Category Archives: Guest Writers
By: Such A Voice’s Post Production Coordinator, Brendan Coyle
The biggest challenge to getting quality audio from a voice-over recording is getting a good “signal to noise ratio“. The signal is your voice – the noise is any other sound that is not your voice. We want to be sure we get more voice and less noise. Noise can be anything that is not your voice – traffic outside, a lawn mower, the hum of a refrigerator, the hum of your computer, the sound of your voice echoing back in the room. Here are some ideas on how to eliminate these sounds:
Where should I set up my studio?
The simple answer is the quietest place in your home. Don’t set up in a room with high ceilings or all wood floors. Rooms with carpeting, chairs, couches and other padded furniture can help absorb noise. Upstairs is usually better than down stairs, as you can avoid the sound of footsteps from traffic on the floor above. There are exceptions to the rule of course. If you have a quiet basement with no one walking above you, this may be a better option.
Think about these:
A room between two other rooms is often better than a room with two exterior walls. This may help keep outside noise… outside!
A rear room may be quieter than a room that faces the street which may have traffic noise. Experiement with your acoustics.
Before you start setting up your microphone, stand, cables, computer, etc., you’ll need to do some listening. Grab a chair and sit near the space you want to set up your studio. Close your eyes and listen quietly and carefully – listen for clocks, central air, a celling fan, a squeaky chair, computer noise – anything that can be picked up by your mic. Move the chair to a different spot (or different room) if you need to, and listen again.
Once you identify where any noises are coming from, do what you can to eliminate the sounds – move the ticking clock to another room; put your computer under your desk to lessen the fan noise; pull the desk away from the wall if it taps or rubs when you touch the surface; unplug any devices that you can which come on automatically or have any ambient sound.
If you’re on a budget, thick blankets can be good for dampening sound coming through a wall or from under a door. You can also pick up inexpensive egg crate foam from stores like Walmart and Home Depot. You might even consider a cheap folding room divider that you can pad or cover with foam or blankets. Depending on the size (and how many) you have, you can create a fairly well insulated “recording booth” for very little money – plus, it’s easy to move. Some VO artists even build pillow-forts on their desk around their mics!
Here are some photos from our coaches’ home studios.
Notice how not only is the mic isolated from reflective sound coming from the corner with the Auralex Mudguard, but the window is treated with heavy curtains, which may not only stop the reflection off the glass, but absorb or diffuse the sound waves away from the mic.
Keeping your computer as far away from your mic is very important, that’s why it’s a good idea to have a long XLR mic cable. Large diaphragm condenser mics are very sensitive, sometimes more sensitive than your ear, so if you can hear your computer or anything for that matter, your mic will too!
Be careful when setting up your mic with your back facing a corner of a room like the image below. Try this exercise, stand right in a corner of a room with your back facing the corner and begin to talk. Now, slowly walk out into the center of the room while still talking. You may notice that the sound of your voice has more “heavy” low frequencies, or “bassy” qualities when you stand in the corner of the room. As you walk to the more “open” center of the room, those low frequencies become less, making your voice a bit more clear. Low frequencies can really “build up” and reinforce themselves in corners, and this can cause your sound source (your voice) to become really “muddy”.
Here’s a little portable studio created by a v-o artist on the go. It’s made with packing blankets and PVC pipe. You can buy porta booths like this such as the Harlan Hogan’s Porta booth online for around $350, but if you are handy, you can also make one yourself. Be aware that these small booths are not necessarily a “cure all” for your acoustic treatment. You will still need to consider the room in which you are recording. If you were to use this booth in a room with a lot of sonic reflective surfaces, like a tiled bathroom, this booth would do little to protect against all that reflective sound coming back to the mic, however if you set this booth up in the center of a quiet room, it will be much more effective. Also be careful how far back into the porta both you set your mic. Certain frequencies can build up in these types of boxes as well. It’s a microcosm of what I mentioned above about frequencies building up in corners. With these prota booths, you can get a “box-y” sound, which depending on the timbre and pitch of your voice, can sound “muddy” and not as clear.
Also, if you have to make a recording and you find yourself in a hotel room with no porta booth, you can also try and make one out of pillows. That’s right, revisit your childhood and create a pillow fort around your mic.
Remember to always use a good pop filter to help eliminate popping “B” and “P” sounds. When you pop your Bs and Ps, it can really distort your recording and it’s not always the sound itself that does it, it can be the gust of air that leaves your lips and hits the diaphragm of your mic, which can distort the sound, or at least create a high volume “pop” that will make the listener jump. A good pop filter can diffuse this gust of air so it doesn’t hit the mic and as an added bonus, it can keep spit off your very expensive microphone as well!
Also, be careful about the placement of your music stand which holds your copy. A music stand can be a great source of unwanted reflective sound coming back into your mic, creating a tin like echo effect. If you want to keep your stand in close proximity of your mic, that’s fine, but you may want to consider treating it by putting a piece of square carpet or a towel or blanket over it. You should still have room to put your copy over that.
Check out this YouTube video on how this v-o artist sets up her own home studio: http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=VIDlu9exIek
An accountabilibuddy is a term coined by the South Park cartoon to describe someone who is assigned to you to keep you accountable. This term was introduced to me at VOICE 2012 (since I don’t watch South Park) when I attended Tom Dheere’s session titled: Goals & Action Plans: Putting it All Together.
While the term accountabilibuddy is new to me, the concept of an accountability partner is not. I have had several in my life and they have always kept me on top of the things that are important and in helping me reach my goals. I have attended and read many books on reaching goals. Being accountable to someone is without a doubt a great way to achieve success. It helps keep you from slacking off or worse yet let a year or two go by without reaching your goals.
Tom’s session was the first on accountability, that I had attended in the context of voice-overs. It was great to be reminded of the importance of having a mission statement, weekly, monthly and yearly goals along with an action plan to reach those but of course it all stems from your mission statement. Your accountabilibuddy is someone you share these things with so they know what to hold you accountable for week after week.
Tom challenged us to go out and find one while we were at VOICE and not to leave without one. Seeing how there were over 400 VO talents there it wasn’t hard to find one. In fact, my accountabilibuddy is someone that I just met at VOICE but we hit it off really well and she approached me and I said YES!
Since then we have met three times. We are meeting on a bi-weekly basis to start off with since we are both pretty busy but it has already helped us to stay focused on the things we want to implement that we learned at VOICE.
So how about you? Ready to find yourself an accountabilibuddy? I hope so. Here are my recommendations on finding one:
- Find someone who lives close to you if at all possible. This will help you foster a strong relationship. If this is not possible don’t fret, the phone or skype work just as good. The only downside is you can’t share a meal together to celebrate reaching big milestones.
- Find someone who you connect well with and won’t be offended, hurt or defensive when they call you out on your excuses or anything of the sort. Of course, the person should also be encouraging but sometimes we need to hear the hard stuff or else we won’t grow or change.
- Find someone who is at the same level as you are or a bit ahead. Otherwise, if the person is significantly ahead of you then it’s more of a mentoring relationship not an accountabilibuddy. Although having a mentor is another great way to learn and achieve your goals. View our mentor program called Career Advisory if you want to add this level to your success as well.
- Be ready to implement not just talk about what you like to do.
- Have fun! Having accountability isn’t all about deadlines and work. It’s work but it should also be fun except when you need a kick in the hiney to get moving : ).
These are just ideas, if nothing else it helps you to think through who can be your accountabilibuddy. Mine doesn’t live close in fact she lives in another state, I just met her so we are not only growing our voice-over business but also building a new relationship, which is fun.
To Your Voice-Over Succes,
Such A Voice Coach/Producer Steven Wahlberg books a narration job for this years golf course for the US Open!
By: Steven Wahlberg
I received an audition request from Voice123.com for a project that required a narrator to voice copy that would be running underneath a video of aerial shots of a golf course where the US Open is being played this year. After receiving some positive feedback on my audition, I was informed that the client had selected someone else for the job but that they liked my voice enough to consider me for future projects. I’ve only heard that about a gazillion times before so I really didn’t think any more about it. Well, about a month later I received an e-mail from the agency that produced the previous golf video asking if I would be interested in reading a few scripts that outlined the rules of golf for a DVD. I agreed and was fortunate to be hired on the spot. This was the outcome!
Our Instructor/Producer Angela Castonguay was recently selected to act as an extra in the film 42 – The Jackie Robinson Story
Movies… Those fascinating, mysterious, amazing sound and light stories that we love to see. Perhaps more exciting than the actual films are the movie stars that bring characters to life on the big screen. Who among us hasn’t dreamt of being cast in a movie with Sean Connery, George Clooney, or Meryl Streep? Who wouldn’t jump at a chance to be “discovered” when asked to play a role in a period piece?
My stars were aligned when I got the opportunity to be an extra in Harrison Ford’s movie, 42 – The Jackie Robinson Story. 42, a movie about the man who broke professional baseball’s color barrier, is a period piece filming scenes in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia. I was selected, along with several hundreds of others, to be cast in a variety of scenes in Macon and Atlanta, Georgia.
This was a new and exciting experience for someone like me, who spends the majority of my day in a 3×5 sound booth with a mic and pop screen! Reporting to the set at 6:00 am followed by wardrobe fittings, hair, make up, and COFFEE! Then that magical moment arrives! You sit and wait to be called to set. You meet other extras, eat breakfast, read your Nook, get a make up repair, meet more extras, eat lunch… All of a sudden the casting director walks into the holding pen (yes, they did call it a holding pen!) and calls your name. You board a small bus headed for downtown. As you get off the bus onto a street that has been transformed into the 1940’s, you see crowds of onlookers lined up behind barricades. They’re waving at you, taking pictures of the scene, the extras, and for a brief moment, you are a STAR.
Now the real work begins. You’re given your directions, a couple of rehearsals, and you are rolling. Five hours later, after walking up and down the same block, with the same extra partner, pantomiming the same hand gestures, mouthing a silent conversation and getting “nose hair close” to one of the real stars, they wrap the scene. This five-hour filming will end up resulting in about 5-7 minutes of film. Hopefully, I won’t end up on the cutting room floor!
I was in several scenes in the downtown area; walking the streets of Brooklyn, walking through Harlem, getting in and out of fantastic 1940’s cars, filming the historic scene at the ball field when Jackie Robinson comes up to bat for the first time. Arriving on set by 6:30 am and getting home at 1 am in 90+ degree Georgia heat. I have a newfound respect for actors, actresses, and EXTRAS!
Given the chance, would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY! I got to see and film scenes with movie stars; Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni and Chadwick Boseman. I was up close and personal with lights, action, and camera. I was behind the scenes with wonderfully funny wardrobe and hair artists. I was transformed into a 1940’s gal by hair dressers who would burst into Broadway show tunes and do the swing while simultaneously taking out my pink sponge rollers.
The best memories of my first movie gig, however, are all of the EXTRA friends that I made… People from as far away as Quebec, of all backgrounds, all friendly, all those voices to analyze and classify… BIG SMILE AND WE’RE ROLLIN’!
Written by: Angela Castonguay
I am a classical singer by training. It is common for bulletin boards in the hallways and corridors of conservatories and schools of music to be papered with recital posters, concert listings, and calls for auditions. So, it’s not unusual to find instrument and score-laden students poring over them interestedly. One day, as I was doing just that, I noticed a rather boring-looking flyer on pink paper calling generically for “3 men and 3 women.” A telephone number was listed at the bottom of the sheet. Perhaps someone is trying to assemble an a cappella or early music ensemble, I thought. I called to discover, in fact, it was a company holding auditions for a radio commercial. Having never done voice over jobs before, I thought, What the heck!, and decided to audition.
The copy was sent in advance so I had time to prepare, and I showed up to the studio at the time and date requested. I landed the job after that lone audition and it turned out to be more than the typical, first-time voice over gig. I was selected to be the first and only National Female Voice for what was then dot-com-phenom CollegeStudent.com. (CollegeStudent.com has since merged with Student Advantage.) Such serendipity led to the recording of multiple national spots over a two-year period for this “local, online campus community,” which was not only wonderful in-studio experience, but also contributed to the beginnings of a high-quality demo reel. (As an aside: the first spot we recorded was deemed so risqué that 50% of the markets in the nation wouldn’t play it!)
With this experience under my belt, I used my demo reel to market myself to voice over agents, acquiring my first representation with db Talent. I also contacted recording studios to find out if they maintain their own talent libraries and requested to be placed on file with those that do. Given the types of jobs I began working early on, it became clear to me that my industry niche was quirky, college-cool, but my singing background enabled me to expand that to include foreign languages and accents. Since that initial, unexpected audition, I’ve had the good fortune to record for a variety of corporations, including Time Warner Cable, Reebok, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Gozaic and Adobe, working on varied projects like telephony systems, industrial videos, television commercial demos and, of course, radio spots.
I look back on my entrée into a voice over career in astonishment. Voice over work had certainly never been part of my grand life plan and, truthfully, I had not heard of it when I made that fateful telephone call. However, I cannot deny I am pleased to have been one of those bulletin board-reading students because being so truly changed my life.
Alecia Batson is a professional actress, singer and voice over talent working in Boston, Austin and New York. Visit her web site at www.AleciaBatson.com.
How did YOU land your first voice over gig? Share your story and any advice with us…