Voiceover Guide

The Voice Over Startup Guide

The Recording Environment: Part 1

Investing in your environment is more important than investing in your microphone, depending on how much household and ambient noise you have to fight, you might get away with a few blankets and pillows, or you may need a much more dedicated space to record.

The recording environment is the most important factor in your voice business
Without a good environment there’s no hope of good audio

The price of a recording environment can be anywhere between $0 for a soft-furnishing pillow-fort, to $12,000 for a top-end booth, even more for professionally constructed custom studios which are rooms within rooms, designed and built by specialists.

No matter how humble, like a cupboard and pile of acoustic blankets$, or how grandiose, like a STUDIOBRICKS or WhisperRoom, the recording environment has two jobs to do, it needs to do both of them equally well:

  1. Keep external noises out
  2. Absorb sound on the inside to stop echoes and reverberation

Keeping sound out needs mass

Soundproofing

Managing sounds takes softness

Acoustics

If you've not already read the section called "The Sound of Silence", it might be worth your time to take a quick look, it explains sound in a way that helps us better understand our primary enemy, as for acoustics, that's a deep topic all by itself which we'll cover in the next section.

Audio Quality Matters Most

How good your audio sounds to clients is more important than where it was recorded. Environment is just a means to an ends, and it can be a car, blanket-fort, pillow-fort, or PVC-pipe blanket booth in a bedroom: as long as it passes the audio quality test, nothing else matters.

It's not about where you record
Closet, Blanket-Fort, or Booth: it doesn't matter
Your audio must sound good, that's what counts!

The A-Team and MacGyver Spirit

If blankets and a BMW are good enough for Joe Cipriano I'm certainly not knocking it, and a BMW can be cheaper than some booths...

Joe Cipriano and his improvised studio setups get the job done
© Sound On Sound, Session Notes: Recording Voiceover On The Road

Walk-in Wardrobes and Closets

If you're lucky enough to have a quiet room, away from outside noises, washing machines and kids, you've won half the battle!

You can use any number of things to pad the room out and stop echoes, something which really falls inder acoustics:

Many Voice Artists make a healthy living talking to themselves surrounded by pillows and blankets
It might not be high end, but if it works for them and their clients, nobody can knock it

Blanket Forts and PVC Pipes

If you're hearing things at home like "I want to sit and watch a film, I need the cushions back", you know it's time to upgrade your environment.

For those without a walk-in wardrobe or closet that can be converted into a recording space, there are a few options available.

Acoustic Blankets: Producer's Choice

Moving blankets were designed to prevent furniture from being scratched when transported, they’re rough and not aesthetically pleasing but they can be used to soften hard surfaces, and are inexpensive: moving blankets can be picked up for next to nothing on Amazon and eBay.

Specialist acoustic blankets exist, the most common brand being Producer's Choice$, a product line from Vocal Booth To Go$.

Producer's Choice blankets$ are heavier than moving blankets; cleaner looking, nicely stitched, and come with grommets for ease of hanging.

"Producer's Choice Sound Blankets were specifically requested by music producers and were designed to provide an effective yet inexpensive alternative to Acoustic foam"

Vocal Booth To Go$ sprang forth from a moving blanket manufacturer, they saw how many musicians and Voice Talents were using moving blankets as acoustic treatment, and decided to create a range of specialist products just for them.

Producer's Choice Blankets are available from Vocal Booth To Go's US and UK sites.

Their basic moving blankets cost less than $20 and the most expensive, heavier acoustic blankets are less than $100 making them affordable for those on all budgets.

To figure out how many blankets you would need to treat your space, there's a calculator:

These blankets are lightweight enough to be held up by clips over a frame made from PVC pipe which is affordable and can be picked up from any hardware store, a complete DIY Vocal Booth can be made A-Team and MacGyver style for around a hundred bucks.

This video shows how to easily assemble a blanket booth at home, without breaking the bank.

If you get to the end and can hear the hissing noise, that's what you get from an old, dodgy microphone. Respect to him for upgrading and on such a good sounding choice too: hear the difference here.

Portable Vocal Booths

For those who don’t fancy a trip to the local hardware store to buy bits of pipe, blankets and clamps, there are a few ready-made options available, often being described as Portable Vocal Booths, they’re tailored to those Voice Artists who record a lot whilst on the move.

Tri-Booth

Tri-Booth portable Voice Over recording space

A portable acoustic treatment for Voice Talent on the go from veteran Voice Actor Rick Wasserman, and George 'The Tech' Whittam, the 'go to' engineer for many Voices. It's triangular design gives it an acoustic edge, and it packs away neatly out of the way.

Tri-Booth is put together in way that makes assembly easy: it doesn’t require any skills, parts are colour coded, and the pipes have bungee cord connections so there’s never any confusion over which bits go where.

More than just blankets and pipes

The Tri-Booth costs $1,500, weighs about 40lbs, and an extra layer of acoustic blankets costs $300.

It's more than just blanketing and pipes: it includes a microphone-boom-arm, a copyholder that can accommodate a laptop, drinks shelf, dimmable LED lighting and it fits inside a duffle bag.

Included in the price is a custom audio filter from George, every room has a sound and Tri-Booth is no different, what George does is provide the EQ chain you need to get what he perceives to be the best sound from your booth: it’s all explained in the video below.

Tri-Booth meets 'The Booth Junkie'

Mike Delgaudio, which I’m sure is a brilliant industry-related pseudonym to include both “mic” and “audio” also goes by the name Booth Junkie™, he was sent a Tri-Booth to play around with, you can hear how it sounds, and see how easy it was to put it together in the following video: he ran before and after tests with and without blankets, plus performed sound checks with different mics.

Mike also spoke with Rick and George about how they came up with the concept.

Vocal Booth To Go

Vocal Booth To Go Logo

In addition to their Producer's Choice blankets$, Vocal Booth To Go$ also make a PVC pipe fort called the Audio Booth$, and a more heavyweight one with better sound reduction capabilities which they call the Soundproofer Booth$.

Audio Booth Acoustic Vocal Booth

"A portable walk-in audio recording studio that gives you an immediate acoustically treated room anywhere you set it up"

The Audio Booth$ is said to help you accurately record sounds, their soft interiors help with acoustics however they’ll only reduce unwanted noise from the outside by about 10dB.

The booths are not soundproof: they only reduce outside noise by about a sigh.

They would need setting up in the quietest place you can access, but they're easy to assemble and take down, plus can be stored in a bag in the boot of the car.

Mobile SoundProof(er) Sound Booth

"Outer Soundproof panels reduce the sound by a whopping 33-38 dB at mid range and even more, up to 51dB, at higher frequencies"

The Mobile SoundProof(er) Sound Booth$ comes with much better sound reduction capabilities, they're heavier, thicker, and for more challenging environments their walls can be doubled up to reduce even more external noise.

These booths are also easy to transport, comes in a specially designed duffle bag, and can be assembled in roughly half an hour to an hour.

The Open-Mic Comedy Corner

I can not take any box for either your microphone or your head seriously.

Joe Cipriano and his improvised travel setups prove you don't need anything more than pillows if you really want to record on the go: the first picture on this page features cushions and a duvet. When push comes to shove, what more do you really need?

VOMO: Voice Over Mobile Recording Booth

"VOMO: a vocal booth for professional Voice Over Actors and Singers"

Another product from the team at Vocal Booth To Go$, in their words it's a Sound Absorbing Portable Vocal Booth: it comes with a script holder, LED light, and mini boom-arm to hold your mic.

I'd personally be inclined to buy a couple of their acoustic blankets$ and cobble something together myself: we've already seen the A-Team and MacGyver DIY spirit gets results.

Harlan Hogan's Porta-Booth Pro®

"Unique sonic stage 'Auditorium' design"

I'm not sure where the audience would sit in this auditorium, as for it being unique, there are many variations on this theme on eBay and Amazon, they're much cheaper too.

Harlan's marketing prowess shows you can charge much more when you target a niche.

VO: 1-A The Voiceover Microphone

You can buy that microphone, an MXL 2006, without the word Voiceover on it, for $250 less. That's how much the word Voiceover adds!

Simply compare the specs of the VO-1A and MXL 2006 to see all you need to know: there's a 7mm difference that costs an extra $250.

If you don't know about specs, or the different types of microphones, don't worry, we'll cover that later in Recording Equipment.

ISOVOX

"Record with 360 XYZ Pro Studio Sound at home"

360 XYZ, what does that even mean? If it's 360 degrees, think, there's six sides, do the maths, that's 60 degrees a side, and you can open the sides meaning their 360 degree loses 60 degrees with each side agape, it's glossy looking, and as pointless as it is expensive.

I think the ISOVOX is up there with other great ideas like umbrellas with holes, sperm-based contraceptives, flammable fireproofing and square wheels.

Are you really going to have the room in there to Voice Act? There's very little wiggle room, personally it'd induce claustrophobia and drive me mad.

What ISOVOX show me:

ISOVOX: what they show me

What I really see:

ISOVOX: what I see

The Rubbish World of Dave Spud is a British cartoon series with some great Voice-work, I take it more seriously than I do ISOVOX.

It’s the story of Dave, an underdog with a flea-ridden dog; mobility scooter racing sister, butch truck driving mother, scrimping-tight father, cantankerous grandmother, and Dave’s best friend who happens to be a starfish: he’s also mates with someone who looks like an ISOVOX user to me.

ISOMIC: The most pointless mic for VO

If you thought their box for your head was a stupid idea, wait, they've come up with something even more bonkers and pointless.

We know our ears only work between 20Hz and 20KHz, that’s why every microphone normally targets that range, not their ISOMIC™, this mic costs £959 to £1,199 and has the widest, most pointless frequency response range on any mic for VO I’ve ever seen.

The ISOMIC has a range from 7Hz, 13Hz below the lower audible threshold, all the way up to 87,000Hz, which is a whopping 67KHz higher than our hearing range, it's also more than most speakers and headphones can handle, making it my nominee for the most stupid microphone on earth award.

If you're considering buying one of these, get an industry standard like the Neumann TLM 103 or Sennheiser MKH 416 instead, they're cheaper.

Watch out for people who put the letters VO on a product, it's often an excuse to hike the price
Be smarter than their marketing, save the money, put it towards training!

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