We have entered a new reality. There has been a change in the way voice actors and narrators have been used.
Long ago are the days that talent would just show up at a studio or agency/agent and do their session or audition with a script printed, freshly sharpened pencils on the stand, and a bottle of water arranged nicely on a table next to them.
It isn’t the case that much anymore. Announcers are often expected to record, edit, and share their audition or voice takes remotely, and now with this looming self quarantine maybe this will become the new normal.
So how does one do this? Many actors and voice overs don’t think of themselves as technical and the task of finding the right space, setting up and soundproofing, and the recording aspect can be daunting. It is easy if taken in small steps and not getting ahead of yourself.
First find a space…a place in your home that is relatively quiet. A closet will do, as long as you can stand in there. I use a pantry next to my kitchen that is the size of a walk in closet. There are shelves of food and appliances and such, but I hide one side of it with a 4’ x 2’ piece of foam hung from the top shelf with grommets. I also put down a small rug to cover the floor and have some carpet on a music stand for scripts. Most closets have clothing hanging and that can be great soundproofing. So fill up that closet with sweaters, dresses, suits, and coats!
Next, you need a microphone. There will always be debate regarding the quality of the mic. Many will try to convince you to spend a lot of money on a great microphone and preamp. It does make a difference, but the technology has evolved, and there are some really great sounding mics for the cost of a night out. Some say the best tool is the one you have, so if you already have a microphone it will probably be good to start. If it is a USB type you will not need an i/o (input/output) device. If your microphone has an XLR connection (circular with three contacts inside it) you will. The i/o box acts as a preamp for the microphone and a digital converter for the signal into your computer or tablet. It is already built into a USB mic.
Last on the list is a recording device. It doesn’t matter if it is a desktop, laptop, tablet/iPad, or smartphone. Windows or Mac will do. All work and one doesn’t sound better than another. That also goes for the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). That is the program that you record and edit. There are some that have a monthly fee, some that have individual pricing, and some that are free. Some record one or two tracks only and others have an unlimited (depending on your system) number of tracks. Use whatever you feel comfortable with.
There are accessories that might be needed depending upon the situation: A music stand to hold scripts, a mic stand, a pop filter or windscreen for the microphone to control noise, and lighting.
Some announcers like to have everything in their “booth” and then take the computer/tablet/smartphone out into a larger space to edit. Some feel comfortable recording and editing in the same space. I run the microphone and headphone cables to the adjoining room because I am usually acting as an engineer and recording someone else in my pantry.
With the practice of social distancing, many are looking or are forced to do sessions from home. ISDN digital patches used to be the norm, but that involves installing two or more phone lines and purchasing a codec to convert analog to digital and back to analog. It is rather expensive and to connect, you need to find a studio or person on the network. Now, the industry standard is Source Connect from Source Elements.
Think of it (in layman’s terms) as FaceTime or Skype with a microphone. There is no video element but communication between your home studio and another. It works over internet and there is even a chat window to type messages.
The final thing to think about is learning how to record, edit, and share a file. That takes time and practice, but trust me, you will be much better after completing fifty auditions! Record yourself in mono. Share your files in joint stereo. Make your mp3s the highest quality you can… they will still be e-mailable!
Remember, you don’t need to have a fortune invested in a home studio to get a good product. You can always start small and incrementally upgrade… usb mic to microphone and i/o, better microphone, better i/o. If you need help getting started, just call a pro! It is time to be proactive and make yourself competitive in the voice over marketplace and has never been cheaper to get started!
Dave Kresl has worked as a recording engineer in the Chicago advertising community for over twenty years. Through the recording and mixing of thousands of spots for television radio and internet, he can help you with the process of preparing great sounding auditions!