Monday, April 23, 2012

Agents: Where Are Your Actors Getting Recording Advice?

Ok folks. This post is for the agents, so actors go find something fun to do while us business-y folks have a quick chat.

Agents. What the heck?

In my role as consultant, my last SIX home visits have been to fix home studios. I’m seeing a pattern.

  • Actor wants/needs to be able to record from home.
  • Actor does little to no research.
  • Actor buys a USB mic or a booth-in-a-box style solution off of a casual recommendation.
  • Actor spends very little time learning how to use their gear.
  • Actor’s recordings are not competitive.

I’m hired to come in and “fix” a fundamentally broken setup.

Where are your actors looking for advice? Are you helping prepare them?

Remember, we’re talking about taking creative people, and turning them into self-directing, self-engineering, post-producing/editing machines.

This is precisely why I no longer keep a “recommended” gear list. There are too many outlets looking to package one size fits all solutions. The most important aspect of HOME recording IS the home you’re recording in. I find it irresponsible to blindly recommend a recording solution when I don’t know what someone’s space sounds like. This is how I’ve built my reputation, even though it’s cost me business. I don’t like to guess. I like to know.

So, here’s a novel thought. What if instead of buying something, trying to make it work, then hiring a professional to come in and fix it, we recommend an actor hire a professional engineer FIRST. Yeah it’s a bit more expensive up front, but it’ll save you and your actor more in the long run, especially in terms of time.

To be perfectly frank, it sucks. It sucks having to tell someone that they’ll need to buy different pieces of gear. It sucks telling them they picked the wrong mic for their space. It sucks watching their face when they realize it’s not “plug-n-play” like everyone told them it would be. I’d MUCH rather be involved earlier. I'd rather make sure it was done right the first time.

Instead of guessing if a mic will sound good in your actor’s bedroom, someone like me could bring a half dozen mics for your client to try out. YOU could even approve the sound YOU like the best for SELLING your talent. We won’t be guessing what kind of room treatments they’ll need. We’ll KNOW. See that pic above? That's half my current mic locker. With mics ranging in price from $60 to $2500, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to find something flattering...

Picking the right mic from the get-go means we can also stop this bullshit advice we give actors to read with a blanket over their heads. THREE of my last six consultations were doing it. It’s crap.

Part of the benefit to this process is confidence. We don’t book actors who sound insecure. They need to sound sure of themselves, comfortable in their skin, in their environment. Having a pro come in and walk them around their gear, show them the ins and outs of their software, this should RADICALLY shorten the time it takes for a talent to start producing competitive reads.

So build a few relationships, Agents. Send out some assistants to butter up some studio engineers. Find some people you can recommend your actors do business with. Avoid anyone who’s just going to sell Neumann/Sennheiser/Etc. You want someone knowledgeable enough to take into account an individual actor’s experience, tech savvy, and budget to achieve a tailored sound for that talent’s environment and voice. Your actors will have to PAY them for that knowledge, but thinking long term, it should help your performers tremendously. It’s about bookings, and your clients will be using these tools more and more in the future, not less.

Speaking from first hand experience, actors aren’t finding good advice on their own.
Here’s one of the first videos I found on youtube for “Choosing a Microphone”.

Not to pick on this gentleman too much here (he IS talking about podcasting after all), but his audio sucks, and he doesn’t even know how to properly mount the mic he’s recommending. Think it can’t happen to one of your actors? Twice in the last year I’ve had to re-mount a large diaphragm condenser that the talent had setup dynamic mic “radio style”.

These two mics for example, are mounted and used in VERY different ways.

Make sure your actors are getting better advice than this, but if they aren’t, I’ll be happy to bill them for my time to fix it.


  1. Oh, you're just picking on the guy, it can't sound that bad. Audio pros are too picky about sound quality anyway, it's just podcasting after all...

    I've listened. You're right. Way to spend $300 there, buddy.

    I'm gunna go buy flowers for my cheapo mic now, and possibly give it a hug. I may not sound any better than that guy, but I didn't pay for the privilege.

    1. LOL!
      But it needed to be said. Sometimes it really feels like the blind leading the blind out there. I wonder how many really good talented folks have been burned by bad advice...

  2. Great post! I totally agree with the concept of getting us in BEFORE the chaos begins.

    Dan Friedman

  3. Great post Juan! Poor guy. You weren't being rude about it. You just demonstrated a REAL practical example. I've seen quite a few photos of voice actors on facebook of them and their "radio style" mounted large diaphragm condenser mic's.

    I've also found myself feeling less inclined to just recommend this mic or that without really knowing the fine details of their voice, their room, environment etc. It's a great idea to get a professional in FIRST to prevent tainting your VO reputation by having a poor sound. May sound extreme but you know moost casting directors and voice seekers aren't going to look past the crappy audio quality and only listen to your performance. Throw Tom Kane on a $100 mic, with poor mic placement, and in square shaped non-acoustically treated room - it's going to sound like crap. The poor sound quality will be overly distracting and mask his voice acting abilities.

    Ok I better stop typing now. Good post!

  4. Even though you said this was more for agents, as a new actor, it helped me profoundly. Thanks for the advice.