Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

Setting The Stage For Theatre of the Mind

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

December 29, 2010

Comments (35)

A white gloved hand pulling back a red theatre curtainIf you could record your voice from anywhere in the world, whether a private venue or a public space, where would your ideal "studio" be and why?

This question was posed to our Voices.com community on Facebook and some of their answers were very creative.

Discover some interesting ideas and learn more about how you can recreate the environment you're voicing about and set the stage for theatre of the mind in today's VOX Daily.

Big Dreams

New technologies and the Internet have removed many practical obstacles that used to thwart the paths of professionals in any number of fields.

We have more advanced tools and processes now than ever before. Equipment has become more affordable and millions of people around the world enjoy the benefits of working from home. Most who read this article are in many ways living a dream because they are able to work from home while doing what they love.

Time, geography and technologies have been bridged in the realm of business worldwide, but what about resources and the ambiance of your own home recording studio?

When I asked our Voices.com fans on Facebook about their ideal recording studio environment, many cited that they preferred the amenities and comfort of home while others dared to dream a bit bigger.

Speaking of Which

Have you ever considered recording in places of historical importance that you wouldn't necessarily relate to voice overs?

For instance, can you imagine recording a voice over at the actual site of what you were narrating about? There might need to be an isolation booth to block out the noise but what if you could record a documentary about a war or a pivotal moment in history where it actually happened! You could narrate amidst the beauty of nature, in castles and more.

Wouldn't it be neat to voice something about the German composer Beethoven while planted in one of his apartments at the foot of one of his piano fortes? The possibilities are endless when you think about it.

Around the Voices.com Water Cooler

Since most talent are not able to be at an actual location related to what they are reading about, the talent bears the responsibility of recreating that environment through their voice and use of tone, inflection, fluctuation, phrasing, breath and cadence. This can be where research, breathing skills and acting techniques come in handy.

Much of this recreation vocally starts mentally through research and visualization.

One voice over talent, Larry Murphy, has demo pertaining to life in prehistoric times and the dinosaurs. He wrote, "One of my demos is on Dinosaurs.. now that would be a tough one to duplicate actual location, but I get your point. To feel, smell, and taste, so to speak, the place you're narrating about would definitely put you in a very creative mindset, and the feeling needed to make the narration come to life."

Morgan Barnhart's ideal location to record from was on her boat as she floated along the big blue sea. Giving this some thought, I asked her if she'd need to securely lock down the recording equipment lest the billowing waves wreak havoc on her studio setup. After a little more chatting, I realized that when I asked my question, physical movement, weather and the like hadn't crossed my mind. I was thinking more of stable buildings and enclosed spaces that might be more immune to the elements or external man made sounds.

Bringing those into the picture does add some interesting variables to the mix! Depending on your preference, or whatever the environmental or structural characteristics were of the place you were reading about, you could encounter different challenges that you wouldn't otherwise face!

While Melba Sibrel might enjoy recording at Mont St. Michel, a stone abbey with amazing acoustics (not to mention the natural reverb), Peggy Tisone might find her recording session at the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado to be a bit more challenging with sweeping high winds coursing through the air.

But what if you could have a state-of-the-art recording studio with access to any instrument you might desire for producing music beds to lay your voice over? Thomas Buxton shared that his ideal recording venue would be, "At a huge and luxurious music store, that way I could use whatever instrument I want to enhance my VO. Plus on breaks I'd play some awesome guitars!"

Who wouldn't want to play on some instruments on your break? Maybe I need a piano in my office :)

Along a similar musical vein, Dana Detrick added, "...I wouldn't pass up a chance at one of the classic studios! Abbey Road would be a must...but since I've become a VO artist, some of the Hollywood Studios would be a thrill, too!"

Some of you have had the pleasure of recording in such places and have felt the very history of the room in your bones. Imagine recording in the same studio that greats like Mel Blanc, Don LaFontaine, Thurl Ravenscroft, June Foray and others have graced over the years. That would indeed be something.

Home (and your studio) is Ultimately Where the Heart Is

One of the most wonderful things about having your own home recording studio is that you are closest to those who matter most to you. Similarly, one of the most wonderful things about being a voice actor is that you can create the illusion of being somewhere else through your voice.

Even if you aren't sitting on the throne at Buckingham Palace, you could still narrate a great piece on the British monarchy by preparing yourself for the read. You don't need to be in the secret annex in Amsterdam to perform a convincing and emotional rendition of The Diary of Anne Frank. Being swallowed up by a giant whale isn't a prerequisite to narrating the biblical account of how Jonah managed to get to Nineveh... I think you get the picture.

Tips For Setting The Stage

๏ Know your character
๏ Know your audience
๏ Research the location and its environment
๏ Be sensitive to context
๏ Visualize the location, your surroundings and your character
๏ Listen to music of the time period
๏ Identify your character's contemporaries, whether real or imagined
๏ Practice speaking in character when talking to other people
๏ Know how the story ends before you get there

How Do You Set The Stage?

I'd love to learn more about the ways you prepare for any number of reads and how your preparation strategies may differ based upon content, context and the intended audience.

Comments in general about your ideal recording studio location are also welcome :)

Add your comment below or respond to your VOX Daily email to share your ideas!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Joshua Blake

Related Topics: acting, booth, environment, German, Hollywood, Queen, reading, research, stage, studios, theatre, voice


Comments


    Excellent viewpoint. I'll often take a bit to get into the proper mindset for my sessions. I do mostly commercials and imaging, so I don't always need to picture a location or "get into character", but mindset is very important. When I'm producing a spot for a big nightclub for New Year's Eve, I'll be there! (... in my head, at least)

    And Happy New Year to all!

    Posted by:

      For that relaxed, laid back, warm and resonant sound... a wallow in the bath. Recommendations for a waterproof mike?

      Posted by:

        I would prefer home because I could take care of everything from the same place.

        Posted by:
        • Steven C. Phillips
        • December 30, 2010 2:53 PM

          I completely agree (with Steven)!

          Posted by:
          • Evelyna Castro
          • December 30, 2010 2:54 PM

            Add another one to that line of thought. I would LOVE to be able to do VO full-time from home!

            Posted by:
            • Scott Clem
            • December 30, 2010 2:54 PM

              My home.

              Posted by:
              • Iván Rudnitzky
              • December 30, 2010 2:55 PM

                I agree, from home is perfect but to have a room as a studio fully equipped and ready to record at the drop of a proverbial hat!

                Posted by:
                • Adam Radlett
                • December 30, 2010 2:55 PM

                  From home IF it was a log cabin in the mountains overlooking a beautiful lake... or a beach house on the ocean.

                  Posted by:
                  • Katherine Dines
                  • December 30, 2010 2:56 PM

                    I agree on the having a separate room at home with a sound proof studio and really good equipment. I would love nothing more than that to do voice over. Plus it would make it easier for those not able to commute. Not saying I wouldn't mind going and doing one with a cast for a voice over project but the ability to do it from home is something I'd like as well.

                    Posted by:
                    • Steven C. Phillips
                    • December 30, 2010 2:57 PM

                      At home because I'm most comfortable there.

                      Posted by:
                      • Sheila Tawney
                      • December 30, 2010 2:58 PM

                        Some dirty studio in California.

                        Posted by:
                        • Lewis Lucas
                        • December 30, 2010 2:59 PM

                          Working from a Home Studio is Great, (the commute sure is good) although going to a Large Studio in NY, Philadelphia or Los Angeles on occasion is great experience and I do not hesitate to do it if and when required for a larger project.

                          I am very fortunate to have a sound-proofed, fully equipped, dedicated studio in my home where I can produce great quality voice overs.....And Yes, I did it all myself.

                          Posted by:
                          • Doug Warner
                          • December 30, 2010 2:59 PM

                            On a tropical beach...the booth made of glass on all sides so I can enjoy the view while VOing!

                            Posted by:
                            • Rick Brown
                            • December 30, 2010 3:02 PM

                              A private in-home studio in some tropical locale.

                              Posted by:
                              • Lisa Ritchie
                              • December 30, 2010 3:03 PM

                                For me, location doesn't make much of a difference. Just give me a quiet, private location where I won't be interrupted by family or phone calls. I went online and purchased a large roll of 2" thick acoustical foam. It was really inexpensive. I took part of our laundry room (opposite washer and dryer) and hung up the acoustical foam panels on two walls and cut out square panels for the ceiling. When I record I hang blankets on washer and dryer to prevent my voice from bouncing off the metal. It works well, however, if I had the money I would rent space away from the house to record. Downtown Boston would be nice because it puts you in a creative mindset.

                                Posted by:
                                • Larry Murphy
                                • December 30, 2010 3:04 PM

                                  I have an Art Studio here at home. If I had the equipment and the capabilities, I would do my Art and whatever VO Job from Home.

                                  Posted by:
                                  • Chris Grone
                                  • December 30, 2010 3:04 PM

                                    Chris, it isn't expensive or difficult to set a VO recording studio. I am using my laundry room.

                                    Posted by:
                                    • Larry Murphy
                                    • December 30, 2010 3:05 PM

                                      I too have a sound-proofed, fully equipped, dedicated studio in my home....I also did it all myself.

                                      Posted by:
                                      • Peggy Tisone
                                      • December 30, 2010 3:06 PM

                                        My home with my own private studio with good equipment and my Sennheiser MKH 416 Shotgun Microphone! Why? Because I'd feel more comfortable in my own home and just send the audio emails. This way, I can still be with my family.

                                        Posted by:
                                        • Kevin Hodge
                                        • December 30, 2010 3:06 PM

                                          I have been a corporate trainer for roughly 14 years now and a Voice over / Narrator for around 6 (3yrs part-time+currently full-time)...

                                          I am a self trained Voice over ('coz we didn't have appropriate VO workshops or training in India until... about 2 yrs ago) ... I have also been trained and certified in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)....One of the skills that I was taught to help myself to overcome fear/anxiety/stress/anger/hatred or any NEGATIVE emotion was to associate and dissociate myself from the situation...hence, consider yourself in a movie/cinema hall, watching yourself on screen dealing with the stressful or negative situation. Now dissociate yourself from the negative scenario and associate yourself with the thought of a very positive and happy instance in your life, something that brought you great joy and as you do this anchor this thought well deep within your brain.So, the next time you are faced with a situation that would normally get you negative, you automatically start visualising the POSITIVE memory you saw the last time. It sounds easy, and it is. Just takes a bit of practice and consistency. Once you master it, you get the emotions sorted automatically.:-)

                                          I use this technique when I voice as well. I ask the producer or who ever is in charge to narrate the scenario to me as I listen with my eyes closed, visualising the whole narration that he/she provides to me. Eventually, I actually feel like I am IN that place of importance. I feel like I am in the animation that I am voicing. I visualise myself to be an actual e-learning guide or the actual character of the story that I am a part of.

                                          So there you go, that's my little secret technique. ;-)

                                          Hope this helps you great voices out there.. and I wish you all a very happy New year..:-D

                                          Posted by:
                                          • Anuroop Nair
                                          • December 30, 2010 3:07 PM

                                            Inside Marabar Caves in India. I would hear the echo. Saying that my intellect is not enough to understand the universe.

                                            Posted by:
                                            • Tamara Miletic
                                            • December 30, 2010 3:08 PM

                                              @Larry: In another life, I worked in radio in Downtown Boston, had a great time and learned a lot. Truthfully, I love being able to work from home, to be available for the family, though the kids are old enough now to allow me my own private space and time...

                                              Posted by:
                                              • Dan Deslaurier
                                              • December 30, 2010 3:09 PM

                                                I would have to agree along the lines of Tamara. Mine would be a cave. A BIG cave, like Mammoth Cave in Tennessee, and all of its various tunnels and off shoots. Parts of that area are so acoustically dead, that you are the only thing making sound. That would be neat.

                                                Posted by:
                                                • Ben Barsema
                                                • December 30, 2010 3:09 PM

                                                  Attic of a beautiful, huge old rustic house in Prague, with French windows and a balcony from which I can look across the rooftops of the city.

                                                  Posted by:
                                                  • Ingrid Elkner
                                                  • December 30, 2010 3:10 PM

                                                    My own studio in my house where it is now.

                                                    Posted by:
                                                    • Nick Montague
                                                    • December 30, 2010 3:10 PM

                                                      I like recording from home. The time I spend recording with my daughters Elizabeth and Katherine is precious time well spent. I wouldn't mind if home was on the side of a mountian near a lake. That would make it easy to teach my three Grand children how to fish :)

                                                      Posted by:
                                                      • Gerry Labrecque
                                                      • December 30, 2010 3:11 PM

                                                        My walk-in, carpeted closet at home is my recording space.

                                                        Posted by:
                                                        • Jack de Golia
                                                        • December 30, 2010 3:14 PM

                                                          Wow so many wonderful and different views, I have enjoyed reading them all. I'm just getting started, but I would love to work from a home studio and plan to do just so when the time comes. I live in L.A. and there are so many studios to choose from.

                                                          Posted by:
                                                          • Kimberly Osborne
                                                          • December 30, 2010 3:15 PM

                                                            I have the great privilege of remaking my studio from scratch with an upcoming move. Considering the needs and possibilities.

                                                            Posted by:
                                                            • Ken Karp
                                                            • December 30, 2010 3:16 PM

                                                              Mine would be in a big room at the top of a house located in Point Grey, Vancouver. It would have a HUGE window and views of the sea, the city and the mountains. *drifts off into happy little dream studio-land*

                                                              Posted by:
                                                              • Helen Quigley
                                                              • December 30, 2010 3:17 PM

                                                                Astoria on the Thames. If I remember, David Gilmour bought the house boat back in the mid 1980s. He had spent much of his career recording in closed spaces. The concept of recording close to nature was truly inspiring.

                                                                Posted by:
                                                                • Sheryl Fetsch
                                                                • December 30, 2010 3:17 PM

                                                                  My "dream location"? Probably just off a beach in the Caribbean, where I could record, produce, deliver, and tan in immediate succession! ... then again, we had almost 3 feet of snow this past weekend, so I'm a little grumpy. ;o)

                                                                  Posted by:
                                                                  • Tony Tee Neto
                                                                  • December 30, 2010 3:18 PM

                                                                    I love working from my family home place in rural north Alabama. There's no place like home. As a side note, this post caught my eye because I used the same curtain artwork for a magazine I just finished for one of my clients. Great minds think alike.

                                                                    Posted by:
                                                                    • Tim Lasseter
                                                                    • December 30, 2010 3:19 PM

                                                                      Keep 'em coming... you all do such a great job at such Concepts... can't tell you how much I, for one appreciate all you do!

                                                                      Posted by:

                                                                        I don't really care where. As long as the voice comes through strong and clear that's all that matters to me.

                                                                        Posted by:
                                                                        • Kendrian Parker
                                                                        • January 4, 2011 11:35 AM

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