Mobile Mouthings & Configurations
Thoughts on the voiceover travel studio set-up from The Everyman Voice
Yes, the time has come to talk about voiceover mobile studio setups (or what I like to call mobile mouthings and configurations). Have no fear - I'm not about to jump into an in-depth, super knowledgeable post, detailing my years as an audio engineer! Not at all. I'm just a regular VO guy who's been able to produce quality audio from some very basic and simple setups. I have no expert standing in the audio world, but have been somewhat of an audio enthusiast over the years, and believe that a sense of the creative can lead to excellent sound quality. A fascination with recording gadgets as a child was inevitable, as I was more or less the next in a succession of "Stereophiles" - our family's musical history didn't focus on the dynamics of sound at great length, but it was always there. My experience with newer recording technology has been somewhat of a learning curve, nonetheless...
Mobile hotel room studio configuration. Tried and true Apogee USB Mic, 2nd Generation iPad, SE Electronics Pop Screen, Complimentary blankets and towels courtesy of the Hampton Inn and Suites of Buffalo, NY.
In the VO world, we flash our audio jewelry to the world any chance we get. We stop at nothing and go to great lengths to prove that we're serious about our business by over-spending on the latest and greatest gear - as if this is the key to getting potential clients to take us seriously. We brag about our peak limiters, new plug-ins and used Avalon pre. We include our gear in newsletters and in our social media posts, hoping it will showcase how our new audio setup makes our recording quality top-notch. What I love about mobile studio setups goes beyond gear and into the realm of conceptual creativity: A great and truly effective mobile studio is more about ingenuity, really...
The extent of my own interest in audio recording began with capturing sounds of passing trains and family dinner conversations on a micro-cassette recorder in my younger days (Oh great, here we go with the trains again - this guy and his trains!). Of course when I got home, the sound had clipped beyond recognition, but I thought it was SO COOL. Still, I'm pretty far from being a devoted audiophile, nor am I the type of talent who goes on an island vacation and complains about having to break from the waves to record an ISDN session back at the hotel room. That being said, I still care that my sound is more than merely acceptable to the people hiring me - the voice seekers, creative directors and producers. I'm just not a die-hard techie wiz kid with a serious appetite for audio. And there's nothing wrong with that. I'm a voiceover artist, a creative type who loves the job I'm in. Then again, I will admit that sometimes the audio and voiceover worlds collide in a mix of creative harmony - and this is definitely one of those times...
As a kid, mobility was the best thing ever! I loved designing bedroom forts to hide in (didn't we all?!). I'd imagine that, under all those blankets propped up by desk chairs and home trampolines, I was doing something really special - conducting important business transactions, carrying supplies from visiting travelers, building campfires, delegating assignments to my stuffed animal compatriots. It was a child's play land then. Who knew that many years later, I would be conducting real business, those same stuffed animals long since tucked away in an airtight bag under my bed.
So, here goes a simplified version of mobile VO and its quick points, without getting carried away with excessive technical jargon. If you're a voice talent looking to embrace audio on the road for the first time or even more regularly, these cost-effective and already widely used setups might help ease the intimidation levels you're feeling from a brief online search. Feel free to browse the pretty photos and get some of your own ideas as well. If you already have the equipment and the setup, read with nicety or avoid altogether.
If you're voice over talent with a decent amount of experience and are simply overwhelmed by the amount of audio gear out there and mountain of opinions toward creating your own successful studio on-the-road; don't be. You can do this cheaply. And maybe with any of the following:
Porta-Booth: A tried-and-true product developed by voiceover guru, Harlan Hogan of Voiceover Essentials. Other cheaper and just as reliable versions have entered the market place since then but don't discount the effectiveness of Harlan's products. I've never used them but they do come highly recommended by other colleagues within the industry. If you're not interested in ponying up the $300-plus for this setup and/or don't want to lug it through security, perhaps a DIY version like this or something similar will help. In addition, a good ol' closet or room corner with ample audio treatment, including blankets, pillows and quilts will do the job just fine. See above photo for reference - creativity works, people!
Kaotica Eye Ball : This neat invention is a bit on the over-priced side if you ask me and shouldn't replace a fully-functional mobile studio. The Kaotica functions well as an augmentation to an existing portable studio and helps minimize any annoying room tone. In my experience, I've noticed its audio quality somewhat diminished and a bit muffled. For example: if you're a singer recording in a remote corner of a parking garage or gym, the EyeBall may help minimize unnecessary reverb, but to capture the richness and texture of the human voice alone, as in voiceover, the EyeBall still leaves much to be desired.
Apogee One 96K Mic: You can't go wrong with Apogee products. I still use my Apogee One Interface on the road, but once the 96K mic came out, I instantly fell in love. It's worked very well with both my 2nd Gen iPad and my new Macbook. Its quality is second to none, very easy to use and hardly a hassle when it comes to travel time.
Audio Technica 2020 USB: My first VO mic. When I first got started, I picked up this microphone on Amazon for about $150. It's now going to for as low as $99. At the risk coming off as a strong supporter of USB microphones (aka "All you need is a USB mic and laptop"), I do stand by the AT2020 because of it's reliability. If you're just starting out in VO and on a limited budget, or you've been out of the loop for a few years and your 416 or U87 is broken for some reason, start here. However, it is probably a good idea not to stay here.
The technology is out there. You decide.