My new voice over studio is finally coming together, as you may have seen on Instagram (@nethervoice). It’s in a corner of a basement room. Coming from a small enclosed cube without windows, I love having daylight come into my recording space.
From where I’m sitting, I can see the beautiful trees and gorgeous Vermont skies. If I stand up and look out, I see a sparkling white tapestry of untouched snow. I’m in heaven!
As you may have noticed, I’m not in some double-walled enclosure to keep the ambient sounds from coming in. Because we live in such a secluded area, there is no need for that. Our home is surrounded by blissful quietude.
What did need to happen, was taming the acoustics. Any space has unwanted reverberations and mine was no exception. My approach to room treatment was a reflection of our minimalist lifestyle. I wanted to reuse what I already had and not be concerned about what it would look like. Clients care about the way the audio sounds, and not about how fancy a studio looks.
To begin, I put all my old foam panels on the walls. The more traditional looking panels are from Auralex, and the funny looking ones (my favorites) were made by Next Acoustics. I don’t think they’re in business anymore. There are bass traps in all four corners, and the brown-colored panels are from GIK-Acoustics. These are my sound absorbers. The foam panels on the walls are my sound diffusers.
The ceiling panels are attached by chains, and the height and position can be adjusted as needed. It’s like a canopy above my head. Behind my Herman Miller chair is a screen panel that’s free standing and movable. It measures 32″W x 72″H x 2.75″ thick, which is a total of 16.8 square feet of treatment.
On the ceiling are three 242 acoustic panels that are 3.625″ thick and easily mountable. They reduce the decay in the room. The acoustic panel’s properties come from the core, which is made from 100% recycled materials that include no formaldehyde.
The last addition is a GIK FreeStand Bass Trap which is a 24″ x 60″ x 4″ movable panel with steel supports. This increases low end absorption.
TREAT YOUR SPACE FIRST
If you aren’t into voice overs, what I’m going to write about now, isn’t going to be particularly interesting. It’s like a chef describing her knives, pots, and pans to make the sausage. But if you’re a gearhead like I am, you want to know how the sausage is made. In my case, a vegetarian sausage.
Those who are new to VO may be tempted to invest heavily in equipment, like a good microphone and a preamplifier. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not where you begin. You start with room treatment. Even the most expensive microphone will sound terrible in a poorly treated room.
For you to come alive as a narrator, your studio space has to sound DEAD. No distracting reverberations making the room sound hollow. That’s for amateurs who record at the kitchen table. You also need to make sure the sounds of the outside world won’t come inside. This includes sounds you may not even hear, like low rumble from a fridge, electrical interference, or the Amazon delivery truck.
Realize one thing: creating such a space doesn’t come cheap, and there are no shortcuts or miracle solutions.
MY STUDIO EQUIPMENT
Onto my equipment: I have two mics I use regularly, a Gefell M930 Ts (the smallest large-diaphragm microphone in the world) and a Synco D2 shotgun microphone. They are connected to an SSL 2+ preamplifier. Plugged into that preamp are my studio monitors, the Presonus Eris E5’s, as well as my Austrian Audio Hi X55 headphones.
My Gefell is mounted on a K & M boom arm with integrated springs, and rests in a Rycote shock mount. My shotgun is on a short Samson MB1 boom, and has a Hook Studios Octo-842S Front-Address Pop Filter.
When it comes to gear there are thousands of options to choose from for any budget. My setup works for my personal situation and that’s important. You’ve got to find what works in YOUR space. It’s nice to ask colleagues for advice, but they are not in your studio and they don’t control your budget.
MY FIRST RECORDING
After three months of waiting, it finally happened. I was back in my booth, recording an audiobook. It was 5:00 AM, and I felt a strange mix of excitement and trepidation. My mouth was dry, my facial muscles were still sleeping, and I wasn’t too sure I was totally ready.
But after Fed-Ex had dropped off a bass trap, the final piece of my new VO studio was in place. I had no reason NOT to begin. My client had been very patient with me. He’d wanted me to finish the book by the end of last year, but understood it was impossible and agreed to change the deadline. Now it was up to me to deliver.
In a way I felt like I was starting over… like going back on the ski slopes after three seasons of nothing. Would I be able to stay in control, and not crash at the base of the mountain?
After five minutes of facial gymnastics the cats had discovered what I was doing and they wanted to join the party. Snicker, the boy, jumped on my keyboard and started chasing the cursor on my monitor. Doodle, his twin sister, didn’t want to be excluded and made the saddest noises from below. “Play with me now, or I’ll make sure you never get to finish your book,” she seemed to say.
When they had finally calmed down, they were both purring on the floor below me. I’m not sure my listeners would be expecting those sounds, having just bought an audiobook called “Economy, Society, and History.” But I couldn’t evict them because I knew it wouldn’t take them long to start meowing at the other side of the door.
At last all was quiet, and I took a deep breath to begin recording. It was one of those bitterly cold Vermont mornings, and I was glad I was wearing my fleece bathrobe over my regular clothes. The first paragraph went surprisingly well, I thought, until the central furnace which is also located in the basement, kicked into gear with a loud roar.
Because our home is so secluded, I didn’t think I would need a double-walled booth to keep outside noises out, but I had forgotten about sounds from INSIDE the house. Thankfully, furnaces stop rumbling after the house is warmed up.
All in all it took me 2 hours to produce 10 minutes of finished audio, but boy, am I happy to be back in business!