Before you utter your very first word into a microphone as a voice actor working from home, the first thing any seasoned voice actor will tell you is to create your recording space. Home recording studios have become more important than ever because of Covid-19. Although many voice actors have professional recording studios nearby, many of them are closed, or some people just don’t feel comfortable right now going into these studios to record. So, how does one go about converting part of your living space into a professional recording space?
There are many different options for creating a home recording studio, and I am certainly not an expert in any of it. However, I thought I would share how I converted my bedroom’s walk-in closet into a home recording studio in case anyone could benefit from my personal process. Please keep in mind that because I’m a wheelchair user, my requirements for spacing and placement might be different than yours.
Honestly Assessing Your Closet Space
Everybody’s living space is unique, but it was a no-brainer for me to choose my bedroom closet as a studio space. It’s a long and wide enough or for me to fit in my wheelchair, and although the ceilings are very high – which isn’t exactly perfect for acoustics—I figured I could do enough with the sound treatment to combat that effect.
There are several great things about my closet that lend themselves to audio recording. First, all the hanging clothes act as a sound dampening system. Second, I have several built-ins for shoes and clothes where I can place my equipment, my drinks, et cetera. Third, while the rest of my house has hardwood or tile floors, my closet has carpet. I also have a source of electricity. If your closet has all of these things, then it might be an ideal recording space for you.
Exploring Sound Treatment Needs and Options
As I mentioned above, the number one thing you can do to improve the quality of your recordings, so I’m told, is to apply proper sound treatment to your home recording space. There are many ways to accomplish this, from moving blankets and pillows to clothing, towels, and egg crate mattress covers.
I chose to purchase relatively inexpensive square foam acoustic tiles. They come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and prices. For my needs, I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I bought multiple sets of 24 for $36 each on Amazon. They came in a vacuum compressed package, so I had to peel them apart and lay them out flat for 24 hours to let them puff up. Then I had to immerse them in water like sponges, wring them out, and lay them out again to dry for 24 hours. I think this is to get out the chemical smell. You may choose to skip the step, but I just followed the instructions on the packaging.
There are many different ways to hang up foam acoustic tiles. Some people use spray adhesive, and others glue them to cardboard panels, then hang those panels using nails. I used 3M command strips for posters —two strips for panels on the walls and four strips for the panels placed on the top of my built-ins. I would say my panels cover 80% of my wall space, and about 90% of the surfaces where my voice could bounce back to me. Currently, the noise floor in my closet is at -60 dB, which I’m told is a good level for a home studio.
Configuring Your Communications and Electrical Connections
The next thing I did was take stock of my options for electricity and Internet connectivity. I have one outlet inside my closet, and another one just outside my closet door. I use the closet outlet for my laptop charger, and then I ran an extension cord from the exterior outlet into the closet for my audio interface.
Having a stable Internet connection is more important than you might think. Sure, you want to be able to submit auditions from your studio because it’s just convenient, and wifi is fine for that. However, you have to think ahead for the potential of live directed sessions. Many producers will use Zoom or Skype to do this, for which a Wi-Fi connection is good.
However, if you have to do a directed session using Source Connect, you will need to plug your computer directly into your modem using an Ethernet cable. If you’re like me, your modem is not in your bedroom. Fortunately, my modem is in my living room, which is just outside my bedroom. I purchased a 50-foot ethernet cable, which I’m able to run from my router, through my bedroom, and into my closet for a direct connection into my laptop.
You may also be interested in other options for live directed sessions and remote recording, like ipDTL, ISDN, or a phone patch. Some require a landline and/or a solid Internet connection, so make sure you check on the tech requirements for each option and your ability to implement them before deciding your closet is the best studio space.
Setting Up Your Equipment
Last but not least, I put my equipment in place. Again, everyone has a unique set up. I have my microphone attached to a swingarm, which is clamped onto one of the shelves in my built-in. My audio interface is on the same shelf next to a very lovely pair of shoes. I’m also able to place my beverages on one of those shelves. I purchased a jumbo command strip plastic hook that I attached to the side of my built-in where I can hang my headphones.
I don’t need a space for my laptop because I keep it on my lap. As a wheelchair user, that’s what works for me. However, you might need extra space for a microphone stand, a stand to place your scripts or iPad, a table for your laptop or a tabletop microphone, and however else you want to customize your space for your equipment.
So far, this little space, which I call my “cloffice” (for closet office), has worked really well for me! Setting up a home recording studio requires a ton of research, and definitely an honest assessment of your needs, budget, and the spaces available to you in your house. This is only what worked for me in my home, so I strongly encourage you to research other options within your budget, like prebuilt studios and consulting services from audio engineers and voice actors who have been doing this for a long time. I hope this helps, and please mention in the comments what has worked for you in your office recording studio!
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