At first, I thought he was just that guy with the funny handlebar mustache who was helping out at VOICE 2008.  Then I remembered him from VOICE 2007.  It was the great Dan Lenard!!!  DanLenardPic

Dan Lenard, of Buffalo, of voice-acting fame, of humble origins and supportive nature.  I mean, read the guy's V123 or Voices profile.  He's done a lot!

But the thing that distinguishes Dan above the rest is he "…is also a recognized industry expert
in the field of home studio construction and is a fee-based home studio
consultant…
" (that's a quote from his website)
.

Dan has earned special working relationships with Voice-acting branding expert Nancy Wolfson and technology expert George Whittam

S'all true.  And on top of that Dan agreed to answer my dumb questions about vocal booths.  Well, maybe there's no such thing as a dumb question, but let's just say their innocent n00b questions.

Dan was patient, thorough, and timely in his response.  Read below, and I believe everyone will find something that will help you improve your sound. 

He includes a summary and some links at the end… Thanks Dan!

Dave:  Would
you agree that tomorrow’s voice actor should be equipped with their own private
studio to be able to stay competitive in the VO industry? (if yes, explain why)

 

Dan Lenard: Dave,
there is no question that a home studio is a must. While some big studio
producers and agents may be slow to accept this fact, it is inevitable. The
technology has simplified the process of creating broadcast quality voice
recording to the point where it is as easy as typing this answer and reading
this blog. So to those of you reading this, I believe you already have the
techno savvy to start getting your home studio together.   

 

Dave:  
All
other considerations being moot (budget, equipment, etc.) what is the ultimate
goal of the home/private studio in terms of sound quality?

 

Dan Lenard If
you listen to the radio or watch TV, you know what good quality audio is. No
discernable background noise, high output and voice presence without
over-modulation. Those factors are fairly easy to control. Also, each studio is
a unique environment and will have its own distinct “sound” depending on what
mic you use, how you use it, and of course how you, the unique voice that you
are, use that voice.

 

Dave:  
What
is the “sound floor”?…and what is an acceptable sound floor standard for a
home/private studio?

 

Dan Lenard If
you listen to web audio of some guy on a headset mic explaining their software
product, you’ll hear… echo, room environment, other people in the background,
and hiss or buzzing from an under-leveled mic. Noise floor is simply a
measurement standard of that noise as opposed to your voice in the foreground.
If you were to just record your studio using your mic without your voice, there
would be ambient noise. The sound of your computer fan, the refrigerator, the
garbage truck, the guy next door mowing his lawn and again, any electronically
introduced noise like hissing, humming and buzzing. At SaVOA, the Society of
Accredited Voice Over Artists, SaVOa
we use the
broadcast standard of -40Db. So if you record your studio without your voice,
if the background noise you record exceeds 40Db, that’s unacceptable. I guess
the question any novice might ask is A) How do I measure that? and B) How do
you eliminate that noise? It depends on the noise. Each has its own factors and
solutions. Measuring is a matter looking at the waveforms that you have
recorded or using software that has a constant readout of the Audio level.  Listening is also a good method. You can hear
it clearly under your voice? It’s Too much.

 

Dave:   
When
you’re approached by someone to consult on the building of a private/home
studio, what are your first questions or considerations?


Dan Lenard What
is the purpose of your studio? What kind of experience do you have recording
any type of audio? What room are you considering using. What’s your budget?

 

Dave:  
Voice
actors talk about converting available space in a closet or other small room
into their home/private studio.  Is this
sensible?  What questions should that
person be asking before launching into such a project?

 

Dan Lenard U
bet Dave! Any room in a house or apartment, except maybe the bathroom, can be
used for your home studio. That said, each different room presents its own
challenges.  Usually a client will say “I
want to use the guest room or spare bedroom, or a closet.” If you are doing a
room survey to decide what the best space to use is, ask yourself “What types
of interruptions can occur if I am using this room?” The A/C furnace? Outdoor
noises, Kids, spouse? It has to be a designated area that everyone understands
is “Off limits” when you are doing your thing. If that is impossible, then
consider another area.  Look for a room
that will be easy or easiest to isolate from the outside world.


Dave:   
Offer
your description of a bare-bones working studio (maybe even something that’s
temporary for each session) including materials and cost.

 

Dan Lenard A
PC or Laptop, although I prefer a Mac for a number of reasons, A new USB Studio
Condenser Mic, of which an acceptable one can be had for as little as $100,
Studio monitors which are more pricey or your ipod headphones to start, and
recording software which can be had for NADA! What? No Preamps, racks of
processors, a huge mixing board? What for? Are you producing the Goo Goo Dolls
next CD? No, you are recording single track mono audio! That’s IT!

 

Also,
a couple of quilts in lieu of fancy noise dampening material to start off with.
Check your closet to see what you have.

 

Dave:   
Is
it the ambient room sound behind the mic or in front of the mic
(or both) that needs to be dampened?

 

Dan Lenard Both!
Well, sort of. There are two things you are trying to accomplish. 1) preventing
outside noise from coming in and 2) keeping the noise you create with your
voice from bouncing all over the room and coming back to the mic. What we refer
to as “decay.”

 

Dave:   
Should
a studio be constructed on the first floor?…basement?…2nd floor?

 

Dan Lenard Again,
it depends on the factors we discussed earlier. If you have a basement, start
there, as that will most likely prevent the most amount of exterior noise from
reaching you. However, activity above you must be controlled. Your spouse or
significant other and kids must learn to respect the fact that you are down
there. The elephant herd (Heard) above can be very frustrating.  No basement? A small bedroom or a walk-in
closet are your next choices. 

 

Dave:   
What’s
your favorite sound dampening material, small AND big-budget?

 

Dan Lenard Small?
A full closet and some down quilts. I once had a client telling me their closet
used to sound great, and then, suddenly it sounded like they were in a tunnel.
My only question was, “have you taken something to the cleaners lately?” 
Yes, a large coat,” and
that solved it!

 

More
expensive? Auralex foam which comes in a bunch of colors and isn’t cheap, but
it also won’t break the bank depending on how you use it. There are a few other
options as well, but that’s a whole nother article. Lets keep it simple.

 

Dave: 
How
many requests do you get for help with a mobile (on-the-road) studio?  What do you suggest?

 

Dan Lenard Personally,
I’m starting to believe, based on what we have available technologically, there
can be little difference between a simple, unobtrusive home studio and what you
can take on the road.  My good friend
George Whittam at El Dorado recording services is marketing a great system that
would be good on the road and at home. It is a system that was endorsed by the
late, great, Don LaFontaine. Click HERE.

 

Legendary
VO guru Harlan Hogan also invented a great OTR thing called the Porto-Booth. 
Check
that out
.

 

Dave: 
Tell
us your short list of absolute “don’t’s” when constructing a home/private sound
booth.  (In other words what are some of
the common mistakes people make in building their own booths?)

 

Dan Lenard They
go for “overkill.” People have been hiring contractors and knocking out a wall
and building a whole new wing to their house! 
I thought about it. And then I realized that if I want a sound tight
room or wanted to install a pre-fab “whisper room,” I’d have to shell out about
$4- $10,000! Or…. I could just wait for my neighbor to stop cutting his grass!
Mrs. Lenard was very happy to hear that revelation!

 

Dave:  How
does one keep an enclosed booth ventilated with noise-free fresh air for those
long recording sessions?

 

Dan Lenard If
you have a treated room instead of a “booth” you should be fairly comfortable.
The point is that you’re not on the studio’s clock! That’s the whole purpose of
a home studio! You get hot. Take a break! Have a drink. Walk the dog. Rest your
voice. This is the liberation of a home studio environment! A “Booth”
isn’t the point because you don’t really need a “booth.” Look. I’m in my
basement. Its always a constant 65 or 70 down here. Its fab in the summer! I
have an isolated area that is sound treated, but this idea of an “Isolation
booth” is becoming moot. You can save thousands by using your time and patience
instead of constant, expensive silence.

Dave:  Given
plenty of room space, an able carpenter, all the necessary materials, a willing
spouse, and a budget of no more than $2000 can you describe the basic sort of
sound booth you would love to build for someone?

Dan Lenard  Nope. Every room is different. Everybody’s
skill level is different. You can make a fine studio for under $2000. But, are
you spending the money so you can say you’ve got a great studio to be proud of,
or, are you interested in getting up and running, doing auditions and high
quality audio in a few days or less.  

 

Dave: Brag a little. 
What are the 2 or 3 most recent studios you’ve built for someone that
you’re proud of because you met their needs within their budget?

 

Dan Lenard Actually,
I don’t build studios. I can and have, but, they don’t need to be built. They
need to be assembled. If you can plug in a USB cable and isolate a room in an
acceptable fashion, you’ve got all you need.  

 

The
bottom line? If you’ve not done any recording, all the fancy stuff in the world
won’t help you.

 

When
I consult, here is my process: I find the skill level of the client, I discuss
a budget, I tell them to save their hard earned capital and get them set up a
with a basic system with components they can purchase online or retail locally.
Then I teach them the basics of digital recording. I then send them to “go out
and play” and learn their own style and proper parameters for their voice and
home studio environment. I’m always available for questions after that and for
any tweaks that might be needed.

 

I
work a great deal with many of the magnificent Nancy Wolfson’s
http://Braintracks audio.com students. Some of
them are very experienced VO pro’s who haven’t learned to record, yet. I take
them through the process

we’ve
been discussing. When they have learned the basics of recording to where they
can competently put out broadcast quality audio and start making money from
home, or are getting studio work from home auditions, then they can invest in
the higher end stuff. That of course creates a new learning curve. 

 

However,
I believe that a simple, but high quality home studio can be created with
minimal expense.  You just have to learn
how to use it.

 

Ok,
so anyone can do this? OF COURSE NOT. Learn the skills of voice over first. Get
a good coach who offers so much more than just critique, like Nancy Wolfson.
She has seminars and lots of other valuable resources (like me) to help you get
on the right foot.

 

If
you are already an established pro, Then its time to take the plunge and not be
intimidated by simple technology.  It
ain’t rocket science!

 

If
anyone would like a consult check out my website.

 

 CourVO

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