Harlan Hogan is a well-known voice actor, and a published author of many books about the building of and recording from your home studio — two must-reads for any home-based talent is his “The Voice Actor’s Guide to Home Recording” (2005, Thomson Course Technology Press) and its more recent follow-up, “The Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home …and On the Road” (2009, also Course Technology Press). He is a pioneer of the idea of the “portability” of recording; and has recorded voice-over projects in various hotel rooms across the world (and even the occasional quiet, parked car) — and has even gone so far as to design and market his own “Harlan Hogan Porta Booth” — a collapsible mesh cube which is fitted with pre-cut pieces of accoustical foam; beautifully lightweight, portable and a welcome alternative to maniacally building an ersatz fort out of hotel pillows and sheets. (Which he is *also* expert on). He even confessed in a podcast to accumulating “Do Not Disturb” hangtags from every hotel he’s stayed in, and festooning all doorknobs of nearby rooms with them — in order to keep the cleaning staff and their whirring vacuums out of his recordings. Much to the chagrin of fellow hotel guests, wondering why their rooms were never cleaned.
I, too, decided to give hotel room recording a try last summer during a brief few days off in Vegas — granted, a city not known for its peace or serenity, and likely the very worst locale in which to try out the idea of remote recording. I had purchased the Snowball Microphone (made by Blue Microphones — thought to be one of the most durable, portable and best Podcasting microphones) and installed my usual sound editing programs on my laptop — I was all set! Then, the thought dawned on me –as the elevator ascended to my room at the Bellagio — that I booked a fountain-facing room. Who would book at the Bellagio and *not* request a fountain room?
Possibly someone who hopes to record sound.
Oh well — I’ll just time “takes” carefully to coincide with the 14.5 minutes when Andrea Bocelli is *not* belting out arias during the fountain display.
I carefully crafted a fort between the twin beds which would have made Harlan proud — high-backed chairs with sheets suspended between them and the facing bed acting as good baffling for the mic, which is balanced on several Vegas and Area phone books. Just when I had a couple of fairly good test takes in the can and was feeling pretty masterful about the process, the plaintive tones of Senor Bocelli launching into his infamous aria from Don Giovanni interrupts everything. (Well — everyone strolling the Vegas strip and who have stopped to listen; transfixed, watching the water display do *not* see it as an interruption. More like a high point of their stay.) Patiently, feeling a little ridiculous camped out my tiny fort, I wait for my next opportunity, and when the cacophony of the fountains right under my window dies down and I try to fill the next 14.5 minutes with as many clean takes as possible.
That is, until the loud debate between the guests in the room next to mine starts up. Something about someone wanting to sleep the hangover off, and the other loudly insisting that they hit the outlet mall.
I submitted the experimental takes to a couple of clients who were willing to act as guinea pigs — and the verdict wasn’t favorable. Any deviation from my usual equipment — be that a change of microphone; the sound processing ability of my laptop — and yes, the uncontrollable variables of my surroundings — all amount to an inconsistency in my sound files. (Actually, in retospect, the atmopsheric conditions were the least of my worries. I think a voice artist’s choice of and preference for a mic is pivotal to keeping their sound matchable to previous work — paramount to my work in telephony.)
Mr. Hogan has expressed the reason behind his passion for recording remotely: he actually *can’t* relax on vacation knowing that an agent has requested an audition from him; he finds it hard to unwind with the knowledge that a client is under the gun with a deadline and needs his help to record — in short, he relaxes more knowing that the most urgent matters (and lucrative opportunities) are dealt with. I applaud that level of service, and I try my best to also be as available as possible as I can to my clients — espcially sensitive to those with crushing deadlines.
But you know what I discovered? My clients are extremely accomodating and understanding when I need to leave town. I stay in contact with everyone — I have lugged that albatross of a laptop through practically every major airport in North America. They know I will record for them — in that never-changing, familiar, consistent environment of my studio — as soon as I get back. The world doesn’t come to an end; I don’t think I’ve lost a single client by delaying their recording until I return, and I feel better avoiding the pressure of attempting to return the same high-quality files I know I can crank out at home. Yes, the workload of those first couple of days back is crushing….but I also derive a sense of comfort knowing there’s lots to do when I’m back.
Next week, I’ll focus on the necessity/protective aspects/and just general scariness behind the oft-heard (and oft-spoken on my part) phrase: “This Call May Be Recorded……”