Affordable technology has made it possible for more voice artists to
think about recording at home. While this is a great idea for rehearsing,
honing your skills, even for sending auditions to your agent using highly
compressed MP3 files, please know it’s more difficult than it
looks. There are reasons commercial recording studios have a half million
dollars in equipment, and employ sound mixers who are called “engineers.”
However, I’ve been doing professional quality recording at home
since 1982, and offer a few things for you to consider, if you’re
thinking about a Home Studio.
First of all, you will need to develop your computer skills far beyond
checking email on AOL. If you think a file is “lost” if
it’s not in the “My Documents” folder or if computer
‘file extentions’ scare you, then perhaps this digital recording
at home is not for you. You will need to become familiar with the many
different kinds of digital files, bit rates, sample rates, how they
convert, or don’t convert to other formats. All digital formats
are not created equal.
If you hope to be doing work for air, MP3 files may suffice for “pickup
lines” and quick fixes. Full live sessions are accomplished by
an ISDN codec. I recommend the Telos Zephyr, in the $5,000. price range.
Do NOT get the one with a built in mic preamp and mixer. It’s
NOThigh quality enough for professional sessions. Setting up ISDNequipment
is not for the technically challenged. Hire a professional.
Second, is the microphone and mic preamp. If you’re to do studio
quality recording, you’ll need a top quality microphone, price
range: $1,000-$2,000, and a professional preamp, in a similar price
range. You will need a recording studio technician to make sure all
of your equipment is compatible and connected in phase.
This is not like hooking up stereo equipment. Mixing and matching consumer
grade gear and pro gear is not recommended (they utilize different gain
I suggest that your home studio does not use a small mixing console.
Sure they are “cool,” but they sound cheap, and can constrict
the sound that your expensive mic preamp puts out. Little mixers also
encourage the talent to fool around with EQ (complex tone control),
and most voice actors do not have the training to make decisions about
processing. Processing is post production. Your job is to be a performer
only. Your home studio should deliver a clean, quiet flat signal to
the client on the other end of the line. Let them do the sound processing.
The recording environment is tricky too. The sound panels you see on
the walls of a studio do not sound-proof the studio, they only help
control the “bounce” or echo of the room, so that what the
sound the mixer hears is not ‘room altered’. A room, or
closet that “sounds quiet” to you, is usually not suitable
for professional recording. (check out the leaf-blower three houses
down, or the plumbing when they flush the upstairs toilet, or the crows
in a tree outside.) For professional recording at home, the best solution
is a prefabricated isolation booth, $5,000-$12,000 or else have a floating
isolation booth built by an experienced recording studio contractor.
Even with a studio at home, unless you’re one of the 800 pound
Gorrillas who have enough clout to get producers to use you around your
schedule, clients will still want you to record at the studio of their
choice. If you want to record at home, your mission is to make sure
the sound of your studio matches that of the top studios in town, so
that producers will have not reason to balk at recording this way. And
soon, you too will be going to work in your pajamas.
- Beau Weaver