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

Your Home Studio

As Animation VO Evolves, Building an Affordable Pro Home Recording Studio Becomes a Necessity

The Future of Animation VO is at Home

Auditioning and even recording from home is rapidly evolving to be more important than ever, even for animation voice acting, which has typically been a face-to-face operation.

An ISDN connection (a special broadband audio connection that enables studio to studio audio recording) is still used for remote recording, but it’s old tech, expensive and on the way out.

Source Connect (a broadband audio connection service that facilitates remote audio recording through an internet connection) is here.

For an in-depth explanation of Source Connect for Voice Actors, CLICK HERE

For a brief overview of ISDN and Source Connect, CLICK HERE.

ISDN/SC sessions offer a studio quality audio connection with near zero latency (no audio delay), but these expensive, audio-only records leave out a vital part of animation’s creative collaboration- the face to face interaction that facilitates nuance, improv and connection. Animation VO is best created eye to eye.

Even for television animation, producers are now learning to add visual connection to remote directing via video conference (Zoom, for instance). Video conferencing now brings home recording closer to the effectiveness of an in-studio session.

Most voice actors don’t have an ISDN/SC set up (though many are scrambling to get SC set up now). But even without ISDN/SC, producers are finding they can use your at-home recorded sound files to build an animatic or even animate to for later replacement via ADR. If your home audio quality is good enough, it may be usable for the actual show.

This may be a revolutionary development in how animation VO is recorded and produced. Luckily, we voice actors may be uniquely positioned to survive and thrive in the face of this change.

Being able to record a professional quality vocal performance for animation at home is more important than ever.

If you are looking to quickly and cost effectively upgrade (or set up) your professional home recording capability, here are some ideas and sources to pick and choose from:

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Overview of a Home VO Studio:

Check out home studio guru Dan Lenard’s site: homevoiceoverstudio.com. I’ve condensed some of his great insights below:

Thankfully, a home VO studio not about your technology or you having to play sound engineer. Don’t worry about compression, pre-amps or plug ins. Most of the intimidating and expensive audio equipment along with most audio recording software is designed for making music, not the simple task of delivering a clean non-produced mono track of VO.

Your mission is simple. Deliver a useable, clean, unmodified mono track of you. The sound engineer on the other end doesn’t want a modified sound. They want raw and unprocessed good sound. The less done to your recorded performance on your end the better.

Most laptops are powerful enough to do the job. Macs work best for audio.

Most advice you’d get from a music store is overkill because they sell equipment designed for the complicated production of music, not the simple needs of VO. If you walk in to a music store know what you want otherwise you will be oversold a lot of expensive equipment not designed for VO, sold to you by a musician, not a voice actor.

Most audio software is overkill for a voice actor. Good options for VO are Adobe Audition (excellent, designed for VO), Audacity, Twisted Wave (super simple), or Ocen Audio (simple and free).

Don’t use ProTools unless you’re a musician. It’s a bloated overkill software for voice actors. Garage Band (designed for music creation not VO) typically sends a stereo signal, set it to mono. It also records at 44.1 MgH (as musicians use) instead of 48 MgH (which post and animation use).

Forget using effects or plug ins to modify your performance. It’s not wanted or needed.

If you are using ISDN or Source Connect (where the remote engineer is recording your performance), your home recording software probably isn’t needed- unless you are requested to record your own performance as backup and file share that.

You can record your entire audio session with QuickTime, set the quality to highest level and then file share the recording of the saved AIFF file when the session is finished, as a super simple option.

Proper Modulation– your recording levels should be set so that the peaks of the recorded wave form you see on the software is around -6 to -4. Not too loud or too soft. It’s okay but not necessary to dial down spikes (“transients”) in the recording, but the remote engineer can do that. It’s not your job to play sound engineer.

Your home recording set up needs good room acoustics (low outside noise, kill room echos, properly set sound levels that aren’t too soft or too loud). This might be as simple as a closet that muffles surrounding sound. Other options and ideas are shared on videos below.

You don’t need an expensive mic! You don’t need more than a decent low priced condenser mic that is properly angled and properly used. Not a point of tech-obsession. It’s not about a pricey mic. Focus more on a good mic’s positioning and proper use.

Proper mic technique: Your condenser mic should hang in front of you at about nose level and be angled slightly back to avoid wind and plosives. Don’t speak into the middle of the mic.

The “sweet spot” on a mic is where the company logo is on the mic or the “pick up” pattern is displayed. That’s your vocal target.

Don’t have your computer sitting on the table connected to your mic (sound bleed). It adds unwanted noise to your record. (Mac minis are very quiet.)

Have an expert who hires you listen and confirm the adequacy of your sound. Good, clean sound is what matters.

They’ll want to confirm the deadness of your “room tone.” Sound can be deadened cheaply with a closet or moving blankets or acoustic blankets (see below). The most important area for deadening is the ambient area behind your head, as this is where the mic is pointed.

DIY Vocal Booth: $200-$300

Yes, you can purchase a proper two ton vocal booth from vocalbooth.com or whisperroom.com or other companies. These typically cost at least a few grand. Mercifully, there are now more affordable options with some potential limitations, that may still fill the bill for professional at-home recording.

Here’s a DIY Vocal Booth (the 4th option he talks about). His PVC + sound blankets setup requires a modicum of DIY grit, but it’s simple and cheap. It doesn’t deaden all louder ambient sounds, but seems good to kill room echoing. CLICK HERE

For the acoustic panels mentioned above, CLICK HERE

For cheap moving blankets: CLICK HERE

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Ready-to-go portable Vocal Booth kit: $1200

CLICK HERE for a nifty ready-to-assemble portable PVC-frame vocal booth kit along with some insightful articles about home recording. Just add your own recording hardware.

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“How to Build a Home Studio for Under $350.”

Here’s helpful engineer-producer, Graham (therecordingrevolution.com), with a quick walk through of basic pro-level studio hardware. Most everything but the booth and he offers other options on his site. For his run down of all his recommended inexpensive quality components, which you can upgrade if you wish, CLICK HERE.


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“Booth Junkie:” Another inexpensive, movable home recording rig:

Here’s yet another take on an at-home recording rig, with components that are a bit more costly. It’s a nimble, light set up and a coat closet doubles as the recording booth: CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE for the components he recommends.

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Keep Checking in with Engineer Randy!

Sound engineer extraordinaire Randy has excellent insight into home recording, updates to come! CLICK HERE

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Interfaces

What’s an “interface?” You need to connect your microphone with your computer. Some mid quality mics come ready to plug directly into a usb or lightening port on a computer. Most high quality XLR mics can’t do this alone. They require a digital to analog converter “interface” as a bridge to your computer.

The fewer features the better. Here are a couple interfaces you could use to connect any XLR microphone to a computer:

Focusrite Scarlett solo $110 (+software, a bonus)

Senal XU-1648 XLR to USB interface $90

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Microphones (affordable, but great)

For animation work, get a decent XLR condenser mic. Promos favor shotgun mics (Sennheiser 416). (shot gun mics are best positioned with end of the mic at eye level, pointing down at you at a 30 degree angle).

Here are some more affordable suggestions:

Samson C 01 -$80 (recommended by RecordingRevolution)

SE Electronics sE2200 -$300 (recommended by Corey Burton)

Studio Projects C1 Condenser Mic $250 (Also recommended by Corey Burton, what I use)

AT 2035 $150

AKG Perception series $150

Apogee makes good usb mics that have great pre-amps built in. But generally avoid usb mics. They don’t produce high enough quality of clean sound.

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Headphones

Get flat headphones that fit “over the ear” to contain noise bleed while recording. Wired not wireless.

Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250 $150

OneOdio A71 $40

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Internet speed

Your upload speed is what matters. You can test your internet/wifi speed here: speedtest.net. For Source Connect, they prefer you have an ethernet internet connection to maximize sound quality and minimize sound dropouts, but an upload wifi speed of 25-50 mbps may be adequate if you can’t connect your computer to an ethernet cable.

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Where Do I Purchase?

I shop around on sweetwater.com, B&H Electronics, zzounds.com and even amazon.

© Dee Bradley Baker 2020

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