As the pandemic keeps on keepin’ on, putting a majority of film/TV/commercials on hold, voiceover is the one area that hasn’t faltered. What has changed in these times is that the actors booking most of the VO work have access to a home studio.
More and more, actors are asked to state in their audition file what type of mic, audio interface, and remote connection we have, if any, and sound engineers weigh in on who gets hired.
Bottom line? It’s not just about your acting anymore. Production teams need to know that the actor they hire has the equipment to deliver production quality sound. Which means that the sound quality of your audition file also matters. If your audition can be close to broadcast quality, you’ll only help your chances of booking the job.
If you’re new to a home VO setup, the equipment, cost, and technical stuff can be intimidating. The good news is, it’s much less complicated than it seems, and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Here, I’ll break down the basics of setting up a VO home studio and provide some additional resources.
Step 1: Find A Good Location
Decide where to set up your equipment based on how soundproof the location is. Walk-in closets are great. I have a tiny closet under the stairs that I’ve turned into my own home studio.
Recently, an audio engineer told me that the treatment of your recording space matters more than your actual equipment, so choose wisely! Ideally, your studio setup is away from any noisy appliances or windows.
Step 2: Sound Absorption
Cover up any reflective surfaces in your recording space with something that’ll prevent sound from bouncing around, like blankets or towels. To further soundproof, use the same materials to seal up any areas of light. If you’re open to spending a little more, you can also get acoustical blankets and foam specifically designed to soak up sound.
- If there’s outside light coming in, there’s probably also outside sound coming in. Seal it up the best you can.
- If it can soak up water, it can probably also soak up sound (use these materials to cover up reflective surfaces).
- If it reflects a lot of light, it also probably reflects sound (cover up these surfaces with materials from above).
Step 3: Equipment
Finally, here’s what you’ll need once you have your space set up.Mic: Large diaphragm condenser mics are preferred by sound engineers over USB mics for sound quality. They range in price from about $200-$5000, so you’ll hopefully be able to find one that fits your budget.Mic Stand: Shock mounts are a separate piece and mitigate audio pickup if the mic moves subtly during your performance for any reason.Pop Filter: Mitigates the “popping” sound of plosives.Music Stand: Or something on which to prop up your script.Headphones: Over-the-ear vs. noise-cancelling headphones are used for studio recording.Audio Interface: Translates the audio signals going into the mic into the digital version that you can edit on your computer. The audio interface is hooked up to your mic on one end and your computer on the other with an XLR cable.
- Audio interfaces commonly used by VO actors have a preamp built in, such as the FocusRite Scarlett series, which start around $110.
- Preamps clarify and amplify the sound of your recording.
- Audio interfaces only work with XLR (analog) mics- not USB mics.
- USB mics plug directly into your computer and have a built-in digitizer, but with the tradeoff of lower sound quality.
Computer Laptop: Runs the recording software. Software (DAW): Whichever program you choose to do your recording and editing in. Audacity, Reaper, ProTools, and Twisted Wave are a few that are commonly used. Remote Connectivity: If you book a job, do you have ISDN, Source Connect, or ipDTL? All essentially allow your home studio to function and record a live session as if you were in a recording booth with the director in the next room.
- ISDN requires a separate phone line.
- Source Connect Standard and ipDTL:
- Both connect through WiFi, so make sure you have stable, high-speed WiFi!
- Both programs run around $30-$35 per month, or you can purchase to own.
- I’d recommend waiting to purchase remote connectivity until you book a job and need it.
There’s plenty of information available online, from Youtube equipment reviews to sample home studio setups. Check out some additional resources here:
A couple aptly titled YouTube tutorials:How to Turn a Crappy Closet into a Home Recording Studio on a BudgetSetting Up Your First Voice Booth
SAG-AFTRA FoundationFor union members, check back frequently for new VO classes that cover everything from auditioning for specific segments of VO to software tutorials and yes- classes about home studio setups, all run by working VO professionals.
Sweetwater.comThey’re not paying me to say this, but I purchased my preamp from this site and loved that their sales team, which largely consists of sound engineers, reached out to offer remote help with setup. I found this to be super reassuring since I’m not very tech-savvy. Also the prices were good, there was free shipping, and that shit got to my house faster than Amazon.
Have fun with your setup! Don’t be afraid to reach out to VO professionals in your network for help. And know that, if all else fails, the tips, tricks, and knowledge of many experienced VO experts are just a quick Google search away.