Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned pro doing voice over work in your home studio, there are a few necessities that are valuable to have in order to be productive. Of course you need the basics: a computer, microphone, recording software and a place to be vocal. But, you also need a few support items to help make your recording sessions easier.
First, a story about mouth-clicks and a pencil. During a relatively easy session, I was having difficulties with mouth-clicks. The script was about 30-words with no unusual phonetics or unfamiliar terms. After my first take, I listened to the playback only to discover my read was loaded with mouth-clicks. So, I took a swig of water, ate a bite of green apple and headed back into the booth for a second take. This time, I read the script twice to make sure I had a clean, mouth-click-free recording.
During the playback of my second attempt and to my disappointment, I found that the nasty mouth clicks were still there. This time they were much more numerous than the first take. Not only did there seem to be more, the tiny obnoxious clicks had gotten louder. It was as if they had taken on a life of their own and were mocking my efforts to get rid of them.
After hydrating myself again, I trekked back to the booth for attempt number three. This time I was going to really pay attention to what sounds were emitting from my mouth. With pencil in hand, I began my read. I put emotion in all the right places and enunciated clearly. I was emoting with my entire body, stabbing with my hands for emphasis. And then that’s when I heard them. Click. Click. Clickity-click. Click. Click!!!
I realized to my embarrassment and relief, the clicks were not coming from my perfectly spoken words, but from my pencil. It was a blue Pentel mechanical pencil that I had freshly loaded with new lead. Every time I shook my hand for emphasis, the pencil replied like a miniature baby rattle. Click. Click. Clickity-click. Yes, it was a pencil and not my mouth, thank you very much.
So, now the Pentel sits on my desk and not in the booth. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the thing even though it made me sound ridiculously clicky, it’s been with me since I was a Freshman in high school. Ah, the price of sentimental nostalgia.
And now, my list of seven must have items for your home studio.
Wooden No. 2 pencils work the best. You can woodshed or markup your script at will, and erase when needed. Pens allow you to write but most don’t allow you to erase. And, while mechanical pencils look rather prestigious, they are not worth the trouble. Trust me on this!
H2O is very important in reducing mouth-clicks and keeping your mouth and throat moist while doing voice overs. I have a 32-ounce bottle in my studio that’s refilled at least three times a day. Room temperature is best, cold water somewhat restricts vocal cord movement.
3. Warm Tea
Along with water, warm, caffeine free tea with honey and lemon is a throat saver. I use a variety of blends, each one is tasty and seems to relax and clear my vocal path. One tea specifically marketed as medicinally appropriate for voice actors, is Traditional Medicinal’s Throat Coat. You can find this in most grocery stores.
4. Green Apples
It’s true. I’ve used them and have found that they do the job of significantly reducing mouth-clicks. One of the first things I do in the morning is slice up a green apple to keep in my studio for the day. It’s easy to chew a piece before a session or audition.
5. Comfortable Work Station
When I’m not in the booth recording, I’m at my desk editing, writing proposals, or replying to client e-mail. An ergonomically adjustable desk and chair will allow you to work more comfortably for longer periods of time. My desk is designed by BioMorph and my chair is a Humanscale. Without them I’m sure that I would not be able to put in the hours I do.
I print a number of scripts everyday. Before I purchased a printer for my studio, I used one that was connected to my home network. My studio is on the second floor and the printer was inconveniently located on the first. Sure, I got my exercise and it gave me an opportunity to get off my butt. Nothing beats having a printer close by. I settled on a multifunction printer from Canon that gives me printing, scanning and faxing capabilities. I suggest going with a laser printer and staying away from ink jets. In the long run laser is cheaper, quieter, has better image quality, stands up to pencil markups better and is not smudged by highlighters.
7. Good Lighting
You need to see what you’re reading in the booth and at your desk. In my booth I have a Mighty Bright Triple L.E.D light clipped to my copy stand. It’s powered by three rechargeable AAA batteries and gives off an incredible amount of light for its size. The adjustable halogen desk lamp that I use lights up my entire work area.
These are the tools I need and use daily in my studio. What are your “must have” items in your studio?