Earlier Getting Started in Voice Over Posts.
If you haven’t read the first two articles in the series, take a look now:
Let’s recap (briefly) parts one and two before we move on to part three: The Recording Booth.
You’ve decided that sitting and talking to yourself in a small enclosed space all day is for you. You’ve done some research, met some fellow Voice Actors either online through FaceBook or some other way and have chosen yourself a coach to help you through this startup phase. Now that you have training, what’s next?
Ya gotta have a place!
Sure, you could drop some serious coin and start buying yourself all the cool techie gadgets, but without someplace to record in you are seriously wasting your time. Chicken…egg. I say chicken, but who really knows. What I DO know is now is the time to decide where you are going to be holed up all day, and get it treated. You’ll have plenty of time later to break the bank on equipment.
A short detour about sound, and why you need a treated space to work in.
In case you didn’t know it, sound reflects off hard surfaces, such as walls, windows, floors, computer monitors and your crazy uncles bald head. (If you don’t have a crazy uncle, every family does, that probably means it’s you…anyway). The interesting thing about our ears is that although generally pretty sensitive they do not appreciably notice those reflections (much) when we are talking to people. Your brain compensates so that you hear thing clearly. A microphone on the other hand, at least a good one suitable for working in Voice Over, will faithfully reproduce the sounds and not compensate for reflections. You can notice this effect though, when you are in an empty room that has several hard surfaces. These rooms are said to be “live” rooms because of the high reflectivity. (HINT: Live rooms are bad for recording in)
Soft or porous material tends to absorb or “deaden” reflections. Once you fill the room described earlier with furniture, reflections are reduced. While these rooms are still not treated well enough, you have probably experienced this effect and can understand.
So, how do you properly treat a room?
Essentially, the short answer is to reduce the number of reflective surfaces as much as possible to “deaden” your recording space. So, since soft, porous material does that, the way to do it is to cover as much of the reflective surfaces as possible with…you guessed it: soft, porous material! Easy, right??
Yes and no.
Some material is way better than others for sound dampening. So while you COULD just hang drapes all around you and call it good, it likely wouldn’t be good ENOUGH. Close though,, perhaps.
So, what DO you use?
The BEST way to treat your room is to use acoustic foam. This is material specifically designed to reduce reflected sound and some even helps reduce outside sounds from entering your space. This is also the most expensive method of treating an already built space. You cold probably get away for less however.
Many people start their Voice Over career using an existing small space in their home. A really good choice would be a medium size walk in closet that has clothes hanging in it. The clothes will help deaden reflections, and then you can strategically place foam panels on the remaining reflective surfaces.
While it is possible to effectively treat a large room, like a bedroom converted to an office/studio, it’s best to stick to a smaller space to reduce the cost and complexity of treating it properly. Being inside a small room within a larger room also helps to reduce outside sounds from getting into your recordings.
But, my wife won’t let me move into her walk-in closet…
If you just don’t have a suitable small closet area, moving blankets are an inexpensive way to help deaden walls in larger rooms. Just hang them from the ceiling, or build yourself a PVC frame to hang them from and that will help a lot. This method, though, does nothing to reduce unwanted sounds from entering your recording space (or at least so little it is not worth mentioning).
These methods will work, but are going to require you to both record during quiet hours AND get pretty good at post production processing to deal with remaining imperfections in your recorded audio. There are two more expensive, and more effective, methods of creating a suitable recording space..
The DIY recording booth.
This option requires you to have some skills as a builder. Essentially, what you are doing is building yourself a box within a room. You’ll want to insulate the walls to help reduce outside sound, and threat the interior walls with acoustic foam. Leaving an air gap between existing walls, floors and ceilings will also help reduce some sounds. Some other considerations when designing your booth are sources of power and ventilation as well. There are several online resources for you to get some ideas of plans from, and I’ll list a few here:
These are just a couple from a quick google search, in your case you will want to google “DIY recording booth plans” and find the ones that are right for your budget and carpentry skill level
The professional home recording booth
This is the most expensive, and most effective, booth to use when recording from home. Of course, you can hire a builder to build you a custom recording space, and if you have enough cash this is the VERY best solution as you not only get a very good recording space but you can also customize it to fit your personal needs. There are however several companies that offer professional recording spaces you can buy and just assemble at home:
Vocal Booth (this is the booth I have)
There are others, but these are the three I see mentioned most often. Again, google is your friend here.
A note about “sound proofing”
We hear people talk about a “sound proof room”, but the only way to get one of those is to build it from the ground up and it is going to require some very thick (usually concrete) walls. None of the methods discussed in this article will provide “sound proofing”, however other than the moving blankets, each provides some degree of sound REDUCTION within your booth. The objective is to get your noise floor as low as possible to maximize the difference between the noise floor and the sound you are recording. This makes removing those stray noises in post easier and will minimize how removing it negatively affects your audio. Of course, of all the options shown, the professional recording booth you either contract to have built or buy from a manufacturer will have the best sound reduction properties and hence the lowest noise floors.
Thanks for reading, see you next time when I’ll talk about that cool equipment you can buy to put IN your new booth!