Hey everyone, we’re back again and this week let’s talk about travel voice over!
As you may remember from my last two posts (here and here), I recently had to head out of town (and away from my booth) for five days to attend my son’s advancement ceremony in the Navy. One of the things I DIDN’T mention in either of those two posts was how I handled being away from home and having new job opportunities pop up.
Well, in short, I didn’t. I simply missed out on any opportunities that may have come in.
Sometimes you HAVE to unplug and recharge
Now first, I am a firm believer in taking a real vacation, away from everything, once in a while. But this trip wasn’t really a vacation. As luck would have it, on the morning we were leaving, both my agent AND my management company both sent auditions for me, that of course, I had to turn down because I was leaving, and the deadline would be before I returned. Both were good gigs, with great rate of pay and the potential to secure ongoing work. Of course. And I had to say no.
Also, the week I was gone seemed to be a REALLY huge week for the P2P sites I am a member of as well. What I am trying to say here is I missed a LOT of opportunities while I was away.
I hate to be “that guy” who is “on vacation” while he sits in his room working and his family hangs out by the pool, but it dawned on me that if I was going to be able to sustain this voice over business, I was going to have to at least be ABLE to work while I am away from home, even if I didn’t spend all my vacation time doing it.
I needed a travel rig!
So, I will confess right now, with no reservations, that I am a bit of a tech-y gadget guy, so the idea of researching and buying equipment that travels well is kind of exciting. So that’s JUST what I did!
I started my search by trying to figure out what other voice over artists do when they travel and need to work. It’s not likely that you are going to find a hotel or Air BnB out there with a nice acoustically treated room to do your recording in so it was clear I was going to have to get creative.
I spent a couple days reading and looking at pictures of what others have done, and the (very innovative) designs ranged from a “pillow fort”:
To a “blanket fort”:
The idea is to reduce reflected sound getting into your microphone, and each of these pretty much remove the solid surfaces that sound likes to bounce off of, but neither of them did a very good job of it. It’s reported that the blanket fort did TOO much and made the “room tone” (The sound of JUST the room without any added audio) sound dead. Dead is as bad as being too “live” (Too many sound reflections).
Of course, neither blocked any external sounds. It’s not likely you’ll find much that can really deal with this dilemma, so you may need to record at 2AM when everyone else is sleeping, but I digress.
Imagine trying to record at the hotel near LAX and having planes fly over every couple minutes. Just not really going to work very well. Add to that “noisy neighbors” and you have a real dilemma on your hands.
But there is a pretty good middle-of-the-road solution
What I finally settled on is a portable booth by Vocal Booth to Go, called the VOMO.
This handy little rascal weighs about 17 pounds including the mic and copy stand that comes with it. It can either sit on a desk or be mounted to a tripod if you prefer standing to sitting. Personally, I prefer to sit so I didn’t bother getting the tripod stand designed for it. As you can see from the picture the mic is mounted pretty far into the portable booth, and there is also a flap that you can put over your head to fully surround yourself when recording. The manufacturers claim it also reduces outside noises, but we’ll see when it arrives.
And then a microphone…
Once I secured (well, ordered) my portable booth, it was time to look for a sturdy travel microphone.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are many, many different types, styles and makers of microphones out there. For this application, what I need is a microphone that has a reasonably flat acoustic profile and is both sensitive enough to capture any nuances in my speech, while at the same time INsensitive enough to not capture every snore or sneeze in whatever place I am staying while away from home. Now, in my booth I am presently using an AKG C414 large diaphragm condenser mic, set to a cardiod pattern. If you remember, a cardiod pattern is named cardioid because it is shaped a lot like a heart (cardiac).
As you can see by the picture above, off-axis sound (sound from anywhere but directly in front of the microphone) drops off as you get to the side, but not dramatically.
This AKG C414 is a fantastic mic in my well treated acoustic space at home, but it is likely to be a little TOO good (and probably not as sturdy as I would need) for a travel set up. What I needed for this travel setup is a microphone with pretty good off axis sound suppression, and for that I decided on a shotgun mic.
While the shotgun mic is ALSO set to a cardioid pattern, it is a modified cardioid specific to shotgun microphones.
In the above picture, you’ll see that the off-axis sound into a shotgun mic drops off dramatically when you get even slightly off axis. This is perfect for a travel setup where there is likely to be more ambient noise than in my booth at home as the signal to noise ratio will be much better and it shouldn’t pick up too many weird sounds under my voice. Anything between words can be handled by my editing software.
I looked at a LOT of different microphones
After looking at tons of shotgun mics, and reading something like 3 gozzillion reviews online, I settled on a Rode NTG5 shotgun mic from my favorite place to buy voice over gadgets from: Sweetwater.
Finally, I wanted to have a set of professional headphones that were dedicated only to my travel rig that were slightly smaller and lighter than the ones I use in the booth. After reading another gozzillion reviews, I settled on a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Closed-Back Studio and Live Monitoring Headphones with a carrying case.
I already have a spare PreSonus Studio 24C audio interface, which is small, sturdy and light and should travel well, so no need to buy another one of those. I also have my MacBook Pro laptop to capture my digital files on, so with all the new equipment, I should be set to record on the road.
Now I just have to be able to carry it all when I DO go.
Looking for a travel bag to carry it all…
I headed back to Sweetwater and started looking at gear bags. First thing I had to decide was whether I wanted a hard case to be more protective or if a padded soft sided case would be fine. I finally decided on a padded “backpack” case that would be able to carry everything in one place, and still give me room for personal items so I didn’t need two carry ons when I fly. The only thing that won’t fit in the backpack is the VOMO, which should be sturdy enough to check with the rest of the luggage.
Altogether this setup cost just South of $1500.00. I’m sure there are less expensive gear to buy that would probably do a decent job, but I am looking for a PROFESSIONAL job and tend to lean toward the higher end equipment. You may need to shop a different price point (or if you have a LOT of money there are even more expensive options out there…like renting time in a local studio wherever you travel to…but I find this to be in the upper-middle-of-the-road category.
So, there you have it! I will be ready for my next non-vacation trip, so I won’t miss out on any lucrative jobs. I’m actually headed out of town next weekend for my daughter’s wedding, but I think I’ll count this as a real vacation and plan to not work. Hey, it’s the weekend anyway so not nearly as many jobs open up!
If you have a favorite travel set up, drop a note below and tell me about it!