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4.1 The Problem

Where should you record your voice-overs? Will your office or bedroom sound OK, or will it need some treatment to help the sound? In this lesson you will learn about the pitfalls of setting up your microphone in an untreated space.

4.1 The Problem

So, where should you record your voice overs? Will your office or your bedroom sound okay? Or, will it need some treatment to help the situation? In this lesson, you will learn about the pitfalls of setting up your microphone in an untreated space. As you've already learned, getting the microphone close to the source is important for reducing ambient noises and room reflections. The problem is that even if you get the microphone close, you are still going to hear some room reflections in your space. This is essentially reverb. You are hearing the sound of your voice bounce around the room until it loses energy. Let's look at an example. For this demonstration, I've moved my microphone setup into a bedroom, so you can get an idea of what an untreated space sounds like. Now,this room does have carpet on the floor, and it does have a large queen size bed in here with your standard pillows and comforters, but the walls are untreated. Now, you might have heard that a clothes closet can be a good place to record. The idea behind this is that the clothes will soak up the sound of your voice. Depending on the size and the shape of your closet, this may, or may not work. It's probably better than recording in an untreated space, but it's also adding room reflections that you might not notice right away. The clothes do absorb some of the frequency spectrum, probably in the upper frequency range above 500 hertz. Below 500 hertz, they don't absorb a whole lot of energy. What happens is, the relatively small space reflects a lot of that low energy back into the microphone. This will color the sound of the recording. Let's check out an example. So, what you're hearing right now is the same set up that's been used in previous examples. I'm using my AKGC 3000B on a boom stand about eight inches away from my face, but now I've moved my whole rig into a closet that is full of clothes that are hanging up on the wall. Now, this type of setup might work for you, and you might like the way that the reflected sound helps to give your voice a little bit more body. I think more times than not, this makes the voice sound muddier. Plus, small space can have a lot of variation in what frequencies are being reflected back to the microphone. If you want more beef or body in your voice, you can do it selectively with an EQ adjustment, or by moving the microphone a little bit closer to your face, which is probably a better idea. Another option is a porta-booth solution. These are small, arc shaped devices that are meant to be placed just behind the microphone. The goal of all of these types of products is to minimize the capture of room reflections from the source being recorded. These products use absorptive materials to reduce room reflections by absorbing the sound before it can get out into the room. They also help to attenuate some of the sound of those room reflections from reaching the microphone. The biggest question is, do these types of devices work? And, until very recently, there have been no formal tests of any of these products. In fall of 2014, Sound on Sound magazine teamed up with the acoustics laboratory at the University of Southard. You can check out the very detailed test results, and the full article on the SOS website. But, the main takeaway is this, all of these products, at best, only help a little. This is due to the fact that they are not very big. So, they don't have a lot of mass. And, they are meant to be positioned close to the microphone, which causes a lot of coloration. A better option would be to try to help the situation with a much larger broadband absorber behind the performer, to absorb those reflections that would be bounced back into the sensitive side of the microphone. The larger, the better. This will have a much more obvious effect compared to one of these portable booth solutions. Additionally, you might think about treating your entire space where you record and edit. The benefit of this approach is that the recordings will sound better, and the editing/mixing space will sound better to work in. The same room reflections that are causing problems when you are recording, are also causing problems when you edit. So, it makes a lot of sense to treat the entire room, and kill two birds with one technique. In the next lesson, you're going to learn about some commercial solutions, and a DIY solution, to treat your space, and where to place this treatment for maximum effectiveness.

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