Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

A Do-It-Yourself Closet VO Booth

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I wanted to share with you my own recent DIY studio-in-my-closet that was simple and relatively inexpensive to hopefully give you some ideas for making your own.

Plan and Sketch

The studio needs to be comfortable and quiet with a wired internet connection. Above all, the acoustics must offer a “dead” recording environment.

Consider: What are the potential sources of sound- both from inside and your side your booth?

It should be in a quieter part of the home (or garage?) and have a wired Ethernet internet connection available. You may need to use an extension cord from your router in another room (I strung mine through my attic and over my roof and into my garage at my home studio!).

I select a place in my closet that is quiet, accessible and already padded with clothing. Use clothing to your acoustic advantage! And what’s happening on the other side of those walls? Avoid walls that exhibit any unwanted sounds from the other side (plumbing, and outdoor AC unit, people talking, etc.).

Creating the PVC Cage

I start by creating a frame of 3/4″ PVC pipes that I can custom cut to fit the space (off of my design). Inexpensive PVC pipes can be purchase at a hardware store in 10′ lengths or less (I have them cut at 10-footer into smaller chunks). You can then cut them down and assembled the pieces like tinker toys into a frame.

I’ve decided to make my frame about 3′ wide and 8′ long and six and a half feet tall. Note on the design sketch that I reinforce the roof and walls with extra pipes to make it sturdy enough to carry the weight of heavy acoustic blankets.

Purchase the PVC couplings for straight connection and for corners and T’s (sometimes you can find them in bags of ten). Of these pictured, I won’t need the 45 degree elbow on the left, and I’ll need to find some three holed corner couplings as well for my cage’s corners.

Here’s a rubber mallet to knock things into place, a regular PVC cutter, and you’ll need gloves.

You can cut PVC with the inexpensive cutting tool above, but I’ve used PVC extensively for years to build Halloween yard creatures, so I ponied up for a rechargeable PVC pipe cutter, which is a thing of beauty. Cuts through all that pipe with no effort and in no time! Can you tell I’m into PVC?

Here is my basic cage assembled. Notice the reinforcing pipe above and on the side to give it enough strength to hold up the heavy acoustic blankets. The orange clips secure the blankets to the frame, but can be moved or used to hold open the entrance to allow cooling. You can also use office clips, but they gotta be big ones.

You can also use S-hooks which can be handy for hanging your headphones or securing your acoustic blankets if you purchased ones with grommets along the top (like a shower curtain- see link below).

I later add some USB-powered LED lighting inside the studio, dimmable to keep things as cool as possible.

I’ve designed my cage around a mobile computer cart which also has a nice monitor stand. Most VO home sessions require three or four applications running so a generous sized monitor is a must!

A roll away computer cart with monitor arm. My mic boom peeks in from outside the cage, my Mac mini is on the cart’s bottom shelf, though it may be banished from the inner area if it gets noisy!

I’ve affixed my microphone boom clamps to a shelf not attached to my computer station so that no computer fan noise or humming can translate to the sensitive mic. The mic boom peeks in from outside my studio through a corner break in the overlapping curtains.

I may switch this to attach the mic boom inside the booth and move the Mac mini outside the booth, to better isolate any potential fan noise from the computer from the mic.

Depending on your closet, you may be able to use clips to secure a wall of blankets- possibly eliminating the need for the PVC skeleton altogether!

Your Home Studio is a Stage!

I’ve perched a webcam on top of my monitor.

Notice my little work station has pose-able light rings- not just to illuminate the workspace. Since you use a webcam to be directed via Zoom, why not light yourself up a bit? I consider VO as sort of an on-camera gig these days!

I’m also fond of adding some LED lighting effects or interesting visuals behind me as well to set the tone for how my performance is perceived. Your frame can imply a lot about you!

My adjustable ring lights are USB powered. I found a small power bar that gives me three grounded plugs plus four USB plugs to power my interior studio lights and to keep my iPhone charged.

Long standing sessions are easier with a comfy stand pad!

Hardware

For more on recommended hardware and a broader discussion on sound requirements for a studio, along with other resources and ideas, check my other home studio pages.

This is much of the hardware of my studio’s computer workstation. Mac Minis are comparatively quiet, but you still may need to isolate it -running resource-hogging audio and video conferencing software can really overheat a computer and lead to fan noise!

Kill the sound with blankets!

The clothes hanging in a closet are probably not enough to dampen the sounds sufficiently (but it’s a start). As much as possible, you need to kill echo and reverb inside your booth, in addition to muffling or killing all outside sounds.

You will probably need to add blankets, and more blankets, depending on the extraneous sounds of your home and the noise floor your sound booth room presents. I get proper acoustic blankets (though moving blankets can be fine as well).

Unfortunately, sometimes blankets aren’t enough to kill all extraneous sounds. Hopefully adding another layer or two will do the trick, if one isn’t enough!

I get my acoustic blankets from vocalboothtogo.com (CLICK HERE) I like the ones with grommets along the top so you can use S hooks to hang them like a shower curtain, from, say, a clothing rod in a closet or your PVC frame.

Clamps

I use 6” Workpro clamps (from Amazon) to secure the blankets to the PVC frame or a closet shelf. (It’s also nice that you can break it all down and put it back up pretty easily too).

Costs

The most expensive element in this set up is the $2200 Mac mini computer. Next would be the $400 mic, though you could get an acceptable one for a couple hundred.

There are many other ways to go about this kind of project! For a deeper dive into home studio basics from others who know more than I do, along with a list of more affordable but still acceptable options for things like microphones and headphones, go to my studio hardware page: CLICK HERE.

The following item costs are approximates, many I purchased on Amazon or at the local hardware store.

Acoustic blankets w/ grommets: $55-$63 each (I get mine from vocalboothtogo.com.)

Option: moving blankets $28 for four on Amazon.

PVC pipe 10 foot length $3/ each

PVC couplings, $10-18/ bag of ten

PVC cutter: $16 (manual), $220 (rechargeable automatic)

Trond powerstrip outlet extender w/ 3 USB ports $18

Super Danny 10 foot surge protector w/ 4 USB ports, six plugs: $25

27” Sceptre monitor $200

sE 2300 XLR microphone $400

Other mic options:

Studio Projects C1 is also great – $250.

AT 2035 – $150

Ergo driven stand mat $100 (optional)

6” work pro clips eight for $22

Webcam ring lights w iphone holder, usb charged $33

Line Leader AV cart w/ keyboard tray, laptop stand and monitor mount $260

Autofocus webcam $65

Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones $180

Other headphone options:

Sennheiser HD280 Pro $100

OneOdio A71 $40

S hooks by Ruiling 15 for $7

Ethernet cable 200 feet length $45

Adjustable microphone suspension boom $26

FocusRite Scarlett Solo interface $110

© Dee Bradley Baker 2020

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