A lot of students who come to me for training, initially don’t realize that being able to record your own audio at home is one of the most critical factors of being a Voice Actor. Unless you live in NY or LA, remote recording is pretty much the only way to get jobs. So, a quality sounding studio is necessary for not only auditioning but hopefully if you book the job, the actual session with the client. And if the quality is not there, then, ouch…you won’t get hired. Or maybe even paid for the work you did.
When I was first starting to build my home setup, I was utterly clueless. Even though I had my voiceover training and had an agent in NYC and was booking jobs, everything back then was done in these gorgeous professional studios with amazing microphones. There was no need for me even to know the ins and outs of recording, or with what equipment because there was always a knowledgeable engineer on the other side of the glass making me sound pretty. Ah, those were the days!
But alas, times have changed. Studios are affordable, and clients are accessible globally. So here we are, with the task of having to create and manage our own setup. But there are ways to start slowly and not bust your wallet.
Since the concept of building a studio can appear intimidating, I usually have my newer less experienced students start slowly with little to no budget. The fact being that although this career sounds appealing, once the “work” and training begin, many newer talent feel that it’s too difficult to master or maybe it’s just not for them. Hey, no judgments by me, you have to go with what’s comfortable for you and usually within the first few lessons, a student can then decide if they want to go further. This is another reason why I have a pay as you go philosophy.
Here are a few easy things you can do to start building your home studio.
- Find a clothes closet and leave the clothing inside while you work. The clothes will deaden the ambient sound in the room and create a perfect first “booth.” There’s no need yet to buy the studio foam. Cost: $0 My Real Life Experience: When I had to create a home studio in my apartment in NYC, I started with a coat closet in my spare bedroom. I learned the hard way though that using a structure inside a busy, old NYC apartment building was the worst idea ever! There was a nearby stairwell, so every time someone would come into the main building door, I’d have to pause my voicing and wait for the steps to disappear. Frustrating? Yeah. Talk about turning a 30-minute narration into a 2-hour recording session with so many breaks! Yikes! But hopefully, you don’t live in a busy NYC apartment building from the 1940s’. Proceed…
- Grab your earbuds or regular headphones and plug into your laptop. Pretty much everyone has at least one pair of headphones. Cost: $0. At this point in the game, you don’t need to bust out for $100 Sony MDR-7506’s. All you’re looking for is the ability to start to gather a reference point for how your voice matches your ears. The more we listen back to ourselves, the more our ability to catch nuances in our speech increases.
- Order yourself a USB microphone for a starter. Cost: $50. These days, you can buy a fantastic starter USB microphone for $130 bucks that can last you for years! This will be the one expense you won’t be able to get away from. But you can spend as little as $50.00 for a starter microphone without having to invest in a higher end condenser microphone at this point in your career.
- Download a FREE editing software program. Most of us have a computer of some sort. Just make sure it’s capable of handling a FREE download of an editing software program like Audacity. Cost: $0. With Audacity, you can begin to familiarize yourself with editing basics, like how to record audio, what a waveform looks like, how to cut out mistakes and breathes, and how to export a simple MP3 file. Most editing programs follow the same procedures, so with a free program like Audacity, you can learn on the cheap. Fact is, when you record a voiceover, it’s a simple single track file, so a program like Pro Tools, while my personal favorite, is complete overkill at this point.
Just prepare for a bit of a learning curve with your first home studio setup since a lot of small factors can add up to significant problems. But with some trial and error and a few YouTube videos sprinkled in, you’ll get the hang of it quicker than you think. – Linda