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My Thoughts on the Home Voice Over Recording Environment

In my previous blog, that you can find here, I briefly touched on some of the key stumbling blocks I faced when first starting out as a voice over artist. In the next few blogs I wanted to go through some if these in more detail, to try and provide fellow newcomers like myself with some hopefully useful advice!

Starting today with perhaps one of the most important things you need to get right – Your home studio recording environment.

You might have the most beautiful voice in the world, able to bring Gods and Emperors to tears, but if you’ve recorded something in a poor environment then you’re not going to sound great. The environment you record in can make or break your recordings, and a bad one will have you sounding like you’re recording live from inside a tin can or something.

First up, as an example, observe exhibit A, my first ever home studio set up, whilst this gotten the job done in the past, it certainly had its flaws.

My first ever studio in all its glory.

As you can see from both the image, and the expertly drawn artists rendering of what I looked like using it, this wasn’t a great set up for a first studio.

Despite having something to dampen the sounds both above and to the sides there were hard surfaces everywhere in that room, and a good general rule to follow in a home studio is that hard surfaces are your enemy.

A beautifully drawn rendition of what I looked like using it.

The more hard surfaces you have, the more your voice is going to echo back and forth creating a horrible echo sound in any recording.

You’ll also see from my lovely drawing that I was also recording at a very uncomfortable, stooped angle which was not ideal for good voice over recordings and could even make them a little strained.

So, as a starting point, soft, fabric surfaces are your friend. I’d recommend setting up where possible in a room with a lot of soft furnishings, carpet, big curtains, that kind of thing. If you have a cupboard large enough it’s even a good idea to work from there, all those lovely soft clothes will do wonders to dampen that echo.

However, if you’re like me and don’t live somewhere with an extravagant walk in closet and soft Persian rugs all over the place there are other options.This is when we come to acoustic foam and blankets. Liberal use of blankets. They truly are the best friend of the voice over artist.

Now I’d point out here that acoustic foam is very different from sound proofing, you can put up all the acoustic foam you like and you’re still going to hear your noisy neighbours or the clog dancers upstairs who have wooden floors and like to practice all hours of the day and night.

Acoustic foam is there really to either absorb unwanted sound or scatter it. Its all about stopping those stray sound waves that cause echoes and that room “hiss” that a big, empty recording space is going to give you.

My second attempt at a studio consisted of a lot of acoustic foam stuck to the walls in the corner of my spare bedroom. It was the smallest room in the house and the easiest to treat. The rest of the room was stuffed with all manner of soft things, a cheap sofa bed from Argos, blankets draped over chairs and I’d also hang my washing in there. Basically, find anything you can that's soft and hang it all over the place.

This was a little better as I at least got to stand up and record but I still couldn’t eliminate every hard surface in the room.

However, you have to keep in mind that acoustic foam and room treatment won’t save you from all those other background noises you’ll get from things like traffic, kids playing in the street and the occasional winter storm. Yes, being near those dreaded windows can also cause chaos for your recordings.

Now, the best advice here is to try and record as far away from outside noises as possible, but, if you don’t have a panic room built into your house, or if you think voice over artists should be allowed access to such nonsense like windows and sunlight, then you can use things like thick curtains, blankets, and even cushions to help out.

Its also good to stay away from other extraneous noises in the house, things like air conditioning and computer fans. I tend to record with my laptop in the next room to reduce fan noise (and I don’t have an air conditioner and would be too cheap to turn it on anyway…)

Attempt three for a voice over booth involved me building one myself and was really as simple as piecing some MDF sheets together into a box shape then lining it with acoustic foam. The front and back are left open and I drape a blanket over it as needed. I know it affectionately as my “voice coffin” and has served me well. All of the demos on my website have been recorded in there so that will give you an idea of the quality.

It provides a lot of noise absorption and cuts out a lot of the background noise (and its also good for taking comfy naps in). I tend to keep the back open though with some blankets placed a little ways behind me, you don’t want to absorb too much sound otherwise your recordings can end up sounding a little dead.

The only real downside is that I don’t have the space in my office to have built one with standing room. I was limited with the size of the MDF I could get home from B & Q in my Ford Focus…(though it was incredibly easy to assemble and about £3000 cheaper than the whisper rooms I looked at)

This isn't my set up. This is the eventual dream. To be completely cut off in a windowless, dimly lit, foam covered room. The quest for a perfect voice over...

For those thinking of setting up as a voice over artists I think a big lesson to take away from this is just go for it. Experiment with your recording environment, try new things and see what works for you. If you’re waiting for things to be perfect or just right you’ll never get going at all.

As you’ve heard from my own home attempts, these are not beautiful in any way, but I’ve booked worked using all three of these set ups and I’m continuing to improve all of the time. If it works, just go for it!

So, to summarise:

· Keep hard surfaces in your recording space to a minimum

· Try to stand up to record where possible

· Try to set up in the smallest room in the house away from boilers and air conditioners and all extraneous noise

· Blankets and acoustic foam are your best friends for dampening sound, but don’t over do it!

But most of all I’d recommend experimenting! If you need some feedback on the quality of your recordings I’d highly recommend Edge studio. Here, you can submit your recordings for fellow voice over artists to give the once over and I’ve gotten a lot of good advice from there.

Best thing is it’s completely free! Link below:

Hope this was useful and catch you next time!


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