A thick skin is an essential part of every voiceover’s arsenal. You’ll be rejected for jobs virtually every day of your working life. But although this is a reality you want to be doing everything you can to minimise it, not just for the good of your bank balance, but also for the good of your mental wellbeing. To that end you’ve taken courses and hired voiceover coaches, and you’ve spent far too much on the best equipment you couldn’t afford. But have you tuned your recording space?
In your booth you’re trying to achieve as neutral tone as possible without your room colouring your voice. Achieving a rough ‘good enough’ sound in our recording space is fairly simple, but we do need more than that. We need to be as sure as we can be that it’s not the sound of the room that loses us jobs. We need to pay more attention to the acoustic treatment in our recording space.
Sound works very much in ratios, so if we make a small adjustment to a small room the effect will be much more than making the same adjustment to a large room, and bearing in mind that most VO booths are small – and small rooms exhibit some undesirable acoustic properties that larger rooms don’t – we can begin to see the difficulties in tweaking our recording space. And that’s before I’ve even mentioned room modes and standing waves.
To be honest hearing the issues does require practiced ears. Ears trained in knowing what to listen for and experience in troubleshooting issues. You’ll be expecting me to write this article as a ‘Hire Meeeeee’ pitch. And of course you can, but there are things you can do yourself.
So where do we begin? Firstly test your booth. Listen to a recording. Can you hear any reverberation? Can you tell from the tone that it’s a small room? Can you hear any background noise? If the sound has room for improvement you need to be able to find the source of the problem and figure out how to eliminate it.
Acoustic treatment is vital to creating a professional sounding booth, but all acoustic treatment is not equal. Some just works better than others and all work with differing frequency response curves. For those undergoing a DIY treatment regime the best advice is to use a variety of different brands/methods of treatment (tiles/blankets/panels) as the different bits will absorb different frequencies and hopefully create a neutral sounding booth. High pass filters are extremely useful for lowering the noise floor and helping to counter some of the boomy ‘small room’ sound. Mic position can sometime help, and keeping anything that makes even the slightest noise away from the microphone (preferably outside the booth) is a necessity.
A great sounding room will be a joy to work in and will speed up your post-production. It’ll keep your clients and your accountant happy and help you keep your confidence that the reason you weren’t hired for that last job isn’t to do with your sound, it’s just they wanted a 20 year old FVO and you’re a pushing-50 year old MVO.