by Jason McCoy
Last month I took a week-long vacation to the mountains.
It was GREAT family time.
We did some hiking…sat around a campfire…and even made s’mores.
The entire trip was really relaxing (except for the day when I received this text):
Unable to Deliver?
That was a problem!!
Before I left for the trip, I had promised a client that I would deliver one really important voice over job while I was away on vacation.
To be honest, I haven’t worked on vacation or from the road since kids came along.
Years ago when I’d work on vacation I would pack up all my studio gear in a suitcase and bring it with me.
But I never liked the idea of traveling with my Neumann microphone and other equipment.
It was a pain.
I didn’t like taking my studio gear apart.
I didn’t like the risk of damaging the equipment.
And the worst part was having to put it all back together when I got back home.
So I wasn’t going to do it this time.
This time my plan was to have all new recording gear delivered to the vacation home we rented.
It was a good plan! Until that “unable to deliver” text came in.
So today I’ll go over:
1) Why that plan didn’t work out as expected (luckily it was easy to fix)…
2) Each piece of voice over gear I used in my travel setup (and why)…
3) An audio sample using the travel gear setup and….
4) a voice over vacation checklist to help you prepare for taking time off yourself.
I was a little late buying the travel gear so I ordered everything on Amazon and had it shipped next day to the rental house where we were staying.
So when I got the “Unable to Deliver” text, I had to figure that out immediately.
It turns out UPS turned the package over to USPS, and vacation rental homes don’t receive mail delivery.
Luckily, I saw the text and called the local post office. They had the package so I was able to stop by and pick it up.
After I got the gear, I set it up and was able to record the voice over job I promised even though I was on vacation.
Here’s how it looked when I first set it up:
When I was picking out the travel gear, I kept two important goals in mind:
1) Most importantly, I wanted the setup to have a clean studio quality sound.
2) I wanted each item to take up as little space as possible. For this setup, I was going for small and basic.
Here are the six main components of my voice over travel setup (and why I chose them):
For the microphone I picked the Audio Technica AT875R ($169 on Amazon).
I’ve never owned a shotgun microphone before, but I chose it because of the size, the great reviews and the low price. At $169, if something did accidentally happen to it, I wouldn’t be as heartbroken as if it happened to my Neumann TLM 103.
The AT875R mic comes with a windscreen. Since I’m not planning to record in any windy locations anytime soon I ditched the windscreen for a pop filter.
I’m a big fan of the Stedman Proscreen XL (costs about $55 on Amazon) pop filter. It’s the same pop filter I use in my home recording studio.
The screen is made of a metal like material instead of fabric, so I don’t have to worry about ripping a fabric mesh when it’s put in a suitcase. Plus the screen is really easy to clean.
A smaller option would be the Nady Spider Shockmount.
For a mic stand, I went with an adjustable desktop tripod microphone stand.
It’s really small and it folds up. It fits perfectly on a desk. It’s lightweight. It doesn’t take up much space… all of which make it perfect for traveling.
In my studio, I recently downgraded my mixer to the Behringer 1204 Mixer. I went with this mixer because my older Mackie just took up too much space. The Behringer is smaller and it actually has a USB out, which would have been perfect for this travel setup.
I considered just taking the mixer or buying a new one, but even though it has a smaller footprint, it’s still larger than what I wanted to travel with.
So instead, I went with an X2U XLR-to-USB Signal Adapter by Shure (goes for $99 on Amazon). This adapter also has a headphone jack and offers phantom power. Both of which I needed.
My decision was based mostly on the small size of the X2U but also because I’m a Windows user.
I did consider the Apogee Mic, which runs for about $200. But it only works on Mac as far as I could see.
I like the size and simplicity of the Apogee Mic, and the reviews for it are excellent. It’s basically the mic, mic stand and the signal adapter all in one.
If I used Mac, I may have gone with the Apogee Mic.
Using the X2U, my mic’s XLR cable was converted to a USB which I could then plug into my laptop.
Now I needed a computer in order to record the voice over.
I used a laptop I already had to do the job. Though, it could really be anything, as long as it has the inputs you need for the mic and some recording software.
I considered using a tablet (in order to save some space and decrease fan noise) but I prefer using a mouse to edit.
One issue with using a laptop is that the fan is louder than I’d like it to be.
To get around this I created some distance between the mic and the laptop with a 10′ XLR cable.
I used Adobe Audition on my laptop (same software I use in my home recording studio). Each license comes with 2 users so I use one in my home recording studio and the other on the laptop.
I also copied over all of my presets and functions from my home setup to the laptop so it’s identical to what I’m used to.
Those are the six main components of my voice over travel setup.
I could get by recording voice over with just those items but I like to be prepared for any work space I encounter.
So my travel setup has a few extra accessories on hand (just in case I need them):
It’s hard enough finding a quiet place to record, you don’t want to be limited to the nearest power outlet.
I’ve stayed in a few places in the past where I cannot find an outlet or it’s across the room from where I want to record.
So, I picked up a 10-foot power extension cord for about $9. Just in case I run into that issue.
The great thing about this setup is that it only needs 1 power source which is for powering the laptop. Even so, it’s a good idea to protect the equipment with a surge protector so I went with a mini travel charge surge protector.
You could go with a regular larger surge protector that comes with the cord attached to it. But the mini surge protector saves a lot of space.
I also bought a 10-foot XLR cable.
It wasn’t absolutely necessary, because you can plug the Shure X2U XLR-to-USB directly into the microphone. The weight of the X2U seems to put too much stress on the mic input though.
Also, in cases when I want extra distance between the mic and the computer, I can easily move further away with this XLR cable.
Working with a touch pad on a laptop really slows down my process (especially audio editing). So instead I use a wireless mouse.
I ordered this wireless mouse for about $12.
Without a doubt, the most difficult aspect of recording while traveling is that you don’t know what kind of space you’re going to be recording in.
You could be in a big room or a small room. You could be competing against loud noise from heating and air units, neighbors, airport noise, etc.… it’s really difficult to plan ahead for that.
One great benefit of this travel gear setup is that you can record anywhere. Since everything is powered through the laptop, as long as the laptop battery has a charge you don’t need to be plugged in.
So, you can use it to even record in your car!
I briefly tried recording in the car but thought it sounded too boxy.
So here’s what I ended up doing…
I stacked up pillows in front of me, and placed a large blanket/comforter over the top of my head and microphone.
That really gave it a good studio sound.
It isn’t the most comfortable way to work (and it started to get warm), but it works well.
I’ve seen other things, like the Kaotica Eyeball and SE Reflexion Filter.
However, based on reviews like this, I haven’t been as impressed with those as I have with just blankets and pillows.
That’s all the equipment I used to record voice over on the road.
It all comes down to the sound of course. Here’s a quick sample so you can compare what it sounds like using my travel gear setup, and what it sounds like in my normal recording studio:
Click here to listen to the audio sample.
The first two takes in that sample are using the travel setup and the last two takes are using my normal studio.
This setup is small and simple, but it still provided a clean, studio-quality sound for around $350.
It’s everything you need to record while traveling and it could even make for a decent home studio setup if you’re working with a limited budget or you could use it as an emergency backup if something fails in your main studio.
It’s always good to get time off from any kind of job. Even a job you love (like voice over).
This travel gear is nice to have if a voice over emergency comes up or there’s some small project that you know a client needs while you’re away.
But I don’t plan to work non-stop on vacation.
I believe a vacation should be spent relaxing and doing things you can’t do at home. This way, you’ll come back refreshed and inspired with new ideas to help your voice over business grow!
Of course, there are many other ways that you can set up your gear to record voice over while you’re traveling.
What gear do you use in your voice over travel setup?
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