Without doubt the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the behaviour of millions of people who now find themselves without a daily commute, the office camaraderie, the nine-to-five and all the perks attached. All are now adapting to working alone, in isolation, in the study, snug, family room, at the kitchen table, in the bedroom, garage or shed working flexible hours while exercising social distancing; some though are not so lucky and are now unfortunately unemployed.
As voice actors/artists we’ve been able to work from home, in isolation and at a distance, since it became technically possible some 30 years ago and today more people are voicing projects, podcasts and broadcasting from home, in these unprecedented times, than ever before because the technology has never been so affordable; but are you really properly equipped to meet the demand for your vocal talent?
Just this week there’s been a number of emails and social media posts from audio producers, studios and agencies with huge rosters of talent all asking for experienced VO with a pro-home studio, good connectivity and technically proficient to get in touch, presumably because their talent lists are full of jobbing actors, as the messages also state quite clearly they do NOT want to hear from people with a laptop, interface and mic working in a make-shift corner of the family room or under a duvet; no doubt pre-empting ‘resting’ talent who might rush out to buy some gear to cash in on potential demand.
The term ‘pro-home studio’ is subjective it will mean different things to different people but the one thing it will not be is the same as the producers, studio or agencies who will use their own facilities as a benchmark for quality control and this too will be subjective as each will be a unique space, unique sound and uniquely equipped.
Let’s tick-off some of the things that will make your home studio a pro-home studio:
You’ll have a vocal booth from one of a number of manufacturers – Studiobricks, Esmono, Whisper Room, Kube, VocalBooth, Vocalboothtogo, Demvox, among others, or, you will have a bespoke booth designed and built to meet your specific needs. Irrespective of what you have it needs to have a low noise floor, I’ll let ‘Alex the Audio Scientist’ from ACX explain .
How your pro-home studio is equipped is down to your experience and how long you’ve been working as a VO but having a microphone, audio mixer (optional), audio interface, digital audio workstation (DAW) and a way to listen to the audio are essentials but what this kit is and what software you use is a personal choice and, possibly, down to budget at time of purchase or upgrade. Whatever you use it must be able to capture your voice cleanly without any of the hidden sounds mentioned in the video above or from family, friends, pets and neighbours, etc., etc.
PC or Mac
It doesn’t matter what you use to host your DAW just make sure you’re using the latest version of the operating system (Windows/MacOS) unless you are limited to a specific version because of the age of the software your using. Have a standby computer ideally configured to mirror you primary machine would be useful and make sure you have a ‘backup image’ of both machines stored safety in case of a catastrophic failure or you experience a problem because tech support at you local computer store might not be available.
This is one of the primary reason producers, studios and agencies are asking for pro-home studio users to make themselves known. Being able to connect to producers and creatives also working from home or in the office, albeit social distancing, has never been easier with the right software and good broadband. The situation we all find ourselves in now is likely to be a significant game changer for our industry as producers and production houses who have been reluctant to use virtual or internet audio codecs are now forced to embrace the technology. If you are not using or have not explored using ipDTL/sip.audio, Cleanfeed, Source-Connect Std/Pro, SessionLink-Pro, Connection Open, Bodalgo Call or Source-Connect NOW you are not a Pro-home studio. ISDN was once the only way to connect remotely this is no longer the case but if required to do so ipDTL/sip.audio & Source-Connect Std/Pro can bridge the connection as premium products.
As for your broadband, it’s likely if you have a house full of family members self-isolating that your internet is going to be get hammered streaming movies, box sets, gaming online surfing the internet or Skyping family and friends, then there’s your partner working from home and connected to their office over VPN with their mobile using ‘Wi-Fi Calling’ as you’re in a poor mobile reception area. Make sure you have got the bandwidth and data allowance to make all this happen and most importantly when you need to remotely connect to a studio without problems. Importantly, try not to use Wi-fi to connect remotely always use a Cat5e network cable from your broadband router to the computer.
These are not essential as you’ll find someone online in a VO forum, a friend, or family member to assist, however, you do need to know how everything you use is interconnected and how the software is configured particularly the ‘Sound’ settings if you’re a Windows user. The simplest way of keeping track of the wiring is to take pictures of the kit and how the cables connect the mic to the interface or mixer from the interface to the computer, etc. and any variations on the them, you can also take picture of the software settings. Keep these safe with the software backup.
This is where you connect to a remote studio to record a script with direction from the producer, agency, client or all three! Given all the above in Connectivity, you’ll still need to record you vocal performance locally, at you end, even if the studio/producer is also recording you remotely and you might be required to send this audio to the producer if there is a problem with the quality of the circuit between you. You can use the preferred file transfer service favoured by the studio which could be Dropbox, WeTransfer, Hightail, Google Drive, One Drive, Slack or one of the many other available. If the WAV file is under 12Mb in size, you can use email.
Presently there is a massive demand for medical narrations, e-learning and corporate presentations, gaming and animation projects still need to be created and working remotely businesses now require a performer with technical as well as vocal know-how as a matter of urgency.
The key to being successful in a time of crisis is to keep clam, know you limitations, have the mental and physical fortitude to work smart while still having fun.