Booth, to booth.....to booth.
In today's voiceover world, we all need a home recording booth. There aren't many ways around not having your own recording space. Occasionally I'm overjoyed to find you that I'll be going into an external studio, but depending on the type of voiceover work you do, that may be a rare opportunity. Not to mention that as technology continues to grow, our chances of working 'in house,' may continue to reduce.
Now I think there is a bit of stigma, and a bit of embarrassment from VO's in this ever competitive business, about your first ever recording space. But everybody started somewhere, and getting the perfect recording space is not only personal, but it's also a long process that involves a lot of hard work.
Not everyone can afford a customised purpose built recording space, and indeed you don't need one when you're first getting started. I'm pretty sure there are quite a few people out there recording under duvets, and doing a damn good job of it. While I can't do anything about the sound purists of the world, technology is allowing us more flexibility in terms of choosing a space, buying your gear and setting up your own home studio.
So let's talk about my first basic recording setup. Now my booth has always been in the same space, a small spare room located in the house where I occupy a flat. But initially, this space was filled with so much junk, there was barely any room to go in there, let alone stand around and work. So after some life-sized tetris and a few bags of unwanted waste, I had an empty rectangle to play with. After covering everything in soft furnishings and putting up some basic acoustic treatment, I was ready to start practising.
Now this space was never really intended for more than practise. And what it enabled me to do was learn about sound. Mainly what things should sound like, and what they shouldn't. One useful lesson, was that no matter how hard you try, somethings just can't be covered up. (And importantly, you want your raw audio to be as clean as possible.) In my recording room, was a large metal filing cabinet. And even with heavy acoustic treatment, this object was massively damaging to my sound, creating an echo that I simply could not remove.
So over time, and as I was able to invest more into my space, I started to build booth number two. Filing cabinet gone, I made big leaps to improve my space. I invested in some Producers Choice Acoustic Blankets, some professional grade acoustic foam, and some special layers of rubber to remove any ruble coming through the floor. I also rewired to make sure that the computer could be outside the booth, to ensure there was never going to be any fan noise.
Now these are all pretty simple things, the real work comes when you have to focus in on your sound, and determine if the acoustics are working. And for this, you need to bring in an outside source, but more on that later.
Booth number two proved a worthy upgrade, as my practise and networking paid off, and I started to receive professional paid work. So, my space was good enough....why booth number 3. Well, maybe it's a voiceover thing, but I am always looking at ways to upgrade and improve my business, and I knew that I could make my space even better. I wanted more security in my sound, more flexibility in my space and a more professional look.
So booth number 3 was a big overhaul. I built a more permanent structure involving layers of sound insulation underlay, MDF walls and acoustic layered panels, as well as mute boards for the floor, high speed fiber internet that I knew I needed, and an expansion which allowed me to both sit and stand. A helpful fact when dealing with both long form and short form work.
Next stop, a whisper room? Who knows! The truth is you can get a great sound in a lot of different ways, but one thing that I think is essential, and way more important than expensive treatment or fancy booths, is getting help! If you're not a sound expert, then get someone who is to listen to your sound and take a look at your space.
I heard on a voiceover podcast once, 'you only know what you know,' and I've carried that through my career. When I first started I didn't know what I needed my space to sound like, I learnt. Don't be embarrassed about learning new things, utilise all the wonderful and helpful people out there. And on that note, a massive thank you to Nick Clinch at Notable Voices, Rob Bee at B Double E and George the Tech, all of whom have helped me to make sure my recording space is running to the best of its ability.
Happy booth building VO's.