Building Your Home Studio. Furniture, DAW's and More!

So you’ve decided you want to give the whole voiceover idea a try, well good for you!  The road to success always begins with that first step.  Hopefully you’ve read the multitude of books available on the subject and maybe even talked with some people in the business, and you keep hearing about a home studio.   So for the next couple of blogs, let’s take a quick look at what’s involved in setting up your first home studio.

First, from all the research you’ve done up to this point, it should have dawned on you that to be successful you have to be a Jack of all Trades.  You’ll need to understand how to actually run your own business, including the planning, budgeting, marketing, time commitments and things like LLC’s and taxes.  Now, once you’ve mastered all that, you need to put your audio engineer hat on and figure out the best way to plan, build and equip your own studio.

Clients expect, and frankly deserve the very best audio quality possible.  It’s incumbent upon you to deliver a professional sound that meets or exceeds established quality audio standards.  So where to begin?  Perhaps the most important first decision will be the placement of your studio.  It has to be quiet and as sound proof as possible.  You don’t want clients hearing your neighbor with his leaf blower, or the baby crying for lunch.  Sounds as insignificant as the fan from your computer, ceiling fan or HVAC have a nasty habit of appearing on your audio track if not dealt with. 

Some people get away with actually recording from a walk-in closet in their home.  But that’s not very practical for the long term.  I’ve even heard of people recording from inside their cars. But again, you’ve got to be careful with unexpected noise.

There are a number of very good sound isolation booths commercially available on the market.  They work great, but they’ll take a big chunk out of your overall budget. And, they can be bulky.  If you’re handy, you can always try to build something yourself using similar techniques.  But a number of us choose to find a quiet place, and build around the work area carefully isolating noise generating devices, and eliminating the likelihood of extraneous noise sources.  I can’t over emphasize enough the value of an experienced sound engineer to help with this process. 

You can’t do much with the fire truck running down the street, so you’ll have to adjust your recording as necessary.  Even with live ISDN sessions, unanticipated noise needs to be dealt with.  ISDN is expensive, and the client won’t have time to wait for your neighbor to finish his yard or the baby to be fed. Remember, their paying good money for professional voice over services.

Once the location is determined, start planning for how you’ll be working.  As I'm recording Voice Spots, I prefer to stand to allow my diaphragm to fully expand during sessions, and I’ve been known to flail my arms about as I emphasize a point.  Others may prefer sitting or a combination of the two.  Remember, you’ll be in this position for not only the recording sessions, but will then be editing your sessions, often for a long time.  You’ll want to find furniture that meets your needs, and helps to reduce long term fatigue.  Again, there are a number of commercial vendors who specialize in audio workstations, or if you’re handy, you can always build it yourself.

Next month we’ll begin to look at the actual hardware you’ll need to build your studio.  So stand by, your budget is about to take a major hit!

What Drives Your Passion?

I wanted to take a moment and talk about how and why I became involved in voice overs.  I’ve always had that burning desire to be in radio.  In the mid 70’s, while in my teens, I started working part time at a small radio station in Flagstaff, Arizona just for the fun of it. I didn't really know what I was doing, but it was a lot of fun.

Radio had always interested me, and I found lots of fulfillment listening to powerful distant AM stations during the night, in the cool mountain air of Flagstaff.  KOA in Denver and KOMA in Oklahoma City were big favorites.  I also enjoyed listening to KOB in Albuquerque and their tag line “for the man who makes his living driving a truck.”  The fascination of hearing so many different stations during those late evenings only fueled my passion for broadcasting.

As the years moved on, I realized that radio broadcasting was not going to be my main vocation.  Far from it, as I entered a career path in the far more predictable world of government work.   In the mid-80’s, an opportunity came along where I was offered a part time position as an airborne traffic reporter for KTAR News Radio in Phoenix.  I jumped at the chance and was in the air reporting on developing traffic problems during morning and evening rush hours. I continued on for several more years, but despite a successful career, I still longed for a role in broadcasting.

I made some early inquiries during my time at KTAR to one of the station's star hosts, Charlie Van Dyke.  Charlie is the kind of guy every broadcaster would want to be, gifted with amazing “pipes” and the experience gained from years of hard work.  Charlie was kind enough to give me some idea of the business, but back then, VO artists, and the industry they would spawn,  were still an emerging domain.  In today’s world of the internet, and ISDN, I can’t imagine having to send magnetic tapes to stations across the country by FedEx with the latest promos or commercials.  But it was guys like Charlie who paved the way and pioneered the world of voiceover as we know it today.

Then around 1998 or 1999, I was sitting with my accountant discussing how much money I would hope to have left after April 15th when I mentioned that I was wanting to start my own business and “get into voiceovers.”    As luck would have it, my accountant knew a guy that was working full time in the VO business and offered to contact him to help me out.

Just as Charlie had done years earlier, Steve Wood was an amazing mentor, counselor, and friend.  I talked at length with Steve about what I wanted to do, and he patiently helped me thru the different steps of starting my business and selecting the right production gear.  Keep in mind, Steve was already “doing” the business, and I was going to soon be a competitor for the same business dollars.  Although given Steve’s ability and success, I doubt I was much of a serious threat!  But it’s interesting that Steve, like Charlie, was already an experienced and successful professional.  A pro in every sense of the word.  Yet, they still had time to help out a new guy.  Well, Steve introduced me to yet another VO guy who was working at the same station where I had worked as a traffic reporter years earlier.  Ken Moskowitz,  Spanky, as he was to become know, picked up where Steve left off and worked with me on most every topic area imaginable.  Spanky too was already a successful VO artist, and still, he was willing to help out the new guy as well. 

It says a lot to me about the character of someone who is willing to help out a stranger and work with them to achieve their own goals and dreams, especially if it’s in the very competitive world of voiceovers. 

So when I was talking recently with my friend Spanky about my new web page, and how to effectively approach the world of social media for my business, he once again stepped up and took time from his very successful advertising business, Wedgie Media, to guide me in the right direction.

That’s one of the things I would like to do with my blog.  I’d like to “Pay it Forward”, and continue the example set early on by Charlie, Steve and Spanky, and do what I can to help aspiring VO artists get to where they can envision their own goals and dreams, and be successful in their endeavors. 

I guess there are two take-aways from my experience.  While I had a very successful and gratifying career in government service, I always had that passion for radio.  Voiceover became my outlet to achieve that goal, and in turn I helped clients tell their stories and build their businesses.  It certainly wasn’t for the money, there are only a handful of people nationwide who are really making the big bucks in the business.  So it must have been my passion for the business.

The other take-away, is really what goes around, always comes around.  Whatever degree of success I’ve achieved in my business, it’s because of guys like Charlie, Steve and Spanky. 

So here’s to you and your ambitions.  Remember, you never fail until you quit trying.  So hang in there, and hopefully my blogs will, in some small way, help pave the way to fuel your passion and success!

Voice Spots is up and running with a whole new look!

Welcome, and thanks for taking the time to look over my newest version of Voice Spots 2.0!  I decided it was time to bring my site into a more effective medium that would allow me to keep in closer contact with clients and those of you who may be interested in looking into voice over as a career choice.

It’s not unusual for someone to ask me if they can “join my team” or “get onto my site” since they are already in the business and looking to populate as many sites as possible with their demo. 

What I normally do when someone sends me a demo is to keep it in a file, and when a client contacts me looking for something I just don’t do, I’ll check my demo file and see if I can turn them onto someone who will meet their specific needs. 

There’s also the person who’s just interested in the business and looking for information on how to get started.  Since I had some great advice when I was just starting out, I’m happy to return the favor and pay it forward for someone new.  So, in the future, I’ll use my site as a blog of sorts, to give some pearls of wisdom that I’ve experienced over the years to help aspiring talent reach their goals. 

So check back often, I’ll offer some quick tips on what I’m doing, and how it may work for you.  I’m also planning on embedding some future video clips during an actual session so you can get a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes. 

Thanks again for stopping by, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Linked in!