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Setting Up A Studio for a Voice Over Actor
If you’re going to be a successful voiceover actor, you need to have a broadcast-quality studio, or your files will be returned to you and your reputation will plummet. Buy the best microphone you can afford – but it should be suitable for your voice. You should go to a well stocked audio or music store in town, try out a few in your price range and record your voice using a top of the range “pop” filter hoop on every… essential for any super voice actor. Request playback through decent HiFi speakers in a quiet room. Don’t just listen through headphones live, it won’t give you any useful feedback on the quality of the mics you’re testing.
So why are you listening on playback? Well, a vocal artist needs a microphone that picks out all the “nice” harmonies in your voice and cuts out the “bad” elements. I personally use Neumann U87 and Neumann TLM 103 as they seem to suit my deep bass voice. It gives my voice resonance and authority while keeping the top end (treble) clear. Years ago, when I was testing microphones, I found that the Electovoice microphones made my voice muffled for some reason, and the AKG ones were thin and lifeless when they recorded my voice. However, I know voice actors who like these other mics, so you have to see what suits your voice and the way you use the mic.
You will find USB microphones at really good prices, (like Rode NT or Audio Technica AT2020) but I suggest avoiding those. A professional voice actor really needs a traditional large condenser microphone with an XLR audio jack, not a digital USB jack. As a rule of thumb, you’d be looking to spend at least $500 on a microphone, and you might get lucky and find a used one online for a big discount on the new price. At the microphone shop, also buy a good quality pop filter (dual filters are usually best) and a quality anglepoise mic stand so you can position the mic just right, plus a mic cage or spring mount. It does not absorb vibrations from the table.
So how does the voice actor put it all together? The microphone needs to be connected via a thick quality filtered XLR cable to a very good quality preamp such as a Focusrite Scarlett or Steinberg UR 22 (which I have) which is then connected to a computer USB port. Aim for absolute silence both in the microphone and recording chain and in the room or sound booth where you are recording. Unless you only want to record “shouting” scripts for a hard sell, there will be times when the slightest bit of interference or hum will destroy the so-called “noise floor” of voice recording on the player. Once you have found a quiet room, the walls and ceiling should be treated with foam acoustic tiles. This should be done to create a “dead” recording area without acoustic reflections.
You may not want to record your audio on your computer. I don’t, actually. I prefer to connect my microphone to a stand-alone solid state recorder, my trusty old Marantz PMD 661. It gives me more flexibility to take out the SD card to edit the audio on train rides, and I like the confidence that the stand-alone recorder does its job 100% of the time and that no computer software gets in the way.
So what about the location where you’re going to record as a voiceover actor? At home, ideally you would have a large room or even a garage with a built-in professional sound booth, but they are very expensive, at least $4,000. These stands are very heavy, and are shipped in a huge kit-like box. They are basically a large box that you enter through a door and usually have a window. Inside there will be a table and a chair plus the screen microphone, keyboard and mouse.
If you can’t afford or have the space for a sound booth, you’ll probably start with a small room that will fit. Remember you want the nasty noisy computer with its fans outside the room you’re in, near with proper USB cables and amplifiers leading to your keyboard, mouse and screen in front of your microphone system. Or if you have a soundproof cabinet that offers ventilation for the computer, that could work as well. The audio output leads should also go to the amplifier and speakers and audio meters (ideally sensitive professional PPM meters) in your studio that will have a headphone jack for direct phone or skype sessions, or any of the systems like ipDTL which are very high quality “record at their end” setups.
On the computer you will need audio editing software, (I use Adobe Audition) Skype, Word, a PDF reader and that’s about it, apart from the email system you will use to get jobs. It won’t cost a fortune to start a good home studio, but a fortune is what you can earn as a successful working actor. good luck to you!
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