used a closet as their studio, because of a lack of space, and that one full of clothes did an acceptable job in absorbing echoes.  I was fascinated by some of the bigger-name guys in Los Angeles who appeared to have studios in open rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a view of Beverly Hills.  But all of them had the same thing in common as me – lack of portability.

I saw some sources tout the inside of a car as a decent anechoic environment to do voiceover when all else failed.  Surprisingly, the car’s interior does a great job absorbing sound waves – even the steep angle of the front windshield helps.

A good example of this:  at a conference in Columbus OH last year, VO legend Joe Cipriano related to us how he did his nightly TV network promos when he arrived in Columbus the day before the conference, but he came later than normal and the local studio he usually used was closed.  While there was a pouring rainstorm, he parked his car at closed gas station under the overhang, hooked up his mic and laptop with a wireless connection, dialed in to the network’s studio, and cranked out the promo right then and there (he played a recording of his promo to us; the quality was unbelievable).  When the network asked him where he was, he truthfully replied, “I’m in my studio.”  After all, it was his car

I soon learned there were P2P audition warriors out there who traveled a bit and took their “studio” with them.  At that same conference I was fortunate to watch Dave Kaplan set up the proverbial “blanket tent” in his hotel room at a conference, and crank out amazing auditions with his laptop connected to a USB mic.  I’m sure the cleaning staff is mystified when the come in and see that setup. 

In addition, there was a product on display at the conference called VO2GO – a sturdy equipment case about 2 square feet, lined on the inside with acoustic foam, with a quality USB mic nested, along with connecting cables, a mic stand, and other needed connectors.  Once you connected the mic and laptop or iPad, you set the open case on its side like an open book, with the microphone “looking” into the corner of the case, providing a small echo-absorbing area in which to work.  Very portable and convenient.

Recently I saw a colleague ask on a VO forum if one could connect a microphone to a smartphone and do acceptable work.  While I wouldn’t have dreamed trying it myself, I replied that it was technically feasible in a pinch, provided there was no other option at the time.  I also opined that a well-known industry veteran stood a better chance of doing so, because they were a known quantity, and were more likely to produce the best results under the worst conditions.  After all, the industry impresses upon you the importance of using the best equipment to optimize results.

But no sooner had I said that when I came across a website with a story about none other than Joe Cipriano, and how he uses an Apogee USB mic paired with an iPhone loaded with Apple’s GarageBand software, and with good results.  While my (and our) prejudices may cause us to be horrified at the thought of doing so, a busy and successful pro like “Joe Cip” is in such demand that he might be called on to record on a moment’s notice at any time of the day, especially when it’s not convenient for him to be at his home studio or a company studio.  And Joe certainly knows how to maximize his environment to get the best results in such conditions.

The downside of having more flexible studio options is that clients have more flexibility to contact you and expect a product during all hours of the day – not just your “normal” workhours.  And each voice actor has to determine what they are willing to give up to get to that point.

For now, I’m happy with my home studio – after all, it’s my den.  My space.  A space I built with my own hands.  And that’s a good feeling.   I like my time away from the studio, but I certainly can see investing in some portable equipment to maintain an online presence when I’m away from home.  Of course, I’ll have to find where the happy medium is, between shutting down all business contact except daytime weekday hours, and bringing my work with me for every single day of the year, including romantic vacations to Hawaii.

How about you readers out there?  Do you have challenges, successes, or creative solutions to share regarding your recording space(s)?  I’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to click “Leave A Comment” at the top of the page, and let me know (please, no spam or solicitation messages, those will be deleted).

Until then, keep putting your best voice forward, and in the best space possible.  Take care.

   -Z-

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