Setting Up A Studio for a Voice Over Actor

If you going to be a successful voice over actor, you need to have a broadcast quality studio, or else your files will be returned to you and your reputation will plummet. Buy the best microphone you can afford – but it needs to be right for your voice. You need to go to a […]

Setting Up A Studio for a Voice Over Actor

If you going to be a successful voice over actor, you need to have a broadcast quality studio, or else your files will be returned to you and your reputation will plummet. Buy the best microphone you can afford – but it needs to be right for your voice. You need to go to a well stocked audio or music shop in a city, try some out in your price range and record your voice using a top of the range “pop” filter hoop on each… essential for every voice over actor. Ask for playback through decent HiFi speakers in a quiet room. Don’t just listen through headphones live, that won’t give you any useful feedback to the quality of the microphones you are testing.

So what are you listening for on playback? Well, a voice over artist needs a microphone that picks out all the “nice” harmonics in your voice and diminishes the “bad” elements. I personally use a Neumann U87 and Neumann TLM 103, as they seem to suit my deep bass voice. It gives my voice resonance and authority while keeping top end (treble) clarity. Years ago when testing microphones, I found Electovoice mikes made my voice muffled for some reason, and AKG ones were thin and lifeless when recording my voice. Yet I know voice over actorswho love these other microphones, so you have to see what is right for your own voice and the way you use the microphone.

You’ll find USB microphones at really good prices, (like the Rode NT or the Audio Technica AT2020) but I suggest you avoid these. A professional voice over actor really need a traditional large condenser microphone with an XLR audio socket, not a USB digital socket. As a rule of thumb, you’d be looking to spend at least $500 on a microphone, and you may be lucky and find a cared for used one on the net for a big discount on the new price. In the microphone shop, you’d also buy a good quality pop filter (double filter ones are usually the best) and a quality anglepoise type mike stand so you can position the microphone exactly right, plus a cage or sprung mount for the microphone so it doesn’t pick up vibrations from the desk.

So how does the voice over actor connect everything up? The microphone needs to plug using a thick quality screened XLR cable into very good quality preamp such as a Focusrite Scarlett or Steinberg UR 22 (Which I have) that then plugs into a USB port of a computer. Aim for total silence in both the microphone and recording chain and also the room or voice booth you are recording in. Unless you want to just record “shouty” hard-sell scripts, there will be occasions where the slightest small bit of interference or hum will ruin what is called the “noise floor” of a voice over actor’s recording. Once you have found a quiet room, the walls and ceiling need to be treated with foam acoustic tiles. This has to done to create a “dead” recording zone with no acoustic reflections.

You may not want to record your audio on your computer. I don’t, actually. I prefer to plug my microphone into a stand-alone solid state recorder, my trusty old Marantz PMD 661. It gives me more flexibility to pop the SD card out to edit the audio on train journeys, and I like the confidence that the stand-alone recorder is doing its job 100% of the time and that no computer programs are interfering.

So what about the location where you are going to record as a voice over actor? At home, ideally you’d have a big room or even a garage with a professional voice booth built in, but they are very expensive, at least $4,000. These booths are very heavy, and they get delivered in a huge box in a kit form. They are basically a big box that you step inside via a door and there is usually a window. Inside will be a desk and chair plus your screen microphone, keyboard and mouse.

If you can’t afford or have the space for a voice booth, you’d probably start with a small room that you’d adapt. Remember you want the nasty noisy computer with its fans OUTSIDE the room you are in, next door with wires and appropriate USB amplifiers leading to your keyboard, mouse and screen in front of your microphone set up. Or if you have a soundproofed cupboard that offers ventilation for the computer, that could work as well. The audio output leads also need to come to your amp and loudspeakers and audio meters (ideally sensitive professional PPM meters) in your studio that will have a headphone socket for directed sessions by phone or Skype, or any of the systems like ipDTL that are very high quality “record at their end” set ups.

On the computer, you’ll need audio editing software, (I use Adobe Audition) Skype, Word, PDF reader and that’s about it, apart from the email system that you’ll use to receive jobs. It won’t cost a fortune to set up a good home studio, but a fortune is what you could stand to gain as a successful working voice over actor. Good luck to you!

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