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Tech Tip: Keep your Interface Close!

This may seem like a small idea, but it will make you work better and seem like more of a pro!

In recording studios, the booth is seperate from the control room, where the engineer is controling the tech and you have only the mic to stand in front of. But for voice actors working from home, you really need to be able to reach your interface quickly! I've done a number of live sessions where I need gain changes, and the actor has to hop out of the booth and walk to their interface only to come back and find out that there are more changes to be made. And there's more than that!

I get it. Your computer has a fan, and the USB cable isn't long enough to keep the computer out of the recording space and still have the interface near you. That will be a seperate blog post- how to add a second display to allow you to keep your computer away from the mic. For now, try a longer USB cable! I've consulted with actors who were able to run a decent length cable with no negative effects on their interface so that the computer could be in a different space. If your setup doesn't allow that, consider a USB extender like this. one, that uses ethernet cable to extend a USB box at a much longer distance.

The gain on your interface is never a "set it and forget it" situation (which is why I am so against actors having preset stacks of processing). You will always be adjusting gain based on what you're reading, particularly for animation, video games, or commercial work with very dynamic scripts. At the studio, we use very expensive compressors to compensate for those unexpected loud moments, but most home interfaces don't have that safety net (especially affordable interfaces like the Scarlet Solo, SSL 2, etc). So what can you do at home?

A trick I teach people is super simple: set your gain to a solid level for your typical speaking level- like a conversational ad read or nartration. Now take a pencil or a grease pencil and put a mark where that is- right on the interface. Now turn the gain down to where the level is solid and not peaking for a SHOUT setting. Put a mark there. Why? Because very often the engineer or director of the session might say "for these lines, back off the mic a few feet because you'll be shouting!" Do you see the problem? You're in a 3 X 4 Studiobicks booth, or smaller closet. You don't have that space to backup- and if you back up even a few inches, the boxiness of your home studio is going to be very unpleasant. If you stay on mic and just pull your gain knob to where you've already marked it, you'll get to the same place. Maybe turn your head slightly away from the mic for effect as well.

No matter what the reason, having that interface within reach is going to be critical to you not clipping, distorting or slowing down the session as you try to make adjustments as you go! I hope this helps.


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