I just recently went to my first podcasting convention (MAPCON, now the Independent Podcast Conference in Atlantic City) and had the privilege of meeting a lot of super talented and passionate people who create and have services for, podcasters (of which, I am now one!). One of the topics that came up time and time again, was sound treatment. How do you get the best sound for your podcast? How do you get rid of echo, cut down on ambient noise, and travel with your sound equipment while still putting out a decent show?
A lot of people will tell you that it’s all about the microphone. And it’s true that if you use a microphone that’s highly directional and of decent quality, you can get pretty good sound.
BUT – without the right recording environment, your audio still isn’t going to sound very good – no matter how expensive your microphone is.
I’m here to tell you – it’s all about the sound treatment.
As a voice actor, I have a 5×4 sound treated booth that has thick, insulated walls and a similar ceiling and floor, all carpeted so there are no sharp edges or surfaces for sound to echo off of. (I’ve included a picture below of both the inside and outside of my booth.) It makes for an almost entirely dead sound that engineers prefer, because then they can go in and color that sound in post, the way they need it. You probably don’t need this elaborate a set-up as a podcaster, but you get the idea.
It’s not sound proof exactly, though it does filter out a great deal of ambient noise. There are just some sounds – like rumbling trucks, planes flying overhead, and that sort of thing, that simply couldn’t be blocked out unless I had a 6 foot concrete box around me. I do the best I can.
But if you’re not going to spend thousands of dollars on a sound booth, what do you do?
Here’s where a portable booth comes to the rescue. Usually made of things like foam or moving blankets around a metal frame, they’re able to be carried around in a flat case and opened up where you need them – a bar, a hotel room, a podcasting convention or anywhere else you might travel to. You could even set it up in a permanent place in your home rather than building a full sized booth.
One of the companies I’ve been using for years – and I currently have several of their models – from the first one, on up to the newest one – is Vocal Booth To Go (full disclosure – these are affiliate links – but I wouldn’t affiliate with a product I didn’t believe in!). If you visit their website, you’l see a variety of options available to you. But the one I’m most familiar with, is the VOMO.
It’s a bit large for me to take on a plane if I’m flying internationally (just somewhat awkward as it’s flat, but fairly square and large and I’m not an overly tall woman. If you’re a tall man, for instance, you may find it easier to carry) – but if I travel by car or domestically on a plane – WOW is this thing handy. You can set it up on any table, or bring along the convenient tripod, unfold it, and away you go.
Also, unlike some other options you might see that offer this same sort of thing, it’s less bulky, and larger around – so you don’t get a “boxy” type of sound when you record.
They do have some older versions of this portable booth, in case that price tag is a bit much for you at the moment. They all work with the same idea – and virtually the same materials. They just come with different options, and some are more “portable” than others. But I’ve been using these for years – and have loved them since the first one. So even if you go for an older version, you’ll find it extremely helpful when taking your podcast – or your voice overs – on the road.
There’s also a dedicated website specifically for this portable booth option. (And if you check out the photo gallery and click on See All Pictures, you’ll see me, using one of them, right in the center of that collage.)
Here’s a video from voice actor, Simon Hill (a fellow Canadian), all about how he uses his VOMO while he travels – and some of his really helpful tips to make the most of your recordings while on the road.