Whether you’re a practiced voiceover actor with years of experience and dozens of credits to your name, or you’re only just now trying to break into the voiceover game, a home VO studio can do wonders for you and your career. A home voiceover studio is also a great way to subsidize your income from the comfort of your very own house or apartment (which means you don’t even need to change out of your pajamas), and you can put the work in on a schedule that fits you and you alone. But how do you even begin to turn an existing space into a voiceover enclave? And what materials will you need? And, perhaps most importantly, what is it all going to cost? Get answers to that and more right here in the Backstage Guide for setting up your home voiceover studio.
Why set up a home voiceover studio?
Since you’re here, you probably know this guide will provide you with all the information you need to set up your very own at-home voiceover studio. But before getting to equipment, software, financial implications, and beyond, there’s one major point to address: Why do it?
Glad you asked! These days, there are more opportunities for voiceover work than ever before—but there is more VO talent, too, and if an opportunity presents itself and you’re not quick to jump on it, it may just pass you by. With a home VO studio, you can make sure no gig slips through the cracks due to timeliness. Additionally, the sheer volume and rate at which you will be able to output your product will increase, and so, too, will the bookings. Got it? Good! So, let’s get to what you need to actually do it.
How do I choose a space?
Of course, the actual space you designate to turn into your voiceover studio is paramount. In fact, according to voiceover pro and Backstage Expert Jamie Muffett, the space itself should be your No. 1 priority. “As a voiceover artist, the room in which you record is the most important factor to consider,” says Muffett. “It is more critical than your mic, your interface, expensive preamps, your computer, and software. If your sound is compromised before it even gets to your microphone, no amount of expensive equipment is going to be able to make up for poor acoustics.”
It’s also a fact that many actors do not live in a space that easily lends itself to state-of-the-art recording space—which is completely fine. Below, Muffett breaks down what you should take into consideration when finding your space:
- Does the room share any walls with neighboring rooms that produce noise, like a kitchen that is used regularly or a bathroom?
- Are there household appliances or technology that create noise nearby, such as HVAC, noisy plumbing, elevators, garage doors, washing machines, etc.?
- Does the room overlook an outside space that could create problems such as traffic, leaf blowers, or noisy neighbors?
- Is there power and ventilation? (This is particularly relevant if you’re using a walk-in closet.)
- Acoustically speaking, a square room is the least optimal shape, so if you have two similar rooms with different dimensions, choose the least square one.
How do I soundproof the space?
So, you’ve chosen your space! The most crucial element has been solidified, but the work is not done. You now need to go about soundproofing the studio, making sure that no sound is able to leave or enter. This, as Muffett points out, “has nothing to do with optimizing the sound quality of your recording, rather it is a fundamental requirement before you even get started.”
For your home VO studio, it’s much more crucial to prevent sound from entering rather than prevent the sound of your own voice from exiting. How you do this will depend on the environmental factors you’re up against (traffic, train or subway tracks, general household noises). But no matter what, there are some general steps you can take, so again, we turn to Muffett:
“Sound is essentially energy, and the higher the pitch the less energy that sound has,” he says. “Therefore, the higher the pitch, the easier it is to soundproof against. Think of a car blasting music; with the doors closed you hear just the bass and low end sounds thumping. The car is successfully blocking the higher frequencies but is not able to soundproof the lower and more energetic frequencies.
“You will have the same issue with soundproofing your space. Your soundproofing is only ever as good as its weakest point, so first you will need to make sure that your space is completely sealed, starting with spaces around doors and windows that should be filled in. If the door is hollow you could try to fill it with sound insulating spray foam or replace it with a dense fire door. You can also add a sheet or sheets of soundproofing material that overlaps the frame when the door is closed.
“If you seal the room so effectively that you are creating an airtight box, you will most certainly need to have a ventilation system to remove stale air and replace with fresh. The way to achieve this acoustically is to put the vent outlet in one part of the room and then pipe the stale/fresh air conduit around the room and then through the wall as far from the vent as possible. This serves to separate the end of the vent from the break in the wall and reduce that as a weak point where sound can leak in.”
What materials will I need and how much will they cost?
Now that you’ve got your space picked out and have managed to secure it soundly (get it?), it’s time to delve into the all-important equipment you’ll need. And, despite what you may have been told to believe, the tools won’t cost you an arm and a leg. However, since you will need a few different items, budgeting is key.
“Don’t blow your budget on the mic!” says George Whittam, a voiceover expert. “Figure out your budget for the entire process, including training, and make sure no one area goes overlooked. If you have $1,000 budgeted for a mic and zero dollars for acoustics, you better split that in half so $500 goes to acoustics.
“You can honestly spend under $300 on a microphone, $200 on a preamp that doubles as a USB computer interface, $100 on a mic stand, pop screen, and headphones, and have all the basic tools to begin recording voiceover,” he adds.
What software do I need?
There are countless different options as far as software and programs are concerned. Price points vary, but many are affordable and some are even free. Audacity, for example, is a simple program compatible with Macs, PCs, and tablets, and will cost you exactly $0. If you do want to invest for the long haul, the VO industry has two go-tos: Pro Tools S6 (price varies from product to product) and Adobe Audition CC (prices start at $19.99 per month). Both are intricate and thoroughly encompass all your VO needs.
Where can I find VO jobs?
Last, but certainly not least, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is—literally—and land yourself a voiceover gig.
You will definitely want to check out the Backstage Guide to voiceover training (right here!), which has all the vital VO information you need, including training options, audition prep, and how to immerse yourself in the VO community.
Of course, when it comes to actually finding auditions, no resource will better serve you than Backstage. The casting calls section has an entire category just for voiceover, which is even subcategorized so you can filter gigs to find exactly what you’re looking for (commercial, radio, animation, etc.). What are you waiting for? Head on over there and start booking!