booth

Working From Home

Who doesn’t dream of rolling out of bed, brushing their teeth, staying in their cozy pjs and slippers, and going down to their home office, right? As a full-time working mom, I wanted to work from home to be near my children. I love that I am home when they are off or home from school. I love that I am here when they home sick. I also love that my precious Cavalier, Violet, is with me in the studio much of the day while I work.

When I built my business voice over, I decided early on to build a professional home studio. It was really exciting to make choices that were specifically to my benefit. From the colors to the height of the desk, it was all about me! Everything else in my house is done for the common good. I have done my kids rooms for them. My kitchen is meant to be practical. This was the first time I built something based on my research, preferences, and taste!

Come on In to My Voice Over Studio…

Welcome to my booth… Please check out this tour:

From the Foam to the Mic

Every choice in the booth was made with a lot of thought and careful decisions. My wonderful contractor, Pzermik, worked with both Uncle Roy of Antland Productions and George Whittam to get all of the spec right. The walls are double thick and have special insulation on the inside. The carpet has plush padding and I have a rug of the rug.  I have a special fire door that is both sound proof and insulated. My booth. was built with aurelex foam.  I have great bass traps. While my voice lacks bass tones, they keep my rectangular booth from sounding boxy.  I couldn’t have a whisper room because of the ceiling clearance and studio bricks didn’t exist at the time, but I spent a lot of time looking at the whisper room set ups and that really helped me discern what I needed and wanted.

I am particularly proud of my lights and fan. Both are silent and both work well! It is always bright in the booth.

I have made lots of upgrades to the equipment over the years. Now, I record on a Neumann TLM 103, Avalon M5, and MacBook Air with Twisted Wav. I am really happy with this set up.

What Makes it Professional

The audio quality of the final produced work makes this booth a professional booth. My raw audio is pristine. I am have a very low noise floor. I do a lot of radio and a lot of live sessions. My clients never have issues with the sound.

What Makes it Custom

This booth was built around what is good for me! So if I have friends over they may not find everything the way they have it in their booth, but I love all my little details, from my shelf that holds the pre-amp and interface under my desk to my hooks for my

My hook on the wall is immediately to the left of where I work and is perfectly positioned!

head phones and wires that are at just the right locations. One of my favorite details is that we actually drilled right through the desk so that the music stand is dead center in front of me to place the scripts on. It is perfect.

What I Would Change

There are somethings I would change for sure! I spent a lot of money upgrading to white foam which turned yellow within the year that I bought it. I really do not like the yellow. I was at a conference last week and saw a turquoise and grey booth and I have total booth envy now! I initially wanted the white because I thought it would feel so big and open, but now it just looks awful and I’m upset about the white.

It is cold in the winter! I don’t know how I would make it warmer, but I am going to figure something out, because it gets ridiculously freezing in there!

My booth is in my basement. I didn’t want to take up space in the rest of my house, but I hate being in the basement. I feel far away from everyone.  I also never want to do other work in the workspace I created adjacent to my studio because I don’t want to be in the basement.

I think at some point I would like to add built in storage. At present I have some storage cubes and a file box in the booth. In the long term, I would love something a little neater.

My other major longterm goal is to have my travel rig sound more like my main set up! I use my travel rig enough that I need to have it sound closer to my home studio. Right now there is too much of a disparity between my apogee and my Neumann.

We All Need to Stay on Top of Our Game

As the years go on, in between conferences, a working professional voiceover talent may have a question about our tech or about our recording software from time to time. As a seasoned, full-time professional, sometimes I discuss such issues with my accountability group. Other times I will pay for a session with an audio engineer. But a lot of the time I am plugging away in my booth and I need an answer right away. Another likely scenario is that I am playing around trying to remember how to do something with my audio software that someone has told me about and  go down a rabbit hole trying to figure it out. In those instances, I head to youtube and I have found some pretty fantastic videos done by industry friends to answer my questions. Here are some favorites that you might find helpful too:

Time Saver for Editing Breaths

A few years ago in one of my accountability group chats voice over goddess Shelley Avellino firrst talked about how she handled breaths on Twisted Wav. She talked about using the “Detect Silences” option and replacing it with room tone. If your noise floor is low, this is a great option. I thought it was a brilliant idea, but as I do a lot of commercial work my recordings are typically not long enough to do this. Recently, the one and only Kim Handysides suggested I record my auditions all at once, and now that I am in the habbit of doing that, Shelley’s suggestion seems perfect. The problem was that I could not recall how to do it. I turned to YouTube and found this wonderful tutorial from industry friend Christi Bowen. Here Christi explains step by step how to quickly and efficiently replace your breaths in Twisted Wave. She also addresses issues like clipping letters at ends of words, so this is a must watch for sure!

Productivity tips for Twisted Wav

I was lucky enough to meet Jack de Golia and hear him speak in person at WoVo con in Las Vegas, but if you can’t get there, this video is extremely helpful, especially if you are endeavoring to do long form narration or audio books. Jack talks about so many salient recording issues, including why we should never record in MP3 and he provides valuable tips for editing. I also learned something from Jack when I heard him speak in person. I do a lot of live sessions, and Jack said that if your computer fan goes on, you can put ice packs under it to stop your fan. He later cautioned me to make sure I did not get it wet, but I keep my laptop on a raised metal platform, so thus far it has not been an issue. Jack’s thoughtful approach in this video is wonderful.

Trouble Shooting a Pre-amp

I have had not one, but many sessions with George Whittam, aka George the Tech Guy. I worked with him when initially building my studio. I have had emergency sessions when I’ve had snafus. I have had George build my effects stacks. I have had George build more stacks as I bought more equipment. To say I trust George is an understatement. He is a pleasure to work with and he will never leave you without a solution. This video gives you an idea of what it is like to work through a problem with George. he is calm and full of suggestions. They also happen to be working on an Avalon pre-amp, same as mine. Sometimes you just need to keep trying lots of different approaches and here you get an idea of how George tackles this issue.

Mic Technique

I’ve had a lot of coaching. A lot. For years. From the best in the business. But very little of the work that I have done has been in person, face to face. So, in our business we talk often of mic technique. You, like me, my found it helpful to watch videos about mic technique to learn how other industry professionals perform. I find Gabi’s videos to be both entertaining and insightful and her tips are always on-point. This is extremely specific! I have tried to switch mics and this also often involves adjusting my setup. Gabi looks like she is using the same mic as me now, the Neumann TLM 103, and I can tell you that it is powerful and sensitive so positioning matters a lot.

Conclusions

At the end of the day, we can take what we need from these videos and use them how they apply. I find it a comfort to know that there are so many valuable resources at our fingertips.

I’m Starting to see a Pattern

When I actually stop working and venture out of my padded foam booth, I have found that a lot of folks are super inquisitive about what it is like to be a professional voice over actor. Yesterday my husband and I went to Philly, about an hour and a half from where we live to pick up a new car because we got a great deal. Sitting in the dealership waiting to sign the papers, I realized that almost every weekend I have the same conversations. So, in case you too are curious, in the form of a self interview I will address these burning questions:) Here goes:

Q: I’ve Always wanted to get into voiceover. Is it hard to get started?

A: YES! Like all professions, it takes training, years of commitment, and a financial investment. For each genre that you

I am so fortunate to have trained with the best! Bill DeWees, Dave Fennoy, Anne Ganguzza, and Fred Frees. I worked with Anne for so long that I her her voice in my head every single day. I actually found Fred on Bill’s website and working with him was a blessing!

endeavor to work in, you need separate coaching and a demo. When I decided to pursue voiceover, I made my training my full-time job and I did the work that my coaches gave me 5-6 hours a day every day. I also took acting and improv classes. I have had coaching for many genres, but have spent the most time working with coaches for commercials, character work, radio imaging, and narration. It is really important to find a coach who understand your goals and helps you reach them. They are the foundation of your career!

Q: So, do you have your own studio or something?

A: Yes!! In the United States, particularly for non-union talents like myself, it is expected that voice over talents have their own professional studios. My studio is as good as any professional studio in New York or LA. It was set up by professional audio engineers and I have thousands of dollars of equipment in it. I record on a Neumann TLM 103 and an Avalon M5 preamp. I also had to have a lot of training to learn how to edit my audio as most VOs are our own engineers too. A few folks who are in the top of the field have full time engineers working for them, and I would love to be able to do that in a few years, but for now I record and edit all of my own work. I also got my studio WoVo approved. That means that a team of engineers had to review my raw audio and sign off on it. I have a certification number for my booth.

Q: Do you have a specialty?

A: Yes! Since I started, I have always booked more commercials than anything else. About 80% of my bookings are commercials, and I book more radio than tv, but I do both. In addition to regular broadcasts, I am on Pandora’s roster and this year I have also done quite a lot of work for Spotify. Top clients include Gap, Jersey Mikes, Bobbi Brown, Jet Blue, Walmart… and the list goes on and on. The rest of my work is a split between radio imaging, telephony, narration, eLearning, YouTube bumpers/Social Media campaigns, and podcasts. But when a commercial comes my way, I typically feel right at home. I especially love tags. I also get so excited to do those super fast disclaimers at the end of spots. Perhaps my most favorite thing to do is to be the voice of Christmas cheer in the holiday season.

Q: Is there work you won’t do?

A: Erotica. I’m just not comfortable with it. First, I sound quite young, so it bothers me even more when I am asked because I very much am disturbed by the implications of asking someone who is even sought because they sound like a young girl. Next, twice I have been hired for jobs. The initial script is clean/mainstream. After the booking the script comes in and it is shockingly crude. Of course my husband always thinks I should just take it, but it is a line that I am not comfortable with and I will not do. Not my thing, I’ll save it for my better suited colleagues who can have fun with it!

Q: Is there anything that has surprised you about your voiceover career?

A: Yes!  I have met so many amazing people and made wonderful friends. I have had the opportunity to travel a bit which I did not anticipate. I am continually learning and growing and being challenged, the professional development never ends.  The needs of the field to keep changing. I am learning a lot about marketing. And lost, but not least, I have done so man period spots it is shocking! I will leave you with this British one I did for Tampax.