If you are interested in pursuing a career in the industry, a voiceover recording studio is more important than purchasing any single piece of equipment. You may have a fantastic voice that can read many genres, including corporate narration, commercial, eLearning, or animation. However, even if you have a superb microphone, you can have many background noises bleeding into your recording if you don’t have a quiet space.
Noises such as cars or airplanes passing by, your family walking around the home, or the sound of your air conditioner running will be distracting to the listener. Additionally, you may increase the risk of your clients being unhappy with the final product. There is a lot of buzz online within the community about this topic, so let’s chat about what you need to know to create your own voiceover recording studio.
The Ideal Space
A professional recording studio is the best space to record your voice over. The top choices are professional studios with a custom booth, a sound engineer on hand, and tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Some voice actors rent out professional studios and perform their jobs there, but that isn’t a sustainable option.
Evolution of the Voiceover Recording Studio
In the past, voice actors led their careers relying on recording in professional studios. They would receive their auditions from their agent, audition time and date, and drive to the studio to record their audition. If selected, the talent would return to that studio or another to do the final recording. The audio quality would be excellent, but time, energy, and money were required to work this way. Living in the digital age, voice actors have moved their studios into their homes. Up to the year 2020, only about half of the voice actors had home studios. Once the pandemic hit, voice actors were forced to acquire a home studio as quickly as possible if they wanted to continue working.
My First Recording Booth – The Closet
Luckily, I had already had a booth set up. That was one of the main reasons I considered voice acting, the fact that I could do it from home. The word “booth” is interesting because my first recording space was actually a closet within my house. I did much research when starting in voice over, and many online stated that the most cost-effective option was to use an existing closet within your home and retrofit it into a working voice over booth. So as the millennial in me, that is what I did.
You want it to be quiet in any recording space with no noise bleeding through and no echoes. Otherwise, you get a boxy sound—vocal isolation and sound absorption, not complete soundproofing. When your recording is acoustically treated with the right equipment, your recording will sound crisp, clear, and professional. This will make the editing much more manageable.
Building From Scratch
I emptied a closet, purchased some studio foam from Amazon, and started nailing in each 12” x 12” piece until I covered most of the walls. I also bought a moving blanket from Amazon to cover up the closet’s back wall. Moving blankets are a cheap and effective way to dampen noise and reverberation. Once that was complete, I added a carpet to the floor. Next, I added my microphone and a music stand and went to work. It took a few weeks of trial and error to get the best sound to my ear.
After many months of still doubting my sound, I decided to hire George Whittam, one of Hollywood’s top sound engineers, to check my sound quality. I sent him a few raw (unedited) recordings, and within 45 minutes, he had my sound in tip-top shape. If I could do it again, I would have hired him months earlier to give me the utmost confidence when I recorded every audition and went into each live-directed session. Nevertheless, he said my booth sounded great but needed minor adjustments within my editing software.
Your Voiceover Recording Studio Doesn’t Have to Be Beautiful
That first booth was not a pretty sight. It was pretty unappealing to the eye. The colors were orange and black (not my favs), and it was dark, small, and stuffy. I had to keep open the door frequently during long live-directed recording sessions because the temperature rose quickly there. It was a place I did not to be all day. I felt it was a tomb!
Though that closet was a sight for sore eyes, it was pretty profitable for me. I was able to record thousands of auditions, work with hundreds of international clients, and it allowed me to leave my regular full-time job and pursue voice acting as a real career. I also recorded commercials seen on network television there. It’s funny when I think about it. One would never know that I recorded that in a dingy closet from my home. I think only five clients have ever asked me where I record. My reply was “a professional studio as approved by a top Los Angeles sound engineer.” That was all they needed to hear, and I got the job. 🙂
My Voiceover Studio Version 2.0
Eventually, I decided it was time for an upgrade. So after a lot of research, now I have a portable voice over booth. I did much research online to find something within my budget that would still allow me to record good quality broadcast voice over, and my priority was to find a booth that was comfortable to stay in during long sessions and not overheat.
More voiceover booths are available on the market than ever before as the digital landscape has evolved. I settled on a Vocal Booth to Go, a portable unit initially designed for the artist on the go. But, it works as my main booth. I purchased the 4×4 booth and placed it in a walk-in closet within my home. I nailed up two moving blankets onto the left and right walls of the closet to dampen the noise. Then I added my studio foam from my old closet to the back wall and placed the 4×4 booth inside. So, in effect, I have a booth within a booth 🙂 It’s a little hack that works quite well.
The last time I checked, my dB was -55, which is pretty good. I love the Vocal Booth because it’s a PVC frame with moving blankets as the “walls.” The color is white, which is light, bright, and refreshing. My old booth was quite dark and felt like a tomb. This new space is much bigger and gives me room to move my arms and legs, which is especially necessary for animation work and leaves me with energy at the end of my day. I also now have room for a desk, chair, and a monitor to do my daily work.
Your Voiceover Recording Studio is Up To You
Whether you are a diverse voice talent or a niche specialist, your recording studio can be customized to your needs. It would be unreasonable to assume that every voice talent has spent thousands of dollars on their booths because it doesn’t matter what it looks like. It’s about how it sounds and feels to you, the talent.
The next article will discuss some of the top-rated voice over sound booths available today.