Voiceover artistes set up home studios due to Covid-19

Voice talent Lyra Beins-Stewart in her acoustically treated booth built in her son's bedroom on Sept 18, 2020.
Voice talent Lyra Beins-Stewart in her acoustically treated booth built in her son's bedroom on Sept 18, 2020.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Like many other gig economy workers, voiceover artists have also been impacted by Covid-19.

When the pandemic hit, gigs dried up, especially during the two-month circuit breaker.

Ms Lyra Beins-Stewart, 47, who has 24 years of experience doing voiceover work, says she has received 10 to 20 per cent fewer jobs since the pandemic.

When the circuit breaker, which kicked in on April 7, was announced, she knew it would have an adverse impact on her work and she decided to take action.

"I went into my e-mail database and sent my contacts samples, to let them know this is the quality I can give them, to try to secure work at the time," she says.

Her company, LBS Communications & Consultancy, also represents around 50 other voiceover artists. Apart from herself, 11 of them can produce work from home.

The pay for voiceover work varies from a couple of hundred bucks to over a thousand per project.

Video producer Adam Tun-Aung, 38, who has his own business, has been doing voiceover work as a sideline for a decade.

Even before the circuit breaker, he says, jobs were irregular - sometimes three or four a month, other times none at all.

Yet, during the circuit breaker, he had to focus on voiceover work as there were no gigs for video production - another sector that fell victim to Covid-19.

He managed to land two voiceover jobs.

 
 
 

"Though it was really quiet during the circuit breaker, I've seen more gigs since phase two," he says.

He also recently completed projects for the National Environment Agency and McDonald's.

Because of the pandemic, voiceover work cannot be done in a professional recording studio and artists have to do it from their homes.

In a professional studio, the artist focuses on delivery while taking direction from the client and producer. When they record from home, they have to wear all the hats, including those of the sound engineer and editor.

Then there are the technical equipment and recording environment.

To record at home, one would need a microphone, a computer with audio recording and editing software, and an audio interface, hardware which connects the microphone to the computer.

There should also be some sort of soundproofing.

In Mr Tun-Aung's home, this is a makeshift affair - pillows and blankets placed around the microphone.

He is currently putting up acoustic foam boards to isolate the area around the microphone, which is a cheaper option than acoustically treating the entire room.

Treated rooms typically have wall-to-wall foam which absorb sound, making for better recorded audio.

Mr Tun-Aung says he will use his earnings from the two voiceover jobs he did during the circuit breaker to upgrade his home studio.

Ms Beins-Stewart, who has voiced commercials for baby products brand Mamypoko, Standard Chartered Bank and DBS Bank, had already set up an acoustically treated room in her home five years ago.

While it is not soundproof - that kind of work would cost about $8,000 to $10,000 - setting up the room, which includes a vocal booth, set her back by about $2,000.

"I set up my booth so that I can deliver (quality recordings). I had really good feedback from a very good studio I worked with during the circuit breaker," she says.

For 49-year-old voiceover artist and producer Mario Lajarca Jr., working from home has been a rewarding experience which he has been sharing with his three daughters aged 11, 15 and 18.

"I get my kids to record me on music software Pro Tools, and we sometimes jam and record songs together," he says.

"It's a great way to bond with my kids and also teach them some creative audio skills among others," he says.

 
 

His family has just moved house, and he has plans to turn the bomb shelter in his new home into a vocal booth. At his old place, the booth was a portable changing room his wife got him.

Mr Lajarca has done voiceover work for more than 20 years, produced jingles and shows for local radio radio stations, and hosted pre-recorded in-flight entertainment shows for multiple airlines.

He says he was informed that his in-flight work for Singapore Airlines will resume in November.

While these artists say that quality voiceover work can be produced at home, Mr Tun-Aung is looking forward to getting back in a professional studio.

"If I'm recording at home, I need to do the editing alone at night. I still enjoy it immensely, but it's not the same experience as recording in a proper studio."

SETTING UP YOUR HOME VOICE-OVER STUDIO

To set up a voice-over studio at home, you need three essentials: a good microphone, an audio interface which connects the microphone to your computer, and the right software.

Once you have all three essentials, pick the quietest part of your house to set up your studio or to do the recording. It could be a room, the store room, or just the farthest point from the window.

1. MICROPHONE

The Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser microphone and the Blue Microphones Ember Xlr Studio Condenser Microphone are wired options with good build quality and great sound quality.

They are also in a similar price range of $120 to $140.

2. AUDIO INTERFACE

This is hardware that gets the audio from your microphone to your computer. Audio recorded through the interface is of higher quality and allows for more inputs such as professional-level microphones.

An affordable option is the Rode AI-1 at around $200 from online retailers such as Lazada.

It has a solid build quality, phantom power for microphones that need it, and two simple knobs to adjust the microphone volume and speaker or headphone volume.

3. SOFTWARE

If you are using a Mac, you already own the cheapest audio software option. GarageBand is a digital audio workstation software by Apple that can be downloaded and used for free. The cheapest Apple computer is the MacBook Air, which starts at $1,449.

For both PC and Mac users, there is Adobe Audition, another powerful audio software that can record and edit multi-track clips. It sits within Adobe's Creative Cloud suite of applications and services which users can subscribe to.

There is a seven-day free trial, after which you can pay for a monthly subscription at $41.43, or a year's subscription at $27.62 a month.