Drop the mic!

A blog of curiosities about voice-overs in Portugal, and beyond

Doodle shows a car with a strange light inside, as a voice talent is recording there and the computer screen is bright

Audio booth on the move!

April 14, 2023


I suppose that most of us, voice-overs’ professionals who set up our own studio, start by improvising a recording space at home. I began, many years ago, by taking advantage of a closet in the attic and a biombo, with the help of a lot of acoustic foam, to create a kind of audio booth without any echo. It wasn’t exactly soundproofed, but I lived in a very quiet street and I recorded at night.

I only had to repeat a few takes if a plane flew over me…

Or if a neighbor’s dog barked…

It’s been a long time since I upgraded my “studio”, and I now use a professional, soundproof voice booth, which has also allowed me to improve the entire line of equipment, from a very sensitive microphone to a fantastic preamp.

But sometimes I still revert back to the spirit of the ‘guerrilla voice actor’, or the ‘MacGyver voice talent’, when I go on vacation with a portable recording kit and I improvise a studio with what’s around.

I look for a closet, fill it with clothes, use some towels and pillows, and I use a less sensitive microphone and a small audio interface. And it doesn’t work too bad!

The fact is I know that a very well-known professional Portuguese voice talent who still records voice-overs in his car today, with broadcast use! 

Surprisingly for someone just starting out in the profession, the vehicles can be a superb studio. Notice: cars tend to be soundproofed so occupants don’t suffer from engine and city noise, and there’s virtually no echo because the windows are angled, there are few straight surfaces, and the upholstery absorbs sound.

Of course, recording a voice-over in the car can lead to more… Stranger situations, lets say, for someone who, outside, is faced with an awkward activity inside the car…

My British colleague Liz Drury knows what I’m talking about.

“If you think the life of a voice over artist is all about going to swanky city recording studios and recording in a well equipped sound booth with an audio engineer on hand, then you are sadly mistaken”, says Liz Drury. “Most of the time it isn’t nearly as glamorous as that. Most of us are recording from home studios, and when we’re away from home we are using makeshift recording environments constructed from duvets and pillows…

Over the years I have recorded in my fair share of hotel rooms, in closets, or under tables, but one of the most memorable locations was on a holiday in the USA. We were visiting Zion National Park in Utah and I received an email from a client asking me to record a voiceover for them. I sent the kids off to the pool while I sent up my equipment under a table with cushions and pillows all around. I was struggling to get a sound I was happy with and when the kids came back from swimming I still hadn’t recorded the script. They wanted to put the TV on so the only option was to go out to the car park and record in the car.

It was the height of summer, and although it was quite late in the evening and dark by now, it was still hot, and the car was pretty stuffy with all the windows closed. However, the quality of the recording was much better (cars actually make quite good recording spaces). I was kneeling on the back seat with my laptop and microphone balanced next to me, in a very uncomfortable position with my backside pointing up towards the window, and my head down towards the microphone.

The recording was going well until I heard some people coming to the next car. I didn’t dare to look round. I have no idea what they thought but they would have seen my bottom in the air and the glow from my computer screen – they must have wondered what on earth I was doing! It was quite a small motel and everyone crowded into the small restaurant at breakfast time the next morning. I deliberately did not make eye contact with our neighbors and fortunately we then moved to our next destination!”

Voice-overs on the run! The most important thing is to get the work well done!

Please get to know the great work of Liz Drury here: https://lizdrury.com/


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