Tips for Stress-Free Home Recording Sessions Jul 27, 2020 0:52:00 GMT -8 Kevin Liberty and Lucaricross like this
Post by LadyStardust on Jul 27, 2020 0:52:00 GMT -8
Recording live sessions remotely, especially during these already-difficult times, can be stressful for voice talent. Especially if you're used to physically going into a studio to record, suddenly doing everything from your home can mean a lot more things to worry about. Or, if you typically record from home independently but aren't used to doing live sessions with major clients, here are some general tips to help make sure everything goes smoothly!
BEFORE YOUR SESSION
Get everything set up and ready at least 15 minutes prior to any remote session.
There’s nothing like your computer forcing you to install mandatory updates right before you’re set to record, your recording program suddenly not recognizing your audio interface, or forgetting your old Skype password when you’re trying to log in. Rather than rushing to get everything set up moments before your session, do a quick test recording to make sure everything’s looking good, and open and log in to any programs (SourceConnect, Skype, Zoom, etc) you need to use to connect with the client. Make sure any electronic devices you are using, such as a laptop or tablet, are plugged in or fully charged. Have your water or tea ready. Remote sessions can already take longer due to lag and technical issues, so you don’t want to waste “on the clock” time (aka, time the client is paying for) by scrambling to find your script file or trying to figure out why Zoom is defaulting to the laptop mic rather than the proper one you paid lots of money for. Many remote sessions are plagued with technical problems and some of this is out of your control, but the client will appreciate you being prepared and ready to go.
Have scripts downloaded and open at session start time.
Many clients will send you a script ahead of time for remote sessions. Make sure to download the script as well as any supplemental materials you need (such as video references) and ensure that you have a program that can properly open and display the script in its correct format. You should easily be able to “ctrl+F” to find your character’s lines or loop numbers without a hassle. This also gives you the chance to take care of any potential “font errors” that can make your script look wonky. Have your script on your screen, ready to go, at the beginning of your session so that you don’t have to waste time looking for it with clients on the line.
Cool down your space ahead of time.
Most AC units and fans are noisy enough that running them during your recording session isn’t an option. But been cooped up in a small booth or closet in the middle of summer can result in getting unbearably hot, which can make it more difficult to concentrate on your work. Run the AC and/or fans with the booth door open 30 minutes or so before your session begins, so that your space is nice and cool when you start. If you have a significant break (10-15 minutes) you may wish to turn the AC back on for your break (just remember to turn it back off before you resume!) Either way, leave the booth door open during breaks so that you can get some more air circulation.
Close windows and doors, and turn off anything else that might make noise.
Make sure everything near your recording space is secured shut before you start your session. Turn off air conditioning, fans, TVs, and other noisy electronics, and don’t forget to silence your cell phone (and tablet, if you’re using it as a script viewer).
Connect via Ethernet, if possible.
Especially if you are using a program such as SourceConnect, a wired connection is more reliable than Wi-Fi, which is why many major studios prefer or even require it for remote sessions. You can run a Google speed test to get an idea of your connection speeds for upload and download. If your Internet speed is routinely slow or unreliable and you fear it may cause problems for your session, you may wish to call your Internet service provider and see if they can offer you any solutions.
If using SourceConnect Now, SessionLink or other Chrome-based connection on a laptop, close any other non-essential programs.
Chrome is a memory hog, and if you’ve got it running alongside your backup recording program and Skype or Zoom, it can potentially cause artifacts in the audio the client receives from you which will result in you having to re-record the line. To minimize this, close any other programs and processes that you aren’t using for your session.
DURING YOUR SESSION
Run a backup recording on your end.
Even if the client is recording you remotely via SourceConnect, SessionLink or a similar program, it’s not uncommon for them to ask you to run a backup recording. You can do this in your DAW of choice (Reaper is a great and affordable option) and set a hot key so you can simply push a key to pause/unpause in between takes (make sure to leave a beat of silence before and after doing this so that - for example - pressing the Enter key a little too loudly doesn’t ruin your take). Do not noise-reduce or post-process this file when you send to the client afterwards unless specifically asked to do so; they will need to pull from the raw file if any of the recordings they got on their end had technical glitches.
(Pro Tip: It's also a smart idea to make sure they have about 10 seconds of uninterrupted room tone at either the beginning or end of the file, so that they can reduce/remove this using their own tools in post-production.)
Watch your levels.
If you’re used to recording in-studio, recording at home can require more multitasking because you’ve got to adjust your own gain levels as you go. While the recording engineer will most likely do a level check with you at the start of the session, you’ll need to be ready to turn up your gain on whispered lines and turn down your gain on shouted lines. It may take some practice to know where exactly on your interface to set your dial. Monitoring your backup recording should give you a good idea of where your levels are sitting; however, don’t be afraid to check in with the engineer occasionally to make sure things are okay on their end. If at all possible, you should have your audio interface in the booth with you in a place where you have easy access to the gain knob.
*Important! If you are only recording on your end, and using a program such as Skype, Zoom or Discord for direction, it will be your responsibility to watch your levels as these programs may distort the audio the client is hearing and they can't always tell if something peaked. If you catch clipping on your waveform and they don't, speak up so you can make sure to do a safety take - they'll appreciate it!
Take adequate breaks.
Home recording booths get very hot and stuffy, so it’s important to be able to step out for a few minutes here and there. It’s okay to ask for a break if you’re going a long time and feel like you need one. Remember to stay hydrated!
Be patient and understanding with delays.
To be honest, it’s rare that a home recording session will go quite as smoothly as if you’re in the studio, but it’s still important that actors have the option to record from home if they feel safer doing so. Chances are things are going to take longer, and even just the delay on Zoom or SourceConnect can be frustrating when it comes to getting things done. Just remember everyone is doing the best they can with what they have available.
Note specific times of day where things get consistently noisy.
If - for example, your neighbor mows their lawn at 9 am every Friday or their dog barks incessantly when they come home from work at 6 pm, try to schedule your recording sessions outside of these times. While some noise is unavoidable, it can be frustrating for both the actor and the client to constantly have to pause the session for noise, so be aware of consistent noise patterns and have a plan to work around them.
Consider an external monitor.
Having a separate monitor is great for viewing the script, your DAW, and video (if necessary), and can also allow you to put more distance between the computer and the microphone, particularly if you have a laptop fan that kicks on when too many processes start running. If you don’t have the budget for an external monitor, you can probably make do with a tablet (you may wish to get a tripod stand for it so you don’t have to hold anything in your hands.)
Have your recording specs handy for clients who ask.
If a client or studio normally does in-person sessions but wants to record remotely with you, chances are they will want to know what equipment and space you are working with. Have your specs handy in terms of the model of your microphone, interface, etc. You may wish to put this information in a text file so you can easily copy and paste it into multiple emails. You can even make a fancy PDF if you prefer!
Many studios will want to hear a "home studio sample" that is completely raw and unprocessed. If they don't ask for anything specific, you can have a generic one on hand to send out when requested. Include a small sample of lines at a normal conversational volume, some whispered lines, some shouted lines, and about 10 seconds of room tone.
If you advertise having SourceConnect Standard, make sure it’s actually set up.
I have seen actors float around the idea of saying that they have SourceConnect Standard with the idea that they’ll simply purchase it last-minute if a session requires it. However, it’s rarely that simple. SourceConnect Standard requires a fairly extensive port forwarding process which can be time-consuming to set up, and frustrating if you're not tech savvy or you don’t have someone to help you with it. It’s not something that’s going to be easy to do right before a session and can require troubleshooting if you’re not careful. Plus, many sessions are booked last minute. If you’re at the point in your career where you’re routinely seeing auditions or jobs that require SourceConnect Standard, consider the subscription fee an investment in your business, and get it set up and ready to go when you're not under a time crunch.
Make your booth a comforting and familiar space.
You’re going to spend a lot of time in there working, so you might as well make it a nice place to be. Decorate your recording space with things that put you in a good mood: for example, fairy lights or other mood lighting, stuffed animals (yes, you can still do this as an adult and not be ashamed of it), merchandise of characters you’ve played, or a few sentimental items. Come up with creative ways to incorporate your favorite color into your space.
LIVE SESSION CHECKLIST (~30 min prior)
*make this your own as needed*
- Computer turned on and ready; any updates installed or delayed
- Ethernet plugged in/active (you may need to switch off your Wi-Fi entirely for certain programs such as SourceConnect to default to Ethernet)
- DAW (recording program) open with correct microphone/interface/headphones selected as input and output
- Connection program (Skype, Zoom, SourceConnect, etc) open with correct microphone/interface/headphones selected as input and output - *FYI some programs such as Zoom may mute you automatically when joining a meeting, so remember to manually click "unmute" if the client can't hear you
- Script open, ready and easily searchable
- Anything noisy turned off (fan, AC, phone)
- Unnecessary applications closed/quit
Any other tips you'd like to give to talent working from home in the age of remote recording? Let us know in the comments below!
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