As we enter back into the second wave of Covid in the UK and Europe, it is useful to understand how a voiceover in their studio produces good sound and what to look out for, given that home studios are becoming more and more vital to ensure projects continue.
In July’s newsletter we looked at some of the key attributes of good sound: a strong recording level, No reverb, a low noise floor and free of extraneous sounds, in order to produce audio that can be employed to yield great work for your clients.
The big question is, how does a voiceover produce that sound with their studio? What things can you look out for and ask about in order to make sure that the set up your voiceover has will lead to that production of good raw sound?
It starts with the overall structure of their booth and ends with how things are treated on inside.
First and foremost the best voiceover studios, like those in SOHO or LA are rooms within rooms, where the floor, walls and ceiling are floating from the room walls, floor and ceiling they are in. This significantly cuts down on outside vibrations making their way into the studio. Like hearing a plane or highway sounds underneath in a voiceover take, that renders the good take useless.
The next is Mass. Voiceover studios must be significant in their mass in order to stop sound getting inside. This mass means the structure (walls) as well as the insulation materials within them in order to essentially create a soundproof shell. That usually means rigid fibreglass, sheetrock and roxul in the walls. Terms known to people who have built custom booths that are dead to outside sound. So more DIY constructions are less robust (though can still be made to work) than purpose built booths and solid walls.
Once there is a shell that keeps noise out (the previous two), it is about treating the room inside.
Sound Reflective Materials
Once the solid shell is in place, it is then about reducing the occurrence of reverberant sound inside and this is down to absorption materials. The common egg shaped foam on the inside of voiceover booths is not actually the best for the job. This is because of the rule in reducing sound reverb inside:
The distance from the front of the absorption to the hard surface behind it should be at least a quarter wavelength at the lowest frequency you need to absorb, and often more is better
If you have never heard this before, it could be like a mathematical equation that you have no idea about. A voiceover cannot just stick some foam up and job done. It is infinitely more sophisticated than that as otherwise standing waves and pooled reflections occur, where certain frequencies in recordings are pronounced over others, leading to an unbalanced and non-neutral sound.
The above are all hallmarks that the best voiceovers will be working with. It’s not to say that a more DIY construction can’t produce results. In the scramble to adapt to social distancing early on during Covid, many well known voice actors constructed DIY spaces in order to continue pipelines for animated and gaming projects. They were made to work. But as we are entering a more prolonged phase of working with the need to take care of eachother, studios that meet more of the above criteria are going to yield better results for the project and the client. So mass over a DIY construction is better for example.
So long as the voiceover knows how to use them for the best results. That last part takes time and experience. Having the right set up is a large step towards that.
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Paul Mclaughlin © Versatile Voiceovers