Can you relate? This past March, I was in Atlanta for a little over 24 hours and three auditions from past clients came in. While I was able to put one on hold till I was back in my studio, two auditions were very time sensitive and I missed both of those jobs (and I’m about 100% convinced I would’ve booked both). A friend of mine told me a great way to have things like that make a lasting impression. He said write the amount of money you missed on a piece of paper, and then burn it.
Well, I decided that I wasn’t going to have that happen again, so I decided to put together a portable voice over studio. I found this to be much simpler than I initially thought.
What do you need? (what I use)
There are some great travel mics out there that can plug straight into an iPhone or iPad (Apogee Mic, Blue Spark Digital), however, I think one of the best mics to use on the road is the Sennheiser MKH 416. The reason for this is because it is more forgiving of less than perfect rooms, which is what you’ll find in a hotel. I go into this more in depth in my blog post, “What is the Best Voice Over Mic”.
The Audio Interface (USB)
I’m actually pretty pleased with the Shure x2u. It’s a great way to connect a mic to a computer in a very non-cumbersome way. There’s also the added bonus of having monitor control.
The Computer and Software
Early last year, I made the switch to Mac after being PC for my entire life, up to that point. I’m happier with that decision than I ever thought I would be. That doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for you, but one of the main reasons I went with Mac is because the laptops are so quiet and, as you know, the smaller amount of noise, the better. I have a MacBook Pro with a 2.5 Ghz processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive. While I wouldn’t go any less than that, I don’t think you need to go any more than that. As for software, I currently use Adobe Audition CS6, which can be found for both Mac and PC. I’ve heard great things about GarageBand as well as Twisted Wave. Some people also use Audacity, which can be downloaded online for both Mac and PC, as well.
Odds and Ends
Headphones are always nice to have and I also have a collapsible, table-top mic stand.
Treating the Room
The big question is, how do you turn a hotel room into a studio? Taking into account that I use a Sennheiser MKH 416, which does a fairly decent job with non-treated rooms, I use a few items provided by the hotel that can turn a hotel room into a pretty decent recording environment. What I do is find the smallest room with carpet, if there’s more than one room. If there are curtains, I close them because that surface won’t reflect sound nearly as bad as a window. When possible, I grab that extra blanket out of the closet that no one uses and find something semi tall to drape it over. This past weekend, there was a bed that folded down from the wall and I simply draped the blanket over the top of that, when it folded into the wall (see in the picture). Then, I try to setup shop fairly close to one of those locations, either the curtains, the blanket or both, if it’s possible to have them close together. Also, if it’s a high ceiling, try to position the mic higher than your mouth and tilt it down. This seems to provide a little better sound. Another option, that can sometimes be quicker, is the backseat of a car. I’ve actually talked to many voice talents that have used this option.
And believe it or not, that’s pretty much it. Besides the mic and headphones, which I already owned, I bought the laptop, refurbished and the Shure x2u. I paid under $900 total and this past weekend, I got contacted by a client while on a 2 day vacation and booked a voice over job. I definitely believe that anyone who does regular voice over work should have a travel option. Why leave money on the table?