Today’s blog installment comes directly from one of the questions fielded from my Biweekly Live Training session this past Sunday, “What’s the best way to do voice overs from home?” This is definitely the #1 voice over question for the 21st century! There are two major components to answer that open-ended question: first, How do we record our voice overs properly and, Where do we record our voice overs properly.
HOW do we record ourselves at a professional level?
First of all, we need the right equipment. Here’s the breakdown of what all voice actors need to accomplish this at home:
- Microphone; preferably, a large diaphragm condenser style microphone.
- Microphone Stand; we need to get our mics out of our hands to comfortably express ourselves by gesturing freely.
- Pop Filter; this helps reduce the extra noise of saying plosives (i.e. “P”s and “T”s) and sibilance (i.e. “S”s and “C”s).
- Digital Audio Interface; which provides both power to our microphone and translates the analog signal into the digital signal the computer can understand.
- Studio Headphones; so we can monitor our recordings and double-check our work.
- Computer; this is the foundation of operating in today’s VO industry. You simply must have a good functioning computer.
- Digital Recording/Editing Software; Lots of choices over the years, some are expensive. However, PC users can download Audacity for free, Mac users already have GarageBand in their application folder.
You also want to use a music stand to get the script out of your hands as well. When we communicate with people, all day every day, we are constantly using our bodies to help express ourselves fully. Even a clipboard will work, so you can read the words comfortably and gesture freely (but, quietly!)
Also, if you haven’t yet procured any of your equipment, here’s a simply fantastic deal for the entire home studio equipment package from our friends at Music Store Live: everything you need in regards to your physical audio chain for only $249! Mic, mic stand, interface, headphones, even the pop filter. Click HERE if you’re interested in ordering yours today.
WHERE do we record ourselves to get professional quality audio?
Next, we need a quiet place to record our voice overs properly. This is a place in your home that can be used on some kind of a consistent basis, so it doesn’t have to be available 24/7. It also doesn’t need to be sound proof, it just needs to be quiet. This can be a back bedroom, spare office, hall or walk-in closet, basement, bonus room, or that space beneath the stairs. This is the biggest wild card of today’s voice over endeavor, because everybody’s home is unique. Remember, it doesn’t have to be sound proof, it needs to be sound-dampened. Plus, the entire room doesn’t need to be quiet, just the space immediately around your microphone set-up.
Wherever you’re thinking about setting up your recording space, here’s a great tip on making the determination of a viable space: identify a place that is a good candidate and grab a chair. Sit in your environment for 4 or 5 minutes and…
Don’t move around. Simply listen. Just like sanitation workers can become “nose blind” to the stink of their profession, we all tend to become “ear blind” to the everyday sounds in and around our homes. As you listen, can you hear sounds that you’ve tuned out over time? A cuckoo clock tick-tocking away; water rushing through pipes when someone is showering or using the loo; rumbles or hums of appliances in other rooms; passing traffic noise from your neighborhood; footsteps from someone walking above your immediate area. We now need to be completely aware of what noises in our environment are bleeding into our recordings. Trust me, that microphone will pick up everything! Every home is different, so you may need to be creative and think of several options to determine what might work best for your specific situation.
As mentioned above, the entire room doesn’t have to be treated for sound absorption. Sometimes, even in a walk-in closet, we can cordon off an area immediately around our microphone set-up to segregate outside noise from our recording environment. This may be as simple as a room divider or changing screen with a big fluffy comforter draped over the top. Moving blankets and summer-style sleeping bags are also great choices.
One last acoustic space tip: however your recording area is sectioned off from the rest of the room, keep an eye on the ceiling above and think about capping off your studio from sound waves hitting the ceiling above and bouncing back down into your audio.
For voice overs to be done at a professional level, we need our audio files to contain pretty much nothing but your voice: no background echoes or room ambiance in your physical acoustic space, no pops, clicks or smacks from our mouths as we speak, and no hissing, buzzing or humming in our electronic audio chain. Just you and your craft shining through!
I wish you all much success!
Bill Sleeper is an accomplished voice over actor, coach, and producer, with clients around the globe. His extensive background in training and mentoring in several industries couples nicely with his decades of vocal performance education. Learn more at BillSleeper.com.