By Stephanie Ciccarelli
November 6, 2007
Join voice over expert Debbie Munro as she consults you on how to build a cost-effective home recording studio. Short on space? No problem! Learn how you can convert home offices, even a nook and cranny of a bedroom closet, into a professional-grade home recording studio.
Debbie Munro, Deb Munro, DebsVoice.com, Recording Studio, Home Recording, Audio Recording, Home Recording Studio, How To Build a Home Studio, MP3
Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voiceover Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voiceover Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It's never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and your own pace. This is truly an education you won't find anywhere else.
This week Voices.com is pleased to present Debbie Munro.
Debbie Munro: So you're short on space and need a studio. I know the feeling. I've actually moved away from my custom-made studio and had to rent for a short time so now I have the ins on how to make a studio set-up for yourself in small confined spaces.
I do understand now that there's a lot to it when you're trying to build a studio in a small space and I think I've come up with some solutions that are very cost-effective. I'm going to give you the ins and outs on a lot of home studio building but at the same time, I want to gear you towards the most economical way for you. You decide what works for you.
Ideally, there's a wonderful, wonderful, portable studio there called the Voice Box. I believe through Harlan Hogan but I'm not - don't call me on that now. The Voice Box is actually a portable compact studio that folds up to its own carrying case. Ideally, I would love to have this. I would love to take on the road with me when I'm voicing instead of suing the hotel curtains and everything else that I have to use. The cost isn't exactly cheap but definitely well worth it. I think it's over $1295 US so there's a bit of an expense there but if you have the money, that's what I do ideally first.
It folds up. You can use it wherever you want to go. In that way, you have a portable studio at all times. Now, that I have moved to a rental situation, I've had to deal with a lot of noise issues. Not just noisy outside but there's also - if you're in an apartment setting or a condo setting, you have to consider that you have to listen for the sounds around you. For example, the neighbors flushing the toilet or running their washer and dryer, even the refrigerator running or the microwave running can cause interference or noise that is unwanted in your studio.
You can't avoid that but what you can do is try to make a way to barrier your mics so it's not picking up that sound. The beauty about the mics that we use in voiceover is that it's cardioid, meaning it's heart-shaped and in the back of the microphone, it doesn't pick up sound. Does that mean it doesn't take up anything? Well, not really but a good preamp will help your sound be even more clear.
The one thing about these mics however is they do pick up everything. They can hear you burping. They can hear gas bubbles. They can hear whatever is going on. There are times when I'm in my studio in this newer rental location that I'm in where I can hear cars going by. It's amazing but even though I'm hearing it in my ears, it seems that the producers are not hearing it in my takes so I'm pretty lucky that way but I've got a really good preamp and a really good digiboard. So that is kind of helping me out a lot.
Right now, I'm in a closet, believe it or not. It's not the most ideal location because I'm used to a very nice studio but I'm in a rental and I'm not able to build so I've taken a really nice-sized closet and I've added quilting fabric and or moving blankets like furney blankets which are acoustically correct and I surrounded he entire closet with pins and so I've done no damage to anything. However, I'm able to voice the sound that you're hearing right now in the comfort of my studio.
Now, being in a closet isn't the most ideal situation but you know what? It pays the bills and I've been doing it for a fair bit of time now so now moving into a new home will help me where I can renovate my studio my way. But even when I'm looking for places to live, I have to accommodate that house to make sure I can accommodate a studio.
Now I know first-hand about accommodating recording needs. I began by purchasing big PVC pipes. There was a great article written in James Alburger's e-studio book about connecting PVC pipes, those black pipes that you can get at home depot preferably the bigger ones so that you got some support.
Then I bought some industrial type Velcro. I had sewn one side of the Velcro to the quilts or to the furney blankets and the other side pasted on to the post. I made a perfectly rectangular box that I was able to stand in that was a nice amount of room. I had room in my apartment to be able to accommodate this as well. I Velcroed all the pieces together including the roof and the sides and I was able to voice comfortable inside my PVC studio.
So that's a great advantage point for you. You'll need the PVC piping. You want to make it quite large depending on your height but you might want to consider someone else may one day be in your studio voicing as well. We're now producers or mini-producers and so accommodating for future voicing is a good idea because you may have a male or female coming in to voice a spot with you and maybe you can accommodate because it was built too short. So keep these things in mind as you're building your studio.
Now inside the PVC studio, I made a little bit of a Velcro door so that I'm able to get in and out quite freely. It worked very well. I purchased elbows and had to cut a specific hole inside the elbow because it didn't come with enough holes to connect my pipes together to make my box. Now this is a tall box. Mine in particular was seven feet by three and a half feet, I believe in width. So it's quite large so you need to have the space like I say to accommodate it.
Now it was challenging at first trying to get the studio to stay still and to get the quilting fabric on it, et cetera et cetera but when it's worth it, it's worth it and I find it worth it, no question.
Now when I moved into this particular apartment, my first site of renting as a voice artist, I was very luck that it had a big laundry room without any washer or dryer and at that time, I didn't have a washer and dryer so I was able to put my studio inside that closet if you will.
Now, whatever it takes. I mean I'll do whatever I can. I even take a portable studio camping with me. I'll have to send a picture about that one day but me inside my little Saturn sport coupe with my daughter's camping blanket over top, yes I know. What am I thinking? Well, for me, I don't want to turn down a job. My family might hate that but here I am camping, enjoying the weekend. It took me 30 minutes to voice something, send it off and I'm done but of course I had to travel to go send it because there was no internet at the camp site but I was able to sit in my little sports Saturn coupe and a little flashlight, camping blanket, my laptop on the dash, my script in hand, microphone and voicing away. You can make a studio wherever you are. You can make this work. So I don't want to hear the excuses of, "I have no space," because we've got some really great solutions for you.
Now I didn't last very long in that apartment because it just wasn't a great location and I found another place that was really good and roomy but with only two rooms in it and I have a daughter so she has sacrificed pretty much her bedroom for my office and my studio. Imagine a 12-year-old girl with no closet so we've accommodated in other areas and I'm just really lucky she's been very accommodating to me and that she's a voicer herself so she understands.
The lucky thing for me is Brandy loves to be with me so due to the nature of my original move, we've only had one nice bed so her and I share it therefore losing the closet space was a pain but livable especially when the little room pays the bills so yes, two high-fashioned girls with only one closet and a makeshift closet that is now a studio. Tough times, tight quarters but again, it's all worth it for the outcome. Okay, so the studio worked really well for me but for my coaching and directing, not as much. I certainly didn't want to put people in a closet. I have but I certainly didn't want to. However I'm able to take the studio out when it's not a demo recording or something like that and do it in my main living area. So that's fine too.
I don't know if you know this but you can even accommodate an extremely large space and make is acoustically correct. The sound takes longer to travel when it's a large space so as long as the floor is quite carpeted or you're not hearing a lot of echoes or a lot of background noise, you could get away with just a few of what's called baffle walls or baffling. The layman's terms of that would be a piece of plywood, let's say or a drywall with some foam over top, some nice acoustic foam and that allows the sound to absorb in it. It also allows you to stop your straight edges in your corners where the sound travels and bounces back.
The ideal thing as James Alburger says is do the clap test. When you clap, are you hearing an echo? If you're hearing an echo, the acoustics aren't good. The idea is you want to voice it and when your voice leaves your mouth, you want it to absorb into the material against the wall so that it doesn't reflect back. Therefore dry wall and paint and metal and things like that are no good because it just bounces right back so if you have a really large space, why not try putting some quilting fabric or some acoustic blankets or moving blankets along the walls and see if that is good enough for sound absorption for you and you may not need a private studio.
But there are things you need to consider. Is your computer making noise? All computers make noise. A lot of major high-end studios will put a casing around the computer system so that you can't hear the fan. In other words, they're soundproofing the computer so that you can be in the same room recording as the computer is. You're going to have to decide that for yourself. Some are louder than others and in fact, the more advanced we get, the louder these fans seem to get because the more fanning it needs.
Now you want to be careful because if you close off the fan, you're computer isn't going to air out and that could cause it to overheat so you obviously don't want something like that. Now keep in mind the key to your studio isn't necessarily soundproofing. It's making it acoustically correct. As I said, that clap test will be a really good key for you to figure out if it's actually acoustically correct or not.
You can learn so much about building studios through two fabulous books that I would personally recommend. If you go to www.Voiceacting.com/products/Munro, look for the e-book to home studios through James Alburger and Penny Abshire. This is an excellent book and it's very economical. It will give you so much of the information that you need as far as acoustics and situations and situations on how to build them and options to studio set-ups and as an addition to this book, The Actor's Guide to Home Recording which is written by the amazing voice talent Harlan Hogan and his amazing engineer Jeffrey Fisher. This book is just jam-packed with not only information around your studio but also about how to record sound so it's a really step by step from beginning to end so the two combined, you're set and you'll know what to do.
But I've got some of my own ideas that I would like to share, something I just discovered. I am a scrapbookaholic so I love scrapbooking and I recently purchased a scrapbook tote box from Costco. Now, it's going to hold all my scrapbook supplies and it's a square box which kind of looks like a crate and it's actually got a pull handle on it like a suitcase and wheels so I can actually take it and transport it around. Now it's fairly nice size, not so much I could actually step into the box but I'm thinking I've got the best voice box. Now, I haven't tested it out yet but I'm positive that this is going to work.
So what I would like to do is take that tote box and instead of putting all the packaging in it that goes in for the pouches and things like that will hold my scrapbook supplies and organize it. I'm not using those at all. I'm going to buy some acoustic - proper acoustic foam because if I'm dealing with that little of a space, the expensive acoustic foam is very much worth it. I'm going to line the entire box other than the opening of course with the acoustic foam. I'm going to put my microphone on a table top mic stand instead of the professional stands that have the arm on it that you can extend which is what I use in my studio but you can use a desktop mic stand.
Most microphones come with a Shock mount as well as another piece that will allow you to hook up to a desktop type of mic stand so in this case, I grab my desktop mic stand. I put it in the far back of the box as far as I can go, the opening facing me. Now I put that up to a table high enough for me to stand up in. I prefer to stand when I voice. Perhaps you don't mind sitting, then have it at a sitting position. That's just fine. Even at your studio desk, I think this could work and you have to be careful again with that computer noise so make sure you're not hearing anything else but I think that this box is going to barricade it quite well.
Many of us are learning about the voice box and different ways to do this so there's a lot of different options but this is just my economical idea. You say you're short on space. That means you need something that you can take off and on and put away. Well, this is perfect. I'm hoping in fact that I can use it as a portable studio, throw all my equipment in it when I'm done and actually travel with it so I'm going to get some inventors to try and invent me a little more to go with it so I can close it off, seal it up and put if off on a plane if I need to.
Now, what you would do is get something tall enough that you can put that box into so that you can stand right in front of the box and voice right into the microphone. Now, it's not going to pick up anything behind the microphone because there's nothing there to pick up. It's the box. You don't want to have the microphone at the edge of the box. You want to have it as far back as you can. I think this will work so give it a try and let me know.
If you need some more information about that, just give me holler or e-mail or something and I'll try and elaborate a little more. As well, read my tip of the month which is in my newsletter at www.Debsvoice.com and please fire me off an e-mail and we'll get you subscribed to that and have a read through all that I've written for the tip of the month because it coincides with what I'm talking about right now.
Now this box was only $24.99. That's Canadian dollars so I'm not sure what it will be for you but that's a pretty cheap studio. Now, I add my acoustic foam, maybe another $30 or $40 and I've got my studio set up. I may in fact put a hole inside the box so that I can wire my XLR plugs through the box therefore not having to go outside of it buy use your own discretion. So this will work for a desk. This will work for a table. You can do whatever you want with that. There are many options out there regarding this voice box idea that people are elaborating on now and so, there's different levels to do this and different expenses.
Personally for me, I'd love to buy that most expensive one and one day, I really will. However, if you're in a tighter budget, I'd rather see you invest in education and make your studio work for you as cheap and cost-efficient as you can so that you can put your money better spend elsewhere.
Now another idea might be to add a door to the opening so where you're going to voice into the opening of the box. Remember those old-fashioned cameras in the olden days when you saw photographers taking a picture and they put a blanket around their head above the camera, why not put another blanket or an acoustic fabric of some sort around the outsides so that you can open it, put it around you. Ideally, I'd love to see you wire something above the box so that the blanket isn't actually touching your head because if you're supporting the blanket with your head, the chances are you're going to be restricted in your movement and we want you to move around while you're voicing because it just gives much better sound.
Now, there is another solution that is also economical which is building your own voice box with maybe some really thin plywood and either some really good acoustic foam which again, I'd invest in at a good acoustic foam or the acoustic blankets or some really good thick quilting fabric. This box in particular would be as big as an average medium-sized kitchen table almost so it's quite large. In fact, what I'd like to see you do is buy an old table from a garage sale or something, cut an arc into it where you can kind of step into it, make the box be built around the table so that you actually have to step inside the box to voice into the microphone then maybe you can have an arm coming down from the roof of the box that allows your microphone to hang upside down the way we usually do with condenser microphones.
So there's lots of different options here and that's a work in progress and it sells so there's many ideas that we can add to that. I hope you know what I mean. You're going to take a table of some sort, cut a little bit of an arc way into it, place the box over top, maybe make it so it has hinges on it so you can fold it up and put it away when you don't need it. We all have a kitchen table. We might not be able to move the kitchen table, we might not be able to cut an arc way into it either but we do have a kitchen table which means we do have space for a studio so you can figure this out. Just use your imagination and try to MacGyver whatever space you are dealt with and don't let that be a reason to not voice.
So this bigger voice box will work very similar to the little voice box. You want to line everything it up, leave the opening and you want to try to step into the box to voice. That's the key really so that you are right beside your microphone and nothing is going to be picked up when you're inside a box like that. I even had another student in Saskatchewan build a box around the microphone. Now you have to be careful. This box has to be not too close to the microphone but close enough that you're barricading the sounds around it. Just make sure not the front of it.
So you can test that kind of thing out but as well, whatever is coming into the mic is what's it's picking out so it's really you that almost needs to be barricaded, not really the microphone as much but you may find that helps you as well. You have to be pretty ingenuitive to be able to do that because in order to make a box actually maintain itself on your microphone or on your microphone stand, yes, you have to be a pretty good handyman for that.
If you get really creative, you can make this and use it to haul your equipments, use it to voice in, doing whatever you can to utilize the fact that you can voice anywhere in the world. I've proven it. I was always camping. Okay, there's so many more options in this but this will be proof that no matter how small your space, as long as you're willing to compromise some of your space, you can record professional sound. There's so much more I could go on with but I don't want to take up much more of your time.
If you have any questions or want to talk to about your space and how we can make that work, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my website, www.Debsvoice.com and we will help you out as much as we can. Thanks so much for listening. Keep voicing. Get that studio going, no more excuses and get educating so we can make you some money.
Until next time everyone, take care.
Julie-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voiceover Experts show notes at Podcasts.Voices.com/VoiceoverExperts. Remember to stay subscribed.
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By employing over a dozen years wisdom in voicing and acting, Debbie Munro puts her talents to work to meet the challenging demands of today's fast paced voice market. Tired of not receiving constructive feed back on how to improve her craft, Debbie set out to make a difference for actors by creating, The MIC & ME Workshop Series. Keeping focused on the Global Freelance market, Debbie has combined her extensive Voice Over, Acting and Off Camera training into a series of practical, exciting workshops that will take you to that next step, no matter what your level.
Fueled by experience, talent, and unbridled enthusiasm for doing what she loves to do best - getting behind a microphone and speaking her heart out, Debbie is proud to share her insights, techniques and secrets with you. She works very hard to create courses that shed an honest look into the world of voice acting allowing you to work at your own pace, know if this is the industry for you and how to keep working. Her passion alone will engage you and give you the encouragement you need.
Debbie owns and operates her own studio and production company "Chanti Productions". Debbie has formed several informative and intense workshops to help you excel in the industry of voice.
With over 12 years combined experience, 7 years training in acting and broadcasting and 5 years in animation, Debbie Munro is able to offer a unique perspective into the Voice-Over industry. Debbie is passion plus! She loves what she does and can't wait to share the invaluable information that has been taught to her. Debbie is quickly becoming one of the top voice over instructors in Canada.
By employing over a dozen years wisdom in voicing and acting, Debbie puts her talents to work to meet the challenging demands of today's fast paced voice market. From soft to hard, corporate to down-home comfortable and everything in between, Debbie spices up your production with flawless vocal acrobatics, unforgettable characters, and her specialty... a sultry read that will positively twist your knickers. Debbie Munro does it all.
Working internationally as a full-time voice performer, Debbie is based in the Edmonton area. Some of her credits include the voice of "Mai" in the cartoon DragonBall Â© (YTV), Signature voice of roving reporter, "Karla Karumba" in the international animation series Benjamin Blumchen Â©, Video games for companies like Bioware, broadcast voice for several stations including WBTV 38, KLOS, A-Channel, Shaw, Global and many more. Clients such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Canada Post, Michelin, Subway, Florida Hospitals, Alberta Dairy, Booster Juice and many more. Debbie puts her talents to work to meet the challenging demands of today's fast paced voice market.
Voice Over Experts is the industry's most downloaded educational podcast featuring renowned voice over coaches from US, Canada and abroad. Join us each week for pearls of wisdom and tricks of the trade to improve your voice over career. Listen online or subscribe in iTunes to hear from leading experts in the field of voice-overs.