Today, we’re wrapping up our continuing series on home studio setup with a look at studio construction. We’ve polled ACX users who’ve set up home or professional studios, as well as members of the Audible Studios teams for their expert tips on constructing your own studio (and managing your time and work once you’re up and running!).
ACX: What did you learn from setting up your own studio?
Peter A. Rohan: I learned that it’s important to know my enemy. In this instance, I had two. The first was an unacceptable amount of noise when I recorded (aka a high noise floor), and the second was excessive room reflection. I had too many reflective surfaces, the sound waves were bouncing off of every wall, and my New York City apartment was too noisy to record in. After a lot of trial and error (and money spent), I chose to build my own vocal booth.
Brick Shop Audiobooks: It’s important to establish your budget and do your best not to go over that. You need to be focused on your art, not your credit card bills.
Peter A. Rohan: Right. With minimal construction skills and a much lower budget, I was able to construct a vocal booth that gave me much better results than any of the available pre-fabricated options. The most important decision I made was to build it myself. My initial investment was about one-fifth the price of the cheapest sound booth that I could find for purchase.
ACX: What advice do you have for an actor looking to set up a home studio?
Darren Vermaas, Audible Studios Post-Production Associate: Treat your recording space. A lot of people think they simply set up a microphone and go. In reality, no matter how nice your microphone, preamp, and DAW are, and how fantastic your voice sounds, it will all go downhill if your room does not have some treatment. That means putting up some sort of sound absorbing materials to stop room reverberation and early reflections. When someone listens back to your audio, you don’t want them to be able to visualize the room you’re sitting in. Treating a room can be as simple as hanging up a bunch of packing blankets and creating a makeshift vocal booth, or as extreme as purchasing professional, application specific sound absorbing panels. There are also products like this Reflexion Filter that will do a lot to minimize sound reflection.
Rob Granniss, Brick Shop Audiobooks: Agreed. You’ve got to start with treating your space. There’s no point in getting high-end audio equipment that can hear a pin drop if you have 18 wheelers passing by every 5 minutes. Some of my favorite cost-effective treatments are bookshelves loaded with books, which provide a great refraction pattern and nice dense absorption; hanging moving blankets; and raising the floor if necessary with tires (lay them flat – think of a box of a dozen donuts to visualize it) with some kind of wood flooring on top. It may be hideous on the outside, but draping the blankets on top and making a “door” with the blankets can close you off pretty well and is a good place to start.
ACX: What about once a studio is up and running? How can actors set themselves up for success?
Brick Shop Audiobooks: We found that it’s important to grow naturally. We started with 1 or 2 books a month, working nights and weekends on projects. When we began getting more work, we took time off our day jobs and then eventually moved into a dedicated space. We’ve been constructing more recording booths and editing stations as our production has increased. Staggering it out as we have, we didn’t end up with a large debt hanging over us during the beginning by borrowing a lot from a bank and working just to pay interest.
Darren Vermaas: Distractions are a work killer! Working out of your home is convenient, but can also be a huge distraction. If you can get out of your areas of distraction, you will get a lot more done. Disconnect your WiFi if you don’t need it while you work. Facebook will be there when you’re done recording. Don’t edit on a comfy couch because if you’re like me, you’ll want to take a quick 15 minute nap and get back to it later. Last but not least, don’t wait until the last minute. You’re your own boss so there is less pressure, but don’t take advantage of your own time.
Brick Shop Audiobooks: Another lesson is that audiobook production, as all businesses, is about people and communicating respectfully. Much of our day is filled with correspondence to make sure authors, narrators, and our engineers know what’s happening in production, and that their needs, whether artistic or schedule-related, are being addressed. The more attention you pay to this, the fewer problems you’ll deal with later down the line.
ACX: Thanks for the killer advice, folks!
Have you set up your own studio? What did you learn in the process?