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Get Off My Lawn! There's a Recording Session In Progress

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

July 16, 2010

Comments (28)

Man using landscaping toolHas a lawnmower suddenly started up next door while you were recording a voice over?

Do you ever need to quarantine family or friends in opposite ends of the house or shoo people out because of a session?

Read about what can happen when noise pollution strikes your studio and how you can creatively combat it in today's VOX Daily.

Extraneous Noises Threaten Home Recording Sessions

How many neighbors have you wanted to tell to stop hammering away or to take their barking dog for a walk so that you could get some peace and quiet?

What about the sound of city buses stopping or going by, subway rumblings or the unpredictable scream of sirens?

Many people in our industry encounter noises that are not of their making or even of their house, causing difficulty and interruption. This is particularly true during the summer months for those of us who enjoy seasonal weather (snow in winter, heat in summer, etc.)

With summer being the prime time for construction and landscaping, swimming in backyard pools and so forth, there are many obstacles voice talent might face when trying to record.

Get Off My Lawn!

One voice over professional, Amy Taylor, actually paid someone to NOT mow her lawn. To complicate things, the man had arrived earlier than usual to mow the lawn and instead of risking her session, Amy thanked him, paid him and asked him to come back later. She connected to her session with just a minute to spare.

I'm sure some of you have made similar choices!

The potential lost revenue from the client would have far outweighed the money Amy had paid him to skip a week and he was happy to have a few free hours with pay. It was a win-win for everyone.

Amy shared with me later, "It is difficult to explain to people what it is we do and why it has to be quiet for us. Last week when he arrived I told him, 'I have a recording session in a few minutes.' He nodded and kept weed-whacking and probably wondered why I told him that."

What Can You Do?

There are no shortage of options, but here are a few that you can consider:

1) Record during periods when you know it will be quiet. This might mean keeping a log that details the intervals and times that buses go by or when the neighbor has their lawn mowed.

2) Choose a different part of your home to record in. Maybe there is a better place soundproofing wise that you can record in. The environment might not be as inviting or bright, but if it improves the ambiance for recording, give it a shot to see if you can make a new arrangement work.

3) Build an isolation booth. There are ways that you can soundproof your recording space. A number of videos and articles are online about how you can do this. The solutions range from expensive whisper rooms to cheap do-it-yourself projects.

Can You Relate?

What have you run into? Is this kind of thing a constant battle for you or have you found a way to overcome noise issues?

Share your stories as comments and join the conversation!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Jamie VanBuskirk

Related Topics: acting, Amy Taylor, audio, booth, industry, landscaping, noise, recording, sound, soundproof, voice overs, voiceover


Comments


    I think we can all relate to this one!

    For me, sometimes it's neighbors' kids... but more often than not, it's my own parrots. So, even though I get up at 4am, I'm often voicing stuff at night since parrots sleep when it's dark.

    Sometimes I voice and just retake when I hear the parrot scream. Fortunately, most of the time clients are not on phone patch... That's one reason I encourage them to allow me to direct myself... and of course, I have to be willing to redo for free if they don't like it. But it's a trade off I'm more than willing to make. I rarely have to re-voice anything.

    Posted by:

      I'm on a canal. When large boats' engines idle, the mic picks up a low, unmistakable vibration/hum. The seawalls are old, increasingly in need of repair or replacement. When a barge comes in, for days, to pound in new pilings anywhere nearby, this whole house shakes. It's an old house with an old electrical system: when the thermostat turns the AC on/off, a click is picked up. For this, and other reasons, I'm moving.

      Posted by:
      • Ken Karp
      • July 16, 2010 9:06 AM

        Hi Gang,


        Oh man can I relate! In the beginning when I first built the home studio in a closet that had 2 outside walls, every car that drove by the mic picked up. So I had to record in between cars traveling up a busy road in the back of my house. I too actually walked outside one day on a Saturday to my neighbor who was using his leaf blower right while I was trying to get a TV commercial recorded for a Client and explained to him what I did for a living and asked if he wouldn't mind stop using his leaf blower for 20 mins. He agreed and I had 20 mins to get back in the studio get my commercial takes recorded and sent to the Client.


        Because of all the car noise I decided to move the studio 40' away to the other end of the house on the quiet side of the street which eliminated the car noise but I didn't have a booth to record in, so I bought a Pre-Fab isolation booth, well the isolation was pretty good but it had way too much bass inside the booth and it was a small booth so no where to put any bass trapping. So then I decided to sell the pre-fab booth and have a specialist build a booth for me. While he was in the process of building the booth I had to wrap some blankets in the corner of the room so I could work when he wasn't. Well... between my neighbor warming up his big monster truck for 45 minutes everyday, the City health department was conducting tests on the road so they were drilling into the asphalt for 2 weeks, and my own dogs running around the house which the mic picked up their footsteps I was about ready to loose my mind. Finally my new booth was complete, a double walled room with multiple layers of sheet rock, separated by Green Glue and isolated from the ceiling walls and floor (all things I spent months investigating).


        I treated the room with Auralex, had Ethan Winer from Real Traps come down and check out the space bought some Real Traps and ATS traps to treat the corners and the bass build up, ordered a heavy duty studio door and now I was ready to record. Wow! what a difference! The room is quiet, most all the noises I was previously dealing with had been eliminated. Every once in a while some real low end noise gets through but for the most part everything I had to deal with to get to the point where I am now was one hell of a learning experience.


        My recommendation to everyone take the time to invest in some sort of isolation booth/room.


        Best
        Jasen Anthony

        Posted by:

          oh, yes! I can relate too. My studio has been relocated several times in my home, finally landing in an upstairs bedroom facing the backyard- with a closet lined with mattress pads - that is remarkably quiet except for the lawn and leaf equipment.

          Usually.

          Sometimes I begin to record and there are sounds I see on the waveform that I can't actually hear! After sleuthing for home noises, here are the culprits: (maybe this will help you too)
          -someone left the exhaust fan on in a bathroom
          -washer or dryer is in use
          -or - new mystery solved this hot/humid summer - the attic fan is going. I have to go up in the attic with a screwdriver to reset its thermostat to 90 until the job is recorded!
          -oh, yeah - and occasionally one of my cats is lonely and is clawing at the door to get in. what're you gonna do? gotta have love!

          Posted by:

            Here in Florida in the summer.. it's the thunder that sometimes messes up a session. I have to record in between the booms! And I know that on Tuesdays, my lawn guy comes in the afternoon.. but luckily he's really quick and only here for about 15-minutes.

            Wendy

            Posted by:
            • Wendy Brown
            • July 16, 2010 10:07 AM

              I live on a lake. During the colder weather the house is very quiet and I use a dynamic mike with an adjustable-gain preamp so I can record just about anywhere in the house. During the summer, all the windows and doors are open. With jet-skis and water skiers the noise is to much even for the insensitive dynamic mike! I think I'm going to have to go hide in the closet under the stairs! ARRRGGGHHH!
              ~fss

              Posted by:

                Can I relate? Here...in Los Angeles--home of the leafblower and the hydraulic jackhammer-frammistat and the muffler-less muscle car? Oddly enough, the new location of 'The Hole' is right next to Van Nuys Airport--but the building is built to code with double-double pane glass windows and thick outer walls...making for a very quiet environment in which to record and stuff...

                Posted by:

                  Talk about timing--just had to delay a job I'm in the middle of recording because of lawn mowers firing up outside when I opened up my e-mail to find this blog. Nice to know I have plenty of company, if that's any consolation!

                  Karen DeBoer

                  Posted by:

                    Love this!!! I live next to the old Clark Field in Philippines, now a modern support airport to Manila - and a flying centre which, conveniently, has a separate runway BUT ... not so conveniently ... has an approach path over my studio!

                    Solution? lots of patience ... or else perfect peace and quiet in the middle of the night!

                    Posted by:

                      Picture this: a blue jay was pecking away at something on my studio roof just above my mic, as I was attempting to record a 'relaxation' e-learning project.
                      I picked up a yardstick and banged on the rafters whenever I heard the bird.
                      It went something like this:
                      PECK peck peck
                      whack whack whack
                      silence
                      "Close your eyes and inhale slowly, letting all the tension go..."
                      PECK PECK PECK
                      whack whack whack
                      "shut up! ...now count to three slowly as you exhale, feeling calmer.."
                      PECK PECK PECK
                      WHACK WHACK WHACK
                      "shut UP you stupid bird!"
                      silence
                      "..feel all the tension leave your body, feeling more and more relaxed..."
                      PECK PECK PECK
                      "dammit! dammit! get off my roof!"
                      WHACK WHACK WHACK
                      "...relaxing more and more with every breath..."

                      Posted by:

                        Hey Stephanie, well the answer is simple. If you're a professional VO then you get professional gear to work with, and that includes a properly insulated AND acoustically treated booth. Sorted!

                        Posted by:
                        • Pierre Maubouché
                        • July 16, 2010 12:43 PM

                          Pierre, even soundproofing has its limits. A while back, I recorded at a very successful and professional studio, next to which some pretty heavy construction work was being done. The soundproofing could not keep out the sound of a jackhammer ripping concrete to shreds. The studio head was livid at the recording session being interrupted and went next door to complain. We got silence, recorded, and that was that.


                          Personally, I dread the day that the neighbors above me decide to renovate their apartment. I know that one day, it will happen, and I will be forced to work only at night.

                          Posted by:
                          • Victoria Feinerman
                          • July 16, 2010 12:43 PM

                            Very true Victoria, there's a limit to soundproofing indeed but a properly insulated booth (double leaf wall, floating floor, hanging ceiling, studio doors etc) will take care of most everyday noise pollution such as the ones mentioned in the article.

                            Also, if there's no soundproofing then it's likely there's going to be no acoustic treatment either... If we call ourselves professional we've got to invest in professional tools and a professional environment. There's too many cowboys in our profession recording themselves in their kitchen with $20 mics directly into their computers. Be professional, act professional and invest, I say! (off my soap box now)

                            Posted by:
                            • Pierre Maubouché
                            • July 16, 2010 12:44 PM

                              Stephanie,

                              Amy was preaching to the choir here. Absolutely! We live in a small condo community where our previous landscaping company was made aware of my recording needs and promised to start at our condo when they first got in at 9AM. They were pretty much done around us by 10:30 and I was a happy camper. Our new landscaping company comes in at 1PM and doesn’t seem to have the same people here each week, so my pleading of quiet on Tuesdays falls on deaf ears.


                              It is hit or miss on those days. First they cut, then a guy comes around later with the weed whacker and then another guy finishes up with the blower the next hour. So my Tuesday afternoons are shot or at least I have to work around them. It’s very frustrating. I try to push off clients to other days all together. It doesn’t always work. Lately, God has been helping by raining on Tuesdays. Trouble is – that just pushes them into Wednesday, etc.


                              The way I’m set up, there’s no real “other” place in my condo to go and hide from the noise. I deal with it the best I can. It’s the low frequencies that kill us.


                              My walls are doubled and the R factor of the insulation is the best I could get when we built this. Most of the noise comes in via the window. My next move WILL have an isolation booth.


                              Doin’ the best that I can…

                              Posted by:
                              • Johnny George
                              • July 16, 2010 12:46 PM

                                I can totally relate. My studio is in the upstairs of our condo. We get the usual; weekly lawn service, maintenance crews hard at work, dogs barking..and then there's my live-in boyfriend Dennis. He works from our home as well. He goes in and out of the front door many times a day, sometimes right in the middle of my recording sessions. He feels bad because he has no idea when I'm recording and when I'm not. So, I found the perfect solution. I took a small lamp and put a red light bulb in it. I placed it in the window of my office where it can be clearly seen when he comes up the front walk. I just turn it on when recording and he knows to wait. (what a great guy!) I do have to turn it off right away when I'm done, or he could be out on the front lawn all day! (hey, I might be onto something!) =)

                                Posted by:
                                • Peggy Tisone
                                • July 16, 2010 12:48 PM

                                  I can relate - Vicki your post cracked me up! Blue Jays & relaxation don't mix. :-)

                                  Because I live rather close to a busy street and on the flight path of a small but busy southern California airport, I invested in a vocal isolation booth. I ordered the plans for the 4x6 Dawbox, and my brother-in-law (who just happens to be a construction engineer) and my husband built it for me. The booth is located in a bedroom behind a closed door, and then a second door in the hallway is closed to block out any living area noises from my house. I love my booth. Takes a lot of the stress out of my day, and I'm so much more confident in the quality of my audio.

                                  Yesterday I was finishing edits on an audiobook when a tree cutting crew fired up their chainsaws and went to work just a couple of houses down from me. I did a bit of audio in my booth and sent it off to my editor to see if she could hear the mayhem. She couldn't. Some noise does bleed through, if it's close - like the gardeners in my own yard. And my own miniature schnauzer barking - but I swear the frequency of his bark could shatter glass!

                                  The booth takes care of most everything. Even so, I try to time my work to avoid noise - like when the gardener comes. And before a session I usually take my dog out to the yard and play ball - so he'll be all tuckered out and napping while I work!

                                  Posted by:

                                    I suppose every voice actor working from home or even in major studios has this challenge. All i do in such situations is to be patient for the noise source to pass or approach whoever i need to approach; they usually don't understand what you're talking about and just look in obvious confusion. Patience is key though; it's rear in my home studio but, when it does happen i just wait for it to pass.

                                    Posted by:

                                      I was scheduled to do a patched session with one of my clients and was counting on the neighborhood being peaceful. I live in an area where most everybody commutes to the city for work. I really do think that I'm the only one who works at home. My naive thinking caught up with me on the day of the session. 30-minutes before I was to start, a yard maintenance crew pulled up across the street, complete with mowers, blowers and a crew of three. I panicked. It was a huge gig and didn't want to call and reschedule. Luck would have it, my client called me to postpone the session to the next day. I had to do some juggling to get them scheduled but it was worth not having to compete for my quiet space with the yard brigade.

                                      Posted by:

                                        I live in a relatively quiet neighborhood.... hearing kids is very rare. My problem is there is a small airport right near my house and I often have to stop and wait for the planes to fly out of range or land. And... of course we have a visit from a group of fighter planes and bombers every year. I love them, but they are noisy! God bless our troops... past and present! Just keep it down... will ya?

                                        Posted by:

                                          Well, lawnmowers are one thing, but what about planes flying overhead? And squad cars and fire trucks with their sirens on racing up and down streets at all hours? Did I mention barking dogs that won't shut up? I live in Studio City, California and these are events I have to dodge daily. If I'm in session, I simply have to stop until it passes. Unfortunately, recording in a closet with the door tightly shut still doesn't prevent sound from entering. There are ways to prevent it, but they're way out of my budget. So, I just grin and bear it.

                                          Posted by:

                                            Even my isolation booth doesn't mask the noise when the walls shake and windows rattle every time helicopters fly between Miramar and Camp Pendleton directly over my house, several times a day. Sigh.

                                            Posted by:

                                              Barking dogs and neighbors who refuse to acknowledge said dogs. Ugh.

                                              Posted by:
                                              • Laura Branch Mireles
                                              • July 17, 2010 4:08 PM

                                                Guys,

                                                I'm the founder and president of Auralex, and have years of experience behind a mic (on-air and otherwise), so I have a unique perspective on this issue, which is pervasive. I've battled it myself at numerous radio stations over the last few decades, both in the air studios and in the production rooms, and have consulted on too many rooms with this problem in the last 34 years for me to even begin to count.

                                                I'm not here to spam, so please don't send me hate mail! I just want to remind everyone of a couple FREE resources and give a cheap soundproofing example.

                                                First, our free downloadable booklet Acoustics-101â„¢ and website at www.acoustics101.com can give you tons of real-world advice on how to construct a soundproof space, regardless whether it's a studio or a v/o iso booth. Check them out. I wrote Acoustics-101 in the spirit of helpfulness...and 'cause I was spending all my time answering the same questions over and over. :-)

                                                Second, I disagree with the folks who said that really good soundproofing is nearly impossible. It's been my experience that with careful construction techniques (even using many common materials, if properly chosen and implemented) and the sort of know-how that's in Acoustics-101, you can attain extreme soundproofing that should more than serve your needs.

                                                There are affordable soundproofing-type products that can really go a long way...and for an unbelievably small price. As I said, I'm NOT here to spam everybody, but I do have one concrete example that will illustrate my point. Granted, this example may not apply to everyone who's posted in this thread, but I bet it'll help some of you folks.

                                                There was a commercial facility in the flight path of DFW airport. It had been designed by a top name, but the engineers were unhappy 'cause they couldn't do v/o sessions in their booth due to the low-frequency airplane rumble getting into their booth via the floor, which was not yielding sufficient isolation.

                                                They purchased, as I recall (this was in the late '90s), less than $67 worth of U-Boats, a floor isolator we invented, and the U-Boats solved their problem. (You put your floor joists in the U-Boats to isolate the floor system from the structure.) This is not a U-Boats commercial; it's illustrative of the fact that with the right know-how and some careful technique, you can definitely have a big impact on your sound isolation. These people had spent big $ on their studio, but ended up solving an annoying problem for very little money.

                                                Regarding booths being too "dark sounding," the most common mistake I see in iso booths is the lack of planning for bass trapping. The absorbers commonly used in these booths (regardless of brand) tend to absorb more mids and highs than lows, so the booths end up very low-end heavy. (I know one v/o guy who had to pull 15dB out of the tracks he was cutting, just to overcome the sound of the booth.) If you're turning a closet into an iso booth, or building one from scratch, please allow space for bass trapping (or thicker wall panels, which absorb low frequencies better than the more common thinner sizes)...or at least space your thinner panels away from the wall, which gives you bonus absorption. Often, in the case of a closet or some other small space you're constructing, you can steal adjacent space from above a bathroom, in an attic, etc., and turn that area into a bass trap (if properly constructed and isolated). We've seen this turn bass-heavy small rooms into even-sounding rooms many times.

                                                The windows and doors in a room are often much greater "weak links" than the walls, floor and ceiling. Follow the Acoustics-101 guidelines closely, as there are some very common mistakes that people make (based on faulty assumptions) when they build studio windows or choose their doors.

                                                I hope these comments are helpful and that you take 'em in the spirit in which I offered them, which was helpfulness, not commercialism. And if you have any further sound control or soundproofing questions, I'll do my best to address them here without spamming. In the spirit of the open discussion, please just don't ask competitive comparisons.

                                                Posted by:

                                                  I've worked with Eric. He knows his way around acoustics very well and honestly is a real giver to everyone. You can thank him for some of the most efficient acoustic remedies available for studios, both personal and professional around the world via www.Auralex.com.

                                                  He's too damn shy to toot his own horn - so I will.

                                                  Posted by:

                                                    I rarely have a problem with noise at home, unless there's a dove or pigeon sitting just outside the window...

                                                    But absolutely, pro studios can have a noise problem. I used to record regularly at an audio-post place in London (UK) which had some basement studios. I heard some rumbling and asked if they could hear it. Yes, they could and it happened every three or four minutes. Because that's how often the Bakerloo Line passed under the building.

                                                    I know the nearby BBC Broadcasting House had the same problem till they upgraded their basement studios.

                                                    Posted by:

                                                      When I go into my basement studio and start taking, my dog’s sole mission in life becomes to waddle down the steps and sit outside the door scratching his jingly collar to the point it must be spinning circles around his neck like some sort of fuzz-embalmed Ferris wheel.

                                                      Still my experience last week was my favorite. I was recording a podcast interview I had spent weeks landing. I had a talk with the nonprofits reps about noise and turning off their email alert prior to starting the interview. Yet 5 minutes in when a deep hum kept getting louder than fading out, the man kept talking as if nothing at all was happening. I finally had to interrupt and ask: “Excuse me, are you vacuuming while you talk?”

                                                      Turns out it was the neighbor circling in on his tractor mower. He had no intention of stopping his assault on the grass until the nonprofits Founder went out and agreed to mow the lawn later himself. After that every other noise during the interview sent us all into fits of giggles.

                                                      Posted by:

                                                        Nighttime is the right time-the later the better.

                                                        Posted by:

                                                          Last night we were in severe thunderstorms and a tornado really really close. So between thunder and sirens there was no way to record.

                                                          Posted by:

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