My life with a home voiceover studio

cat_microphone2It never occurred to me that I might someday have a home studio.  I live in an apartment, for one thing, a small one-bedroom that I share with an eight-year-old and a cat.  I’m also not anybody’s idea of a sound technician.  I can do edit out flubs and sneezes with GarageBand, and I know the difference between mono and stereo, but as soon as we get into visual EQ and master echo, I’m a lost cause.

But I have one now, to my surprise.  It all started when I got involved with Librivox, a nonprofit that is working on producing audio versions of all books within the public domain.  I noticed that one of the classic books still looking for readers was one of my favorites, Stendhal’s The Red and The Black.  I signed up to read a couple of chapters – and was rejected.

Apparently the small button microphone I used with my iPhone wasn’t up to Librivox’s exacting standards. (I say that with light sarcasm, as Librivox’s website looks like it was designed as a junior high class project in 1997, and many of its unpaid readers are worth every penny.)  Anyway, Librivox monitor complained about white noise, my bit rate, and other technical aspects.  These were unlikely to be resolved with my little clip-on mike.

I went online looking for slightly better equipment, and was surprised to find I could get an entire “podcasting kit” – professional-quality condenser Microphone, stand and popguard – for around US$100.  I was shocked that good equipment could be so cheap.

Of course, the lack of sound insulation is still a problem:  I’ve set all the fine electronic stuff in the highly-professional corner between my sofa and the wall.  But it seems to work OK, particularly for recording in the very early morning or very late evening.

Is it as good as my local sound studio?  Absolutely not, and now that I’ve begun to use it, I miss having a sound technician to kick ideas back and forth with.  Now that I’ve begun sending mp3s to clients, sometimes we find that the tone or pace I provided was not what they had in mind, and then the job has to be entirely re-done, at my expense.  Had we all been in a sound studio together, the results would have been quicker and happier.

But there’s a lot of upside to having the equipment right there at home.  You can bid on more jobs, for example – some clients won’t even talk to a voiceover who doesn’t have a home studio – and you can do private projects, as well.  I’ve started my own Podcast series, which I’m happy to announce is already available on iTunes.

The downside is, of course, the cat, who finds the sound equipment exciting.  And the motorcycles driving by, and the S-train shaking the building at 10-minute intervals, and my eight-year-old calling with a request to leave school early.  A home is not a sound studio.  But it can come pretty close.

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