Hitting the Road for the Holidays?
Holiday season is here, and for many of us that means travel. Whether you're visiting family or flying to warmer climates- one rule of voice acting remains a true: the best way to book a job is to book a vacation. So what do you do when you're suddenly in demand but out of reach?
A solid travel rig, like everything else in your studio, depends on your budget and needs. If your current rig is a Scarlett Solo interface and an affordable mic- you might find that with a decent case, it can travel with you easily. Be sure to check it as carry on to avoid sensitive gear being manhandled.
If you want to leave your primary gear at home and purchase a travel rig (and peace of mind), there are lots of options. While a lot of the old standby USB mics can get you through, I want to focus more on being "broadcast ready" on the road, while also talking a bit about audition solutions.
If you're packing a serious kit, it might be wise to purchase a solid case with compartments for all your tools, and pack them all tightly inside. My wife uses this case for all her camera backs and lenses, and loves it! A little searching will yield lots of audio rig cases to choose from. Determine what you're going to be using and pack accordingly.
The IRig Pro from IK Multimedia is a perfect travel companion, backup interface for your home rig, and a great way to get your mic into your iPhone or iPad for voice actors and content creators. In fact, my most popular TikTok video is me demonstrating how it works. A lot of voice actors on social media stand in their booth in front of their mic- but record using their phone's built in mic. The IRig Pro gives you 48v phantom power via a 9 volt battery, gain control, and even a headphone output. It also has a midi connection for you musicians out there, allowing connectivity for keyboards as well!
This will connect to Macs, PCs, and Apple IOS devices. Being able to connect your good mic to your iPhone is a perfect way to record auditions on the road. Once you're back to your hotel room or aunt Lydia's guest room, you can even connect it to your computer for that big directed session!
Actor Jim Conroy pointed out that he keeps a sample of his booth handy to let clients and casting directors know what his booth sounds like when he's not able to audition from his booth... pretty smart!
Ironically, this interface costs about the same or a little more than some other interfaces. The Scarlett Solo sells for $10 less at $119.99 (on sale for the holidays at $109.99). What you may not know is that with a simple adaptor, you can connect your Solo to your iPhone or iPad. New IPad pros might have enough power to connect directly to the interface and go, but most iPhones ans older or smaller iPads would need that adaptor to allow external power while connected via USB. If an outlet isn't handy, you can use a portable battery bank for external juice on the go!
For an even more affordable travel interface, you might consider something like the Presonus Audiobox USB 96. It's currently on sale for $74.99, making it one that won't make you shed too many years if your luggage is lost. Presonus also makes the iOne, a single input interface designed for iOS devices, and currently just $69.
Everyone will have their own level of comfort for traveling with their mic. If you're flying off to an island for a couple of weeks, you might not want drag along your thousand dollar or two thousand dollar mic. This is where the affordable options to the classics come in handy.
If you're using a 416 at home, for example, you might want to get a Synco D2 for a similar sonic and directional profile. It's currently $199, making it less of an investment loss if things go horribly wrong. Shotgun mics travel well, as they have a smaller, slim profile. Keep them in their cases and surround them in your carryon bag for extra padding and protection.
If you don't anticipate bookings while on the road, and just want a quick way to record and deliver auditions into your phone, you might consider the Shure MV88, which connects directly to your iOS device. I've been impressed by how solid these sound in a proper space, and could even be used for emergency sessions. Of course most newer iPhones and smartphones have pretty great built in mics- especially for auditions on the run. Just be sure to let the person receiving the files that this isn't your home studio. In fact in a recent chat about this with actor Jim Conroy, he pointed out that he keeps a sample of his booth handy
to let clients and casting directors know what his booth sounds like when he's not able to audition from it. Pretty smart!
Here's a tip for actors that might need to provide ADR lines on the go: iPhone mics sound really close to LAV mics! So if you need to knock out some off camera lines in a pinch- give it a shot! I've done this several times, and it works shockingly well. If the line was originally filmed outdoors- step outside! Just a thought.
Complete your Kit:
Be prepared! Don't forget a mic cable, headphones, and a pop screen of some sort. Want to know a simple trick for protecting from plosives while using your shotgun mic? Pull the foam filter off a little more. By default, when that sleeve is on all the way, you have an inch or so of padding before the mic. If you're prone to pops- slide it off another inch!
If you're not using a that type of mic, and forgot a filter- don't panic! A dress sock or pantyhose stretched over a wire hanger will
get you to the same place! If you don't have a hanger and you're desperate for a little extra protection- slide that dress sock right over the mic.
A mic stand in the go is often a challenge, and it's hard to know what to expect when you get where you're going! You're not likely going to bring a full mix stand with you- but there are some travel-friendly options.
This Itart clamp with gooseneck can help your connect to a hotel room desk or closet rack. Test before you go to make sure it's gripping the mic you're bringing the way you need it to!
A simple desktop stand can come in hardy! They come apart to fold flat in your suitcase for easy travel. Best suited for lighter microphone- especially shotgun mics- this desktop boom from Innogear is a great option!
What about a booth?
I have seen some pretty wacky hotel setups. If you're doing a booking, please do not put a blanket over your head. Need to treat a hotel room closet? Ask housekeeping for extra comforters and pillows! Hang them around the inside and over the doors. Follow the same rules you follow at home: keep the mic away from all surfaces, even the soft ones. Hang a blanket over the closet coat rack and stand with your back to it. Face out into the room so that the treated space is behind you and the reflective area is where the mic pics up the least signal. Need to get more creative? Flip the mattress up to make a soft wall in front of the closet. Years ago, one voice actor friend even convinced the hotel to let them convert a small office room into a booth for a day, using comforters, pillows and blankets!
There are some other clever gadgets out there. I'm not a fan of the Isovox travel solutions. That's a one way ticket to boxy-ville. Tri Booth is a clever creation that folds down into a suitcase or duffel bag. It's a well thought out concept that is essentially a PVC frame with acoustic blankets to cover it all around, plus a music stand, lights and more built in! I haven't experienced one directly, and worry that it might not go far enough for very reflective rooms. If you're a working pro that needs something for travel, at $1,500 - this could be something to consider. Try to get some recording samples of it in use first.
If your travel include plans more driving than flying, you have more options since it's easier to toss some producers choice acoustic blankets in the trunk and go!
In fact, an affordable alternative to some of the prefab travel booths out there is the 'cabana booth' that was so popular at the start of lockdown. If you want my blueprint, reach out via the chat tab and I'll send it to you. It's not something you'll want to fly with... but I've talked to folks that have shoved it in the trunk and set up a bookable booth at their destination.
And of course if you're staying with family or friends that have a walk-in closet, that is always a great setup for voice acting, often needing little to no additional treatment.
I hope this help with your travel plans this holiday season and beyond!